Written by Denise Nash Friday, 05 March 2010 00:00
The process to expand Jackson Avenue has been long and very detailed and there has been a great deal done behind the scenes. Before the work can be done, the funding has to be obtained, which involves many facets of government.
In 2005, Congressman Steve Israel secured $3 million to help fund the project, which planned improvements to Jackson Avenue from the railroad tracks to Jericho Turnpike. When federal funds became available for a shovel-ready project and Jackson Avenue fit the requirements, Nassau County applied for the funds taking a series of steps to obtain the money.
After a waiting game, the county was informed that they would not be getting the funds for a reason that Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs said was “miscommunication.”
The residents of Syosset have been patiently waiting for their main thoroughfare to be improved for years and work has already been done including LIPA moving their poles and Verizon has done some necessary re-wiring.
“I’m disappointed that after I successfully secured over $3 million for Jackson Avenue, someone in Nassau County dropped the ball,” said Congressman Israel. “But that doesn’t mean Nassau has to lose the opportunity for federal infrastructure funds. I’m working with all levels of government to move forward with Jackson Avenue using other funds we are identifying and to make sure the $3 million benefits the communities I represent.”
The question that many Syosset residents are asking is “now what?”
According to Jacobs, within the county’s 2009 capital plan, there was enough money to complete the Jackson Avenue project without federal money and that money moved into the 2010 plan. “Money is in there – it was identified,” said Jacobs. “The problem is that politics are getting in the way of working for the best interests of the local residents. I don’t want this to be a political issue.”
Jacobs has been at the helm of this project since plans first took shape. “Trust me that I will not ever back off of this project,” she said. “I will never back off until this becomes a fact. If we did this with a bipartisan effort, we could get done.”
According to Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt, the funding is not available. “Legislator Jacobs and the previous County Executive, Tom Suozzi, dropped the ball on the stimulus funding for this project,” he said. “Legislator Jacobs should be contacting the area’s Congressional and Senate representatives to find out what can be done to reinstate the funding.”
Jacobs said that the funds are available. “Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt is attempting to re-write history. The Federal stimulus money was right on track on this project until the very last moment when they pulled the rug out,” she said. “Mr. Schmitt knows this. The good news is that the money was identified in the 2009 Capital Plan and when I approached him for a bipartisan solution on this major problem, which would cost no extra money as the money was still in the plan, he flatly said, ‘no.’ This project is far too important to let partisan bickering stand in the way. Putting politics ahead of paving is totally unacceptable. The only losers will be the people who use this road continuously. I sincerely hope, every day, that another accident does not occur which results in injuries and/or death. The County is on notice. Now, we need the bi-partisan support to make this happen.”
According to County Executive Ed Mangano, the previous administration dropped the ball on this project and “did not file paperwork properly or on time. We are looking at other alternatives to fund this much-needed improvement project,” a spokesperson from his office said.
To the residents of Syosset, it is more important to get this project completed than to figure out who was at fault.
“Despite all the political back and forth, Jackson Avenue remains one of the most dangerous and most heavily traveled roads in Nassau County,” said Laura Schultz, vice president of Residents for a More Beautiful Syosset. “The dollars to complete the reconstruction of this road must be found, for the safety of the public must always be a non-partisan issue.”
The goal, as stressed by the Residents Civic Group, is seeing the project competed. “As previously demonstrated in so many past public projects, there is always some red tape that remains tangled whenever the federal, state and local governments have to act in concert on a specific process,” said Robert Rockelein, president of Residents for a More Beautiful Syosset. “We trust that the Nassau County Public Works Department and the newly revitalized County administration will do everything in their power to enable this vital public safety improvement in Syosset’s infrastructure, to be completed in an acceptable timeline.”
Updates on this project will continue as the various facets of government work on a solution.