By Steve Viuker
Pearl Kamer, chief economist at the Long Island Association, had sobering news for a gathering of business executives at a recent breakfast hosted by the New York Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth at Hofstra University. “If the country defaults on its debt obligations … it’s going to kill our economy,” she said.
The impact of both Sandy and the Nor’easter that followed shortly after took their toll on the entire tri-state region. Long Island was not spared going over the cliff.
After a burst of job growth during the spring and summer months, year-over-year job gains diminished throughout the fall. Between October and November, Long Island sustained a loss of 3,300 payroll jobs, including the loss of 5,100 private-sector jobs. 6,500 jobs were lost in the leisure and hospitality sector, a category that including dining and drinking establishments. Categories that include various personal services, lost 2,000 jobs between October and November. Hospitals lost 900 jobs as a result of storm damage.
Kamer said the rebuilding process should be used to address problems of too many layers of government and a lack of affordable housing. She said Long Island “must convert research from laboratories and colleges into commercial products and support technology start-ups,” that can make up for jobs lost in manufacturing, construction and government.
Even more telling, Kamer pointed to the loss of 8,100 jobs between November 2011 and November 2012. These included 2,700 private sector jobs. In addition, there were 8,600 fewer goods-producing jobs on Long Island in November 2012 than a year prior. Construction jobs were down by 6,900. Local governments employed 4,900 fewer workers than a year ago. Growth industries included whole trade (+2,400); finance (+4,500) professional and business services (+1,100) and educational and health services (+1,700), but those gains only partially offset the job losses.
The unemployment rate for Long Island increased from 6.8 percent in November 2011 to 7.1 percent in November 2012. Communities hit by Sandy suffered most. The unemployment rate for Long Beach, which lost its entire iconic boardwalk and direct Long Island Railroad train service, rose from 7.7 percent in October to 10.1 percent in November 2012.
The median of newly sold homes has been rising in both Long Island counties. In the 12 months ending in November 2012, home prices were up by 5.8 percent in Nassau and 1.1 percent in Suffolk. However, the number of pending home sales fell by 19.1 percent in Nassau and 8.7 percent in Suffolk in the 12 months ending in November. The inventory of homes for sale also declined from 21,550 to 17, 481, according to the MLS of Long Island.
But throughout the good and bad times on Long Island, the Islanders hockey team was always a uniting factor. Winning multiple Stanley Cups and being the only major league team was a source of pride. That ended with the announcement in late October that the franchise was moving to the new Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn (near the LIRR Atlantic Terminal), and joining the Nets.
Attempts to renovate the aging Nassau Coliseum over the years never took hold. In response to a question from Banking New York, Kamer spoke about the impact of the team leaving and the future of the Coliseum site. ((Kamer was a consultant to Islanders owner Charles Wang.)
“The Islanders leaving hurts because we don’t have a major league team and it hurts the businesses located near the Nassau Coliseum,” she explained. “But if you look towards the future, it gives you a fresh chance to plan for something for the entire Hub property. The problem is that it’s so expensive to redo the Coliseum and to provide structured parking.”
Said Kamer, “A developer couldn’t come in at the lower density that Hempstead put into place in terms of zoning and make a profit. Now, you don’t have to put the Coliseum in the equation.”
And in the ultimate irony, Nassau County has tapped Barclays Center developer Bruce Ratner as an advisor on the future of the Coliseum site. Donald Monti, who heads Renaissance Downtowns in Plainview, will oversee the development of the rest of the 77-acre site. Monti, who had applied to become the site’s master developer through the county’s Request for Qualifications process, will partner with RXR Realty’s Scott Rechler, who previously tried to develop the same site with Islanders owner Charles Wang.■