MARCH 2018 • LONGISLANDPRESS.COM 23
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Long Island is in the midst of
historic change. For years, as other
regions invested in areas like quality,
affordable rental housing, mixeduse
development, and public transit,
LI was content with the status quo.
We sat silent as we watched droves
of young people — educated in
our outstanding public schools at
significant expense — leave home
and help create economic growth in
other regions of our country.
The Regional Plan Association
recently issued a report that called for
a new approach to suburban growth,
one that centers on transit-oriented
development. It calls for better
transit, more inclusive communities,
more housing in downtowns —
things that make our region more
competitive for the young, highknowledge,
high-skill workers we
need to grow our economy.
My administration has championed
this approach for years through
Suffolk County’s Connect Long
Island Plan. The plan champions
innovation, collaboration, and smartgrowth
policies to make us a more
attractive place to work, live, and
raise a family.
Today, a new suburbia is on the
horizon, and Suffolk County is
leading the way.
In Wyandanch, we are close to
completing the first phase of
development for the $600 million
project near the Long Island Rail Road
station. Governing magazine recently
profiled the project as a national
model for suburban revitalization.
Last November, we broke ground on
the first phase of the $650 million
Ronkonkoma Hub mixed-use project.
When this project is fully built out, it
will deliver a true walkable downtown
and create 18,000 jobs. And this is all
happening right as the LIRR Double
Track Project nears completion.
Just last week, I joined Southampton
Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman
to break ground on a $30 million
affordable housing project for
middle-class families that is only 300
feet from the Speonk LIRR station.
These critical projects for our region
are supported by the investment in
transportation infrastructure by Gov.
Andrew Cuomo. The Double Track
and LIRR Expansion Project along
the mainline, combined with East
Side Access, will be game changers.
These projects collectively will
significantly reduce commuting
times to the city for thousands of
Long Islanders. They also open up
the Island for real reverse commuting
that will make our region more
attractive for businesses to locate
here because they can now access
the talent they need from the
broader region. It will also open up
the possibility for real intra-island
commuting for the first time.
Our ambitious regional
transportation and development
plan, Connect Long Island, will
spur economic growth while creating
new north-south connections from
one train line to another. And as the
first suburban county in the state
outside of New York City to embrace
ride sharing, Suffolk residents are
already enjoying additional transit
options while providing the last mile
connection to our train stations.
These are the types of projects
that will reverse the brain drain
and bring people back to LI. This
is about protecting the suburban
communities that we love by
adapting to the transformative
change happening in our world. As a
parent of three young kids, I believe
that this is about building a better
future on LI for all our families.
Steve Bellone is the Suffolk County
POINT OF VIEW
Reversing the brain drain
By STEVE BELLONE