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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

We should bring Facebook's way of thinking to Long Island
(Page 2 of 2)
It isn’t that hard to imagine what a new Long Island could be if its present and future leaders were willing to take on the challenge of remaking the two-county landscape. There’s still plenty of land in both counties to accommodate new construction of corporate facilities. The new Canon world headquarters in Melville is an example of what can be built thanks to a very progressive Huntington town administration. Eventually the Canon facility will house close to 2,000 employees, almost all of whom will live nearby.

Where would I put my Facebook-type operation on Long Island if I could make such a project happen? The Heartland development, on the grounds of the old Pilgrim State Hospital in Brentwood, has been on the drawing board for the past 11 years. The property has over 400 acres and could be developed into 9,000 housing units and over 3 million square feet of office space. Coupled with over a million square feet of restaurant and recreational space, Heartland could be the lightning bolt that transforms this region into a Long Island Silicon Valley.

Year after year, developer Gerald Wolkoff has battled with one group after another, winning small victories but failing to get elected officials to aggressively back this futuristic project. The Kings Park Psychiatric Center is another example of a property that could be part of the future Long Island. Built in the 1800s, it covers hundreds of acres and is an old, blighted property. The not-in-my-backyard crowd wants the site to be turned into a park, but with so few large plots available, it would be a shame to let it be ignored.

Fire up the jet engines. Force about 20 of the island’s major decision makers to board the airplane. And transport them to Menlo Park, where they might have an eye-opening, spine-building experience.

Jerry Kremer was a state assemblyman for 23 years, and chaired the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee for 12 years. He now heads Empire Government Strategies, a business development and legislative strategy firm. Comments about this column? JKremer@liherald.com.

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