Big plans for the former Sears property in Hicksville, seen...

Big plans for the former Sears property in Hicksville, seen in an aerial photo, have all but vanished, at least for now. Credit: S9 Architecture/ Rubenstein/S9 Architecture

What’s next?

What’s the next big idea? The next goal, project or groundbreaking?

Long Island is poised for a very exciting close to 2022. If all goes well, it’s going to be the year the Long Island Rail Road’s connection to Grand Central Terminal, known as East Side Access, comes alive after decades of waiting and hoping. It’s going to be the year the Third Track for the LIRR’s Main Line is completed. And we’ve already celebrated the opening of UBS Arena, which was years in the making.

But the horizon looks cloudy.

In Western New York, state officials are talking about pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills. It might be the wrong approach and the wrong use of state funds, but the big idea and the planning for the future are welcome.

Where is that thinking on Long Island?

The money is there. Federal infrastructure dollars are available; they just need to be matched to projects that are ready to go. And plenty of developers and employers are ready to sink private money into the Island, too, knowing they’ll get the return — if only local officials say “yes.”

The need is there. As the region emerges from the pandemic, an economic recovery is only possible with new opportunities and plans — the kind that will create jobs both temporary and permanent, ripple through the Island’s key industries, and create the housing current and future Long Islanders need.

What’s missing, however, is the urgency to move forward. There’ve been plenty of meetings and conversations about the types of projects the Island needs, the tracts of land available, and the proposals that remain on the table, but they haven’t gone anywhere.

But there’s little that’s actually ready to go.

There’s uncertainty over future public transit improvements, like the effort to move the Yaphank station closer to Brookhaven National Laboratory. There’s quiet at the Nassau Hub, where past talk of a groundbreaking by this month has faded into the background. Big plans for the former Sears property in Hicksville have all but vanished, at least for now. Efforts to turn Enterprise Park at Calverton into something special remain elusive. Even several large downtown revitalization efforts, propelled by state grants, are delayed for one reason or another.

Some of the Island’s efforts may have gotten stuck in pandemic-related muck. Local officials lost time and focus, as they rightly had to turn their attention to the public health crisis. In other cases, last year’s elections led to changes in who’s in charge so some, like Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, have needed time to get up to speed.

Now, some local officials say they’re ready to find a path forward. Blakeman says the Hub, for instance, is a priority and he wants to be “that guy” who will get something built there. But we’ve heard that from elected officials before. Only time will tell us whether the Hub will remain a large stretch of asphalt — or, mixed with an extra jolt of leadership, energy and courage, become something more.

The same goes for the rest of the Island. This is a moment when the region can stall, as plans gather dust and talk remains just talk. Or it can become a time when the next big idea leads to the noise of construction and the vibrancy of what comes next.

Columnist Randi F. Marshall’s opinions are her own.


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