Thirty-six Long Island construction unions recently invited the local delegation of legislators - members of the State Senate, Assembly and the House - to a meeting. Every one showed up to hear the unions deliver a pointed message: Improve the 35 percent unemployment rate among our people, or forget about large cash donations next year.
The unions and contractors are upset that the federal stimulus program has not created more jobs. The $154 million promised Long Island for bridges and highways is less than the state would have spent here during the same time period. In other words, it's a net loss for construction. Surely, this was not what the public expected from the stimulus. It's another sleight of hand from Albany.
Long Islanders are also frustrated by the long federal paperwork trail. On Dec. 17, the federal government declined to fund a $6-million repair to Jackson Avenue in Syosset because Nassau County didn't fulfill the application's requirements. County sources say the feds are far too picky, requiring an "archaeological assessment" for traces of historic significance at a site that's been developed for more than 45 years. This money could now go to another region.
The federal rules are cumbersome, but the Obama administration must have controls to ensure the money isn't squandered. The message from both examples, however, is that Long Island isn't getting that stimulated. hN