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LIers lobby for more infrastructure funds

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, outlines

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, outlines the agenda of the Long Island Lobby Coalition at a State Capitol news conference in Albany on Tuesday, March 3, 2015. Photo Credit: Newsday / Yancey Roy

ALBANY -- A Long Island coalition lobbied at the State Capitol Tuesday, rallying around a regional theme in the 2015 legislative session: the Island is getting shortchanged in the divvying up of New York's $5 billion windfall from national banking settlements.

The Long Island Lobby Coalition, which includes business, environmental, transportation and labor groups, pressured state lawmakers in a series of meetings to earmark money for buses, sewers and roads.

At issue is not only the $142 billion state budget but also New York's share of national banking settlements. In January, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, proposed spending $3 billion of the $5 billion on infrastructure projects, but earmarked $150 million for Long Island, to be spent on two parking garages in Ronkonkoma and Nassau Hub locations.

Lawmakers and advocates have criticized the governor's proposal."Long Island gets 3 percent of that, right now," said Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a nonprofit that promotes "smart" growth, referring to Cuomo's proposal. "We need to get more than that."

Legislators said infrastructure was a top priority, but funding appears unlikely for an ocean outfall pipe for the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant, which was damaged by superstorm Sandy. Federal officials already have denied the request and Cuomo told Island lawmakers at a recent reception that the price tag -- $546 million, at a minimum -- was too great for the state to handle, several lawmakers said.

"He was very pessimistic" about the Bay Park proposal, one legislator said.

One lawmaker said that if Cuomo is serious about using the windfall funds for infrastructure, he could make no better investment than the outfall pipe, which would send treated effluent from the plant into the Atlantic Ocean, rather than the Western Bays, and reduce pollution in Reynolds Channel.

"Show me an infrastructure project any better than the outfall pipe," said Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook). "It affects the entire South Shore of Long Island."

The coalition said the region also needs money for sewer upgrades in Huntington Station and Shirley/Mastic, and improved bus service in both counties. The coalition also is pitching offshore wind power, IRA accounts for small businesses and a regional "emergency supply depot" in Melville.

The state budget deadline is April 1.

Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) said after the Island's Senate delegation met with the coalition: "At the end of the day, I think Long Island will be served well and we'll get our fair share."

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