Traffic was one of residents’ main concerns at Monday’s open house on a proposed $2.8 billion development project in Ronkonkoma. Some people said they were opposed to the project while others considered its potential benefits.  Newsday TV’s Cecilia Dowd reports. Credit: Newsday/James Carbone and John Paraskevas

Ronkonkoma-area residents attending an open house Monday had mixed views about a $2.8 billion redevelopment proposal that includes a convention center and a new terminal for Long Island MacArthur Airport. 

Some residents and community leaders who viewed drawings of the Midway Crossing project at Lakeland Fire Department in Ronkonkoma expressed tentative support for the project, saying that while they looked forward to the jobs it is expected to create, they had concerns about its impact on roads and water and sewer systems. 

"It looks like a really good project," Maureen Goldstein, 69, of nearby Bohemia, told Newsday. She was one of more than a hundred people who attended the Suffolk County-sponsored open house, where officials from the county, Islip Town and the project's developer, Chicago real estate giant JLL and its consultant, Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering, were on hand to answer questions.

"My only concern was about traffic," Goldstein said.

Several residents said they saw nothing to be excited about.

While supporters of the $2.8 billion Midway Crossing Ronkonkoma redevelopment proposal tout the project's potential for creating thousands of jobs, some town officials and residents say the project would strain key infrastructure such as water, roads and sewers. Newsday’s Shari Einhorn reports. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas; Photo credit: Courtesy: JLL/Crawford

"We live in the area, and what is this going to do for our area?" said Angela Schenk, 79, of Bohemia, who attended with her husband, Joe. "We like our nice small town and we'd like to keep it a small town."

Joe Schenk, 86, added that officials answering questions from the public at the gathering "left out a lot of information," such as the project's impact on roads and local fire departments.

County officials set up the meeting, and a second one to be held next week, to address questions from residents about the project. 

The development, including indoor and outdoor arenas, a 300-room hotel, shops, restaurants, offices, health sciences facilities and parking for about 10,000 vehicles, would be built on 179 acres of county- and Islip Town-owned land, including the northern portion of MacArthur and a vast parking lot used by LIRR commuters. 

As of 7 p.m., five hours into the six-hour meeting, there were about 150 to 175 visitors, county and town officials said.

The project, which faces regulatory reviews from a host of town, county, state and federal agencies, is expected to take 10 to 15 years to plan and build.

Supporters, including many elected officials, economists and business leaders, say the project would create thousands of jobs and generate revenue on underutilized land in the middle of Suffolk. The project would include the first direct link between the airport and the Ronkonkoma Long Island Rail Road station, supporters have said.

Henry Lent, 75, of Holbrook, said he welcomed the plan to replace MacArthur's current terminal with a modern facility that would be connected by a movable walkway to the train station. 

"I like that they want to improve the airport. I like to fly out of MacArthur," Lent said. "It's always good to improve."

Some had mixed feelings about the proposal.

Rick Ammirati, president of the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce, said he was excited about the jobs the project would create in fields such as health care and the hotel and airport industries. He said he hoped many of those new jobs would spill over and help local downtown businesses in Holbrook, Sayville, Ronkonkoma and elsewhere.

"We're trying to be positive about it," he said. "We're pro-development, but the development has to make sense."

He questioned the inclusion of two sports arenas, saying they would struggle to attract tenants and musical acts.

"I love sports, but it's got to make sense," Ammirati said. "This doesn't right now."

A second open house is scheduled for 2-8 p.m. on July 21 at the Lakeland Fire Department, 929 Johnson Ave., Ronkonkoma.

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