An aerial view of the Republic Airport site in East...

An aerial view of the Republic Airport site in East Farmingdale. Credit: Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

The former Fairchild Republic Co.'s aircraft parts manufacturing plant on Conklin Street hasn't been home to much of anything for decades. This hub of economic activity until the 1980s fell into disrepair, becoming a neighborhood blight in need of a new plan.

Now, local, state and federal officials are stepping up, promising to clean up any remaining environmental hazards in order to turn the 13 acres of unused Republic Airport property into much-needed housing. The pieces appear to be in place. The state is contributing its land, the federal government is committing up to $4 million for additional environmental cleanup, and county and town elected officials are taking a bipartisan, cooperative approach. Responses to an Empire State Development request for proposals to develop the property are due in August. 

Put together, it's a promising step for property that has undergone plenty of stops and starts over the years.

But local, state and federal officials can't stop there.

The 13-acre site that now has Gov. Kathy Hochul's attention is part of 88 acres of land that once housed hazardous waste, storage tanks and more. While much of that waste has been removed, the contamination could continue to spread — which is why the federal dollars are so important. If the Grumman plume's expansion has taught us anything, it's that environmental worries don't end even after initial cleanup efforts are supposedly complete.

But once such a cleanup is finished, there will be much promise in the Republic Airport property. Support from both Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, a Democrat, and Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, a Republican, shows what's possible, even for housing, when the stars align. As current plans progress, officials should discuss what's possible for the rest of the 88 acres while also planning for additional housing development on nearby Farmingdale State College land.

Those efforts easily could tie into ongoing proposals to the north, where the neighboring Town of Huntington is planning a rezoning of Melville corporate parks off Route 110. The new plans also could jump-start public transit improvements. Officials should assess the long-discussed possibility of bus rapid transit service along Route 110 and the potential for a newly-opened Long Island Rail Road station on the major corridor. The existing request for proposals discusses such a station, suggesting that “respondents should expect to work with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to allocate a space that allows for future station planning …” That's key.

In the short term, however, the existing Pinelawn and Farmingdale stations provide some transit connectivity — especially with the possibility of proposed shuttle service, bike share and other options. 

Too often, Long Island's attempts at housing construction and other economic development happen piecemeal, without the necessary regional thinking or bipartisan coordination. In East Farmingdale, officials should seize the opportunity to think — and act — differently.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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