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Meeting of the Long Island minds

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Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone speak at an LIA breakfast on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018 in Woodbury. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Daily Point

Why this LIA breakfast was packed . . . and what we heard

Usually, the annual Long Island Association breakfast with the Nassau and Suffolk county executives gets a crowd of about 700 people, and many don’t even stay for all of the speeches.

Friday, the business organization’s gathering at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury was packed, with nearly 1,000 in attendance.

The difference?

“Laura, I guess we are all here for you,” LIA chief executive Kevin Law said to new Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who was smart enough to keep her speech short.

Indeed, a who’s who of Long Island showed up, perhaps less for the speeches and more to network with all of the new local officials, especially Curran and her team, and town supervisors such as Laura Gillen of Hempstead, Chad Lupinacci of Huntington and Ed Wehrheim of Smithtown. The Nassau County Legislature’s new presiding officer, Rich Nicolello, was there, as well as Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas and Metropolitan Transportation Authority President Pat Foye. Also present were representatives from the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment, who are negotiating the team’s potential return to the Nassau Coliseum while an arena is built at Belmont Park.

And so, perhaps it was appropriate that beyond a focus on finances and assessment, Curran mentioned Belmont and the Islanders, though she missed an opportunity to discuss the redevelopment of the Nassau Hub.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, meanwhile, is not yet ready to let go of his battle with former Suffolk DA Tom Spota, and by extension, Suffolk Democratic leader Rich Schaffer. Bellone highlighted past corruption in the district attorney’s office and how new DA Tim Sini would fix it. That, Bellone said, would have a “dramatic impact” and allow the county to “reach its full potential.” Then, using the time Curran didn’t need, Bellone detailed his plans to encourage municipalities to share and consolidate services.

And what of the missing man in the room? Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wasn’t there — but his name came up often, as did some of his key projects, like the Long Island Rail Road’s third track.

Cuomo showed up on Long Island a bit later Friday, first in Deer Park for an LIRR second-track update — where he caught up with many who had been on the LIA dais: Curran, Bellone and Law — and then on to Brentwood to swear in Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. Cuomo, by the way, is running.

Randi F. Marshall

Flanagan decoded

John Flanagan usually takes notes to the podium, but more often than not, his remarks are a stream of consciousness, a window into the politics of the day. Some of what he said at the LIA meeting Friday was clear, but other references might have left some in the audience confused. Using our secret decoder ring, here’s our take on some of the more out-of-the-blue remarks.

  • On Jeff Klein: “He’s a good guy, a good, solid aggressive leader . . . I give him respect.” Klein is key to the GOP-Flanagan hold on power in the State Senate because of Republicans’ alliance with the Independent Democratic Conference, which Klein heads. Flanagan is going to stand by Klein as a pushback campaign starts against a Klein former staffer who said he forcibly kissed her two years ago.
  • On Richard Kessel: “Smartest thing you can do is listen to Richie Kessel,” Flanagan said to a deadpan Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. Kessel, the former head of the Long Island Power Authority and a former member of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, had been seeking a top job in the Curran administration, and trying to bring power players to a meeting with her. Not much has happened, yet.
  • On Carl Marcellino: “Carl spent many years as chair of the environmental committee doing very hard work,” said Flanagan as he reviewed his fellow senator’s career. While he lavished praise on Kemp Hannon (“He’s brilliant.”) and plugged the four other GOP members of Long Island’s State Senate delegation, Flanagan spent most of his time on his colleague from Oyster Bay. Marcellino, who was at the breakfast, is considered the most vulnerable of Long Island’s GOP senators in an expected rematch with Democrat Jim Gaughran, who came within a hair of winning in 2016. Gaughran has strong water-quality and environmental credentials, and Flanagan wanted to remind the many green advocates in the audience that Marcellino was there for them as well.
  • On NIFA: “NIFA needs to go away . . . has to go away,” Flanagan said. “We need to allow people to properly govern and enter into collective bargaining agreements . . . Let the public speak every two or four years about the job you are doing.” Nassau County’s police and CSEA contracts are up, but those unions bet big on Republican candidate Jack Martins and are worried about their chances with Curran. As long as NIFA exists, any collective bargaining contract will have to be approved by the fiscal watchdog, which also can freeze wages. A nice pitch to the unions by Flanagan, who could use labor support this fall in the State Senate contests.
  • On Andrew M. Cuomo: At one point, Flanagan noted that an unidentified representative of the governor was in the audience, “recording everything I said.” Flanagan offered that he was saying good things, but told the crowd, “I will get a call anyway” — a little anticipatory insight into what he was expecting to come his way. He then went on to throw two curveballs at the governor, expressing opposition to congestion pricing in New York City and a tunnel under the Long Island Sound.
  • On Pete King: “He’s one of my favorite public servants ever,” Flanagan exclaimed, after praising the veteran Congressional Republican as an “unbelievable leader” for the state, the county and “internationally.” There are a few political observers worried about King surviving if there is a Democratic tsunami in November and every shout-out helps in the end.

Rita Ciolli

County execs have a laugh

Give mom the biggest round of applause.

State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told the crowd at Friday’s Long Island Association breakfast that he brought some “muscle” to support him — his mother, Barbara, who turns 80 next month. Flanagan lightly suggested that those who want state support should give her a “nice welcome.” Applause broke out in the crowd, and from the dais.

But Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone took it a step further, standing as he applauded Barbara Flanagan.

“Steve gets $100,000!” Flanagan exclaimed with a laugh, from the podium.

With perfect timing, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran glanced in the other direction at Bellone, realized he was standing and jumped up to join him. It got even a bigger laugh.

Clearly, Curran is learning on the job every day.

Randi F. Marshall

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