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Curran nominates 7 for Nassau IDA, including Richard Kessel

Richard Kessel, seen here on June 28, 2011,

Richard Kessel, seen here on June 28, 2011, is among Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's choices to join the county IDA's board of directors. Credit: Buffalo News / Harry Scull Jr.

Former LIPA chief Richard Kessel has been nominated for a seat on the board of directors of the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency, which grants tax breaks to expanding businesses.

Kessel, who also once led the state Power Authority, is one of seven people put forward last week by new County Executive Laura Curran to lead the IDA, according to legislative resolutions.

The other nominees are bankers Lewis M. Warren and Shlomo Cohen, LIRR union leader Anthony Simon, travel agent and former Hempstead Village trustee Luis Figueroa, educator Eva Pearson, who was an unsuccessful candidate for Oyster Bay Town board, and Evlyn R. Tsimis, whom Curran recently hired from cable television, internet and telephone services provider Altice USA to serve as deputy county executive for economic development.

Simon’s Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation union, or SMART, endorsed Curran in the Democratic primary for county executive.

Her IDA nominations are subject to approval by the county legislature, which is controlled by Republicans. The positions are unpaid.

“This will be a strong, diverse board, comprised of business and community leaders,” Curran said Monday.

She also said she expects Tsimis to be elected chairwoman of the IDA board. Tsimis’ former employer, Altice USA, owns 25 percent of Newsday Media Group.

Under Curran’s predecessor, County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, the IDA board consisted of five members, two with ties to labor unions. Also, two members were holdovers from the administration of County Executive Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat.

Curran, during her successful campaign for county executive after serving as a county legislator, vowed to nominate an IDA board that would weigh aid to expanding businesses against the cost to taxpayers, who must make up for taxes not paid by businesses.

The new IDA board will “focus on new opportunities to grow the tax base and make Nassau County a business-friendly environment while never losing sight of community needs,” she said in a statement responding to questions from Newsday.

Under Mangano, the IDA was instrumental in helping The Hain Celestial Group and DealerTrack Holdings Inc. open new headquarters on Long Island.

The agency also was criticized for providing tax breaks to self-storage facilities, which employ few workers, and automobile dealerships, which are retail establishments. Retailers are generally barred by state law from receiving IDA help.

Kessel is the best known of Curran’s IDA nominees, in part, because of his leadership roles under multiple governors, both Democrats and Republicans.

As LIPA board chairman, Kessel helped to decommission the Shoreham Nuclear Power Station, which never produced electricity, and led the state takeover of the Long Island Lighting Co., or LILCO. He also served on the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state agency that has overseen county finances for 17 years.

Kessel is much admired by politicians on both sides of the aisle. At a meeting of business executives last Friday, where Curran was among the featured speakers, the state’s top Republican urged her to heed the advice of Kessel.

“I think one of the smartest things you could do is make sure you listen to Richie Kessel, because he’s very astute,” said State Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan (R-East Northport), looking at Curran. She responded that she is listening to Kessel.

With Celeste Hadrick

n SHLOMO “MOE” COHEN, head of investment banking for Jones Trading Institutional Services LLC in Manhattan

n LUIS FIGUEROA, travel agent and former Hempstead Village trustee

n RICHARD KESSEL, former head of the Long Island Power Authority and the state Power Authority, and past member of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority

n EVA PEARSON, an educator and unsuccessful candidate for Oyster Bay Town board and Nassau County Legislature

n ANTHONY SIMON, leaderof the largest LIRR union

n EVLYN R. TSIMIS, deputy county executive for economic development, former government affairs vice president at Altice USA Inc.

n LEWIS M. WARREN,managing director for government banking for JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Manhattan

SOURCE: Nassau County legislative resolutions

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