Too often, Long Island avoids big thinking, perhaps because it's so tough to get anything done. When significant ideas do emerge, they often stay on drawing boards.
Midway Crossing could be different.
The $2.8 billion multifaceted project in Ronkonkoma, on land mostly covered in asphalt, isn't just another new development. Nor is it a set of individual pieces — a life sciences center, new entertainment venue, hotel, and convention center — each of which on its own would boost the Island's economy. All together, Midway Crossing could produce 14,500 construction jobs and 29,300 permanent jobs, along with an estimated $4.5 billion in annual economic activity.
What makes Midway Crossing special is how it could reshape Long Island and the region's connectivity to New York City and beyond.
The project, as envisioned by lead developer Jones Lang LaSalle and the Woodbury engineering firm headed by John Cameron, would sit between the Long Island Rail Road's Ronkonkoma station and Long Island MacArthur Airport. It would pave the way for a new terminal on the north side of MacArthur's property and a connective pathway to the LIRR station. That train-to-the-plane connection could be game-changing for Ronkonkoma and the Island.
The project purposefully doesn't include any housing, in part because Tritec Real Estate's portion of the adjacent Ronkonkoma Hub will include 1,450 units. But even that's just a small portion of what the region needs, so it's a shame Midway eschews housing altogether.
Nonetheless, the plan has advantages that could move it forward, including initial support from Suffolk County and the Town of Islip. It builds upon existing public transit improvements, like the Long Island Rail Road's double track, Third Track and East Side Access — all of which turned big ideas into reality.
Perhaps most importantly, potential financing streams exist, like federal infrastructure funds and a new pot of state money earmarked for the Island. Cameron, who also heads the Long Island Regional Planning Council, said he expects as much as $1 billion would come from public sources to pay for the airport terminal, the convention center and infrastructure, like water, sewer, power and parking garages. Getting those funds in a relatively short time won't be easy.
Other significant questions remain. Careful analysis is needed of the enormous infrastructure needs and environmental impacts — especially the plan to connect to the Southwest Sewer District, as well as water use and often-costly parking garages. If current sewer hookup plans aren't viable, the developers could consider an on-site sewage treatment plant. The developers also will need to be flexible, and assess how work, life, travel and commuting patterns in the wake of the pandemic might impact their plans.
There's a lot to do before any piece of the massive vision becomes real. But Midway Crossing deserves a chance to fly.
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.