The annual Long Island Press Power List is back, and with it, lots of dialogue, lots of complaints and lots of surprises. What were some of the internal questions behind the list? Who just missed the cut? How were the final 50 and their placement resolved? Here to bring you behind the scenes are Press News Editor Timothy Bolger, Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Nelson and Publisher Jed Morey.
It’s that time of year again when I find the 28 or 29 people who will speak to me for the rest of the year. They’re the ones who are happy with their placement and/or write-up on the Power List. The rest are made up of those who are unhappy with their placement and/or write-up. Then there are the other 2.7 million people who didn’t make the list who just think I’m a jerk. This year I have decided to tell everyone “Nothing But Net” columnist Brad Pareso compiled the list. Of course, there’s always the stock answer of “You were No. 51.”
If people only saw the months of protracted debate that goes into this list. The caffeine-fueled hours-long meetings. The constant jockeying for positions and ideas getting shot down. It’s amusing how after all of that, some readers think we just throw a dart at the phonebook and whoever it lands on makes the list. Seriously people, this list is no happy accident.
The essential question here is, as always: How is power defined? That, to me, opens up the list for some very interesting results. When you really consider how strings are pulled, and who is pulling them, it provides quite a revealing look at our social and economic infrastructure. Without going too in-depth into the editorial process, I’ll note that we, as a staff, each took numerous names on the list, and analyzed for ourselves these individuals’ power. One of the Power Listers I wrote about was James Dolan, who placed No. 2, and as I examined his reach, I became increasingly amazed. As I noted in my write-up, it’s not even about his money—although his money is surely a byproduct of his power—but when you consider how many areas he influences, it’s almost a little stunning. We argue whether Cablevision can be considered a monopoly, but as I wrote, when you really look at the breadth of his influence, it feels more like a monarchy. How’s that for power?
Dolan’s empire is staggering to say the least. This is not a popularity contest and a measurement like wealth does not always constitute power. Long Island is home to several millionaires and billionaires who make little impact on our daily lives. The question we ask ourselves is, “How has this person used his or her position to influence life on Long Island, for better or for worse?” A great deal of attention was paid this year to the people behind the scenes who are intersecting to re-imagine Long Island’s future. The architects, engineers and builders. Heads of universities and research centers. There are fewer politicians than normal and the list feels more diverse in terms of job functions and industry. Having said that, the list is still, sadly, homogenous. No shocker here: The Island is still being run by a bunch of white guys. Forty-two out of 50 on the list, to be exact. But don’t shoot the messenger; we call it like we see it and the list is a mirror, not a politically correct wish list.
Race aside, it is also interesting, looking back now at the final product, that most of those who made the list are well off, if not at least among the higher ranks of the upper-middle class. A few are rich even for Long Island standards. While some may be able to say their money is a byproduct of their power, others clearly came to wield much power because of their wealth—whether it was earned or inherited. Yet there are on this list a handful of recognizable influential middle-class folks and maybe even one or two who might consider themselves working class. Not to mention only five on this list are women (not including the four in the Hall of Fame), although this is the first time a woman made No. 1.
This is a great example of determining the definition of power. I think you could sit around for a few hours debating the respective places on this list of Kathleen Rice and James Dolan (as a matter of fact, I think we did sit around for a few hours discussing that very topic), because each one has influence over fairly different elements of our lives. I mean, you can’t deny the power of the Nassau County DA—and very possibly the State Attorney General—but you also can’t write off the guy who gives us our Internet access, our television, and—maybe—LeBron James? Here’s hoping.