Suozzi pushing Lighthouse for Nassau growth

Originally published: September 23, 2009 8:23 PM
Updated: September 23, 2009 10:41 PM

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi sketched out his vision for economic growth Wednesday, and made yet another pitch for the Lighthouse project, one of the key components of that vision.Suozzi made his presentation on what he calls “new suburbia,” on the lower level of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, which would be renovated as part of the megaproject.

The event was meant to promote Suozzi’s broad plan, but the setting, the participants and the comments were all Lighthouse related. And the session came on the heels of a daylong hearing on Islanders owner Charles Wang‘s project before the Hempstead town board.

After the scripted panel discussion on the overall plan, Suozzi said the Lighthouse was “the symbol of the whole thing,” then corrected himself to call it, “one of the symbols.”

He was once again critical of the Town of Hempstead for not moving faster to approve the project, which was one of the four large projects he hopes to pull off in the next few years.

But Suozzi’s Republican opponent for county executive, Legis. Edward Mangano of Bethpage, said Suozzi’s comments about the town were “yet another installment of the Suozzi blame game, where he blames every other level of government for his own shortcomings.”

“A real leader, after eight long years in office, would be talking about his accomplishments rather than recycled Election Day sound bites,” Mangano said.

Suozzi’s other projects — much less advanced — are the redevelopment of Belmont Park and the adjacent area of Elmont, the 105-acre Grumman plot in Bethpage where he envisions an incubator for high-tech business, and the redevelopment of the Glen Cove waterfront.

The presentation formalized comments Suozzi has been making for several months about 90 percent of the county being “what people love about the suburbs” and should remain unchanged, while 10 percent should be redeveloped.

That would include the four megaprojects, proposed or existing “cool downtowns” near transportation hubs, and upgrades to existing commercial strips around the county.

Suozzi announced the formation of a “90/10 Coalition” that includes planners, educators, community groups, labor and others.

However, Lisa Tyson of the Long Island Progressive Coalition said at the presentation that she had not seen plans to make a grass-roots connection. “How do we get to my cousin, who doesn’t go to these things?” Tyson said.

Group distributes guide on fixing taxing districts


August 27, 2009

A guide on how to eliminate or streamline special taxing districts on Long Island was released Thursday by a bi-county social activist group.

The “Long Island Citizen’s Guide to Coalition” is similar to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s recent Citizen’s Guide to Reform, according to Jeff Guillot of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. He headed the group’s Nassau County Government Efficiency Project that produced the guide that centers on Long Island’s special taxing districts.

“Some special districts on the Island are not found anywhere else in the state, notably commission-run garbage and sewer districts, which most often are the ones abusing their taxing powers,” Guillot said.

Nassau Comptroller Howard Weitzman, County Executive Thomas Suozzi and other Nassau opponents of most special taxing districts – like garbage, sewage and water – have said such districts account for 75 percent of taxes paid for town services and often are redundant and wasteful.

Laura Mallay of South Hempstead, the head of Residents for Efficient Special Districts, said: “We need to use these tools to fix this broken system.”

Guillot outlined the process, which calls for getting at least 10 percent or 5,000 – whichever comes first – signatures of district registered voters. The district’s town officials will verify the signatures within 10 days.

Officials said that once verified, the move to close or consolidate the district goes on a ballot in 60 to 90 days.

If it passes, the town and public must come up with a plan within 210 days. If the public does not like the plan, it can be rejected with 25 percent or 15,000 registered voter signatures and the process starts over.

Should it fail, no new attempt can be made for four years, officials said. The full local guide is found at The law allowing it is effective March 22, 2010.
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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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Major Philanthropic Groups Pledge to Support LIPC

In a first-time regionwide initiative, five major Long Island philanthropic groups have pledged a half-million dollars to help 12 grassroots organizations, including LIPC, to improve the quality of life in distressed communities.

The project – designed to help struggling organizations develop managerial skills, work together and become more effective community advocates – was introduced at a conference Thursday at JPMorgan Chase Foundation headquarters in Melville.

“We looked at what else we could do besides giving money to organizations,” said Suzy Sonenberg, Executive Director of the Long Island Community Foundation, which initiated the Leadership, Effectiveness, Action and Partnership project. Technical assistance will be provided by the Community Training and Assistance Center, a national not-for-profit group focusing on urban communities. Representatives will visit each Long Island organization to “gain an understanding of the challenges it faces,” and work sessions will begin this summer, a spokesman said.

“We’ll reach forward, all of us together. You don’t have to be constantly struggling just to catch up,” Sonenberg said. A project of this kind on a regional scale “has never been done before,” she said.

To start, the Rauch Foundation will give $10,000 for general support to each of the 12 community groups, said Vice President Linda Landsman. “It’s our hope the funds will free each organization to participate more fully,” Landsman said.

Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a speaker at the kickoff, said, “We have an abundance of wonderful people with compassion and caring. This will give them additional training in the business-like skills to make them more effective in the long term.”

The funders include the Long Island Community Foundation, the Rauch Foundation, JPMorgan Chase Foundation, Horace Hagedorn Foundation, and the Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock.