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Source: Long Island Business News

Paterson gets an earful on Long Island

BY DAVID WINZELBERG

Posted: October 9, 2009
Originally Published: October 8, 2009

In a closed door, but free-wheeling, get-together in Farmingdale Thursday afternoon, a coalition of labor, business, environmental and transportation groups asked Gov. David Paterson to help solve the region’s transportation, energy, economic development and infrastructure woes.

Specifically, Paterson was asked to amend the state’s transportation policy to focus more on traffic calming and pedestrian safety. He was also asked to create a regional bus system.

Separately, leaders pitched changes to the Empire Zone program, and pushed the governor to rewrite state building codes to allow seniors to stay in their homes.

The governor was also asked to push for the Lighthouse project and make changes in alternative energy policies.

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which hosted the meeting, said New York has fallen behind on alternative energy, including wind farms, which has less of an environmental impact that most forms of energy.

She asked the governor to get a request for proposals out on a large-scale wind farm for downstate New York.

“We see that as a priority for review and it should be expedited,” Esposito said. “Obviously we want to make sure it’s done right and put in the right place, but this needs to be moved along.

Esposito said the region needs a wind farm worth at least 350 megawatts.

Esposito added that no one was expecting the governor to show up with a bag of money to solve the Island’s problems.

“We know he doesn’t have a secret stash,” she said. “We didn’t just ask him for money. There is a deficit. We’re looking for him to push our cause through policy and regulatory fixes, like the offshore wind farm.”

John Durso, the president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, also said that “everyone understands the state’s economic situation. We just don’t want to be held hostage to New York City or upstate New York. We need to see our fair share.”

The union leader said he asked Paterson to push the Lighthouse project, which is currently waiting for Town of Hempstead board approval.

The developer, Islanders owner Charles Wang, had set an Oct. 3 deadline for netting the approvals. But that deadline has come and gone. Wang has since said he’ll explore other opportunities, including, possibly, relocating the National Hockey League team.

That, Durso said, would be unacceptable.

“Paterson is a supporter, and we need his leadership to move this along,” Durso said.

He added that Long Island’s building trades are experiencing 30 percent to 40 percent unemployment and over this winter that number could climb above 50 percent because of the lack of stimulus dollars.

“And the other problem is the lack of projects being put forth or being approved,” Durso said. “The Lighthouse project would be a big lift. It would be tremendous, and it would save the Islanders and attract conventions that we currently lose to other areas.”

The meeting was organized by Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Vision Long Island, the Long Island Federation of Labor, Nassau County Chambers of Commerce and Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce.