Levy touts record on preserving open space

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. (July 6, 2011)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. (July 6, 2011) (Credit: James Carbone)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy Wednesday touted Suffolk's efforts to protect open space from development -- 58,000 acres in the past 50 years -- and urged the state and towns to help preserve more acreage before it gets paved over.

Flanked by environmental leaders at Gould's Pond in Lake Grove -- a 5½-acre site the county purchased in 2005 -- Levy cited county expenditures of $77 million last year.

But Levy said he will not seek re-election this fall when Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota announced he ended a probe of Levy's fundraising. Levy also agreed to turn over his $4.1-million campaign war chest to Spota.

Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, was critical of Levy's assertions, saying his administration has acquired less open space than either of his two predecessors had.

Levy termed the comparison unfair because land prices rose during his tenure and real estate development has left few large parcels available. He said the county has spent $800 million on preservation in the last five decades, and more than half of that, $450 million, was spent during his administration, he said.

The county's effort "makes sure our grandchildren enjoy the same Long Island we grew up with," Levy said.

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