Matthew Crosson, who had been president of the Long Island Association for 16 years of growth and dramatic change in the area before leaving in March to take over as head of the Greater Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, died Thursday night at MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas. He was 61.
Crosson had a stroke in October. Cara Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas chamber, said Friday that he died as a result of "complications from the stroke."
Still, Crosson's passing took Long Island's business and political leadership by surprise. Crosson, who had lived in Lloyd Harbor when he was LIA president, started as president of the Las Vegas chamber only in April.
He had just gotten "a dream job," said Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, a developers' group. "It was a fantastic opportunity for him," Ryan added.
Crosson, a lawyer, had been chief administrator for the New York State court system when he was named LIA president in October 1993. He took over at a time when membership in the Melville organization - the Island's largest business and civic association - was about 3,000. By the time Crosson left, the LIA had 5,200 members. He was an important advocate on the Island and in Albany for the business community, said friends and associates.
A year after Crosson took over, he organized a summit of business and political leaders and presented a 101-page "Long Island Action Plan" with 254 recommendations, ranging from shrinking government and school bureaucracies to preserving East End farmland.
In 1997, the LIA under Crosson created the Long Island Software and Technology Network, often called LISTNet, to promote tech companies on the Island. Two years later, he created the Long Island Works Coalition, which seeks to bring together businesses and educators. In 2008, Crosson helped push legislation through the state legislature for more affordable housing projects on Long Island.
"That was one of his major accomplishments," said Ryan, of the affordable housing program.
Crosson displayed a serious demeanor in public, but friends and associates say that belied his warmth and sense of humor.
"Many people only saw the serious side of him," said Mitch Pally, who was LIA vice president under Crosson. "But he had a tremendous sense of humor. He was a joker. He kidded around with people he knew and could trust."
Crosson had a voracious appetite for golf, and a low handicap. He played as often as time would allow. But he was remembered more for his work on behalf of the Island.
"Long Island has lost a great man," said Kevin Law, who succeeded Crosson at the LIA. "He was a champion fighter for our region's interests."
"Matt had achieved a reputation in the governor's office as being a remarkable administrator and a brilliant lawyer," Wachtler said Friday. "Those are the qualities we looked for."
Crosson was raised in Connecticut and followed in the footsteps of his father, who was a lawyer.
Kristin McMillan, chairman of the Las Vegas chamber, said in a statement that Crosson "made an indelible mark" on the chamber and the business community. The chamber has about 6,000 members, and is the largest organization of its type in the state.
Crosson is survived by his wife, Elaine, and his son, Daniel, 12.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday, but the family wants to have a memorial service in Las Vegas and on Long Island.