This summer, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the creation of regional councils statewide that will vie for funding for projects aimed at stimulating local economies.
And New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. wants to ensure the East End gets its own fair shake at the funding.
After issuing a statement last week with New York State Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Dan Losquadro calling for the Long Island Regional Economic Council to host a public forum on the East End, Thiele’s request was quickly approved by the Governor’s office.
On Wednesday morning, Thiele announced that the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council — one of 10 councils in the state charged with creating economic plans for their regions — will host an East End forum. The event will take place October 3 at the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center on East Main Street in Riverhead.
A time for the forum has yet to be announced, said Thiele.
Asking for the special session, said Thiele on Wednesday, was an effort to ensure the East End’s needs don’t get lost in the shuffle as the region’s economy differs from the remainder of Long Island.
“The regional council hosted public forums in Nassau County and the council had one in Melville, in western Suffolk, but we haven’t had one on the East End and they don’t call Long Island ‘long’ for nothing,” said Thiele.
So far, he said, the regional council has heard from communities that are largely suburban and densely populated, while the East End remains an agricultural Mecca, with an economy tied to the fishing industry and certainly, tourism and second homeowners.
“They are different issues at hand here, but no less important,” said Thiele.
At the forum, he said he expects local chambers of commerce to attend, as well as the Long Island Farm Bureau and the Long Island Wine Council, as well as representatives from the commercial and charter boat fishing industries.
“I just want to make sure our part of this region doesn’t get ignored, and I have to say, the governor’s office has been completely responsive to our requests.
Thiele has also asked the Long Island Development Council to revive the East End Economic and Environmental Task Force first created by Governor Mario Cuomo in 1994 to come up with new economic strategies for the East End.
Additionally, Thiele said he believes the council should consider specific policy initiatives, which could improve the East End economy, focusing on transportation, education, agriculture, fishing and the tourism industries.
Specifically, he would like the council to revive the repaving of Route 27 from County Road 39 to Montauk, and wants the council to explore the institution of a five town coordinated rail/bus shuttle system. Thiele also advocated the re-opening of the Southampton campus under the State University of New York (SUNY) banner, as well as the creation of a Regional Sustainability Institute.
To promote local farming and fishing industries, Thiele called the elimination of what he called “excessive paperwork” for local wineries and the promotion of aquaculture in general. He also called for state advocacy to revise fishing quotas that he deemed unfair for New York fishermen.
Thiele also said the council should revive a commitment in investing in land preservation and environmental infrastructure to protect the tourism and second homeowner industry, create a sales tax exemption at the pump for commercial fishermen and charter boats and revise the Resident State Income Tax on second homeowners.
All of these initiatives, argued Thiele, will benefit the East End economy as a whole.