Tributes to acclaimed Long Island journalist John Kominicki, following his untimely death earlier this month, have rightly focused on his outsized impact – on journalism on Long Island, on colleagues at work, and on the rooms of people he captivated with stories, songs, and opinions. I had the distinct pleasure of knowing John for many years and enjoying many lively conversations. But, underlying his achievements, John had a broader commitment that we can all carry forward: a belief in the future of Long Island and a determination to realize its greatest potential. That belief was grounded in his love of history, which made it realistic; enlivened by his humor, which made it fun; and filled with optimism that belied his background as a hard-nosed journalist.
John is renowned for having been the publisher and editor of the Long Island Business News, the founder of Innovate Long Island, and most recently the publisher of the Long Island Press. But for the last two-and-a-half years, he also wrote a periodic column for the blog of the Long Island Index, which is published by the Rauch Foundation. Titled “Unconventional Wisdom,” the column eloquently revealed his ambitions for Long Island, his wit in presenting them, and his fervent hope that Long Island would not stand in the way of its own possibilities.
He wrote about many of Long Island’s challenges: the potential of biotechnology to propel our economy, the brain drain that simultaneously causes so many young Long Islanders to leave, and the transit-related developments and affordable housing that could be Long Island’s salvation. The columns came with titles that let you know that fun was in store: a column on accessory apartments was titled “OK, not in your backyard. But how about your garage and basement?”
The first of his 24 columns focused on the extraordinary opportunity offered by the Long Island Rail Road’s proposed Third Track, whose benefits he championed while affirming his optimism: “Pie in the sky?” he asked, before responding, “No, actually.” In one of his last columns, he celebrated the almost-miraculous final approval of the Third Track. The column was titled: “The third track project proves that good things come to those who wait. For 70 years.”
He ended that column with this wonderful example of his mix of history, humor, and eloquence: “When the project is complete, it will have taken 50 years longer than erecting the Great Pyramid of Giza. Of course, the Egyptians didn’t try to build on Long Island.”
John lived long enough to know that the Third Track would be built, but he had other ambitions for the region left unrealized. His second-to-last column – titled “A little hubba hubba for the Nassau Hub” – focused on its potential to be the site of a much-needed innovation district – a centerpiece for Long Island’s innovation economy. In describing the grandeur of the initiative and its potential, he wrote, “Sure, these are big ideas. But the opportunity for Long Island is big, too.”
John had big dreams for Long Island. “That this mammoth collection of excellence has not coalesced into one of the greatest innovation economies of all time remains a mystery,” he wrote.
Yet we still have the chance to dream that dream and realize it – to create one of the greatest innovation economies of all time. “Pie in the sky? No, actually.”