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Editorial: Ronkonkoma redevelopment on the right track

An architect's rendering projecting what the existing LIRR

An architect's rendering projecting what the existing LIRR parking garage could look like upon the completion of the Ronkonkoma Hub project. Credit: TRITECH Development Group

The plan to revitalize the area around the Ronkonkoma train station is picking up speed, with key votes by the Brookhaven Town Board upcoming and enough property already acquired to begin work on the first phase of the massive overhaul.

This is all good news for a project vitally important to Long Island.

Concerns about the fate of the $475-million project -- apart from the usual worries about getting megaprojects done on Long Island -- were piqued when Brookhaven Town Supervisor Mark Lesko left in the fall of 2012 to head Accelerate Long Island, a business-technology organization. As much as the need to redevelop the downtrodden area has been talked about for decades, the current plan was the Democrat supervisor's passion. But his successor, Republican Edward Romaine, has to his credit picked up the ball and run with it. That show of bipartisan support extends to the town board, which includes members from both major parties. The board will hold important votes in the coming weeks on several aspects of the plan. It should say yes to each and keep the Ronkonkoma Hub plan moving forward.

No doubt obstacles will arise, some unanticipated. Some residents at a packed public hearing last week complained about the project's density; the plan calls for as many as 1,450 apartments, 195,000 square feet of retail space and 350,000 square feet of office and medical facilities. But many others wisely extolled the promise of a vibrant mix of residences, stores and restaurants -- right next to a train station -- to help the Island retain more of its young people, who continue to flee, as well as to attract baby boomers looking to downsize. Some plans might require tweaking, some properties still must be acquired, and some skeptical residents remain unconvinced. But the town and its master developer, Tritec Real Estate Co., must keep pushing. Long Island cannot afford to let this project stall.