Column: If we had $1,000,000,000 (or part of it)

A surplus. A windfall. A pot of gold.

Call it what you want, but have you heard there’s an extra $5 billion available in next year’s New York State budget?


The state has cashed in on several financial settlements, and just last week, as first reported by Newsday, leaders with the Long Island Association — which bills itself as “the leading business organization in the Long Island region” — as well as the Long Island Regional Planning Council, sent a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking for $1 billion as Long Island’s fair share.

“The Long Island Billion,” they called it.

And the entire East End was nowhere to be seen in the letter, which named five projects in each county.

It was probably just an oversight, right? And, of course, the distribution of this huge chunk of money still has to be negotiated in Albany come budget season next spring. Most politicians — at least local ones — have yet to weigh in on the subject. And in the end, they’re the ones who will decide where the $5 billion goes.

Primarily these days, when you think of big-money projects in the area, Enterprise Park at Calverton comes to mind. And I was a little surprised not to see it on the list. Covering an area day-in and day-out as we do, this omission has to at least give some pause to the thought that EPCAL is a potentially big economic generator — or, at least, as big as we’re told it is.

But it’s not as if EPCAL is getting nothing from various levels of government. Nearly all the first phase of multi-million sewer work at the town-owned land in Calverton is being paid for by Suffolk County and New York State, thanks to grant funding of one kind or another.

But let’s be honest: EPCAL needs a lot more than sewers.

Anyway, with this “Long Island Billion” in mind, and probably in part because it’s fun to make lists of things we want this time of year, I figured this might be a good opportunity to make a wish list for our coverage area. The items are mostly infrastructure-based since the one-time funding source logically should go to one-time costs. And no, this list is not scientific. I have no cost estimates and have conducted zero feasibility or environmental studies. As with most wish lists, some items are silly and some are serious, and most probably won’t come true. But hey, it’s the holiday season. A guy can wish.

1. Road funding for EPCAL: This might require more firm plans on paper than the town currently has in order to get anything secured (actually, you can probably say the same for pretty much everything else on this list), but for all the talk about sewers, we haven’t heard much of anything about any other infrastructure costs at the former Grumman site. If leaders want to draw investors to the land, they might want to be able to show them more than some studies, a couple of runways and some privately developed roads. And actually, before they pave the roads, can we get some money for water, electric and fiber-optic utilities, too?

2. Renovation of the armory: Like one of those awkward gifts you got as a kid that you just never knew what to do with, the armory on Route 58 sits unused, empty and lonely. It’s kind of hard to blame the town, which can’t afford a multi-million dollar renovation to fix up the old white elephant at the moment. But why pay $13 million — one number that’s been thrown about — to renovate the armory into a new public safety complex in the future when the state has $5 billion now?

3. Light rail between Riverhead and Greenport: Discussed for the past decade, this project has never been a real priority because — again and as always — cost is an issue and real concerns exist over how many people might use it. Local business leaders have been using buses in recent years to shuttle people about, mostly from winery to winery, but the Long Island Rail Road east of Riverhead remains one obvious way to provide a spark to some of the downtown areas along the line. And as the brain drain continues and politicians search for some way to keep the area’s youth and draw them to downtown areas, implementing a light rail seems reasonable.

4. Plum Island: Come on, admit it — you’ve always been drawn to Plum Island. The mystique. The rumors. The creepiness. You want to see what it’s like over there. Well, maybe now the entire world can if the state buys it for us! Granted, with the new, restrictive zoning in place we wouldn’t be able to have much fun once we got there. But the same goes for Alcatraz. At the very least, we can be sure Donald Trump doesn’t buy it.

5. $258.02: That is $5 billion divided by New York State’s population (just under 20 million). In the long run, this makes absolutely zero sense considering how many things need work across the state, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that about 500 bucks for my wife and me sounds pretty nice right about now.

And considering we have a kid coming in March, can we make that check for $774, please?

6. A bridge to Connecticut: OK, this list has gone too far.

Pinciaro_Joe.jpgJoseph Pinciaro is the managing editor of the Riverhead News-Review and The Suffolk Times. He’s curious to hear what you’d like to see the area get in “The Long Island Billion” — should it receive anything — and urges you to write a Letter to the Editor or your state representative making your views known. You can reach him at [email protected] or 354-8024.