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Rumors swirl in CD2

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy during the opening

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy during the opening of a new community outreach center in Huntington Station, Aug. 19, 2010. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Daily Point

Open congressional seat: Day 8 

We don’t yet know everyone who’s in for the 2nd Congressional District, but we do have a few more declared outs.

Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy told The Point in an email Monday that he’s not running, though he got “some feedback secondhand that my name was floated at a few political meetings.”

The Democrat-turned-Republican’s rhetoric was a precursor to national anti-immigrant fervor, and he skipped the chance at a final four-year term as part of a mysterious deal with then-District Attorney Tom Spota in 2011 concerning an investigation into Levy’s political fundraising. Levy says he’s not trying for a comeback.

“I am really enjoying my role as a contributor to Fox News, Newsmax and other media outlets and running my think tank,” he wrote. “At this point in life I’d rather be like the Sunday night analyst critiquing the football game then [sic] the coach who has to put in 90 hours a week.”

Democrat Liuba Grechen Shirley, who gave Rep. Peter King an electoral scare last year, said she was “seriously considering” a rematch after King announced last week he’d be retiring. But on Monday she said that she and her husband were “welcoming our third baby in April” and she won't run for Congress in 2020. 

“My last 2 deliveries were incredibly difficult & required long recovery periods, and I can’t run unless I know I can put 100% in,” the Amityville Democrat tweeted. In a video, she urged King to support impeachment in his waning time in office and said of her 2018 campaign, “We are the reason that Congressman King decided to retire.”

Suffolk County Legis. Tom Cilmi, Republican minority leader, also officially demurred. Cilmi, of Bay Shore, told The Point that running for Congress was “something I’ve literally always wanted to do” and if the opportunity had presented itself five or 10 years ago, he would have pursued it “aggressively.”

But he says his calculus about the prospect of a grueling campaign and job has changed: “As you get older, you always reevaluate.” 

Meanwhile, King declined to play kingmaker and name any names. The Seaford Republican told The Point that he’s had several Republicans call inquiring about a potential run in his district, mostly asking about the time commitment and other behind-the-scenes information. King said the level of interest in the seat has surprised him.

“The more people involved, the better,” King said. “I’m all for it.”

King said he’s not ready yet to make an endorsement. Instead, he plans to “wait to see how that plays out.”

“I would endorse the Republican,” King said with a laugh.

—Mark Chiusano and Randi F. Marshall 

@mjchiusano and @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Peter King and East Side Access

As Rep. Peter King heads into his last year in office, those who chronicle his contributions recall some of his accomplishments that required a large megaphone, such as funding for 9/11 first responders and securing federal aid after superstorm Sandy. 

But one item that hasn’t been mentioned may be just as big. 

It was early 1999, just months after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Bill Clinton.

The previous fall, King had been one of five House Republicans to vote against Clinton’s impeachment.

Now, the White House was ready to help King.

The way King remembers it, then-Clinton chief of staff John Podesta told King the White House was ready to do “anything we can do to help you out.”

“I threw the Hail Mary pass,” King told The Point. “It was really a long shot.”

King’s Hail Mary: getting federal funds for the East Side Access effort to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Terminal. 

At the time, the project was all but dead, and the necessary federal money was nowhere to be seen, King recalled. Fellow proponent Sen. Alfonse D’Amato had just been defeated the previous fall, which left funding in question.

A day after King made the request, he got a return call from Clinton’s staff: East Side Access was a go. 

“It was going to be a commitment for whatever it was going to take,” King remembered, noting that he was just as surprised as anyone at the immediate yes.

Published reports then put the project’s price tag at $2.2 billion, and said construction was slated to start in 2000.

Needless to say, neither of those forecasts panned out. 

More than two decades later, East Side Access is expected to cost more than $11 billion, and is still under construction. Its anticipated opening: 2022. 

“There were two things I didn’t anticipate,” King said. “I didn’t anticipate getting it in the first place. And I didn’t anticipate it taking more than 20 years.”

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Anybody's game

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Final Point

Levittown’s Newsday connection

Newsday Opinion has a new podcast: “Newsday and Levittown.”

With the release of Newsday’s three-year investigation into real estate practices on Long Island, the editorial board looked back at its own role in boosting Levittown.

When it sprouted in 1947, Levittown was a model suburb with a tragic element: the use of racial covenants to bar non-white residents. Newsday’s editorial board often overlooked the covenants, even condemning those who protested them in 1949 as “Communist-dominated or Communist-inspired.” 

A celebratory editorial on the 10-year anniversary of the development didn’t mention the clauses. 

Why? The podcast sifts through archives and interviews about Alicia Patterson, the Newsday founder who often led the editorial board’s efforts. 

Her paper had a “crusading spirit,” Pulitzer Prize-winner and former Newsday reporter Robert Caro remembers in one of the tapes. She fought for veterans housing and more Jewish immigration before WWII. But some believed she fell short in other areas. Patterson “felt strongly on social justice except for the blacks,” says former employee Hal Burton. 

The podcast looks at how Newsday’s business interests intersected with developer William Levitt’s, and the effect Newsday’s editorial stances had on Levittown for good and ill. 

You can find the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. 

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano