Looking up it was hard to tell that the man in the blue helmet and yellow harness dangling backwards off the roof of the H. Lee Dennison Building was Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone. He was rappelling 12 stories down the north face of the concrete edifice, letting the long, strong ropes be his guide.
This was no political ploy to benefit Bellone, however; it was “Over the Edge for Charity,” a recent event to raise money and awareness for Long Islanders with autism and other special needs. Under the auspices of a nonprofit organization based in Old Bethpage called Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, hundreds of police, civic, community and business leaders—as well as a 22-year-old young man with cerebral palsy in a wheelchair—were planning to rappel.
There weren’t any campaign signs in sight, and no one was handing out pamphlets. But given that Bellone, a Democrat, wants to replace the present occupant of the top floor of the Dennison Building, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, politics was in the air. Bellone’s Republican opponent is Angie Carpenter, the current Suffolk County treasurer. The race features two Suffolk politicians—one a relatively new grandmother, the other a father of two young girls—who know and respect each other, having done public service together over the years. By November, they might not even recognize themselves.
“I haven’t done this since I was in basic training 18 years ago,” Bellone said, successfully and safely back on the ground. “In the Army, it wasn’t that tall. Only four stories!”
The Army veteran was competing with his old neighborhood buddy, Robert Stricoff, CEO of Babylon Town’s Industrial Development Agency, who’d gone ahead of him on a different rope. Their team raised about $4,000 for the charity, said Stricoff, who also serves as Babylon Town’s Democratic committee chairman. (The day’s total was about $130,000.)
“I beat you down!” Bellone shouted, with a grin. “I started out of the gate late and then I pulled away.” Stricoff was glad to be on firm footing; he admitted he’s scared of heights.
Bellone did get to do some sight-seeing on his descent. He said he looked into Levy’s executive office on the 12th floor. He wasn’t there.