LIPC Featured in Newsday's Long Island Life Section

The Long Island Progressive Coalition recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. To celebrate the occasion, LIPC was featured in the Long Island Life section from the Sunday, April 5th edition of Newsday.

Here is the article:

LI Progressive Coalition marks 30th year


Thirty years ago, the Long Island Progressive Coalition was a fledgling group operating out of a spare room in a philosophy professor’s Syosset home.

Since then, LIPC has grown to be a force in Long Island politics. From helping stop the Shoreham nuclear power plant to advocating for energy sustainability and smart growth long before it became popular, LIPC has inserted itself firmly into the political debate with its mix of dedication to social causes and its willingness to work with its ideological opponents.

The coalition celebrated its 30th anniversary last month with a luncheon honoring state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, among others.

“I think that they’ve been one of the more consistent and successful of voices on issues such as social equity, environmental justice, fair taxation and the general concept of sustainability,” said Lawrence Levy, executive director of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University and a former Newsday editorial writer and columnist. “They’ve made a difference.”

LIPC began in 1979 with C.W. Post philosophy professor David Sprintzen, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, and a labor union – the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

The idea, Sprintzen said, was to bring together disparate groups that were focused only on single issues or communities on Long Island.

Around a kitchen table

It became a coalition of women’s groups, environmental groups and labor unions. Planning meetings were often held around Sprintzen’s kitchen table – so often, in fact, that Sprintzen’s young son would sometimes play a game in which he would gather coffee cups and place them around the empty table. He was playing “meeting.”

LIPC went on to join movements such as the call for a public takeover of the Long Island Lighting Co., which later was taken over by the public Long Island Power Authority.

“We were the first people to call for a public takeover of LILCO,” Sprintzen said. “People made fun of us.”

LIPC helped halt the Shoreham nuclear power plant, and in 1992 it created an islandwide conference on sustainability – an issue then considered fringe, Sprintzen said.

“There are many stories of things we called for that people said would never happen and that have happened,” he said.

Today, LIPC works out of a restored private home in Massapequa with a staff of eight. Its focus is on organizing, and its interests continue to be varied: Statewide health care reform, improved education for poor children, and affordable housing are the main ones.

Director Lisa Tyson said LIPC’s success resides partly in the fact that the group works with a variety of interests.

“We’re able to work with nontraditional coalition partners, like the Long Island Association, and on another issue we might be totally against them,” Tyson said. “We’re able to have a respect and dialogue that makes things happen.”

Allowing for differences

While the coalition and the association have not always seen eye to eye (for example, the LIPC supports a progressive income tax and a mobility tax to fund transportation projects, while the LIA, the region’s largest business group, is against both of these things), still, former LIA president James Larocca said such differences have not created a natural enmity between the groups.

“While many people may have presumed a natural tension between the coalition and something like the LIA, I saw it differently,” Larocca said. “I think they’ve made real contributions over the years.”

LIPC has earned praise from politicians, such as Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, and is now working with Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi on special-district reform.

“The coalition hones in and focuses on the merits and really what is the most sustainable position for the public good,” said Jim Morgo, chief deputy county executive in Suffolk County. “I don’t agree with all the coalition’s positions myself, but I never questioned its motivation.”

As LIPC focuses on the future, it has received a boost from the election of President Barack Obama, himself a former community organizer. Tyson said the president’s past has led to a renewed interest in LIPC’s work.

“Before Obama, no one knew what community organizing was,” Tyson said. “After everyone started knowing who he was, people started respecting the work we did a little bit more.”
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