The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council plans to pivot its goals to help downtowns recover from the pandemic, while trying to get 66,000 Long Islanders who are unemployed back into the workforce.
Roger Clayman, the executive director of the Long Island Federation of Labor, said there’s an opportunity to invest in solar and wind energy companies to become a big job creator.
“There are really hundreds and maybe even thousands of jobs that will follow over the next 10 years from the development of wind farms,” Clayman said. “So it's important that we have a trained workforce. It's important that we have good, family sustaining jobs.”
The council proposed investing in job training programs that would educate the workforce in offshore wind, as well as transferable skills in other sectors.
The programs would target veterans, the formerly incarcerated and people with disabilities, as well as people of color who were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
Jennifer Marino Rojas, who heads the Child Care Council of Suffolk, said investing in childcare is key to filling lost jobs.
“We learned that parents really need child care — it's really hard to work when you don't have child care,” she said. “We saw that really come to light during the pandemic. And so I think people now really recognize and understand the importance of reliable childcare. And we have a great opportunity right now to do something about it.”
The average cost of child care on Long Island is $17,000 a year or 30% of the average family's income. She said the cost has made parents drop out of the workforce.
The council proposed using $100 million in federal funding to create new facilities for the 64% of New Yorkers that live in childcare deserts.
The council also wants to build up housing, restaurants and entertainment to keep young people who fled the city to Long Island during the pandemic's early days.
David Kapell, former mayor of Greenport and a member of the council, said downtowns should change zoning ordinances to create affordable apartments. Planners also want to make downtowns multigenerational to include older people that contribute the largest tax revenue.
“Young people these days prefer not to drive to work,” he said. “So having an apartment near a train station is an important amenity. On the flip side, older people are living in houses they no longer need or want. So the idea of being able to downsize into an apartment that's largely maintained by somebody else is a very appealing option.”
The council released a report last month making recommendations to towns and villages to improve infrastructure, including sewer system upgrades and open streets to maintain traffic.