HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. – Rob Calarco, Presiding Officer of the Suffolk County Legislature, launched his new initiative "Long Island's Infrastructure and Future Together" on May 26th with a roundtable discussion about the role infrastructure will play as the region recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.
This initiative brought local stakeholders, public agencies, experts, and advocates together to identify ways to prioritize and improve the island's infrastructure to meet the needs and expectations of residents and businesses. The May 26th roundtable discussion featured 20 speakers from industries such as business, energy, labor, building trades, child care, government, and technology.
"In addition to the tragic loss of life and immeasurable stresses of the COVID-19 crisis, one of the most glaring outcomes of the last year has been the relocation of people from densely populated metropolises like New York City to various towns and villages across Long Island. Now, as we begin to recover and transition into a post-COVID world, we must focus on strengthening Suffolk County's infrastructure from the bottom up to capitalize on this reverse migration to keep people and businesses here in the long term" said Presiding Officer Calarco. “Suffolk is a donor region, and I, for one, will always advocate for getting as many dollars back to us to even the playing field."
Eric Alexander, director of the Smart Growth planning organization Vision Long Island, moderated the discussion. Joining Presiding Officer Calarco and Director Alexander were: Legislator Al Krupski, Marc Herbst of the Long Island Contractors Association, Deputy County Executive Peter Scully, Justin Bell of the Long Island Power Authority, Tim McCarthy of IBEW 25, Dr. Jessica Price and Kevin McDonald of The Nature Conservancy, Ty Fuller of the Suffolk County Water Authority, John Cameron of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, Matthew Aracich of Nassau Suffolk Building Trades, Elissa Kyle of Vision Long Island, Jim Morgo of Long Island Builders Institute, Matt Cohen of the Long Island Association, Lisa Tyson of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, Imran Ansari of Discover Long Island, Rebecca Sanin of the Health and Welfare Council, Paul Trapani of the Long Island Software Network, Rob Carpenter of the Long Island Farm Bureau, Ana M. Figueroa of Long Island Head Start, Erica Chase-Gregory of the Small Business Development Center at Farmingdale State College, and Jennifer Rojas of the Child Care Council of Suffolk.
Energy and environmental experts and advocates spoke of the work being done to promote alternative energy sources such as wind and solar, pointing to the local presence of New York's three largest solar farms and the wind farm plans for the South Fork. Speakers also identified ways Long Island can continue to make progress, including investing in the area's transmission and distribution infrastructure, adding solar to low-impact sites without sacrificing green spaces, and upgrading bridges and culverts to accommodate the sea-level rise and storm surges. Wastewater was also identified as a significant infrastructure issue that will be critical to future development.
Smart Growth advocates identified sewer infrastructure as key to downtown development and walkability and encouraged the development of projects in line with Complete Streets initiatives. Speakers also offered ideas better to utilize Long Island's farming and seafood industries and improve local access to products by building nearby processing facilities. Additionally, child care was raised as a sector that should be prioritized for additional infrastructure funding, as affordable care for children is critical for working families, including farmworkers, and will be an essential factor for women who left the workforce during the pandemic.
Building and labor speakers identified the needs for innovative land uses and quality apprenticeship programs and cooperation and efficiency on public works projects. Business leaders spoke of prioritizing investment in downtowns and grant education for small business owners.
Also discussed was the potential for a convention center in Suffolk County, the need for broadband in every community, and the importance of inclusion and equity when moving forward with any of these projects.
"Presiding Officer Calarco's forum was ahead of the curve. Bringing together those involved with the full spectrum of Suffolk's infrastructure needs-from roadways to child care to everything in between-provided a clear road map to get the county to economic, environmental and human sustainability and prosperity," said Jim Morgo, a member of Long Island's Regional Economic Development Council and the Long Island Builders Institute Board of Directors.
"Investment in infrastructure is essential for protecting our environment, preserving our quality of life, and growing our economy," said John D. Cameron, Jr., P.E., Chairman Long Island Regional Planning Council.
"The Nature Conservancy thanks Presiding Officer Rob Calarco of the Suffolk County Legislature for the opportunity to discuss how federal and state funds can help Long Island address critical needs – from preventing pollution in our drinking water to building clean energy to making our roads and communities safer in the face of climate change. We look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers, partners, and stakeholders to create a more vibrant future for us all," said Kevin McDonald, The Nature Conservancy's Long Island policy advisor.
"I want to thank Presiding Officer Calarco for bringing this group together to discuss key infrastructure projects for Long Island. I was grateful to attend and advocate for the needs of our tourism industry. As discussed in my remarks, our region would greatly benefit from the building of a convention center, and I hope that we will be able to utilize federal infrastructure dollars for this project," stated Imran Ansari, Vice President of Community Engagement at Discover Long Island.
"LIPA is excited to partner with Presiding Officer Calarco and Suffolk County officials for the future of Long Island's infrastructure. Along with our community partners, we can make Long Island's energy infrastructure stronger and cleaner by attracting public and private investment in Long Island's economy and continuing to grow our clean energy workforce," said Justin Bell, Vice President of Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Long Island Power Authority.
To watch a replay of the roundtable discussion, visit Presiding Officer Calarco's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RobertCalarco/. The LiiFT initiative will continue with town hall events and ongoing conversations.
"By working towards our shared goals, we will see the creation of thousands of jobs, and we have the opportunity to make Suffolk County a leader when it comes to sustainable economic growth," said Presiding Officer Calarco.