Newly minted Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Tuesday officially took on another important role — a leader in a key regional transportation planning group — and laid out challenges facing Long Island.
Curran, a Democrat, was formally installed Tuesday as the co-chair of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, or NYMTC, a federally mandated and subsidized planning organization that works to secure funding for transportation infrastructure projects in the region.
At NYMTC’s annual meeting at the City College of New York in Manhattan, Curran said she looked forward to collaborating with elected officials and transportation planners from around the New York City metropolitan area “to ensure a prosperous future for our entire region.”
“Our residents, like all of yours, need to move around the entire region. We are not isolated and we won’t succeed if we just focus inward,” Curran told fellow council members, which include representatives from Suffolk, Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties as well as New York City and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
“That’s not the way we suburbanites are necessarily conditioned to think. So I truly believe that community engagement is key to get the buy-in we need from our residents if we want to make meaningful change,” Curran said.
Curran mentioned as among the transportation challenges facing Nassau: “struggling” to maintain bus service in the county, and advocating for “beleaguered Long Island Rail Road riders.” She also noted that the multiple layers of government in Nassau make it particularly difficult to advance important infrastructure projects without having them be “nitpicked to death.”
NYMTC’s co-chair positions are rotated annually among representatives from the Mid-Hudson South region, New York City, and Long Island. In the position, Curran will help lead the council’s efforts in studying proposed transportation projects in the region and submit them for federal grants.
The meeting’s keynote speaker, Kathryn Wylde — president and chief executive of the nonprofit Partnership for New York City, a business group — said that paying for infrastructure projects in the region will require embracing new and innovative approaches. That includes more public-private partnerships, a funding model encouraged in President Donald Trump’s recently proposed infrastructure bill.
That might not come naturally to some transportation planners more accustomed to relying on government subsidies to fund projects, Wylde said.
“They’re hoping against hope that somebody else will pay for it,” Wylde said. “It’s time to recognize that nobody else is going to pay for it.”