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SCCC eyes moving proposed tech zone to Brentwood campus

The Suffolk County Community College campus, in Selden,

The Suffolk County Community College campus, in Selden, on April 18, 2014. Credit: Heather Walsh

Suffolk County Community College officials are seeking to move the proposed site for a state tax-free zone for high-tech startups to the Brentwood campus, across the street from a residential area.

The college disclosed the new 7.86-acre site last week in mailings to town, county, college and economic development groups as part of the college application process for STARTUP-NY. The college made the move after talks broke down last month over the use of 10 county-owned acres next to the Selden campus just before county lawmakers were scheduled to approve the deal.

Louis Petrizzo, college counsel, said the Brentwood site, on the west side of Wicks Road, is "much better and more attractive than Selden" because access to it is a quarter-mile from the Long Island Expressway and businesses could hook up to the Southwest Sewer District. He also said the college would have full control over the property, unlike in Selden, where the county would allow the college to use the land but not have ownership.

The STARTUP-NY program seeks to attract high-tech firms to college sites with a promise that they will pay no state or local taxes for 10 years in return for investment and hiring. Their employees also will pay no state income taxes for up to 10 years. The college would benefit through training programs and internships for its students and good-paying jobs for graduates.

The Brentwood campus, the fastest growing of Suffolk's three campuses, is scheduled to open a new library in the spring and has plans for an innovative $19.5 million STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) building, although state funding for the project has yet to be budgeted.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider downplayed differences between the county and the college, saying the Bellone administration was only trying to help the college find a site because they did not have space on the Selden campus. "The bottom line is that we want to generate jobs and do anything we can to help the college move things along," he said, noting that only three of the state program's tax-free zones are on Long Island.

While the college has filed its application with the state, the notices give various groups 30 days to comment on the proposal. Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt said the Islip Town Board never got notice of the proposal, though the town industrial development agency did. "It's another example of the cart being put before the horse," she said. "The town board and community are unaware of this plan, and I think it's always more effective if all parties come to the table before a plan is put in place."

Suffolk Treasurer Angie Carpenter, who used to represent the area as a lawmaker, said she expects the college to reach out to the community, which "cherishes having the campus" there. "I can't imagine the college building anything without keeping the concerns of the community at heart."

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