New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo laid out an ambitious five-part agenda for Long Island when he delivered his regional State of the State address at SUNY Farmingdale State College on Tuesday.
The proposals he outlined included improving the region’s drinking water protections, investing in mass transit infrastructure, building a wind farm 30 miles southeast of Montauk, mandating local governments to share services to cut costs, and dedicating resources to help combat the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic, among others.
“If we want to make Long Island better than it has ever been, we have to step up and have the courage to do it,” the two-term Democratic governor said to cheers.
It was his sixth State of the State address since taking office in 2011. But this year, instead of holding the address before the State Legislature in Albany, Cuomo is holding regional speeches starting Monday in New York City and Buffalo. He delivered the Westchester version of his speech Tuesday morning before coming to LI.
He started off at Farmingdale by recapping his prior successes, such as passing the Marriage Equality Act, although there was no mention of his ethics reform proposals aimed at addressing public corruption. Last year, a former top Cuomo aide was among those arrested in a pay-to-play scheme and Cuomo’s GOP ally Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano pleaded not guilty to a kickback scheme. Mangano, who usually gets a favorable passing mention during Cuomo’s State of the State addresses, was not in attendance.
Cuomo’s locally specific proposals included investing $160 million to enhance 16 LIRR stations across LI—eight each in Nassau and Suffolk counties—as well as a new stop for Brookhaven National Lab (BNL) on the Ronkonkoma Branch and a new terminal at Long Island MacArthur Airport to provide direct LIRR service. Station enhancements will include public art, WiFi access, charging stations as well as improved signage and platform-level waiting areas.
The governor credited Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a fellow Democrat, with proposing the BNL-LIRR station idea.
“He said, ‘We should connect Brookhaven to the LIRR to get direct access to Brookhaven, it will stimulate all sorts of activity,’” Cuomo said, recalling his conversation with Bellone. “He wanted to name the station The Steve Bellone Station. We will not be doing that, however.”
The governor also proposed investing $40 million to build sewers in Smithtown and Kings Park to protect the environment and encourage economic activity. The plans are part of a larger $2 billion in proposed borrowing to invest in water protection.
As for taxes, Cuomo noted that the 2-percent tax cap only slowed the rate of ever-increasing local property taxes. To help reduce bills, he proposed requiring county officials to devise plans to share services with smaller municipalities as a way to reduce local government expenditures and potentially lower tax rates. Residents would then vote on the proposed sharing agreements.
The governor also proposed building an offshore wind farm 30 miles southeast of Montauk. He said that it would create jobs and help the state achieve its goal of relying on renewable energy. Anticipating the kind of reaction that killed similar proposals in the past, he also noted that these turbines would be invisible from the shore.
“Not even Superman standing at Montauk Point could see these wind farms,” he said.
He saved his proposals for combating the region’s heroin and opioid epidemic for last. His plans include limiting prescriptions for painkillers from 30 to seven days, increasing the number of treatment beds available, and requiring emergency room doctors to check the prescription registry to prevent doctor shopping in the ER, among other ideas.
“We have to leave our children a more beautiful Long Island than we found it,” he said. “And we will do that by working together.”