Two years ago, the state budget created a $550 million pot for economic development to “transform” Long Island.
A lot has been doled out to a lot of good projects — like research initiatives at Brookhaven National and Cold Spring Harbor labs and Stony Brook and Hofstra universities that could help reshape the Island’s economy through innovations that produce high-paying jobs. Money also went to redevelopments at the Nassau and Ronkonkoma hubs and to sewers needed in downtown Kings Park and Smithtown.
That leaves $150 million. And the kitty could be bigger depending on the status of $50 million earmarked for the Feinstein Institute’s now-canceled plans for a medical research center at the Nassau Hub.
So, the possible $200 million question is: What to spend it on?
There are good ideas still on the wish list compiled by the region’s business and political leaders — like a bus rapid-transit system along Nicolls Road in Suffolk County and a new train station at BNL. But our state senators should resist the reflexive urge to get some for their districts.
It’s time to put a lot of eggs in one basket. It’s time to fully fund a new terminal on the north side of Long Island MacArthur Airport.
That, too, is on the wish list. The state already has committed $20 million for a new customs facility and a direct connection between the airport and the Long Island Rail Road. It doesn’t get more direct than the short distance from the Ronkonkoma station and that huge redevelopment to a terminal just across the tracks. And there are few game-changers bigger for the region than one that finally would unlock the airport’s potential — through international travel, more domestic flights, and faster connections via the ongoing second rail project in Suffolk and the third track proposal in Nassau.
With prospects uncertain for a federal infrastructure bill, Long Island’s state senators and business leaders should make a full-court press on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for the $100 million, give or take, needed for the terminal, while making sure that Suffolk and the Town of Islip, which owns the airport, are kicking in. They’ll probably find a willing champion in the infrastructure-happy governor.
Then they all can share the credit for helping to transform Long Island, and still have something left in the bank.— The editorial board