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Undressing The Emperor

A retrospective analysis of the past 16 years of Tom Suozzi


Despite these missteps, Schary stresses that Suozzi has also accomplished some truly great things within the parks. Suozzi’s $18 million “Nassau County Parks Are Making A Come Back” campaign in 2005, along with other initiatives, resulted in rehabilitation projects and improvements such as new playgrounds, renovated bathrooms and other positive impacts at park facilities throughout the park system, especially at Eisenhower and Wantagh parks, he and wife Lisa attest.

“Most of [the parks] are much better,” says Rich Schary. “We just want to keep them open to everybody.”

“We want to keep Nassau County parks Nassau County parks,” adds Lisa Schary. “We don’t want to trade them to any other municipality and we don’t want the budget to be balanced on the backs of the ball fields.”


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The Glen Cove Waterfront Index – Index Finger (Pointing) = Go Back To Glen Cove

In 1998, Suozzi announced his first Big Hairy Audacious Goal. It was to be his shining beacon of success in Glen Cove. Suozzi’s plan was to transform a wasteland of polluted waterfront property into an oasis of housing, parks, recreation, restaurants and anything else that would befit a world-class seaside downtown, “synonymous with Mystic Seaport, South Street Seaport and Newport, Rhode Island,” reads his May 1998 “Glen Cove Creek Revitalization Plan,” obtained by the Press. A history of the property being used for heavily industrial purposes left in its wake a piece of land that was considered one of the most polluted in the United States. He would transform the waterfront, and even get a ferry company to establish service.

Now, more than a decade later, the waterfront still sits undeveloped. It took years to dig up the polluted soil, which sat partially covered in menacing mounds. In 2008, a development plan was finally approved. A ferry owned by Foxwoods Casino did operate at the site for some time, but pulled the plug eight years ago. In July 2009, $9 million in federal stimulus money was earmarked for the ferry operation. The ferry is slated to be operating sometime in 2010. But the project is still years away from any real development.

Reserves and Structural Deficits – Two Thumbs Down = County Executive

According to recent reports from NIFA, the county Comptroller’s Office and the OLBR, Nassau, like counties all across the nation, is headed for a fiscal reckoning in the not-so-distant future. State pension contributions will skyrocket. Sales tax revenue, Nassau’s largest source of revenue—comprising almost 40 percent of the budget—has fallen 10.9 percent year-to-date between fiscal years 2008 and 2009, excluding Suozzi’s energy tax. It’s currently down about 9.3 percent, says the administration. One-shot infusions that the administration has used to balance the budget, such as a $40 million temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, part of the federal stimulus funds package, for example, will disappear. In addition, repayment of deferred salaries for the county’s unions begins soon—with some deferred even longer, piling on even more debt.

To soften the blow of tough economic times such as the current recession, explains the reports, municipalities have emergency reserve funds. Unfortunately for Nassau, those critical “rainy day” reserves, as NIFA refers to them, were spent during “good times.” According to its Oct. 2, 2009 analysis, the Suozzi administration burnt through $220 million since 2004—plummeting from $284.8 million to a projected $64.7 million at the end of fiscal year 2010. The reserves will continue to dwindle, it reads, and be “substantially depleted” that year.

“The effect of the current economic crisis would not have been as severe for the county if it had not substantially exhausted its general reserves during better economic times, diminishing their availability to cushion the blow during a true ‘rainy day,’” states NIFA.

In addition, a May 28 NIFA report reiterated a previous discovery that a $2.1 million “operating surplus” reported by the county for fiscal year 2008 included a significant amount of non-recurring revenues and bond proceeds as operating income—contributing to a “large and growing structural deficit.” A structural deficit is the difference between recurring revenues and expenditures. NIFA described these actions as “troubling.”

The county uses more than $220 million in non-recurring revenues in fiscal year 2009, according to NIFA’s most recent report. It documents a $170 million structural deficit in fiscal year 2009.

“This means that the estimated structural deficit in FY [fiscal year] 2009 is even greater than it was in FY 2001; however, it is noteworthy that the county has projected a smaller structural deficit in FY 2010,” writes NIFA.

The Hub/The Lighthouse – One Thumb Midway, One Thumb Down = Lieutenant Governor

With every passing day, the reality of seeing Suozzi’s vision of a redeveloped Nassau hub, complete with light rail, retail, living and office space, is beginning to be less likely than seeing a unicorn galloping in the HOV lane of the Long Island Expressway. As with most of Suozzi’s visions, the actual process that is in place to get projects like the hub completed is very much out of the hands of the county. A perfect example of that is the Lighthouse project, which would be built around the Nassau Coliseum and invent “new suburbia.”

After lollygagging with the project for more than five years at the county level, the project sits with the Town of Hempstead, which is the municipality that has the real power to make visions reality. Islanders team owner Charles Wang, the father of the Lighthouse project, is done with the political games that have been played. Millions of dollars are being wasted every month on what seems to be another hazy vision.  So far, Suozzi has not been able to make any of it happen. Mostly it’s because it is not up to him.

He has the vision. He does not have the power.

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