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County Executive Bellone offers hopeful message

(BOREUM LEE / THE STATESMAN)
County Executive Steve Bellone discusses the future of Suffolk County. (BOREUM LEE / THE STATESMAN)

On Tuesday night, County Executive Steve Bellone made a stop at Stony Brook University and shared some insights on the economic conditions of Suffolk County. After swimming through a series of discussions, Mr. Bellone silenced the room by addressing a problem that always earns our outrage but never seems to be resolved: “The government is dysfunctional…they address issues that do not matter to you or the future.”

The audience was galvanized over the fact that our own county executive would make such critical remarks about his government. After a slow pause, we all came to a realization: the government in Suffolk County is dysfunctional, and it will take immense effort to improve it. Mr. Bellone’s sentiments paved the way for him to address many of the problems running rampant throughout Long Island, like crackdowns on illegal housing and the level of poverty in Wyandanch. Although it took Mr. Bellone a great deal of humility to offer a glimpse of the less glamorous side of Long Island, he offered a hopeful message in the end by focusing on something that resonates deeply within our hearts: the future of Suffolk County.

Even though the mistakes of the past cannot be erased, Mr. Bellone looked to the future with an optimistic eye, envisioning Suffolk County as the bedrock of success for the next generation: “This region [will] become a place for you students to stay here, with a family, [and] make a mark in Long Island…We have to make progress.” As a freshman at Stony Brook University, I find myself standing on a threshold between childhood and adulthood. I may still be a young student starting her first year of college, but it is undeniable that I must assume the responsibilities of planning my future and achieving long-term goals. Mr. Bellone’s intention to shape Suffolk County into a urbanized network of jobs and affordable housing gave me a great sigh of relief and sense of comfort. “Many exciting things are happening here. Stony Brook University is at the epicenter. In the Suffolk County government, we’re working to build around Stony Brook University to create an innovative economy,” Bellone said.

So far, the progress made in Mr. Bellone’s plan includes investments in public transportation and development of poverty-stricken regions throughout Suffolk County: “Wyandanch is under construction through $100 million public investments. We are right now in the first phase of Bus Rapid Transit, more of an express bus that people describe as ‘light rail on wheels’. Now, we are in a more completed study.” Initially, I doubted the success in Mr. Bellone’s plan to develop the transportation system in Long Island. After all, the Long Island Railroad serves its purpose as a gateway for people to leave the bland expanse of Long Island and enter more vibrant regions of New York or other states. However, Mr. Bellone took a radical step by telling us to imagine Long Island as a region that will use complex systems of public transportation to connect Long Island from North to South instead of East to West.

I still maintained my doubts about how Mr. Bellone would expect Suffolk County to compete with urban centers around the country, like New York City, that young adults usually move to while looking for social and economic opportunities. Mr. Bellone told me: “Suffolk County has enough assets and capacity to have unto its own. Suffolk County will leverage New York City in a way that creates an innovative economy here [because] we are attracting companies”.

Mr. Bellone concluded his speech by eloquently quoting Mayor Bloomberg’s thoughts on passing on the torch to a younger generation of people: “They don’t know what’s impossible. Nothing is.” Mr. Bellone spent most of his time emphasizing the key role that the next generation plays in shaping the future of Suffolk County. However, as a member of the next generation, I must say that there is a thing or two that we can learn in the meantime from people like Mr. Bellone until the reins of power are handed down to us.

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