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Nov 11, 2014 5:07 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Lee Zeldin Says He's Ready To Tackle Washington

Nov 11, 2014 5:36 PM

Eight days removed from his victory over incumbent U.S. Representative Tim Bishop, Congressman-elect Lee Zeldin heads to Washington, D.C., this week for his freshman orientation.While in the nation’s capital, Mr. Zeldin said he hopes to meet with Mr. Bishop and his staff on Thursday to get up to speed on constituents’ specific cases, as well as districtwide issues.

Until that meeting takes place, Mr. Zeldin has declined to set an official agenda for the five eastern towns, though he considers the most pressing issues for the East End to be beach nourishment in Montauk, reducing helicopter noise associated with the East Hampton Airport, and completing various projects on Fire Island, which is part of Brookhaven Town.

One of the biggest questions Mr. Zeldin will face, at least among other elected officials on the East End, is whether he can pick up where Mr. Bishop left off, particularly when it comes to environmental protection and overall attention.

While Mr. Zeldin, a native of Shirley, doesn’t have the same connection to the East End or the South Fork as Mr. Bishop, who was born and raised in Southampton, he said he feels that he will be able to address the needs of all the communities in the 1st Congressional District.

“All eight towns of this congressional district are very important to be equally represented,” he said. “The challenges that an area like Montauk faces in not just recovering to where they were before but to rebuild to be stronger than ever is a very important priority.”

Although Mr. Zeldin polled well throughout the district during last Tuesday’s election, garnering 89,564 votes to Mr. Bishop’s 73,860, according to unofficial results with the Suffolk County Board of Elections, it’s clear his biggest areas of support lie to the west.

Mr. Zeldin won 220 out of the 296 electoral districts in Brookhaven Town, as well as all 60 districts in Smithtown and nine out of 11 districts in Islip. Meanwhile, Mr. Bishop won 24 out of 42 districts in Southampton, 17 out of 19 districts in East Hampton, and all four on Shelter Island—though the incumbent’s sphere of support appeared to be limited to the South Fork, with both Riverhead and Southold being won decidedly by Mr. Zeldin.

Mr. Zeldin said the biggest thing he learned about the eastern reaches of his district is that in addition to valuing the environment, East End residents are tired of studies and ready for results.

“They’re not looking for me, in my term in office, to announce one new study after another. They know what needs to get done and they want to see progress,” he said. “If something new comes up, and by a matter of law there has to be a study completed, that’s one thing. But whenever that’s not necessary, residents of the East End don’t want to see more studies—they want to see these projects get done.”

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said Mr. Zeldin should make it a priority to get sand for the beaches around downtown Montauk. Meanwhile at the other end of the South Fork, West Hampton Dunes Village Mayor Gary Vegliante said it’s paramount that the new congressman be an advocate for coastal projects along the Atlantic Coast, particularly in Mr. Vegliante’s village, which has sued the federal government multiple times over problems he says resulted from U.S. Army Corps of Engineer projects.

Mr. Zeldin said he’s disappointed with the Army Corps response time in completing various projects on eastern Long Island—namely, the long-delayed Fire Island to Montauk Point study. He also said he will hold the federal government’s feet to the fire to get relief funds for areas of the district that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“I have been greatly disappointed by the pace in which the 1st Congressional District has seen the Sandy money spent for restoring our shores,” he said. “I don’t want to hear excuses as to why Nassau County, Jones Beach, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, New Jersey have seen so many of their projects completed, many by the first Memorial Day [after the storm].”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said he hopes Mr. Zeldin can represent the town’s best interest when it comes to the East Hampton Airport and the role of the Federal Aviation Administration, while also fighting to protect drinking water. Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said she hopes Mr. Zeldin holds the same focus on her town as Mr. Bishop did during his 12 years in office.

“I am hoping he will, first of all, be as focused on the East End as Tim was, because it will make a difference out here,” she said. “We need the county to focus on the East End, we need the state to focus on the East End, and we need the federal government to focus on the East End. And we had a great champion in Tim for the East End. I am hoping Mr. Zeldin will follow suit.”

Mr. Zeldin’s strongest supporter holding elected office on the East End is his former mentor, State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle. Mr. Zeldin worked in Mr. LaValle’s office while attending college at the State University of New York at Albany from 1998 to 2000, and he has worked alongside him as a fellow state senator since 2010.

Mr. LaValle said he believes Mr. Zeldin has the temperament to be a successful congressman, pointing out his ability to listen and his penchant for thoroughly weighing his options before making decisions. The 19-term senator said Mr. Zeldin is in a good position to get a lot done for the district during the next two years, explaining that party leaders often pay extra attention to freshmen congressmen to help them get established.

“The House has a big [Republican] majority there,” Mr. LaValle said. “Particularly in your first term, the leadership wants to makes sure you’re returned to office, so they ask the congressmen-elect what they want and they try to help them out with that.

“The more seniority you get, the leadership feels you have the drill down pat and know what’s expected of you and how to go after what you need,” he continued.

Mr. Zeldin, who spoke briefly with Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the days following his election, said he’s aware of the benefits of being a first-term congressman, but that he wants to know what issues are most pressing before he starts asking favors of the GOP leadership.

“The next step is in the next couple of days to get the exact update on where we are in each of those projects,” he said. “We’ll find that one project is further along than another, one thing might be more on the right track than another. And then we start to brainstorm how we can get everything pushed forward.”

Staff writer Shaye Weaver contributed to this story

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Maybe he first can remove his campaign signs that still litter our streets.
By harbor (411), East Hampton on Nov 14, 14 2:16 PM
Dim Tim Bishop has plenty of time on his hands, he can remove ALL of them.
By Preliator Lives (431), Obamavillie on Nov 14, 14 4:04 PM
2 members liked this comment
Guess you don't remember the Kerry Edwards sign blight of 2004.
By Undocumented Democrat (2034), southampton on Nov 15, 14 1:07 AM
Not sure what that has to do with anything but ..Yes I do! Nothing worse than Nixon/Agnew in '68 or Harding/Coolidge in 1920.
By harbor (411), East Hampton on Nov 15, 14 10:28 AM
1 member liked this comment
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