Government

At Long Island Association meeting, county executives lay out visions to build a high-tech corridor

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone envision a science and medical research “corridor” stretching 50 miles across the middle of Long Island, from the NYCB Live Nassau Coliseum to Brookhaven National Laboratory, in Suffolk County, with Cold Spring Harbor Lab and the Route 110 business district in the center of it all.

Both executives laid out their plans for the corridor in speeches before the Long Island Association at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury last Friday. The idea for such a corridor is not a new one. Leveraging the Island’s high-tech resources — its national universities and laboratories — has been discussed for years by elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans. Connecting the region’s research institutions and rebranding the Island as a second Silicon Valley has been another matter.

For Curran, it all begins with Nassau’s Hub, the 72-acre campus on which the Coliseum sits, surrounded by Hofstra University, Nassau Community College and Museum Row.

Earlier this month, the Nassau Legislature granted developers Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment Global and RXR Realty the authority to move ahead with plans to convert the parking lot surrounding the Coliseum, which lies unused and empty much of the time, into a mixed-use community that is to combine apartments, shops and the Northwell Health Innovation Center, a planned 225,000-square-foot research institute, across from Hofstra University.

The $1.5 billion Hub project is expected to get under way in 18 to 24 months and transform central Nassau, Curran told the audience of 800 at the LIA breakfast. “I want the Hub to be an actual hub,” she said. “It will draw visitors, but it will also be a neighborhood.”

Curran noted that she is committed to working with the County Legislature as planning and construction move forward on the new Hub, noting that lawmakers will have “to approve all details of the project.” She also said that she insisted on a “community benefits plan,” which is to be determined, but which is expected to provide amenities to surrounding areas.

“Buy-in from surrounding communities” will be essential to completing the project, she said.

Curran said developers would work within existing Town of Hempstead zoning and building codes as they create plans for the new Hub.

The Northwell Health Innovation Center, when completed, will be in addition to the 114,000-square-foot Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which is now under construction at the southwest corner of the Coliseum’s parking lot, on Hempstead Turnpike. Ground was broken on the Sloan Kettering project in 2017, by then County Executive Ed Mangano.

Northwell first proposed construction of a center at the Hub in 2014, where it was to relocate part of its Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, but it unexpectedly withdrew the proposal in April 2017. The state had earmarked $50 million toward the $300 million project at the time.

Mangano first proposed a biotech park at the Coliseum in 2011. It was to be constructed as the Coliseum was rebuilt. The refurbished Coliseum was finished in March 2017 and has become among the best-attended venues of its size in the country, according to Billboard magazine. Withdrawal of Northwell’s plans for the research center a month later, however, set back plans for the biotech park.

With the new Northwell proposal in the works, there is renewed hope among Nassau officials that the park will be completed. The Innovation Center is to include a mix of medical research labs and educational and conference spaces.

“Here in Nassau County, we’re moving forward,” Curran said.

Northwell officials signed an agreement with the Hub developers in November “to explore the development of the Northwell Innovation Center” as part of the Hub redevelopment, Northwell’s website states.

The next step, according to Northwell, is for its planners to meet with BSE and RXR officials to develop blueprints for the research center. Once those plans are ready, the parties will have to agree on costs and financing.

“Northwell is looking at leveraging opportunities coming out of the rapidly expanding life sciences sector, where employment has grown at a rate two and a half times faster than the rest of the economy over the past two decades,” its website states.