No Future For You
It’s hard to contemplate a better tomorrow when you’re mired in a present-day morass, and the travails of the Long Island Regional Planning Council offer its own troubling case study. The normally far-sighted nonprofit agency has had to scramble just to sustain itself after Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano cut his share of the funding in March. The budget had been split roughly in half, about $200,000 from each county.
“At this time when we have to look at every nickel and every dime, it’s just an unfortunate cut,” Brian Nevin, a spokesman for the Nassau County executive, tells the Press.
“We do have sufficient funds available for 2011,” says Cameron this week. “We’re looking for additional funding so we can implement Phase Two of our sustainability plan. We’ve received funding in the past from Nassau County’s general fund budget as well as the Nassau Industrial Development Agency, and we’re optimistic that the IDA will continue to support our programs and efforts as they have done in the past.”
This is hardly the first time Nassau County hasn’t paid its share, according to Koppelman, who served as Suffolk County’s first planning director for 28 years and executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk County Regional Planning Board for 41 years until it became the LIRPC. The master planner, who started his career in the waning days of Robert Moses, directs the Center for Regional Policy Studies at at Stony Brook University, which recently oversaw the Carmans River study. His memory remains as sharp as the day he first went to work for H. Lee Dennison, then the newly elected Suffolk County executive, in 1960.
“The basic problem we have at the present time is that planning is not on people’s radar screen as a priority,” Koppelman says. “Economic survival is.” He thought the timing of LIRPC’s release of its 2035 report “is not the best…
“Many of the strategies I totally agree with, but it’s strategies we’ve been pursuing all along,” he says.
As for the fate of the LIRPC itself, Koppelman sighed. “You could have regional coordination if you had a reasonably strong planning agency in Nassau, which doesn’t exist. But certainly at the very least you need the two county executives on the same wavelength dealing with regional problems.”
Getting Long Island’s top elected officials to see beyond their own borders is no easy task, Koppelman says, recalling how he once suggested to then-Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi that he let Suffolk run a new sewage line to the Cedar Creek sewage treatment plant across the county line in Wantagh. Instead of having to rebuild its Bergen Point facility in West Babylon, Suffolk would pay Nassau sewage fees.
No way, Suozzi told the planner. “He didn’t like the idea at all,” Koppelman says with a chuckle. “His general comment was: ‘There goes Koppelman: He wants Nassau County to take all of Suffolk County’s shit!’ So much for regional cooperation!”