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Sustainability Group Talks Housing, Transit

Farmingdale conference honors Starkie and others.

Housing and transportation were among the key topics at Friday's sixth annual conference sponsored by Sustainable Long Island.

The conference drew dozens of political, labor, academic and other leaders and activists from around Long Island for workshops and discussions about Long Island's current problems and future goals.

Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association, and Stuart Rabinowitz, president of Hofstra University, were among those honored at the conference. They serve as co-chairs of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

Also honored with "Getting It Done" awards were former Farmingdale Mayor George Starkie for his work on revitalizing the downtown area, and Southampton Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, for her role in establishing a farmers' market to provide affordable produce for residents of Flanders, Riverside and Northampton.

Workshops examined such topics as economic growth and recovery, food, health and the economy, brownfield redevelopment and greening Long Island.

The economics workshop, moderated by Mitch Pally, chief executive officer of the Long Island Builders Institute, reviewed several major projects pending or proposed by politicians and others around Long Island.

Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko noted that projects were sometimes announced but never completed. Press conferences are sometimes attempts "to score political points,"  he said. "To be real, you have to work for the dollars behind it," he said. Lesko and others said major employers, such as North Shore LIJ Health System, needed to get involved in pushing for housing that would serve the needs of their workers. "Until that happens, we're going to be engaged in a guessing game."

Pally and others also discussed the viability of the plan to improve the Route 110 corridor, citing the need to bring workers to jobs and make the area attractive to businesses. A discussion of rapid transit, to serve the route from Huntington to Babylon communities and connect through a proposed LIRR station at Republic Airport, brought praise for State Sen. Charles Fuschillo, R-Merrick, from Babylon IDA official Robert Stricoff, who called him a "champion" of the concept.

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Workshop participants weren't shy about crossing town and county borders. Lesko said Hicksville was "ripe for development." And when a planner discussed the process of winning approvals in Nassau County, Suffolk official Vanessa Pugh drew laughs when she said, "If you're having to knock too hard on (Oyster Bay Supervisor John) Venditto's door, there's a place for you in Suffolk."

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone served as keynote speaker for the conference at Carlyle on the Green and told the crowd that, "If you have not started to plan, you have already failed."

He described projects in Babylon and Wyandanch, and said a better future for Long Island could be created by addressing the environment, social equity and planning.

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