Bellone, Romaine, Carpenter and Major Research Institutions Announce Regionally Transformative Plan to Build “Innovation Zone”

For the first time, top elected officials in Suffolk County and leaders of the region’s top research institutions - following Governor Cuomo’s push for regional planning and to create clusters - have come together to ...

Print Email

Hauppauge, NY - June 16, 2015 - For the first time, top elected officials in Suffolk County at multiple levels of government and leaders of the region’s top research institutions - following Governor Cuomo’s push for regional planning and to create clusters - have come together to develop and support a comprehensive, regionally transformative plan to make Suffolk a more attractive place for young people and high-tech businesses by investing in economic development, revitalizing downtown areas and creating modern transportation options.  

The leaders were brought together by Governor Andrew Cuomo's call for improved regional planning and transformative thinking; established by the state's creation of the Regional Economic Development Council - Led by Long Island Association CEO Kevin Law and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz - and strengthened by devoting funding for transformative infrastructure.

At a meeting of the Long Island Regional Planning Council, the leaders joined together to announce the plan to create the Long Island Innovation Zone (I-Zone).  The I-Zone will connect existing and planned transit-oriented downtowns – such as New Village in Patchogue, the Meadows at Yaphank and the Ronkonkoma Hub – to the region’s world-class research institutions – such as Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory – in order to create a quality of life ecosystem which is attractive to employers and millennials who have been leaving Long Island in record numbers. 

The plan is made possible by Governor Cuomo’s mission to promote innovation across New York State and make job creation the top priority.  The Governor has recognized in a way the state never has before the SUNY systems ability to be an economic driver for New York.  Investments in the SUNY system through the Governor's SUNY NY Challenge grants and SUNY2020 have further enhanced this world-class system.  Governor Cuomo has further leveraged the SUNY system to promote economic growth through his innovative START-UP NY initiative, which seeks to accelerate entrepreneurialism and job creation across the state by incentivizing high-tech and other start-up businesses to locate on public and private university campuses.  Six technology companies were recently approved by Stony Brook University and New York State to locate their businesses on the campuses of Stony Brook University bringing new employment opportunities to Suffolk County.  

Suffolk County is also fortunate to enjoy strong leadership promoting innovation and economic growth in the State legislature. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, an expert in education, has long promoted Stony Brook University - which resides within his Senate District - as well as the entire SUNY system as a key means to promote economic growth.  The Dean of Suffolk’s Senate Delegation, Senator Ken LaValle has been Stony Brook University’s champion for decades helping it to achieve new heights.  On the Assembly side, the Dean of Suffolk’s delegation, Assemblyman Steve Engelbright, represents the Stony Brook area and has been a fierce advocate promoting the University.  

According to the Rauch Foundation’s Long Island Index, from 2000 to 2009, Long Island lost 15% of its 25-34 year old population, while the nation as a whole saw an average gain of 5%.  These young professionals, who are needed for innovation businesses to flourish, are flocking to regions where downtowns and affordable housing are more accessible through public transportation and job, education and research opportunities are more attainable.   

Joining together to make this announcement were Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri, Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Brookhaven National Laboratory Lab Director Dr. Doon Gibbs, Long Island Regional Planning Council Chairman John Cameron, Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn and William Lindsay III, Elisa Picca, Chief Planning Officer MTA/Long Island Railroad, Charlie Prizzi, Vice President of Development and Community Relations Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Jeff Guillot, Founder of the Suburban Millennial Institute.

The build out of the I-Zone will be accomplished by the investment in projects that have long been championed by Suffolk County, and Islip and Brookhaven towns - the creation of a multi-modal corridor on Nicolls Road featuring a rapid transit system and a Hiking and Biking network connecting Stony Brook University to the Ronkonkoma Hub and to Patchogue Village, full buildout of the new Ronkonkoma Hub downtown through investment in sewers and parking structures, a direct train to plane connection at Islip owned MacArthur Airport by building a new, state of the art terminal on the north side of the airport and a new train station at Brookhaven National Laboratory connecting this global institution to the region's transportation infrastructure. Additional investments in future phases will include electrification to BNL and strengthening the connection to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  

"Modern public transportation assets can have a tremendously positive impact on our campus, and indeed, have helped other academic and research communities like ours thrive," said Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. "Public transportation improvements will most certainly enhance Stony Brook’s ability to recruit and retain the best students and top early career scientists to Long Island."

“We are excited to participate in a planning process to maximize access to Long Island’s key research centers of innovation,” said Doon Gibbs, Brookhaven Lab Director. “Transportation options and community characteristics are important factors that draw the best and brightest to Long Island, so we look forward to a more connected future for all.” 

“It is exciting to be able to work together with elected officials like Ed Romaine, Angie Carpenter and Paul Pontieri and with our innovation leaders like Dr. Stanley, Dr. Gibbs and Dr. Stillman and great partners like the LIRR to develop a plan designed to attract young people and high-tech businesses,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.  “We all believe in Suffolk County and Long Island.  We have the assets and the potential to become one of the most attractive places to live and work in the country.  The I-Zone will provide the necessary infrastructure to leverage our amazing assets so we can keep our kids here and create more high paying jobs.  I am especially grateful to Governor Cuomo for implementing policies that have laid the groundwork for an innovation economy on Long Island.  

"I believe the County Executive is forward thinking in proposing these concepts and I am hopeful that there will be funding available to implement them," said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. 

“We are fighting to make Long Island a great place to live – not leave.  We can do it and we will do it,” said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter.

The four key projects to creating the Innovation Zone are building a multimodal roadway on the Nicolls Road corridor, the buildout of the Ronkonkoma Hub, beginning planning and predevelopment of a north side terminal at Long Island Macarthur Airport to connect it to rail and BRT and connecting Brookhaven National Laboratory to public transportation.  

1. Multimodal Nicolls Road Corridor:  

The plan would convert Nicolls Road into a multi-modal corridor with a designated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lane and a parallel hiking/biking trail – creating the first direct north-south public transportation connection between the Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma and Montauk LIRR lines.  The plan will additionally link all the regional assets along the route, including Stony Brook University and Medical Center, Suffolk County Community College, St. Joseph’s College, the Ronkonkoma Hub, Long Island MacArthur Airport, the Davis Park Ferry to Fire Island and hundreds of acres of park land.

Suffolk County BRT will be a 21st century public transit system that runs frequently and efficiently in its own dedicated lane.  BRT vehicles will be equipped with WiFi technology and charging stations in a comfortable, user-friendly, attractive environment and can be tracked with real-time updates and payment options through a smart phone app.

Adding a north-south BRT route in addition to the existing east-west LIRR lines creates a comprehensive, modern public transportation network, which will help revitalize downtown areas and provide Long Islanders with a viable alternative to car ownership, an issue which is particularly attractive to millennials.

In addition to building a designated BRT system, the multimodal plan includes the creation of the largest hiking and biking trail on Long Island.  The hiking/biking network will span almost the entire width of the island, from Stony Brook University to the Fire Island ferries in Patchogue.  It will provide residents easy access to desired recreational activities as well as the 25% of Suffolk County that is preserved open space and parkland. 

In other municipalities, BRT systems have generated as much as $114 in private sector investment into local economies for every $1 of public investment, and hiking/biking trails have shown to significantly increase nearby property values.  

2. Buildout of Ronkonkoma Hub: 

The Innovation Zone plan includes the installation of necessary sewers for the proposed transit-oriented, mixed-use Ronkonkoma Hub development as well as a new parking structure and an extension of the Nicolls Road BRT route to connect to the Ronkonkoma train station and the new downtown. The Ronkonkoma Hub project is projected to generate nearly $250 million in economic activity per year, create 3,000 new jobs, spur $60 million in increased wages and create the type of walkable mixed-use downtown which is attractive to millennials.  The plan would also help fund the connection of sewers through several other Islip downtowns and linking to the Southwest Sewer District, which will improve water quality and enhance economic development opportunities along the corridor, including sewering Long Island MacArthur Airport.

3. Planning & Predevelopment of Plane to Train Terminal at MacArthur Airport

The Innovation Zone plan calls for a new state-of-the-art airport terminal to be built on the north side of Islip’s Long Island MacArthur Airport.  This proposed terminal would be adjacent to the Ronkonkoma LIRR station and the proposed BRT station – effectively creating a multi-modal plane, train and BRT superstation which will dramatically enhance Islip’s MacArthur Airport and make it a far more attractive option for carriers, as it would be the only direct plane-to-train option in the region.

4. Connecting Brookhaven National Laboratory 

The Innovation Zone plan also includes relocating the current underutilized Yaphank train station closer to Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) with the eventual goal of expanding electrification. BNL, the only national laboratory in the northeast, is a world-renowned science and research facility with over 3,100 employees. The expansion will link BNL and the nearby The Meadows at Yaphank mixed-use development with the rest of the Innovation Zone to provide scientists, residents, students, and members of the workforce with direct public transit access to this regionally significant research and science facility.

“The Long Island Regional Planning Council salutes the leadership of County Executive Steve Bellone and Supervisors Ed Romaine and Angie Carpenter along with the leaders of our venerable regional research institutions in developing an innovative plan to capitalize on and expand upon our regional transportation network in connecting our vital employment centers with our vibrant downtowns and transit hubs to retain and attract our most treasured asset, our educated and skilled workforce,” said John Cameron, Chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council. 

“Visionary regional planning is a must if we want Suffolk County to move in the right direction,” said Mayor Paul Pontieri.  “I am proud to work with County Executive Bellone, Supervisor Romaine, Supervisor Carpenter and all our partners to create a transportation infrastructure that connects our research assets and institutions of higher learning to our new and proposed transit oriented developments.  This plan will provide a solid foundation to attract and retain young professionals on Long Island.”

“The MTA and LIRR have been experiencing significant ridership growth in recent years fueled in large part by the millennial generation,” said Pat Nowakowski, President of the LIRR. “We are excited to support the Innovation Zone by connecting it to the region’s talented pool of potential employees. We strongly support the goal of stimulating smart economic growth in Suffolk County, and look forward to collaborating with County Executive Bellone and all the partners on the opportunities that the Innovation Zone will bring.”

"Suffolk County offers young professionals a world class education. But far too often, Millennial-aged individuals flee because the region isn't affordable enough, the transportation options are limited, and the area isn't as exciting as our neighbors to the west," said Suburban Millennial Institute Founder Jeff Guillot. "The Innovation Zone project can concurrently address all three of these critical areas. Simply put, a more connected Long Island is a huge win for suburban Millennials. I applaud all the leaders in the Innovation Zone Partnership for their leadership on this issue." 

The Innovation Zone project is designed to create a quality of life ecosystem connecting research and education centers at Stony Brook University, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman Campus, St. Joseph’s College; vibrant, mixed use downtowns in Patchogue, the Ronkonkoma Hub and The Meadows at Yaphank; and transportation terminals on three LIRR lines, at Long Island MacArthur Airport and the Davis Park Ferry Company in Patchogue.