Regional Development Council looks for state money to improve local economy

11/15/2011 7:55 AM |
Long Island fishing

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Ed Densieski of Riverhead harvests scallops in Orient Harbor last Monday. A plan to replenish bay scallops is among economic revitalization recommendations of the Long Island Regional Development Council.

Many regions throughout the U.S. have a cooperatively owned place where farmers can freeze their crops for easier shipping and long-term storage.

But not on Long Island.

That’s why a plan for a cooperatively owned agriculture freezer at Calverton Enterprise Park, as well as a plan to replenish bay scallops, are among 13 recommendations by the Long Island Regional Development Council, which has applied for $40 million in state aid to help pursue some of the ideas.

The island is vying to be one of four New York regions to receive a $25 million state grant and $15 million in tax credits. The remaining six regions will share $40 million, for a total of $200 million in state assistance. The state’s winners will be announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in mid-December.

“The idea is to create a cold storage facility, for the farmers, owned cooperatively and run by Cornell Cooperative Extension,” said council board member and North Fork farm owner, Paulette Satur of Satur Farms in Cutchogue.

Ms. Satur said the lack of a cooling facility makes it difficult for Long Island farmers to compete nationally due in part to U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.

“Things need to be done in a professional manner,” she explained. “And these facilities are very expensive.”

She said the plan, dubbed an “agripark,” is based on similar models in Hawaii and in other states, adding that it is in the development stage.

Both Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy approached the council at a meeting in October to stress the need for development at EPCAL, according to the meeting’s minutes.

The scallop replenishment plan, Ms. Satur said, would be modeled after the oyster restoration plan implemented several years ago and would include a large-scale feeding program.

Both those initiatives came from the suggestion of the Long Island Regional Economic Council’s natural assets committee, which Ms. Satur is a part of, she said.

The 10 New York state regional councils have been charged by the governor with identifying opportunities and projects that are best positioned to create jobs, according to the council’s website.

“The regional council approach is a shift to a community-based, performance-driven model for economic development and job creations,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesperson for Empire State Development, the primary state agency for economic development.

If the money is awarded to Long Island, the council would then decide how to divvy the money among the projects.

Other Island-wide projects that the council is seeking funding for include a Ronkonkoma-MacArthur Airport Transit Hub, sewer improvements for Hempstead Village and a plan to graduate more engineering majors from Long Island universities.

Officials said the projects would create a combined 42,421 jobs for Long Island.

vchinese@timesreview.com