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OpinionOpEd

LIttle engine that could

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Daily Point

Third track supporters take a victory lap

After decades of Long Island Association luncheons at the Crest Hollow Country Club, it sometimes feels that if you’ve been to one of them, you’ve been to them all.

The same chicken and pasta. The same room with a few hundred people in business suits. Same speeches that don’t say much that’s new. Quiet, polite applause.

Wednesday was different. Well, except for the chicken and pasta (they were the same).

There were about a thousand people in the Crest Hollow ballroom to hear Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo lead the celebration for the $2 billion Long Island Rail Road third-track project. It wasn’t just politicians and business leaders. Dozens of Long Island laborers wore bright orange T-shirts carrying the message “Laborers Build Long Island.” They cheered loudly whenever Cuomo and others praised the role labor leaders played in lobbying to get the third track approved when some elected officials cowered.

It was a victory party that united the many corners of Long Island. They reveled in the hope that more was on the horizon. They applauded talk of progress, talk of development and talk of change.

In the past, such talk usually was dismissed before the speeches of promises were completed.

Cuomo gave them even more to cheer about when he revealed that the LIRR’s addition of a second track from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma will be done by next summer — 16 months ahead of schedule.

Now, that’s something truly different.

Randi F. Marshall

Talking Point

Forecast for Islip: flying pigs

The trappings were familiar — the standing-room-only crowd, the TV cameras, the truck outside bearing messages demanding union jobs, the workers in the room wearing union T-shirts mixed in with NIMBY critics.

But one thing was different about the Islip Town Board’s Tuesday night meeting on the mammoth Heartland Town Square project. After 15 years of hearings, proposals, negotiations, protests and counter-protests, this was the last step in the process of getting the mixed-use project across the finish line. It took 13 minutes.

“Finally, after all these years,” said developer Jerry Wolkoff, who is 80. “And I’m alive to see it!”

Full build-out could take 30 years or more — providing many other opportunities for controversy.

Michael Dobie

Pencil Point

You want me to do what?

Click here to see more cartoon about the health care debate.

Bonus Point

Show me the money

The carrot was $20 million. Brookhaven bit.

And on Wednesday, a group of town officials went to Albany to make a presentation to state Department of State officials in a competition among local governments to develop consolidation and shared-services plans to save taxpayers money.

Brookhaven is one of six finalists and a big player. The other five are upstate counties — Chautauqua, Madison, Montgomery, Otsego and Ulster — whose combined population is barely larger than Brookhaven’s 486,000.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine says the town’s plan is projected to save taxpayers $63 million, a 3-to-1 ratio compared with the $20 million prize dangled by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. None of the other finalists’ plans would yield greater than 2-to-1, he said.

Brookhaven is pitching consolidation ideas like turning over its two sewer districts and five water districts to Suffolk County, and doing assessments and sending out tax bills for villages within the town’s borders.

“I hope we’re judged on the merits,” Romaine told The Point. “This is exciting; if we get it, this would be a great thing for the town.”

Even greater: If other towns used Brookhaven’s proposal as a model for themselves and their taxpayers.

Michael Dobie

Columns