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Ex-Long Island Association head Crosson dies

Matthew Crosson was serious about his family, his work, his friends and, at times, he was most serious of all about his lifelong passion for golf.

When the Long Island Association, the business group that Crosson headed for 16 years, organized a golf tournament every summer, Crosson sat down with the golf pro at the Meadow Brook Club in Jericho - where the event was held - and made the course more difficult. The tees would be placed at the champion end of the tee box, and the pins planted on the green in tough spots, so that whoever won would have to work hard for the victory, and earn it, said Mitch Pally, a former LIA vice president.

"A regular golf outing was too lame for Matt," Pally said Saturday. "Everyone held golf outings. Matt set up the course so that it was long and difficult because that was Matt's way."

Crosson's way was well-known - and remembered - on Long Island. He 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 death 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.

"Matt helped build the LIA into a powerhouse," said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy. "When governors came to Long Island, they called the two county executives and Matt Crosson."

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," Ryan said 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 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 was known for his voracious appetite for golf, and a low handicap. He played as often as time allowed. He played seriously and wanted others to play seriously, said Pally, also a lawyer, who last week was named chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute.

"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."

Crosson was raised in Connecticut and followed in the footsteps of his father, who was a lawyer.

Crosson served in the counsel's office to then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, and in 1989 was appointed chief administrator of the state court system by the chief judge then, Sol Wachtler. "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."

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.

Crosson is survived by his wife, Elaine, and his son, Daniel, 12.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete Saturday, but the family wants to have a memorial service in Las Vegas and on Long Island.

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