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‘5 for 5’ with county candidate Rob Calarco

Rob Calarco

As part of our “5 for 5” series — designed to help GreaterPatchogue.com readers better navigate the 2015 Elections — we asked Robert Calarco to give us five great ideas that could be set in motion over the next five years.

Calarco, 35, is a Patchogue Village resident. He is the incumbent legislator for Suffolk County’s 7th Legislative District and was elected in 2011.

He is running for re-election on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence lines.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

Destination downtown

Patchogue was once a thriving tourist center. Visitors would arrive via train, coach or boat and stay overnight at grand hotels and smaller inns, enjoying restaurants and shoreline activities. Recently we have enjoyed a vibrant renaissance, but visitors often catch a show and a meal — and then leave. 

We have the potential to be much more.

I envision a hotel and convention center along our Main Street, bringing people from all over to downtown. With our access to the LIRR and just a short drive to MacArthur Airport we are a perfect stop for convention business. People can have meetings in the day and take in a show and dinner in the evening. They can stay an extra night or two to hop on the ferry and head over to the beach, or simply soak up all that Patchogue has to offer. 

We can be a great alternative to the expense of the East End or New York City, and at the same time bring visitors from outside of the region to spend their money in our downtown.

Rods and reels

When I picture a typical childhood scene I think of a kid, maybe a boat, a dog and a sandwich. It’s quaint, simple and charming. And it’s disappearing from Suffolk County.

Too many of our inland waterways are impaired by invasive species. North Patchogue’s Canaan Lake has long been an impacted waterbody and residents no longer have any recreational use of the lake. The children around Canaan Lake don’t have the same opportunities as their parents and grandparents to drop a fishing line in the water or jump off a dock to go swimming on a summer afternoon. I have secured funding to eradicate the weeds and get the water moving again. But the dream doesn’t stop there. I envision a boat launch area, where a father and son or daughter can row out from the shore, drop a hook in that water and wait for that bobber to go under.  

A permanent home

Medford is often seen as a drive-through community, full of well-kept middle-class homes within easy commuter access to our highways. But as we’ve seen the past few summers, Medford is also a place to enjoy live music.  We’ve enjoyed a great concert series featuring four live bands in the beautiful Medford Memorial Park. Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce and the Taxpayer and Civic Association that help promote the event, the crowds have exceeded over 1,000 residents, many of whom mark this a regular event on their social calendars.

I want Medford to enjoy a permanent stage for these events. Right now we are limited to a mobile stage rented from the Suffolk County Parks Department. Competition for the equipment is fierce, and we are limited to only four evenings over the summer. Given the chance, I can see springtime events, end-of-year school concerts and winter holiday performances. A permanent home for performances would allow Medford to extend live cultural arts events in the park well past the summer and give them a greater flexibility to book events.  

Clean water for the next generation

Not all grand ideas sound exciting. But this grand idea is probably my most important. I want clean water for our next generation.

It seems ridiculous that something as basic as clean water can qualify as a grand idea.  But our groundwater is in peril, our seas are compromised and our shellfish populations are dying. This is inexcusable and it’s time to right the wrongs of the past. We are region as densely populated as Bangledesh and we put 80 percent of our waste water into the ground; the same place we go for our drinking water. Much of that waste makes its way into our rivers and bays, killing our environment.

We’ve already started funding initiatives, including securing over $18.5 million for expanding sewers in Patchogue Village and $250,000 for expanding an existing sewage treatment plant in North Bellport.

We are working on approving individual treatment systems that can be retrofitted into home septic systems that treat effluent to levels at or better than sewers; and we will make funding available to install those systems in critical areas along our estuaries, where sewers would be too expensive to install. Clean water must be a priority for our children and our children’s children otherwise there will be no more Suffolk County.

StartUp NY and restart the South Shore

Technology incubator sites. Biotech research. Connections with leading world universities. All are a part of the StartUp NY equation. And I want to welcome them all to my district.  

The economic engine of Long Island cannot rely on retail services alone. While our small businesses are starting to see a regeneration in our downtowns, our technology industries provide the potential for high paying jobs needed in our region. Long Island was once the center of the technological boom during the Space Race and I think we can be that place once again.

We already have one of the top schools in the world located in Stony Brook, already a StartUp designated campus. I would like to partner the university to bring new businesses to our downtowns, which currently have the housing needs and atmosphere their employees seek. I want to fill empty spaces on Main Street and East Main Street with companies that provide good-paying jobs and new customers to our downtown businesses.   

Rob Calarco can be contacted at rob@robcalarco.com or through Facebook.

About the author: Michael White

Michael White is a Bellport resident, longtime newspaper reporter and editor, and the owner of greaterpatchogue.com. Email him your story ideas or tips: mike@greaterpatchogue.com