Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, in red striped tie, speaks with...

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine, in red striped tie, speaks with the editorial board at Newsday's offices in Melville Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/Amanda Fiscina-Wells

Daily Point

While Suffolk exec opposes congestion pricing, he wants MTA to use the money for electrification

Suffolk County Executive Ed Romaine spent nearly 2½ hours visiting with the Newsday editorial board Wednesday, discussing his plans, concerns and hopes on a variety of issues, from housing, health care and transit to garbage and rising seas.

Among his top priorities: housing.

But that requires infrastructure. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that when asked what he needed most from Albany, Romaine replied simply: “Sewers. Sewers. Infrastructure and sewers.”

Whether the money for such needs comes directly from the state budget, or from other pots associated with federal infrastructure dollars, the environmental bond act, the Long Island Investment Fund, or other funding streams doesn’t matter, Romaine said.

“We have all these housing projects. They just need sewer solutions,” Romaine said. “I have projects ready to go.”

Among those projects: the redevelopment of the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Center, a long-standing effort known as Heartland Town Square. It’s been quiet on the Pilgrim State front ever since developer Gerald Wolkoff died in July 2020. At the time, Wolkoff’s son, David, had promised to complete the project.

Romaine said the Pilgrim State effort is a particular priority for him because it already has the required Islip Town approvals. But sewer needs and traffic concerns remain. The Suffolk County Legislature previously had voted against connecting the project to the Southwest Sewer District, so the county and the developer must come up with an alternative plan.

“The town has done its part. The next thing is now we have to have a sewer solution or this isn’t going to work,” Romaine said. “I’m happy to work with the governor on finding a sewer solution … Pilgrim State is a priority because of the number of units.”

While Heartland initially was to include more than 9,000 units of housing, Romaine said he’s now focused on plans that could include 3,500 units — still a sizable chunk for the county.

Beyond housing, Romaine also turned a spotlight on public transit. As he spoke with the editorial board in Melville, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board was meeting in Manhattan, where it approved the MTA’s congestion pricing plan. Nassau representative David Mack was the sole “no” vote. Suffolk residents Sammy Chu, who represents Gov. Kathy Hochul on the board, and Marc Herbst, who represents Romaine, both voted yes.

“This single vote could be the most impactful thing I ever do to mitigate climate change in my entire life,” Chu told the MTA board Wednesday.

Romaine has been a vocal critic of congestion pricing — and reiterated that criticism on Wednesday.

But, he said, if it does come to fruition, the key is making sure Suffolk County sees an appropriate amount of funding from it.

“The one thing that really irks me about all of these things is we’re not seeing our fair share,” Romaine said. “I want to see some money.”

In particular, Romaine wants to see capital funding for the electrification of Suffolk’s Long Island Rail Road lines, particularly on the Main Line past Ronkonkoma and on the Port Jefferson line.

“I’m asking the railroad to take a look at this and to try to do both,” he said.

Both Herbst and Chu have prioritized electrification, too.

Among Romaine’s other priorities: health care, the county’s Department of Social Services and Child Protective Services division, and necessary road improvements and upgrades.

But, he said, he needs Hochul’s support to get some of the larger goals across the finish line.

“My message to the governor is I’m prepared to work with her. I am prepared to work with anyone who’s serious about government and about moving the needle and doing things that make this Island a better place to live,” Romaine said. “I am serious. I don’t care [what] their political affiliation [is] … I’m interested in results.”

— Randi F. Marshall

Pencil Point

Getting along like a House on fire

Credit: Columbia Missourian/John Darkow

For more cartoons, visit

Reference Point

Lessons from the rotting Big Apple

The Newsday editorial from March 28, 1953.

The Newsday editorial from March 28, 1953.

New York City was facing a budget deficit. New and increased taxes and fees were on the table. That was only part of the problem, said Newsday’s editorial board.

“Besides the financial problems, New Yorkers live in crowded dwellings, crawl along overcrowded streets either in their own cars or on overcrowded buses, and have soot blown in their eyes every waking moment,” the board wrote.

We could play “Guess the Year” and contestants would have many choices but this particular lament was made on March 28, 1953. The proximate reason was state legislation that would let the city impose a payroll tax, increase subway fares and real estate taxes, and establish “nuisance” taxes on beer, theater tickets, coin-operated machines and overnight street parking.

“In other words, New York City is in rotten shape,” the board wrote, anticipating a grim apocalypse of businesses and residents forced out of the city.

“It will not be long, we predict, before the big town will be a ghost town,” the board wrote. “Weeds will grow in Times Square. Dust of decay will swirl through the canyons, and buildings crumble through lack of use.”

The accompanying cartoon featured two vultures named “CONGESTION” and “TAXES” sitting on street signs at the intersection of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street with one saying, “Looks like we cleaned this place out!”

The point of the editorial was in its title: Lesson for Long Island. The board wanted to put the region on alert for what might be coming.

“Since it is only a question of time before Manhattan dies from strangulation, Long Island had better get busy with its planning,” the board wrote. “Nassau and Suffolk too have grown like weeds … It is high time some notice was taken of the fact, and plans made accordingly. We cannot afford to wait.”

Manhattan, of course, was not asphyxiated and tumbleweeds never did appear. The board’s vision became one of a legion of unrealized prophecies about the city’s imminent demise. But the words of warning for Long Island were prescient.

Nearly 14 years to the day, on March 27, 1967, the board considered Long Island’s status in a piece titled “Megalopolis.” Tremendous growth led the board to call Nassau and Suffolk “the fourth city of the United States.” New industries and a construction boom “transformed Long Island from the ‘bedroom’ of New York City into an area with a vitality and self-sufficiency all its own,” the board wrote, “a dynamic cycle of growth” it said was still at work.

This picture again was reflected in a cartoon depicting a creature named “L.I.” hoisting over its head a map of Long Island bearing a group of words — business, transportation, industry, schools, housing, colleges, culture and recreation — with the caption “Strong Enough to Lift His Own Weight.”

And yet, the board wrote, “To some, it will seem as if Long Island is being overwhelmed by change.” One change was that the region’s future would no longer be tied only to the city but to the entire Northeast where jobs and markets for goods awaited. The specific pitch was for a bridge between eastern Suffolk and New England to “open a more direct route and end Long Island’s dead end.”

But the more general plea was an old one that still has relevance today.

“There will be problems” with the region’s rapid growth, the board wrote, “but there can be benefits as well. Wise zoning and planning can maintain the beauty and attractiveness of Long Island.”

Whether the region’s beauty has been maintained is a modern source of debate. The case for wise planning is not so clear.

— Michael Dobie, Amanda Fiscina-Wells

Programming Point

The Point will be back on Tuesday, April 2. 

Subscribe to The Point here and browse past editions of The Point here.

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months