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Undressing The Emperor

A retrospective analysis of the past 16 years of Tom Suozzi


Though Suozzi has beat the drum of tax cert reform for years, not fixing the problem has arguably helped propel him through one campaign after the other and handsomely rewarded a handful of politically connected commercial law firms with millions upon millions of taxpayers’ hard-earned savings along the way.

Fix Albany – Two Thumbs Midway = Gubernatorial Material

Hats off to Suozzi for this initiative. In 2003, Suozzi declared war on Albany, promising to find candidates to primary sitting Democrats in the Assembly. It is no secret that Albany does not work. NYS’s government has been cited nationally as a broken entity, with too much red tape and politics ruling over prudent decisions that would benefit New York’s taxpayers. Suozzi did take an Assembly seat away from a local incumbent and got Charles Lavine elected. But his war did very little for his relationships with upstate lawmakers, who pushed back hard. Suozzi became radioactive in Albany for some time. Whether some of those chickens came home to roost during his failed campaign for the governor’s mansion is debatable. He was right on this one, and continues to be. Nassau cannot move forward without help from the state capital. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.


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Parks Deals – One Thumb Midway, One Thumb Down = Lieutenant Governor

When Suozzi inherited the Nassau County parks system from Gulotta in 2002, the 6,000-acre-plus portfolio of more than 70 parks, preserves, historic properties, museums and athletic fields had already lost more than three-quarters of its workforce—down from a high of about 1,200 full-time county parks personnel during the 1980s to a mere few hundred. Under the Suozzi administration, say parks advocates, those figures were permitted to continue to dwindle, resulting in the system’s present-day level of about 126.

Consequently, staffing and maintenance remain two of local environmentalists’ and parks advocates’ top concerns.

“There’s no staff,” explains Rich Schary of Long Island Environmentalists. “If you call [for parks] maintenance, they answer the phones ‘Highway.’”

Under the Suozzi administration, Nassau parks’ technical services unit was disbanded and its responsibilities became the purview of the county’s Department of Public Works, explains Schary. In addition, Suozzi eliminated the parks rangers program, replacing it with Nassau County Public Safety, now called Public Security, he adds, which is a division of the county police department and responsible for maintaining security at all county facilities.

According to parks advocate Bruce Piel, founder of Park Advocacy & Recreation Council of Nassau (PARCnassau), these and other changes contributed to a lack of maintenance and security within the parks system that led it to a state of gross disrepair and open to vandalism, drug use and other illegal activities.

A major gripe of Nassau’s parks advocates is the administration’s attempts to privatize some of its public parklands. County taxpayers have paid dearly, for decades, for the maintenance and upkeep of Nassau’s parks, they explain. Leasing public lands to private entities alienates resident users, and deprives them of services they’ve been paying for, they argue.

Case in point: The Suozzi administration illegally leased swaths of several public parks to Oasis Children’s Services, a Brooklyn-based private day camp provider in 2005, skirting the legislative approval process and, say advocates, closing off park facilities to taxpaying residents.

Another complaint is what they characterize as the county’s hypocrisy of dismantling the parks system while taxpayers have voted—and been paying—for the acquisition of more parks land. County taxpayers voted in 2004 and 2006 to pay $50 million and $100 million, respectively, through an Environmental Bond Act, to acquire and maintain new land for preservation. The $150 million was earmarked for the acquisition of open space, remediation of brownfields and improvement of existing park lands, according to Piel.

Yet in 2007, the Suozzi administration transferred nine county parks to the Town of North Hempstead. Along with the parks, 12 county roads—and $3 million from Nassau—were also tossed in. The parks transfer still hasn’t been approved by the NYS Legislature, as required under law. And last month, the county also approved the sale of a several acres of Roosevelt Preserve to Coleman Country Day Camp, to the scorn of local environmentalists and parks advocates.

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