Last year, the Long Island Press Power List Committee inducted its first Hall of Fame. Those included had to be named to the Power List at least five times. The rules still stand. This year, five people join the list. In other words, they are on the Power List forever.
Suffolk County Executive
For more than 20 years now, Suffolk County has had Steve Levy serving the public. In 1985, a 26-year-old Levy won election to the Suffolk County Legislature, a position he held for 15 years. While a legislator, Levy held the top job as presiding officer and was also chair of the Ways and Means Committee. In 2000, Levy set his sights on Albany and got his chance to serve his district in the New York State Assembly. But when former Suffolk County Executive Robert Gaffney decided not to run for re-election in 2003, Levy rolled the dice. He faced down a tough challenge by Bill Cunningham to win the Democratic nomination and then won the general election to become the seventh Suffolk County executive. Levy’s road has not been without the proverbial bumps. A steadfast and determined leader, his brash style has at times conflicted with colleagues and constituents. But much has been done under his watch. Levy cut government spending, he preserved thousands of acres of open space and his administration’s land acquisition program is admired and emulated by other municipalities across the U.S. There is little reason to believe that Steve Levy will not be in public service for many more years to come. As government faces tough times, he is up to the task and has the ability to make difficult—albeit, sometimes unpopular—decisions. Being the top guy is not supposed to be easy. Levy has proven that when it seems toughest, the best comes out in government.
Executive Director, Parents for Megan’s Law And the crime victims center
Long Island is home to several important national advocacy organizations, but few have as much urgency as Stony Brook-based Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victims Center. Far from being the self-appointed-hero type, Ahearn got her start as an expert in sex crimes against children while simply doing her job as a social worker. She found out the hard way in the mid-1990s, after Congress passed Megan’s Law, that information on where convicted sex offenders live was available, but only after navigating unwieldy law enforcement channels. Once she did her homework on how the rest of the country acted on the law, Ahearn became a self-taught expert on the issue and decided that such complex cases call for specialized advocates. So she created an organization that offers an online clearinghouse for information on the criminals who are the worst of the worst—child molesters and rapists—in an attempt to prevent sex offenders from becoming repeat offenders. More than a decade later, that clearinghouse provides one of the most comprehensive sex offender information outlets: It maps out online where sex offenders live and also offers e-mail alerts to concerned parents, as well as providing case details, offender profiles and their mug shots. Tireless in her efforts, Ahearn can often be seen leading the charge to change laws that still somehow allow some pedophiles and other sexual predators to slip through the cracks. One need not be victimized to see what an important advocate she is.
Rev. Allan Ramirez
Brookville Reformed Church Pastor
Rev. Allan Ramirez is an undeniable Power Lister. He has been the hero of many and the villain for others. As a voice for the Latino community he has waged publicity wars with many people on this Power List regarding immigrants’ rights. Born to a poor family in Ecuador, Rev. Ramirez has always maintained that he knows what it is like to struggle and fight—to claw for survival every day. He has come a long way since those days. As a young teen his family moved to New Jersey and he began his relationship with God after a classmate invited him to church one Sunday. The single visit soon became a regular routine. Rev. Ramirez was raised a Roman Catholic, and attended college in Iowa to study theology and Christianity. After looking for a job as a pastor, he landed one at the Brookville Reformed Church, and has been there for 27 years. A complex man, Ramirez is a Hispanic pastor, who grew up poor, but who now delivers sermons to a mostly white congregation in an upscale North Shore community. But he still spends time on the streets listening to the concerns of day laborers. Love him or hate him, don’t expect this bulldog to loosen his grip on one of LI’s most controversial issues.
Majority Leader, Suffolk county Legislature (D-Lloyd Harbor)
A nine-year veteran of the Legislature, Jon Cooper is widely recognized as one of the most prolific lawmakers in Suffolk County’s history. His landmark ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while driving was copied nationwide. The domestic partner registry he established in the county secured privileges, such as hospital visitation rights, to gay and lesbian couples. Cooper also authored the nation’s first ban on the sale of the dietary supplement ephedra. These groundbreaking laws landed him a spot on the Power List five times already, but it’s his collective achievements that wins one of Long Island’s most progressive politicians a spot in this year’s Hall of Fame. His historic environmental protection initiative has protected our open spaces, reduced the use of chemical pesticides and promoted the use of clean, renewable energy. The first openly gay politician on the Island, Cooper has made his personal life public and advocated tirelessly for gay rights. He was not only the first elected official in New York State to endorse Barack Obama back in 2007, but he also became his LI campaign chairman, and he raised nearly $1 million for Obama’s presidential campaign. Cooper also serves as president of Spectronics Corporation, a company with nearly 200 employees and one of the few remaining manufacturing firms on LI. And now that he will soon be term-limited out of office, his eye is on the U.S. Senate, which would have him challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2010. Cooper has his work cut out for him, but don’t count him out just yet. He’s an underdog who champions underdog issues. And the best part is that he always seems to win.
Town of Hempstead Supervisor
There is no more viable major GOP candidate in Nassau County. Since being appointed to the position in 2003 after former Supervisor Richard Guardino resigned, Murray has won re-election—the first woman to do so since the office was created in 1918—and cemented herself as a popular elected official among voters. A former member of the New York State Assembly, Murray is the public face reminding us of the old days of complete GOP domination in Nassau. She has been known to work hard for her constituency and under her direction, Hempstead Town has continued to move forward. She has advocated for mixed-use housing, helped the ANCHOR program flourish and provided services for seniors. But Kate Murray’s real power is growing. The Town is now the official gatekeeper of the Lighthouse project, one of the most ambitious construction plans on Long Island since Robert Moses’ era. All this comes as Murray is primed for a run at a higher office. These are interesting days indeed for the supervisor. With careful stepping, there is little doubt she will be a long-standing power player.
Hall Of Fame Updates
A look at what has become of past Power List honorees. Of course, just because someone has been inducted into the Power List Hall of Fame does not absolve them of going to work every day.
Arthur “Jerry” Kremer
Ruskin, Moscou, Faltischek, P.C. Partner
Besides being a partner, Kremer is also the chair of the firm’s Municipal and Regulatory Affairs Department and a member of its Corporate & Securities Department and Energy Group. But law is just one field where Kremer wields power. A 23-year veteran of the New York State Assembly, he was the only legislator from LI to ever head the prestigious Ways and Means Committee. Translation: Kremer’s got juice in high places. His former life as a politician didn’t end when he left office, however. This year Kremer founded the lobbying firm Empire Government Strategies and represents LI organizations like the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Town of Brookhaven. Kremer remains a recognizable representative of LI throughout the Halls of Power—upstate and in Washington, DC.
former National Grid USA Executive Chairman
Power might as well be Catell’s middle name—he’s been plugged in his entire life. In 1958, Catell joined Brooklyn Union, a predecessor to KeySpan. He moved up the ranks and eventually became the CEO of both. Catell was appointed to the National Grid board in 2007 following its acquisition of KeySpan and was then made chairman, but he stepped down last month while remaining a director. Among many other positions of power throughout the LI community too numerous to name here, Catell co-chairs Stony Brook University’s Advanced Energy Research & Technology Center, an initiative that integrates nanotechnology, science and engineering to design the next generation of advanced energy systems.
Suffolk County District Attorney
If Tom Spota were bored, it would mean Suffolk County was crime-free. Unfortunately, Suffolk’s chief prosecutor has had his hands full. The killing of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero late last year has shone an ugly light on the hate that remains on the Island. Spota needs to continue to do what he does best—dole out justice.
New York Islanders Owner
Talk about power plays. Wang has now threatened to take the Islanders somewhere else if his Lighthouse project does not come to fruition. A lot of people are scrambling about trying to figure out what can be done to thwart such a drastic move. Wang plays for keeps, though. Now it’s up to the Town of Hempstead, which was just handed the project from the county. In other words, pass the buck. Wang’s got a lot of those—but he is not looking to lose any more.
Thomas R. Suozzi
Nassau County Executive
It’s pretty easy to tell you where Tom Suozzi is these days: mired in an economic mud puddle. In 2008, the big Suozzi story was budget deficit, which led to union negotiations, threatened layoffs and a host of other challenges. The good news for Suozzi–who is still waiting to be called for a higher office–is he got his way and was able to address some of his budget problems. The bad news is next year will probably be worse.
Former U.S. Senator/Park Strategies Founder
So, Hillary Clinton left the U.S. Senate to become Secretary of State. Suddenly, New York Gov. David Paterson had a big decision to make to fill the former First Lady’s shoes. A political tussle developed and the winner was an unknown, 40 to 1 shot: upstate NY Democratic Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand. And who was standing right next to the podium when she was introduced to the world? That’s right, former U.S. Senator Al D’Amato, a Republican.
Shirley Strum Kenny, Ph.D.
Stony Brook University President
Since 1994, Kenny has led the largest SUNY property, which has expanded immeasurably in her tenure. But the Kenny era is coming to an end this spring when she will step down as president and begin her retirement.
navigators Global Principal
Three years ago, he was a Republican New York State Senator. Balboni, who just quit his job as NY’s deputy secretary for public safety, is now in D.C. throwing his weight and his Blackberry around in the private sector for Navigators Global, a bipartisan governmental relations firm. His move to work with former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, hurt his local GOP bridges, but time heals wounds, and the way Balboni maneuvers, anything can happen.
Bishop William Murphy
Diocese of Rockville Centre Leader
Recently, Pope Benedict XVI said that the Western World was on the track to godlessness. That is probably not a good thing to hear for leaders like Murphy who are trying to keep their congregations together. Plus, a recent court decision may be opening floodgates and paving the way for scores of lawsuits against the church for alleged abuse cases in the past. Murphy is still the Island’s ranking Roman Catholic. It’s a tough job for sure.
The Skolnick-Sky Family
Cinema Arts Centre Co-Directors
One of the true gems of LI’s cultural makeup, Huntington’s Cinema Arts Centre continues to grow its legend with Dylan, Vic and Charlotte leading the way. Always bucking the system and doing it the hard way, the group fights each day with shrinking philanthropic dollars and government grants. The Cinema Arts Centre must be preserved at all costs.
Suffolk County Democratic Committee Chairman
Want to meet Bobby Fischer? OK, that may be a little strong, but Schaffer continues to play his masterful game of political chess in Suffolk County. In the last year, he won a key NYS Senate race with former Brookhaven Town Supervisor Brian Foley, and most recently went straight for the jugular when Democrat Mark Lesko won the seat vacated by Foley in the GOP stronghold of Brookhaven. Little by little, he is taking it all back.
Thomas P. DiNapoli
New York State Comptroller
In a year that begs for fiscal oversight, it’s a Long Islander who is managing the state’s pension fund and correcting municipal mismanagement by auditing school districts as well as a wide range of other government agencies. DiNapoli, of Great Neck, has been consistently independent while working across party lines and sparing no one whose books deserve a review. Although there is little he can do to get Wall Street to clean up its act (besides shaming them), DiNapoli has also provided a sorely needed second opinion for lawmakers who are scrambling to deal with the massive tax revenue losses resulting from the crisis in the financial sector.
Gary Dela Raba
Nassau County Police Benevolent Association former President
Maybe he is done negotiating with Tom Suozzi, but Dela Raba, who retired in 2008 after serving 37 years as the president of the Nassau PBA, is probably busier than ever. He spends most of his time with his family, especially his six grandchildren, plus a good deal of time on the golf course.
New York Republican State Committee Chairman/Nassau Republican committee Chairman
After a brutal November for the GOP, Mondello and the Republicans are gathering strength to go back at the Dems with force. Locally, Mondello has a big year ahead. The GOP hopes to reclaim a seat in the Nassau Legislature and shackle Tom Suozzi. But Nassau isn’t his only concern. Thanks to Paterson filling Hillary’s senate seat with a relative unknown, not universally liked by Dems, it’s anybody’s game.
New York State Senate minority leader (R-Rockville Centre)
A lot happened in 2008 in the New York State Senate, and Skelos was in the thick of it. After Sen. Joe Bruno retired in June, Skelos stepped into the role of majority leader and president of the Senate. Albany was still reeling from the stunning fall of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and left the Democrats vulnerable for more GOP domination. But five months later, the Democrats took control of the Senate for the first time in four decades and Skelos was bounced from his powerful role. Ever the people’s servant, Skelos is still strong in Albany and continues to represent LI with unwavering dedication, although now as the Senate’s conscience.