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OpinionEditorial

Long Island still can shape its future

Ideas from Newsday’s 1978 ‘Crossroads’ series deserve fresh consideration

An illustration from Newsday's 1978

An illustration from Newsday's 1978 "Long Island at the Crossroads" series. Photo Credit: Newsday illustration / bernard cootner (1978); colorist / Neville Harvey (2018)

Forty years ago, Newsday published a series called “Long Island at the Crossroads,” a reporting project that examined the region’s quality of life and proposed solutions for the Island’s future.

With a few exceptions, the concerns then — and the recommendations — remain pretty much the same. At the heart of the 1978 critique was the need for broad, regional thinking. Whether discussing transportation, governing, development or job growth, the “Crossroads” project hammered at the need for leadership and planning Island-wide, for regional solutions to regional problems.

Certainly, those hold true today.

A score card of just a few of the 40-year-old suggestions shows one big success, a few failures — and lots still to do.

Property tax limit: The 2012 property tax cap is perhaps the biggest success story out of the “Crossroads” ideas. It must be made permanent. High taxes remain the top concern of many Long Islanders — but the cap was a key game-changer.

A bridge to Connecticut: The idea reemerged in 2016, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued a study last year. But after lots of opposition, Cuomo abandoned the idea in June.

A deepwater seaport: A port proposed for Shoreham is critical to the Island’s commercial-transportation infrastructure. Cuomo has pushed for a feasibility study. That would be a good first step.

Regional transportation authority: Regional thinking on mass transit, roads, airports and more is important. But while a regional authority never happened, attention to the Island’s mass transit and other needs has grown — and must continue.

Job development authority: A single entity to create jobs and promote tourism on Long Island? Sounds simple — and smart. Instead, the Island ended up with eight industrial development agencies that too often don’t do their jobs very well. Can we turn back the clock?

Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Commission and Long Island Action Committee: The recommendations called for one group to dole out federal funds, and another to allow the region’s political leaders to meet regularly as a group. Neither came to pass. There are various organizations, committees and councils, but the Island would benefit from an organization with the teeth and political muscle to launch regionwide initiatives.

Government consolidation: The plethora of special districts unfortunately has never been addressed adequately, and Long Island still has more than 300. But Brookhaven’s plans to cut costs and share services, and its recent $20 million state grant to encourage such efforts, are the first concrete examples of what’s possible.

Affordable housing: Long Island’s brass ring. Experts wanted it then, and we still need it now. In 1978, that meant advocating for rental housing and legal multifamily use of single-family homes. Those needs remain, with an added focus on transit-oriented development. The appetite for it has grown, but naysayers remain.

As Long Islanders realize the impact such changes can have on reducing their taxes and improving their quality of life, change might more readily come. What will be our legacy? — The editorial board

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