By Steve Levy
Former Assembly Ways and Means Chairman, Arthur "Jerry" Kremer, recently penned an article bemoaning the fact that Long-Island is significantly shortchanged when it comes to state and federal aid for our transportation and highways. As someone who has been shouting from the rooftops about this inequity for many years, I am heartened to see that someone of Kremer's stature is part of the chorus.
A few months ago I wrote an article calling for Long Island to break away from the New York Metropolitan Transit Council (NYMTC) to create its own Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). The article was met with a fierce rebuttal from an operative within NYMTC. Her affiliation with this City-centric organization is all you had to know to denote her bias. She ridiculously tried to assure Long Island that we were getting our fair share because money was coming for a second track on the railroad. She failed to mention that this funding was less from NYMTC than from a one shot infusion of leftover storm money from Sandy.
I noted how New York City is receiving over $30 billion for four major projects, thereby drowning out major funding for other needed projects on Long Island. This is not to say that we begrudge the city for having a 2nd Avenue subway. Rather, we insist that, as a community of three million people, we are deserving of far more than just the scraps presently falling off of the city's table. Since we are considered to be under the city's umbrella, federal officials consider the $30 billion as being a benefit to Long Island. Yet, as Kremer notes, our major arteries on the island continue to be clogged with bumper-to-bumper traffic, the Sagtikos Parkway being a perfect example.
As a former county executive, I made the pitch as far back as 2007 for an additional $200 million for a new lane on the Sagtikos. We got it on paper, but are still waiting for the first penny. Mr. Kremer wisely highlighted the problem we are facing. My article provided us with what I believe is the one and only solution: break away from NYMTC so Long Island can be treated on par with metropolitan areas of like population, such as Chicago and Los Angeles.
Last year, the Center for Cost-Effective Government, for which I serve as executive director, held a meeting with a number of Long Island transportation leaders, including representatives from the Long Island Association and the Long Island Contractors Association. We started to make headway in looking into the concept of creating our own MPO. Unfortunately, we were stopped in our tracks when a member of the Long Island Regional Planning Council indicated that the Suffolk County executive had no desire to participate in this quest. The executives of both counties should join our efforts to lobby for this needed change.
Most importantly, we need our state and federal legislative delegations to actively fight for Long Island to get its fair share. We have not been able to do so being in the shadows of New York City. The best bet for us to get this essential funding is to have our own MPO. Hopefully, Mr. Kremer can use his significant clout to pigeonhole our legislators to go on the record in supporting this needed reform.
Steve Levy is president of Common Sense Strategies, a political and business consulting firm. He served as Suffolk County executive from 2004-2011, and as a NYS assemblyman.