Former Long Island officials share thoughts on political landscape

Former Long Island officials share thoughts on political landscape
Former Long Island officials speak to members of the Long Island Builders Institute from The Bristal in Jericho. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

Former Long Island officials spoke Wednesday night on a number of pertinent issues in the state during an education forum with the Long Island Builders Institute.

The institute held a “State of Politics” discussion for their members at The Bristal in Jericho, including former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi of the state’s 3rd Congressional District, two Democrats, and former state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and former state Sen. Michael Venditto, two Republicans. 

Venditto filled in for Peter King, who was recovering from surgery to remove a malignant tumor.

Formed in 1941, LIBI’s members build most of the at least 5,000 new homes produced in Long Island annually, according to their website. The event showed LIBI members how to “understand the politics involved in how governments work and how it makes decisions,” CEO Mike Florio said in a statement. 

The four said they disagreed with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s original housing compact for Long Island which was removed from the executive budget while suggesting different ideas on fixing the issue.

 Hochul’s plan called for a 3% increase in housing units over three years, the possibility of the state stepping in if the 3% goal was not met and the use of transit-oriented developments to achieve that objective. The plan was intended to address a shortage of 800,000 housing units in the New York metropolitan area.

“The only way you really get housing done is you have to incentivize it, promote homeownership and promote subsidies,” Flanagan said. “It was well-intended but I don’t think it was good for Long Island.”

Curran, who said she originally ran for county legislator in 2013 because Baldwin wasn’t living up to its potential development-wise, said she believes it takes a lot of stakeholder management through leaders and community groups to garner more buy-in.

“I think her intention was very good, but if they had spent a little time on the ground on top of already talking to mayors and other officials, they could have avoided a lot of those landmines and have had some more success,” Curran said. 

The former executive also added the lack of necessary infrastructure to withstand a sharp increase in housing. 

Suozzi discussed his previous efforts as county executive to increase housing in the area, including “cool downtowns”, and building up to combat suburban sprawl. 

“Local governments often aren’t sophisticated enough to do this planning by themselves for the long term,” Suozzi said. “We should be providing grants, hiring planners and hiring engineers to help them along the way.”

The four also discussed the political agency Long Island’s elected officials have and how the influence of New York City may affect the area.

“It’s important to understand New York City is one government,” Suozzi said. “They have one government that does schools, sewers, fire, police, you name it. Nassau County has at least 450, Suffolk County has at least 550 different entities between villages, fire districts or school districts for example.”

Venditto shared that when was first elected he got a firsthand look at the perception other officials have of Long Island.

“I was unpleasantly surprised learning about what folks around the state think of us Long Islanders,” Venditto said. “Some may think it’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ and the Hamptons. They don’t understand that we’re comprised of blue-collar communities, blue-collar people that put their boots on every day to go to work.”

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