NEW YORK – Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the grand opening of the brand new Long Island Welcome Center in Dix Hills. The 15,200 square foot state-of-the-art Welcome Center includes a Taste NY Market— promoting some of New York’s best locally-made and produced food and beverage products – a farmers’ market and an interactive I LOVE NEW YORK experience for Long Island visitors to learn about the region’s history and tourism destinations. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul marked the occasion with a ribbon cutting at the new facility.
“Tourism and agriculture are critical drivers of the Long Island economy and with the new Welcome Center, we are making smart investments to support these industries throughout the region,” Governor Cuomo said. “With a Taste NY store to raise the profile of Long Island’s quality food and craft beverages, and interactive I LOVE NY kiosks to engage visitors and connect them with Long Island’s rich history and boundless recreational opportunities, this state-of-the-art Welcome Center represents the very best that Long Island has to offer. This project serves as a metaphor for the growth the region has seen in recent years and I am proud to see this project completed.”
“This center has transformed what once was a nuisance parking lot on the busy Long Island Expressway into a gateway that will welcome nearly 8,000 people here each day,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who took part in the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “Building upon Governor Cuomo’s unprecedented public investment in tourism, which has brought in record tourists to New York State and Long Island, we continue to expand Taste NY in direct support of our regional producers.”
The Welcome Center is located off the Long Island Expressway at Exit 51-52 Eastbound. It is the site of a formerly underused parking area that has been completely transformed into a spacious, LEED-certified visitor’s center with numerous amenities for travelers, including a Taste NY Market, a community room with a DMV kiosk and innovative travel features from I LOVE NEW YORK that highlight Long Island’s diverse tourism attractions. In the event of a storm or catastrophic event, the community room can serve as a safe refuge for travelers and residents.
Taste NY Market
The Taste NY Market will showcase a broad selection of fresh made breakfast and lunch items, including soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts using ingredients sourced from Long Island growers. It will also offer grab-and-go snacks and specialty local items for sale, providing an opportunity for local producers to market their products. In addition to the Taste NY Market, the Welcome Center will be the home to an outdoor farmers’ market open on Saturdays and Sundays through the season that will provide locally-grown and produced foods to visitors, spotlighting Long Island farms and encouraging agritourism throughout the region.
The Taste NY Market provides a unique opportunity to connect New York’s residents and visitors to the state’s food and beverage producers, and builds on the Governor’s commitment to grow the Taste NY initiative through the addition of concession partnerships, special events, and additional stores statewide. In May, the Governor cut the ribbon on the new State Parks renovation project at Jones Beach, which included a Taste NY Café, and announced a Taste NY Bar at the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Long Island. New York food and beverage products from a wide variety of producers are now available at more than three dozen stores, concessions, bars, and cafés across the state, and featured at more than 46 events annually.
Agriculture on Long Island is incredibly diverse with well over 100 different crops grown and produced. Its producers provide abundant, high quality commodities, such as vegetables and potatoes, fruits, poultry and livestock, nursery and floriculture products, seafood, and varieties of wine and grapes. According to the Long Island Farm Bureau, agri-businesses in the region employ well over 8,000 people, supporting Long Island’s largest industry—tourism, travel and hospitality.
In addition to improved visitor experience, the New York State Police and the Suffolk County Police Department have fully operational satellite offices at the Welcome Center for enhanced security. Each satellite office is 600-square feet, and equipped with multiple desks and LED screens portraying footage from security cameras within the building and on the grounds. These offices not only enhance security on the location, but also position officers to more quickly respond to emergencies from the center with direct access to the Long Island Expressway. The center is monitored 24/7 by video monitoring by staff, and law enforcement departments will have direct access and constant communication with the Department of Transportation’s nearby Traffic Management Center.
I LOVE NEW YORK Kiosks
Upon entering the Welcome Center, visitors encounter a giant Long Island floor map pinpointing regional attractions. Throughout the Welcome Center, regional artifacts and a large video wall immerse travelers in regional heritage. Five state-of-the-art I LOVE NEW YORK touchscreen information kiosks provide travelers with the opportunity to learn more about the Long Island tourism region. An interactive map provides suggested destinations based on the user’s interests, allowing them to browse regional attractions, from historical sites to local wineries, and create an itinerary, which they can take with them via email. Visitors may complete a Travel Profile Quiz, which will create a list of recommended locations to visit, or test their knowledge of the area with a series of travel trivia. They can also check out the award-winning I LOVE NEW YORK app, with various services and information about the region’s attractions.
Since taking office in 2010, Governor Cuomo has made unprecedented commitments to boosting tourism across New York State – and the results have been evident. 234 million travelers visited New York State in 2015, bringing $102 billion in total economic impact – a nearly 26% increase from 2010. Traveler spending is up statewide, especially in the Long Island tourism region, which has seen a 19.2% increase in traveler spending, up to nearly $5.5 billion last year.
A Department of Motor Vehicles self-service kiosk will also debut at the Welcome Center, making it the first time ever that a kiosk will be permanently located outside of a DMV office. Customers will have the opportunity to renew their vehicle registrations quickly and efficiently, as well as conduct other DMV transactions, without having to visit a DMV office.
Following a series of stakeholders meetings this past spring, an agreement was reached between the New York State Department of Transportation and the neighboring Dix Hills community to allow construction on the building.
State Agriculture Commissioner, Richard A. Ball said, “There is an incredible connection between our State’s unique tourism attractions and our one-of-a-kind producers that are making some of the best food and beverage products in the world. When we tie these together, as we are doing here at the Long Island Welcome Center, it’s a recipe for success. Consumers today are looking to taste and see first-hand all that local and New York State offer and, thanks to Governor Cuomo’s continued investment and commitment to the I LOVE NEW YORK and Taste NY programs, the Long Island Welcome Center delivers.”
Empire State Development President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, “The new Long Island Welcome Center is a destination with something for everyone, providing visitors the opportunity to taste local foods and beverages while learning about the great history and attractions of Long Island. I commend Governor Cuomo for his continued commitment to tourism as a vital part of our economy and promoting New York State as a top travel destination.”
New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll, said, “It’s remarkable to see what can happen when state agencies come together with the community on a project which dramatically improves quality of life. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership we’ve not only enhanced safety, but used this location to promote the region and grow the economy.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “Tourism is a critical driver of our economy here on Long Island and it is essential that we continue to make smart investments that showcase our assets and attract residents and visitors alike. Under Governor Cuomo, the state has been a critical partner in helping to spur economic prosperity and opportunity for Suffolk County and all of Long Island. This new welcome center will continue the growth we’ve seen in recent years ýand demonstrate it to thousands of visitors every day and I am proud to see it completed.”
Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone said, “From world-class food to pristine beaches and beautiful parks, Long Island has long been a top destination for tourists. Under Governor Cuomo, we are leveraging our unparalleled natural assets and top recreational opportunities to ensure that our region’s tourism economy continues to grow for years to come. This new welcome center will play an important role in growing our economy by showcasing many of Long Island’s products and natural beauty to the thousands of travelers on the Long Island Expressway every day. I thank Governor Cuomo for working with the Town of Huntington and our residents on this project.”
Kevin Law, President of the Long Island Association and Co-Chair of the Long Island Regional Council, said, “Under Governor Cuomo we are bolstering our transportation systems, building infrastructure projects of ýtomorrow and making smart investments in key industries like tourism and agriculture ýthat are moving Long Island forward. From recreational opportunities to locally grown products, this welcome center represents the very best that Long Island has to offer and will play a key role in keeping our economic growth rising. I am proud to see this state of the art facility complete and I thank Governor Cuomo for making this project a reality.”
Long Island Farm Bureau Rob Carpenter said, “The Long Island agricultural industry is excited for the opportunity to be able to utilize the Taste NY store as an outlet to sell and market their produce and value added products to the Long Island consumer. We hope this will encourage them to visit our local farms, wineries, and seafood establishments in Nassau and Suffolk Counties and support our farms and farmers. Suffolk County continues to be one of the largest and most diverse agricultural counties in New York State today and hopefully for years to come.”
In response to community comments, there will be no tractor trailer or bus parking allowed at the eastbound exit 51-52 Long Island Welcome Center, including the service road that supports the facility. Recognizing the need for safety for all users of the Long Island Expressway, accommodations for trucks and buses have been provided. Trucks and buses traveling eastbound have been redirected to a recently renovated NYSDOT truck inspection site at exit 66. Westbound, a NYSDOT maintenance facility at exit 56 was renovated to accommodate trucks. Improved lighting and portable restroom facilities will be provided at both renovated truck and bus locations.
About Taste NY
Taste NY is an initiative launched by Governor Cuomo in 2013 to promote New York’s food and beverage industries. It is overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Markets and has created opportunities for local producers to showcase their goods at large public events, such as the Great New York State Fair. The program has also opened stores at Thruway rest stops along the state’s highways and in transportation hubs, enabling travelers to buy New York State’s homegrown and homemade products. Approximately 1,100 local companies have participated in these opportunities, further linking their products and the state’s growing food and beverage market to consumers from across the globe. For more information about Taste NY, please visit www.taste.ny.gov. Connect with Taste NY through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
To see images of the new Long Island Welcome Center click here.
Photo by Doug Kerr via Wikimedia Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.
Press Release by the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.
Press Release Made Available by the Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo.