Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today released a year in review video, highlighting the major accomplishments for Suffolk County in 2018. A copy of the video can be viewed here.
“Whether it was completing major infrastructure projects, instituting new protections for our workforce, combating gang violence or enhancing school safety, this was a year of action in Suffolk County unlike any other,” said Suffolk County Executive Bellone. “I look forward to even brighter developments in 2019 as we continue to reform our government, clean our water, and keep our residents safe.”
Thinking Regionally: Building a New Suffolk
Downtown revitalization projects support County Executive Bellone’s Connect Long Island Plan, a regional transportation and development plan that promotes long-term economic growth in Suffolk County through a model of increased access and mobility by alternative modes of transportation. The plan supports investments in regional mass transit systems, such as the Long Island Rail Road, the implementation of new transit modes, transit-oriented developments and the connection of these transit-oriented developments and downtown areas to destinations that residents frequently visit. Some of these key projects include:
· The Upper Port Jefferson revitalization project. Suffolk County and the Village of Port Jefferson have completed Phase One of the Upper Port Jefferson revitalization project, more commonly referred to as Uptown Funk, to help fund infrastructure improvements that will leverage additional private sector investment in new rental housing adjacent to the Port Jefferson LIRR Station.
· In September, County Executive Bellone joined with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo to announce the completion of the Long Island Rail Road Double Track Project, a year ahead of schedule. The project added a second 13-mile track between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma, a segment of the LIRR that carries 48,000 riders every weekday. This second track will significantly reduce delays and allow for reverse-peak service expansions.
Historic Progress on Water Quality
The past year was also marked by major steps forward in the County Executive’s historic partnership with academic, business, and environmental organizations to address the water quality crisis caused by the lack of wastewater treatment infrastructure throughout most of Suffolk County.
Plans to eliminate nearly 7,000 cesspools and septic systems along the south shore by connecting communities to sewers using post-Sandy resiliency funding have advanced and will be decided on by voters in the Carlls River, Connetquot River and Forge River watersheds on January 22nd. Plans to sewer the Kings Park and Smithtown business districts are also moving forward, thanks to two grants of $20 million from the State’s Transformative Investment Program announced by Governor Cuomo.
In the areas of Suffolk for which sewers will never be a practical or cost-effective solution, efforts to expand the use of Innovative/Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (IA/OWTS) also expanded significantly when the State awarded Suffolk nearly 70 percent of the entire $15 million available statewide to provide grants to homeowners who choose to upgrade their systems voluntarily to new IA technologies. Suffolk County’s efforts to reverse decades of nitrogen pollution are being strongly supported by other levels of government, as well as the business and environmental communities, and are gaining the County statewide and national recognition.
Hosting Championship Sporting Events
In June, Suffolk County hosted the 118th U.S. Open Golf Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, the fifth time that the Golf Championship was held at the historic golf course. More than 200,000 people attended the event throughout the week, and over 80 million people in over 150 countries tuned in to the event. Suffolk County’s economy received a major boost with an estimated regional economic impact of approximately $120 million and more than 3,500 temporary job opportunities. Visitors were able to take advantage of all that Suffolk has to offer, including our world-class attractions, accommodations, transportation, restaurants, entertainment and more.
In May 2019, the PGA Championship will be coming to Bethpage State Park in Nassau County. Similar to the U.S. Open, this world-class event will be another opportunity to increase tourism on Long Island.
Protecting Workers, Empowering People
Following Governor Cuomo’s action taken at the State level, County Executive Bellone signed an Executive Order to safeguard union members from harassment and intimidation, marking the first municipal action taken on Long Island in response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME. The Executive Order prohibits County entities from disclosing personal information for county employees amid widespread reports of individuals and organizations harassing union members or prospective union members. The Executive Order also protects approximately 8,500 public sector employees in the County.
County Executive Bellone also signed the first-of-its-kind legislation on Long Island that will prohibit any employer within the county from requesting or seeking the wage history of a prospective employee during the interview and hiring process. The RISE Act, which stands for Restricting Information on Salaries and Earnings, is designed to close the pay gap for women and people of color in the workforce. The countywide ban on inquiring about salary history goes into effect on June 30, 2019.
Combatting MS-13 and Gang Violence
In October, Governor Cuomo announced that New York is investing $20 million in new initiatives to combat MS-13 gang activity on Long Island. New York is granting $15 million in capital funding to Suffolk County to support the creation of a new community hub in Brentwood to provide a one-stop shop for social services, as well as recreational and educational opportunities for the community. Suffolk County is also partnering with the Town of Islip to spearhead a community-based planning process to identify the facility’s exact location and additional partners, as well as determine what amenities and services will be made available to the community. Once the site selection is complete, it is anticipated that design will be completed in six months and construction in 15 months.
Additionally, this year’s state budget included $16 million to fight gangs in Suffolk County. The funding will help provide at-risk youth on Long Island with greater access to social programs and alternatives to gang activity, including expanded afterschool programs in areas with high gang activity, expanded job and vocational training opportunities for young people, gang prevention education to students and expanded comprehensive support services for at-risk young people, especially immigrant children.
Making Schools a Priority
In July, County Executive Bellone signed legislation to provide $2 million in funding for the Rave Panic Button, offering access to the 450 K-12 schools across Suffolk County. The Rave Panic Button App delivers critical data to 9-1-1 dispatchers and first responders, such as detailed caller location, building floor plans, emergency exit locations, emergency contacts, and key procedures. This critical information provides police officers and first responders with the tools necessary to accelerate emergency response time and effectiveness. To date, 90 percent of public school districts across Suffolk County have signed up to use the RAVE Panic Button Mobile App since it was introduced.
County Executive Bellone launched the Suffolk School Recycling Program, a partnership between Suffolk County and six school districts that deployed 1,000 recycle bins to 12 schools empowering more than 6,000 students to recycle and protect the environment. The partnership helps school districts meet their individual recycling statewide mandate and encourages students to be active participants in the recycling process all while shrinking the County’s carbon footprint. As part of this first-of-its-kind program students have recycled 24,381 pounds of paper and 23,320 bottles, which equate to 23 tons combined.