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Oct 29, 2013 6:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Nuzzi, Schneiderman Defend Records In Western Southampton Town

Oct 30, 2013 10:59 AM

This is the third and final story in a series on the Suffolk County legislator race and its issues as they affect the South Fork.

Two major conflicts involving Suffolk County and Southampton Town were settled this summer, both dealing with the county’s utilization of land in the western half of the municipality. A pair of trailers that once housed all the county’s homeless sex offenders in Riverside and Westhampton were removed in August, and the final residents of an emergency shelter set up two years ago in Hampton Bays, requiring the conversion of the Hidden Cove Motel, left in late July.

Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman were both among the elected officials who fought to have Suffolk County remove the trailers and close the homeless shelter. Now, instead of rallying for the same cause, Mr. Nuzzi, who lives in Westhampton Beach, and Mr. Schneiderman, who hails from Montauk, are battling each other as they go head to head in a race to represent Suffolk County’s 2nd Legislative District, a race that will be decided at the polls on Tuesday, November 5.

Mr. Schneiderman, the Independence Party incumbent who also has the Democratic and Working Families party lines, is seeking his sixth and final two-year term by running on what he considers a highly successful record.

“The first thing I’d mention is the sex offender trailers,” Mr. Schneiderman said when asked about his record as it pertains to the western half of Southampton Town. “One was in Westhampton, one was in Riverside, and we really had to develop a whole new way of handling homeless sex offenders, which we did. It was not easy to get those trailers closed.”

Although Mr. Schneiderman attributes his success with closing the trailers and homeless shelter with the election of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in November 2011, as well as a change in leadership at the county’s Department of Social Services, which ran the Hampton Bays shelter, Mr. Nuzzi said the timing of the closures were suspicious, noting that they came just after he announced he would be challenging the 10-year incumbent.

Mr. Nuzzi, a Republican who has been cross-endorsed by the Conservative Party, has criticized Mr. Schneiderman for taking too long to handle the issues, particularly the sex offender trailers that were brought into the town in 2007 with no warning and under the false pretense that they would be rotated every few months. The trailers were sited near the Suffolk County Police shooting range in Westhampton and in the shadow of the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside.

“He’s been legislator for 10 years and we lived with the sex offenders in those trailers for seven of those 10 years,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “And he takes all the credit for closing them, when it was a concerted effort for the entire community to convince the county executive and legislator to do something about it.”

Mr. Nuzzi, who is seeking the $98,260-a-year seat now that he’s term limited in his position on the Southampton Town Board, did not specify what he would do differently regarding the homeless shelters.

Both candidates spoke at press conference held Friday morning at Oakland’s Restaurant in Hampton Bays announcing a collective effort to lobby the federal government for funds to raise a 5.1-mile stretch of Dune Road in Southampton Town. The stretch of oceanfront road that is home to some of the most extravagant houses in the town has been a point of contention between the two candidates.

Mr. Nuzzi, who was heralded by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. on Friday for being persistent during his eight years in Town Hall on getting state assistance to raise the road, pointed out that Dune Road is part of the county’s system of roads, meaning it should be Suffolk’s burden to bear in terms of finances. The work is estimated to cost about $8 million.

“Here we have a county system road that the county refuses for years to put a dime into,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “We’re not putting anything into Dune Road—the county’s not supporting Dune Road. I think that’s a major issue. It has a major regional impact in the town.”

He said he remains cautiously optimistic that the town will get federal support to raise the road, since it was added to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Fire Island to Montauk Point Reformulation Plan. But if that falls through, Mr. Nuzzi said that, if elected, he would work to secure funding from the county.

But Mr. Schneiderman has maintained that while Dune Road is part of the county road system, its maintenance has always been the responsibility of Southampton Town. He added that the county road system designation should help the town qualify for the federal funding.

Another road that many locals want to see reconstructed is Montauk Highway, which is almost entirely under the county’s jurisdiction aside for a strip along Shinnecock Hills that is owned by the state. Mr. Nuzzi said that the renovation on Montauk Highway is crucial to ongoing revitalization efforts in downtown Hampton Bays. But Mr. Schneiderman noted that, despite its poor appearances along some stretches, Montauk Highway is still structurally sound and, therefore, would not be updated by the county in the immediate future.

“I know people are upset about it, but it’s not a structural issue, it’s an aesthetic issue,” he said. “Just because [a road] looks fine doesn’t mean it is fine, and just because it looks bad doesn’t mean it is bad. [Repaving] has to be done on a public safety, as-need basis.”

The county’s finances are something Mr. Nuzzi has hammered Mr. Schneiderman on throughout his campaign, trying to tie his opponent to Suffolk’s economic struggles during the recession. Mr. Nuzzi, however, has not specified how he would remedy the situation other than saying he would want to cut unnecessary spending and cut back on one-time revenue sources, such as selling the county’s assets.

Mr. Schneiderman’s counter has been that the county has found other revenue sources, such as through the installation of red light cameras in western Suffolk and recently approved the use of video lottery machines.

A priority for Mr. Schneiderman as of late has been revitalizing Riverside, trying to orchestrate a transformation of the dilapidated area around the traffic circle there known for its issues with drugs and prostitution into a walkable main street. The legislator has gone as far as to make digital renderings of what a revitalized, three-story downtown could look like.

“That’s a real interest of mine, one of the reasons why I’m really interested in sticking around, because I want to see Riverside redeveloped,” Mr. Schneiderman said, adding that a full revitalization is probably at least five years away.

Mr. Nuzzi said he would also like to see Riverside revitalized, explaining that he wants to investigate whether the hamlet could share sewage services with nearby Riverhead Town, which already has a sewer district, rather than building a new one from scratch.

As a Westhampton Beach resident, Mr. Nuzzi said he believes he is the candidate most fit to represent the hamlets west of the Shinnecock Canal, having lived and governed over the area for nearly a decade.

“I live currently west of the canal, I have for quite a while,” Mr. Nuzzi said. “I’ve had the benefit of not only working in government but also having life experiences in all different areas of the South Fork.”

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Note how twice in the above story, Chris Nuzzi criticizes his opponent without offering any viable alternative, once on homeless shelters, and once on finances. This is typical of the bankrupt approach of this career politician looking for another soft berth since he's blocked from continuing in his present job by term limits.

Chris Nuzzi is the guy who recently voted twice -- twice! -- to throttle any public discussion of a proposal to get members of political committees off Southampton's ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Oct 30, 13 1:44 PM
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