OpEd: Make Ike Proud With Ronkonkoma Midway Project
Make Ike proud.
We need to dream big to give our children the lives our parents gave us. Consider President Eisenhower, or Ike. When he signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, Ike laid the first brick on America’s road to prosperity. Today, 89% of total dollars of U.S. freight is transferred on our nation’s highways.
Ronkonkoma Midway, a project to be built over 10 to 15 years, would make Ike proud. The $2.8 billion, 179-acre Midway project hosts a convention center, a 300-room hotel, a health sciences facility, and a new air terminal. Plans had called for an arena but that arena is no longer included in the plans.
An island with 2.5 million people can support such a dynamic center. In fact, Midway can be a fiscal juggernaut, a job-creator the likes of which we haven’t seen since Grumman.
Jobs. It’s about jobs.
This isn’t another expensive rental complex or high-end housing project. That’s the new developments we see today on Long Island. And we’re not turning a green space without adequate roadways into a city, like the former golf courses others seek to develop. We’re building homes and creating jobs right on a rail line for people who won’t even need cars. And we’re doing it on a site that’s already commercially zoned.
Vitally, Midway is situated between the LIRR Ronkonkoma Station (to the north) and McArthur Airport (to the south). And the Long Island Expressway sits just north of the train station. We are speaking about the very first rail-air-road link on Long Island!
Connectivity. Jobs. Taxes. Connectivity is what generates economic activity. Connectivity creates jobs and generates tax dollars. Areas with connectivity, between just a rail and a downtown, are absolutely booming. Patchogue and Farmingdale are cases in point.
With Midway, we’ll have good, high-paying jobs in areas like health care closer to home. Never mind the 14,500 construction jobs. The project will generate 29,300 permanent jobs and generate $4.5 billion of economic activity annually.
Midway has the support to make this dream a reality, including from important local groups such as the Ronkonkoma Chamber. “This transformational project would benefit residents across all 10 of our towns, and bring an increase in tourism, business, and educational opportunities and advances to our region,” reads a letter of support from eight Suffolk town supervisors and Senator Chuck Schumer.
Jobs. It’s about jobs.
The lone elected officials who have voiced opposition to Midway are a State Assemblyman and a legislator from a neighboring district, Legislator Piccirrillo. In a Newsday article from June 30, Piccirrillo claimed there’s been a “lack of public input and due diligence on this project.”
There have been nearly 60 meetings about the Ronkonkoma Hub. I’ve seen the legislator at some of them. Meeting hosts are as varied as the Ronkonkoma Civic Association, the Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Association, the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce, the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce, Vision Long Island, the McArthur Business Alliance, the Ronkonkoma Historical Society, the Hauppauge Industrial Association, and even the Connetquot PTA. Midway just hosted two open houses (July 11 and 21) at the Lakeland Fire Department.
In other words, Midway is not the product of a backroom deal or a conspiracy. Talks have been consistent. They have been public, and they have been inclusive.
There are differences between Ike’s highway system and the Ronkonkoma Midway. The national highway system cost $114 billion ($535 billion today). They were paid for by taxpayers. We paid, and we benefitted.
Who benefits from Midway? Long Islanders. And who pays for it? Taxpayers? No. With the exception of infrastructure pledged by the county and towns of Brookhaven and Islip, nearly all the costs will be paid for by developers.
Jobs. It’s about jobs.
If we’re not going to dream big, we’re forgetting our past. And if we’re not dreaming big, we’re also sealing our future.
We’ve invested millions to provide generations of local children a superior education. Now it’s time to give them jobs. Let them contribute to our local economy. If not, we may as well just accept that they’ll take our investment in their education out of state, for a better job and a better life.
Ronkonkoma Midway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let’s take our shot. Stop the brain drain. Make Ike proud.