Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who is a Montauk resident and business owner, took to the road on Wednesday in heavy wind and rain to meet with constituents from Riverhead to Montauk, where they spoke with a group of about 30 people at Gurney's Inn before heading to the harbor to hear from commercial fishermen.
Mr. Bellone told the group, which included East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, that under his leadership the county intends to be a full partner with the East End and will focus on regional issues of government. He praised Mr. Schneiderman and told the audience, "He's your personal advocate for the East End. He's not shy." He and Mr. Schneiderman both said a good partnership makes for significant progress.
Conversation at the Gurney's meeting touched on erosion, lack of affordable housing, ways to keep younger people from leaving Suffolk, and the 3-percent accommodation tax, which is set to expire at the end of 2015 but is expected to be reinstated.
The 3-percent hotel and motel tax has long been a thorn in the side of some Montauk business owners, who believe they pay more into it than any other area because of the number of motels and hotels in the hamlet. They do not get their fair share of marketing or services from the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau that receives the tax money from the county to promote the area. "L.I.C.V.B. needs better marketing on regional issues," said Mr. Bellone.
Mr. Bellone said that the county's exodus of young people was at a greater rate than in any other region in New York State. To conquer that he said transportation must be improved and downtown areas developed where younger adults could find work and places to socialize. Studies have found that 20-somethings tend to stay where others their age congregate, he said, and the county should build on that.
Transportation is also a real problem, Mr. Bellone said, and something he intends to work on immediately.
"The county I know is over-processed and obsessed with studies. I'm not a study guy. They do a study, and then it's put on a shelf and forgotten. The way I work is to identify the problem, come up with a solution, build a consensus and then move forward. Let's go," he said.