The following are answers to The Foggiest Five, a set of questions asked to influential Long Islanders on the future of the region. This round features answers from former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, who served in office from 2002 to 2009. The views presented are the author’s alone, and do not represent those of The Foggiest Idea:
1. What is your favorite part of living on Long Island?
People forget that Long Island is an island. I love the north shore waterfront and south shore ocean beaches. Our open spaces are spectacular and we need to preserve more of them. Long Island is suburbia, with beautiful natural resources and the greatest city in the world a train ride away. You can swim, fish or boat in our waters, hike in the woods, have a barbeque with your friends and family or go out to dinner at some of the best restaurants anywhere.
2. What is our greatest regional challenge?
Young people ages 21-35 are either leaving or not returning to Long Island. It’s expensive, but expense isn’t stopping them from locating in Astoria, Manhattan or Brooklyn. Those areas are more fun and have more opportunities. There are more jobs and multi-story buildings where they can share apartments and enjoy the nightlife at restaurants, bars and activities throughout the neighborhood. They can go out in the city with friends and hang out with other young, creative, entrepreneurial people. Long Island needs more young people; their energy, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. Having them here will help Long Island now and in the long run. It will increase the tax base to lessen the burden on existing residents and make Long Island more attractive then it is now.
3. What is an easy first step to solving this challenge?
Cool downtowns. We need more multi-story buildings, affordable apartments for rent, offices with restaurants and shops on their ground floors. 99% of our land mass should remain the same with single family home neighborhoods, parks and open spaces and beaches, but our downtowns need to be redeveloped to expand our tax base and entice young people and businesses to locate here. We have a few cool downtowns now but not enough. Rockville Centre, Garden City, Westbury and Great Neck have downtown rentals, offices, restaurants and shops that are all near train stations. Long Island residents flock to these parts for entertaining and relaxation. Mineola, Farmingdale, Glen Cove, Hempstead, Freeport and Long Beach are trying to create cool downtowns but to be successful, we need more of them. We need to create at least 20 cool downtowns so it will make sense to link them by bus and mass transit.
4. What has been the biggest change that you’ve seen on Long Island during the course of your career?
The number 1 downside of living on Long Island is property taxes. Our property taxes are the highest or among the highest in America. Five causes are 1) Waste, Fraud and Abuse, 2) Long Island residents pay much more in income taxes to the federal and state governments that we get back in federal and state aid, 3) unfunded state mandates, 4) too many governments, and 5) lack of growth. As Chair of the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief, I advocated for the tax cap. I believe the tax cap will help force change to address these problems.
5. What do you think Long Island will be like in 20 years?
By 2034 we will have created twenty cool downtowns linked by rapid bus or light rail. Young people will be living here, working in high tech businesses and preparing to raise their families here. We will have expanded our tax base with new apartments and high technology office buildings. We will have more movies filmed here, and more tourists visiting our shores, open spaces and historic buildings. We will be more affordable, have preserved more open space and we will be the best, most healthy and safest large suburb in America. At least I hope so.
Mr. Suozzi is of counsel to the firm and member of the Corporate Practice Group. He is the former County Executive for the County of Nassau (2002-2009) and Mayor of the City of Glen Cove (1994- 2001). During his term as Nassau County Executive, Nassau received 13 credit rating upgrades and reduced its crime rate to the lowest of any municipality in the United States with a population greater than 500,000. Mr. Suozzi was named the 2008 Environmentalist of the Year by the New York State League of Conservation Voters, Public Official of the Year by Governing Magazine, and he received the Distinguished Public Service Award from the American Association of Public Administrators. During his term as Glen Cove Mayor, he received the Main Street Revitalization Award from the New York Conference of Mayors, the Regional Best Practices Award from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Environmental Quality Award Region 2 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Mr. Suozzi began his legal career as a clerk to the Chief Judge of the Eastern District of New York, and then joined the Litigation Department of Shearman & Sterling. He is also a Certified Public Accountant and served as an auditor at Arthur Andersen & Company in New York City.
Mr. Suozzi was appointed by the governor and served as chairman of the New York State Commission on Property Tax Relief from 2008-2009. He is a co-founder and served on the Executive Committee of Climate Communities in Washington, DC. Mr. Suozzi served as chairman of the New York Metropolitan Transit Council, where he helped develop the first comprehensive downstate transportation plan and received the New York University Outstanding Achievement in Transportation Award for that work. In 2005, Mr. Suozzi was president of the Association of County Executives of New York State and in 2009 he was New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s appointee to the New York State Public Authorities Reform Task Force. Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed Mr. Suozzi to his transition team in November of 2010. He is currently on the Board of Directors for the Fordham Alumni Association, and also serves as a senior advisor to Lazard Frères & Co. LLC.