Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Dec. 8, 2014.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Dec. 8, 2014. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The administration of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signaled a major rift with Suffolk County Community College as it moved to "work with other universities" on the state's new START-UP NY program after the college balked on an agreement for the county to provide land for a tax-free zone.

Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider disclosed plans to find alternative partners in an email to the legislative clerk Monday. Schneider said a resolution to give the county executive the power to make an agreement was being withdrawn.

The plan would have given the community college use of 10 county acres next to its Selden campus for the state program, which is aimed at luring high-tech start-up businesses.

Under the state program, small technology companies pay no state and local taxes for up to 10 years in return for investment and hiring. Their workers pay no state income taxes for up to 10 years.

The breakdown between the administration and the college was a major surprise. Talks had gone on for months and the resolution was approved in the legislature's education committee last week.

Schneider said in the email that "subsequent the committee meeting, we were informed that the college no longer supports this resolution. We have no interest in arguing with the college."

Drew Biondo, a college spokesman, said the differences were over the agreement's wording but the college only asked to table the resolution until details could be worked out. He said the college is still open to working out an agreement.

Biondo said the dispute centered on a change the college made in which "the property would revert to the college for educational purposes" if not used in the state program. An earlier version would have kept the land under county ownership, but allowed the college to use the parcel in a trust.

Schneider said there was no need for a delay because a legislative vote would not have been on an agreement, but only on the county executive's power to make a pact. Schneider said the county now "will look to work with other universities already designated as START-UP New York with the goal of finding additional sites so we can create and attract innovation jobs." He said Suffolk will begin reaching out to other institutions by week's end.

The county needs to act quickly, Schneider added, because 60 colleges statewide -- 20 of them community colleges -- have qualified for the program. So far three are from Long Island: Stony Brook University, Long Island University and Farmingdale State College.

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