Albany continues whirlwind LI romance

Water view: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (center), State Sen. Ken LaValle (left) and Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant tour Port Jefferson's waterfront Friday.

By GREGORY ZELLER //

A state administration that once seemed unable to find Long Island on a map continues to pay special attention to Nassau and Suffolk counties.

One day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited Westbury to personally deliver a $10 million downtown-revitalization check, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul packed three Suffolk stops – in Port Jefferson, Stony Brook and Patchogue – into her daily itinerary.

And that was a light day compared to the lieutenant governor’s Thursday, when she made five Long Island stops, promoting medical research at Winthrop University Medical Center in Mineola, touring Long Island Spirits – the Island’s first craft distillery – in Baiting Hollow and pressing the flesh at stops in Amityville, Calverton and Patchogue.

Hochul’s whirlwind tour spun Friday from Port Jefferson – where she toured the downtown pier with Mayor Margot Garant and State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to highlight the economic impact of Long Island’s fishing industry – to Stony Brook University Hospital, where she inspected some of the fruits of Albany’s commitment to medical research.

Lt. Gov. Hochul (left) tours the Long Island LBGT Network community center construction site.

Lt. Gov. Hochul (left) tours the Long Island LBGT Network community center construction site.

She also penciled in a stop in Patchogue, where she met with representatives of the Long Island LGBT Network to review plans for a state-funded, environmentally friendly community center geared toward the Island’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

Both the governor and his lieutenant have been wearing out the pavement this week, circumnavigating the state to dole out $10 million awards through the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Cuomo’s $100 million plan to transform depressed downtowns into vibrant commercial/residential hybrids. That tour included the presentation Cuomo made Thursday at The Space in Westbury theater, a day after Hochul dropped off another downtown-revitalization award in Elmira.

The dashing duo – who also handed out downtown awards this week in Middletown, Geneva and Plattsburgh – also spent part of their road show defending Empire State Development’s sputtering Start-Up NY Program, which offers 10 years of tax breaks to startups and early-stage companies that hang their shingles on or near college campuses.

Despite more than $53 million spent to advertise it, the taxpayer-funded jobs-creation program created just 332 jobs in its second year, after creating just 76 in its first, according to a report quietly released July 1 – three months late – by ESD, Albany’s main economic-development engine.

In Plattsburgh, Cuomo called the program a necessary weapon to counter tax-incentive packages other states use to lure away New York’s startups and early-stage companies. In Buffalo, Hochul urged patience.

Unlike Start-Up NY’s non-start, many of Cuomo’s other economic-development initiatives have flourished, including several targeting Long Island. This week’s plentiful visits by the state’s top two executives came midway through a year in which Cuomo has turned up the heat under multiple Long Island issues, including some with direct and potentially significant economic impact.

In addition to an ambitious Island-wide infrastructure-improvement program the governor laid out in January, Cuomo has opened the throttle on the controversial Long Island Rail Road “third track.” The latest incarnation of the long-debated plan, which aims to improve train traffic through a historically bottlenecked 9.8-mile stretch in Nassau County, has undergone several public vettings and earned the support of Right Track For Long Island, a coalition of regional lawmakers, business owners and other stakeholders.

The governor has also championed other LIRR system upgrades, including new state contracts that will advance the Double Track project, which is meant to increase the railroad’s capacity between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, and the introduction of a new e-ticketing system that debuted this month on the LIRR’s Port Washington line.

As part of his railroad initiatives, Cuomo has also prioritized the replacement of several dangerous grade crossings along LIRR lines.

Other Long Island initiatives on the governor’s 2016 agenda have included a $36 million restoration and improvement program at Jones Beach and a $6 million stipend to both kick-start Stony Brook University’s new Center for Clean Water Technology and fund a study of the Island’s potable water supply.