The 50 Most Influential Long Islanders of 2009
...Bellone puts the “super” in supervisor.... Bellone is likeable, humble and hard working...
What do people with power do? More importantly, what can someone accomplish with power? In 2008, an African-African man won an historic presidential election. One woman lost her chance to lead the free world, but has now become an ambassador for peace in these volatile times. A brilliant businessman was found to be a thief. Some men started wars. Nobody ended one. To have power is to have influence. Each year, when the Press begins to map out its Power List, more variables must be factored in. This year’s list ranges from the top names in politics and business to community leaders. Every name is another piece of the mosaic that makes up this Island. We are proud of the 2009 Power List. Learn the names and faces. Keep score this year. Let’s see who makes it back, and where they fall. Or better yet—why.
1. James Dolan - Cablevision Systems CEO/President/Director
In case you were wondering who makes all the decisions around here, we’ve got your answer. James Dolan and Cablevision made a big move last year when the company acquired Newsday for $650 million. It is a curious move, with profit seemingly taking a backseat to Dolan’s desire to own a true media monopoly. It is no secret that the newsprint industry is not exactly booming, with many beloved daily titles going the way of the buggy whip and saddle shoes. With the purchase, Cablevision is the single biggest news and entertainment source in the region, given its ownership of News 12 Long Island, too. Recently, Cablevision intimated that the company would charge a subscription fee for the currently free Newsday.com website. Cablevision also wrote down Newsday’s value by more than $400 million. Despite those daunting numbers, Dolan still did pretty well for himself, according to Forbes.com, with a total compensation of $38.8 million in 2008. And since all things news must come through his organization, you have to give the tip of the power hat to Dolan, who obviously still has tricks up his sleeve.
2. Stuart Rabinowitz - Hofstra University President
Since taking control over one of Long Island’s premier educational institutions in 2000, Rabinowitz has put the school on a trajectory to be recognized nationwide. In 2008, Rabinowitz upped the ante when Hofstra hosted the final debate between Sen. John McCain and now-President Barack Obama. It was a spectacle unlike any LI has ever seen, with thousands of media representatives from every corner of the globe traveling to Hempstead Turnpike for the historic face-off. By the end of the day, Hofstra was the place where Joe the Plumber became a political pawn, and the university has already been mentioned as a possible host for a debate in 2012. When you bring that kind of juice to LI, you get the power. Rabinowitz delivered, big time. In addition, Hofstra is starting a medical school, too. These are big things for the school, and pulling the strings at every turn is Rabinowitz.
3. Kathleen Rice - Nassau County District Attorney
Eliot Ness, anyone? When Rice beat the seemingly immovable former District Attorney Denis Dillon in 2005, she made a lot of promises. Her office would be tough on DWI, fight drugs, corruption and white-collar crime, and there would be fewer deals. Since taking office, she has definitely made a few enemies—and almost all of them are criminal defense attorneys. In the world of the DA, that’s a win. In 2008, Rice climbed to another level, gaining national notoriety for her crackdown on drug sales on the streets of Hempstead, an initiative that landed her on 60 Minutes. As the pain and reality of the heroin epidemic began to explode across the Island last year, Rice turned her sights to punishing anyone who plays a part in the growing problem. With another run in November, many insiders believe Rice is destined for bigger things. Although she is elected, she does not play obvious politics. She is a prosecutor through and through, and even if she may be tapped for higher office one day, until the buzzer rings, she will keep her eyes on the ball in Nassau. Just like she said she would.
4. Victor and Doreen Ciappa - Parents of Natalie Ciappa and Founders of Not My Child Foundation
Admittedly, Victor and Doreen Ciappa never wanted to be on the Power List. Their position is born of the ultimate grief. In June of 2008, their daughter Natalie—a beautiful, smart and talented teenager just beginning her adult life—became the unwitting poster child for the heroin scourge that is besieging LI when she died of an overdose after a local party. Not willing to let their child be forgotten, the Ciappas formed the Not My Child foundation, working with Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice to educate young people, schools and parents about the very real dangers that heroin has brought to suburbia. Out of their devastating loss, the Ciappas seek the chance to save another family from the same pain, and will undoubtedly do everything they can to accomplish that goal.
5. James Simons, Ph.D. - Renaissance Technologies, Inc. Founder and President
Just being a billionaire would normally qualify a person as a figure of power, but what makes Simons powerful is that he’s also somewhat of an anti-billionaire. He has managed to formulate an investment strategy so powerful in its precision and theory that his company, Renaissance Technologies, rarely loses ground. In fact, when Wall Street was spiraling downward, Simons’ disciplined investment strategies kept his firm moving forward. And Simons did it all steadily under the radar with all the humility of a millionaire, rather than a billionaire. What really makes Simons so powerful is what he does with his wealth. Depending upon your interaction with him, he is a philanthropist, mathematician, scholar, mentor or family man. He has endured tragedy beyond what many mortals could endure, and come through with the kind of class that all the disgraced on Wall Street should emulate.
6. Julian Robertson - Tiger Management Corp. Founder
In these days of crashing hedge funds and a parade of Bernie Madoffs being led to jail, it is hard to believe that anyone in the hedge fund business ever had any success without being crooked. But some have—especially Julian Robertson. In 1980, Robertson took an $8 million startup, Tiger Management Corp., and built it into a world-renowned hedge fund that had made more than $20 billion by the end of the 1990s. According to Forbes, in 2008 Robertson was worth $1.8 billion. Perhaps his best decision was his choice of when to get out of managing other people’s money, which he did in 2000 as the tech bubble began to show signs of dying and his fund’s returns, which were as high as 25 percent for Tiger clients, started to sag. Robertson also predicted the current credit debacle, and nobody listened. So now, he just works for one client: Julian Robertson. And he seems to be performing well.
7. Bill O’Reilly - The O’Reilly Factor Host
Love him or hate him, the guy is addictive. Whether it’s his confrontational interviews or his sharply one-sided, opinionated commentaries which some say is gospel, while others find loose with the facts. Maybe it’s his “We’re looking out for you” likeability or his occasional—no, frequent—blowups on Fox News Channel’s nightly The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly has millions of devotees across the globe (from both the right and left) absolutely captivated. It’s no surprise that his show has been rated No. 1 in cable news for more than 100 consecutive months now. O’Reilly, a graduate of Chaminade High School in Mineola, has also frequently been at the top of The New York Times bestseller lists. As President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress continue to deal with the global economic crisis, we can be sure this LI resident will continue to bloviate about the whole ordeal—and frequently grill House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) in the process.
8. Jay Jacobs - Nassau County Democratic Chairman
The Jacobs posse has had difficulty breaking out of Nassau County, with the exception of New York State Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington), who has proven more of a wildcard than a machine player in the Nassau Dems stable. Having said that, Jacobs has managed to confound Nassau Republicans at every turn, racking up victory after victory to retain the majority and control nearly every plum job in the county. Despite being derailed at times in Albany and Washington, Jacobs has become a powerhouse fundraiser, and the quarterback of his team—Power List Hall of Famer Tom Suozzi—may have more light at the end of his political tunnel than previously thought. If Jacobs is able to break the Nassau shackles and start sending candidates to the main stages in Albany and the Beltway, look for him to gain national prominence in the party.
9. Kirk Kordeleski - Bethpage Federal Credit Union, President and CEO
Last year we wrote that Kordeleski was redefining the model of a banker. This proved to be more prophetic than any of us could have foreseen, as the entire banking system has essentially collapsed around us since then. Kordeleski has not only continued to guide BFCU with an iron will and steady hand, he has kept in touch with the community and risen to prominence in several respected leadership positions across the Island. One such example was his decision to back the highly successful BFCU New York Air Show at Jones Beach, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors to what has become the marquee event on LI. But Kordeleski eschews the limelight, unlike many of the glory seekers in his profession, opting instead to put the identity of his credit union first and letting its success speak for itself. In many ways, he is a throwback to a time when companies were built for generations not yet born.
10. Robert Zimmerman - Zimmerman/Edelson, Inc. Co-Founder
It’s no wonder why Zimmerman has climbed up the Power List in 2009. The well-known PR guru and member of the Democratic National Committee got another bump this year when President Barack Obama took the oath of office and former U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton was named Secretary of State. The connections will no doubt help Zimmerman/Edelson build its business portfolio. The camera loves this guy, too, as evidenced by his repeated TV appearances throughout campaign season. In last year’s Power List write-up, it was predicted that Zimmerman would be standing next to the president in the near future. OK, maybe it is a different president, but he is not too far removed from that circle. And as LI Dems continue their domination each election, Zimmerman continues to amass clout with the national party. And with those connections, maybe LI benefits. Once again, it’s how you use your power, right?
11. Steve Bellone - Babylon Town Supervisor
Bellone puts the “super” in supervisor. Many town supervisors enjoy fairly long tenures (Brookhaven aside) and some have the tendency to surround themselves with sycophants. Bellone chose to up the ante by surrounding himself with truly talented staffers with a knack for thinking outside the box, as evidenced by the Green Homes program. Babylon has been transformed into one of the most environmentally savvy towns in the state and continues to push the envelope in this respect—all the while maintaining a strong balance sheet. Personally, Bellone is likeable, humble and hard working. He will need all of these attributes as well as more time in office to finally move the needle in a community like Wyandanch, which serves as a constant reminder of the work that remains. Nevertheless, his deserved popularity makes him the one to watch among his colleagues. Higher office surely awaits, and he will probably have his pick when the time comes.
12. Steve Israel - U.S. Representative (D-Huntington)
Steve Israel secured nearly $3 million in retroactive benefits for veterans and is considered a legislative leader on the issues of renewable energy and climate change, helping lead the successful fight to block the Bush Administration’s budget cuts for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. He played an active role in passing $90 billion in new investments and tax breaks for innovative advanced energy technologies in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009. This five-term Democratic representative is the Assistant Democratic Whip, serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, chairs the House Democratic Caucus Task Force on Defense and Military, and co-chairs both the House Cancer Caucus and the Long Island Sound Caucus. You can even follow him on Twitter.
13. Scott Rechler - RXR President
His presence in any deal adds automatic cache. Rechler had already gained prominence in the development community at the helm of family-owned Reckson Associates. Then he broke with the family business to develop RexCorp, which is now RXR and is mostly known locally for the Lighthouse Development Corporation. Whatever the corporate name of the day is, he is clearly the heavy in any room on Long Island. If the economy and the real estate business weren’t tough enough, Rechler has come up against perhaps his greatest foe: inertia. Big ideas on LI encounter big opposition. The true test of his power will be whether he is able to get any of the massive smart growth development projects to come to fruition. But this is precisely his source of power… if he can’t do it, we’re doomed.
14. Kevin Law - Long Island Power Authority President and CEO
If the Power List rankings were compiled in order of interesting job experiences, Law would undoubtedly be ranked at the top of the list. He has been the managing partner of a major law firm, an executive in Suffolk County government, and he took on the unenviable task of filling larger-than-life Richie Kessel’s shoes as chairman of the Long Island Power Authority. It’s this intellectual curiosity that fuels his passion as the ultimate wonk and policy advocate. Why else would a man of his credentials and influence take on the top spot of the organization everyone loves to hate? But Law’s not going it alone, as he has managed to also convince a strong executive team to come along for the ride. With a new administration committed to renewable energy and oil prices settling, there may finally be a window of opportunity to redefine energy production in our region. If that’s the case, then the leadership of LIPA is in the right hands.
15. Saul Katz - Sterling Equities President
As any Mets fan will tell you, Katz and his partner Fred Wilpon are making big moves for their team. But not all fans agree on his choices. Some may say the team’s additions this year may be reason for this power broker to be either bumped up the Power List, while naysayers would like him bumped down a few spots. Aside from the recent high-profile debut of Citi Field, Katz directs Sterling’s day-to-day real estate operations, as well as non-real estate affiliates ranging from financial institutions to manufacturing, consulting, entertainment and retailing enterprises. He also sits on the Board of Renewable Environmental Solutions, a partnership of Changing World Technologies and ConAgra foods that is focused on turning agricultural waste into fuel. That’s in addition to serving as chair of the Board of the North Shore Long Island Jewish Health System, as well as serving as a board member of many nonprofit organizations and institutions.
16. Peter King - U.S. Representative (R-Seaford)
Despite the Democratic takeover of the House, Senate and White House in the recent elections, the nine-term Republican Congressman remains as visible and vocal as ever. The former chair of the Homeland Security Committee, King currently serves as its ranking member in the House. He’s been an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s stimulus bill, voted against it, and has been a staunch advocate of increased transparency throughout its spending. He’s not afraid, or reluctant, to reach across the aisle, either, to get the job done. Last month, King teamed up with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) to co-sponsor the “TARP Accountability and Disclosure Act,” legislation to ensure greater oversight and transparency over the bailout funds. We also hear he’s a closet Obama fan. That’s good news for LI.
17. Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, Ph.D. - SUNY At Old Westbury President
One of Long Island’s most outspoken leaders and the pastor at Harlem’s famous Abyssinian Baptist Church, Rev. Calvin O. Butts, has used his position to address important issues in the black community and advocate for civil rights, social justice and economic development in New York. He’s also been the president of one of the most culturally diverse student populations in the Northeast since 1999. Butts has reinvigorated the student body, gaining funding for five new residence halls, a student union and new academic center, as well as technology enhancements for the classrooms and dorms.
18. Scott Rudolph - NBTY Inc. Chairman/CEO
In 2008, the words “green” and “organic” became part of our everyday vernacular. But these aren’t new words to Scott Rudolph and NBTY, who have been a major supplier of vitamins and other health supplements for many years. In a time when some businesses began to pull back, NBTY continued to grow through acquisitions and mergers and is now known as one of the industry’s leaders, without question. At the helm is Rudolph, who might sound familiar if you ever visited the beautiful Dowling College Oakdale campus, which is named after him. Rudolph is a trustee and alumnus of the school. NBTY’s in the news, as rumors continue to swirl of a Nestle takeover of the company.
19. Helena Williams - Long Island Rail Road President
Between the congestion, recession, growing green awareness, roads that are outdated, and fluctuating gas prices, mass transit has become more crucial than ever, making the Long Island Rail Road’s performance increasingly important. Williams took over the role of LIRR president in September, 2006—the first woman to hold the job—after serving as president of MTA Long Island Bus and later as Nassau County deputy county executive. In her short tenure, the LIRR has announced a 33-percent reduction in gap-related accidents since 2007, responded to the alleged $250 million federal disability fraud perpetrated by the Rail Road’s retirees, and Williams has lobbied against fare hikes. This is an economy that is kind to no industry—the LIRR lost a million riders over the last year—but Williams’ savvy and experience ensures that a more-than-credible leader is at the helm.
20. Evelyn Ain - Autism United President, Spectrum Magazine Publisher
One in 150 kids. That’s how many children have autism. Evelyn Ain is one of the nation’s leading advocates for those children and their families. That’s a lot of people she is responsible for. Evelyn, whose son Matthew has autism, is the publisher of Spectrum Magazine and the founding director of Autism United, a national organization based in Hicksville that has brought autism awareness to the forefront of the media. Politicians pay heed to her, parents look to her for advice, and when anyone in the public eye slips up, she straightens them right out. Best example: when Conservative radio talk-show host Michael Savage made disparaging remarks about autistic children, AU led a nationwide protest, and within days, Savage’s advertisers jumped off his sinking ship. Don’t mess with Ain, fellas.
21. Boomer Esiason - WFAN Morning Show Host, CBS NFL Analyst, Boomer Esiason Foundation Founder
Esiason has made the near-impossible leap from a remarkable career as a pro athlete to multimedia man for all seasons. Not only has he made his mark in the toughest radio market in the country, improbably taking the place of Don Imus in the morning on WFAN, he is also one of the more recognizable national sportscasters. And while LI has produced more than its fair share of prominent celebrity media figures who have moved on, Boomer never lost touch with his roots. He still works tirelessly for charitable causes (including his own Boomer Esiason Foundation), can regularly be seen around local haunts and is eminently approachable and humble. All this while having to work next to a guy from Jersey every morning! He is unabashedly Long Island in every sense and wears it as a badge of honor, earning him a spot on the Power List for the second year in a row.
22. Martin Scheinman - Arbitrator
Who? Well, if you are not a member of the Nassau County Legislature, a union official or a county executive, you are not alone when you ask that question. But to be blunt, Martin Scheinman, or “Uncle Marty” as he is known in high-powered circles, is the man behind the contracts. Time and again, union and county officials have sat in offices, board rooms and especially the confines of Scheinman’s Sands Point home to hammer out labor deals that affect thousands of employees and millions of taxpayers every year. He is well-liked by both sides and has a reputation of working hard to find agreeable middle ground in fiery contract fights that often spend weeks in the media or on the floor of the legislature before he is called to step in. A true power player in every sense of the word, Scheinman is the ultimate deal maker. And you probably didn’t even know who he was until now.
23. James Carver - Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President
When James Carver won his election last year to succeed the venerable Power List Hall of Famer Gary DelaRaba, who retired after 20 years as the PBA president, there were some big shoes to fill. As the county’s largest police union, the Nassau PBA has extraordinary influence in Nassau and beyond. Carver has filled the role like an old pro, having learned from DelaRaba himself after spending 26 years as a street cop and then four as first vice president of the union. He has not only proved himself a worthy adversary for County Executive Suozzi, but also a union leader who is not frivolous with his position of power. Make no mistake about it, the position of union leader is political, and with that role come many risks. Carver has done a great job stepping lightly, protecting his union and keeping Nassau’s cops working hard on the streets. Get used to seeing his name on the Power List.
24. Hubert Keen, Ph.D. - Farmingdale State College President
Once upon a time, Farmingdale State College was a little agricultural school, complete with livestock and fields. With those days long gone, the college, which opened in 1912, has had a long climb to get into modern times and compete. Under the direction of Keen, Farmingdale has blossomed. Enrollment is growing and it is also becoming one of the more competitive state schools. Farmingdale is also aggressive in renewable energy studies, among other curriculum initiatives. All this continues to flourish under the watchful eye of Keen, who has a lot at stake as he grows Farmingdale State College, despite the economic hardships of our time.
25. Jerry Laricchiuta - Nassau County Civil Service Employees Association Local 830 President
The head of Nassau’s largest labor union once again proved true to his reputation as a tough-as-nails negotiator this year, as a worsening economy and $130 million-plus budget gap had Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi threatening mass layoffs for the county workforce and a 7-percent pay cut. Laricchiuta, who had already negotiated a new contract with binding arbitration and secured raises for his members (no small feat), stuck to his guns through grueling negotiations and emerged with no layoffs, no pay cuts, and fewer concessions than Suozzi had sought. Laricchiuta made history four years ago when he beat an incumbent for the presidency. The very vocal and highly visible defender of his members continues to make history.
26. Gary Richard - P.C. Richard & Son CEO/Owner
Richard is the first retailer to earn placement on the Power List. The Richard family has proven that the hometown hero can still win out in the era of the national big-box retailer by providing quality customer service and ironclad product guarantees. Maintaining a strong presence in the face of national competition during the worst retail market in memory, P.C. Richard & Son puts its employees first and gives back to the region it serves. This is the company’s 100th year of business and Gary Richard is the keeper of the flame—not an easy task, considering most family businesses rarely make it through a third generation. Here’s hoping that our kids can still buy their first appliances from the next generation of the Richard family.
27. Resi Cooper - Political Consultant
In Washington, D.C., there may be a lot of Resi Coopers. But here on Long Island, there are very few consultants who have Cooper’s ability to get people of big-time power on the horn for her clients—clients who pay dearly for her access. Cooper was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s LI representative during a good portion of Clinton’s tenure as senator, and left three years ago to hang her own shingle, working with clients like Broadwater. During Clinton’s primary campaign for the presidential nomination, Cooper was traipsing across the country setting up key campaign stops—although in the end it did not help her get the nomination. No matter for Cooper, who can surely get the secretary of state to “friend” her on Facebook. That’s not a bad thing when you get paid for knowing the right people. Not bad at all.
28. Jeff Frayler - Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association President
There are few people who can ruffle Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy’s feathers like this former U.S. Marine, who is president of the union that represents the county’s street cops. After Frayler’s union sponsored radio ads to promote truthinsuffolk.org, which details all the dirt ever found on the county exec, Levy ran a few ads of his own to counter the spin. The county and the union were bound to wind up in binding arbitration over the latest contract—meaning taking the debate to the public would be futile—but with Levy’s determination to “do more with less” with the police, like handing over Highway Patrol to the Suffolk County Sheriff, this is about more than money. It’s about survival.
29. Vincent DeMarco - Suffolk County Sheriff
This guy has had a great run, and by all accounts, it’s not even close to over. After serving as a Suffolk County deputy sheriff for 11 years, where he was known as a hard-nosed law enforcement official who racked up plenty of arrests, DeMarco was the first uniformed man to ever win the office of Suffolk County sheriff. As if that weren’t enough, he was the first member of a third party to win a countywide election when he ran as a member of the Conservative Party. In 2008, DeMarco’s department won many headlines when the sheriffs were assigned patrol areas that have long been in the purview of the Suffolk County Police Department. It has not been a popular decision, to say the least, but it has not swayed DeMarco from his stance as a crime fighter, and his men and women have answered the call.
30. Michael Dowling - North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health Systems President and CEO
Since 1995, Michael Dowling has led North Shore LIJ. It is no small feat. The operation is massive, providing healthcare for more than a dozen hospitals. The system also manages home healthcare agencies, long-term care operations and outpatient clinics. Dowling has led the group down the twisted, winding road of the healthcare industry and has emerged as a quality leader. Dowling is also active in the community and has a solid reputation as a Long Islander who has not lost sight of the institution’s mission: caring for people throughout every phase of their lives. With such an assignment, power is inevitable.
31. Neal Lewis - Executive Director, Sustainability Institute at Molloy College
With the green movement emerging from the shadows and into the mainstream, career environmentalists are finally getting their due. Yet while many find themselves gaining a larger audience, few have been able to convert their newfound voices into solid influence. Still more of them have sold out to special interests and become the corporate raider types they railed against over the years. Neal Lewis is the consummate professional advocate who can still rally the troops on the fringes and wag his finger at elected officials while maintaining dignity and credibility. After years of work in the trenches, Lewis is the go-to guy when it’s time to get things done in almost any municipality on Long Island. His latest endeavor as the head of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College could either spread him too thin or provide him with a stable platform to launch new initiatives and train much-needed foot soldiers in the green movement. If the latter proves to be true, look for him to move up the list in upcoming years.
32. Gary Melius - Oheka Castle, Owner
How is Gary Melius powerful? Let’s just say that several past, present and perpetual Power Listers spend quite a bit of time in the company of Melius, the owner of one of the most famous locations on LI, the Oheka Castle. Melius has transcended being just a guy who owns a nice place. He has friends in high places who help him in many business ventures. He is a tireless advocate for LI, and his efforts to restore Oheka, which was built by railroad baron Otto Khan 80-plus years ago, are a testament to his dedication in preserving a part of LI history that otherwise would have been forgotten. Melius helps countless not-for-profits, too. And anyone who has been to an affair at Oheka Castle comes away with the imagery of the largess of Gold Coast LI in a way that barely exists anymore. And he is the perfect keeper of the flame for that world.
33. Wayne Hall - Hempstead Village Mayor
Having won as an incumbent for the first time in March, Mayor Hall proved he has the support of the residents in the heart of Nassau. Hall defeated former Mayor James Garner, who tried to reclaim his seat this year, as well as a second challenger. But the job ahead won’t be easy. There are serious questions over what to do about the scandal-ridden 100 Main Street building, continuing debate over a proposed massive mixed-use housing project, and then there’s the battle to reclaim Terrace Avenue from the gangs—to name some of the heavy lifting Hall has to do. Many believe he’s up to the job.
34. Richie Kessel - New York Power Authority President/CEO
Last year was a transition period for the inimitable Kessel, so he was conspicuously absent from the Power List in 2008. The fun part about tracking Kessel, though, is the knowledge that he would wind up back on the List…but you’ll never know how. If you guessed that he would return as the head of another power authority you were correct. Kessel, one of Long Island’s most recognizable figures after years at the helm of LIPA, has resurfaced as the president and CEO of the New York Power Authority. If he can manage to convince upstate residents that he has their best interests at heart and is able to deliver a major renewable energy project in NY, it will quiet naysayers who cried foul at his appointment. Kessel is an experienced administrator who is well liked by colleagues and has a great knowledge and interest in renewable energy. Between the stimulus-package money for renewable energy initiatives, Kessel’s experience in government and the green movement gaining ground, the stars may finally be aligned for big things to happen in New York State.
35. Sal Ferro - Alure Home Improvements President
If there was ever a question as to the importance of home values, it was resoundingly answered as the entire global economy collapsed when the U.S. housing crisis began. The American Dream has been defined as the ability to own a home and no one person has had more of an impact on home values on LI than Sal Ferro. As the president of Alure Home Improvements, the largest home improvement contractor on Ll, Ferro has consistently grown the footprint of his company while reducing its carbon footprint. Ferro has been at the forefront of every green initiative on LI…even when he didn’t have to be. When several contractors from around the country came together in New Orleans for a special Hurricane Katrina edition of ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover, it took less than a day for Ferro to take control of the entire project. A natural born leader who worked his way up from the bottom, Ferro himself is a version of the American Dream.
36. Charles Vigliotti - Owner and President, Long Island Compost
While one should never judge a book by its cover, it’s hard to look past Vigliotti’s appearance. Vigliotti has Gordon Gekko good looks and a De Niro-like swagger which has served him well over the years as he built his company, Long Island Compost, into a formidable environmental organization and amassed several high-profile friends along the way. Vigliotti is the consummate backroom heavy who doesn’t seek the limelight, but his actions speak volumes. And while many people profess their love for the environment, Vigliotti is making a difference at the ground level, literally. Even he probably couldn’t have anticipated how significantly the green movement would have progressed by now, and no one is poised to benefit from it more than he. True to form, however, he wields his influence quietly and carefully, and when he speaks, people listen.
37. Craig Johnson - New York State Senator (D-Port Washington)
Maybe Craig Johnson didn’t get the memo: When your party makes a decision, you‘re supposed to go with it. But Johnson has bucked the trend a couple of times since he has been in Albany, and fought for his district since heading upstate. Johnson, who won his seat in a special election after former State Senator Michael Balboni left the post to become NY’s homeland security chief, spent his first term in the minority. But with the 2008 Democratic victories, he will have some more muscle in the capital and will continue to advocate for property tax relief and other issues facing Long Islanders. However, the Power List committee wants to send a message to Johnson and the rest of the LI delegation that with the current budget laying lots of pressure on LI to save the state, we need some relief. Keep fighting the power, Senator. And let’s win some for the Island.
38. Joseph Gergela - Long Island Farm Bureau Executive Director
With every farm that disappears from the Island, a piece of our shared history is lost forever. As head of the Long Island Farm Bureau, there was a time that Joe Gergela would have been king of Long Island, but today this kingdom has dwindled as suburban sprawl has paved over much of this historic place. As a result, Gergela’s position is more important than ever. He makes his debut on the Power List this year because he has as many powerful ears in Washington as ears of corn on the Island. Just as comfortable cozying up to U.S. senators as he is with those who sow seeds on the fertile soil of LI, Gergela is the perfect blend of land advocate and power lobbyist.
39. Dominic Barbara - Attorney
Barbara has made an incredible career out of representing the reprehensible because he has a knack for humanizing those who find themselves the subject of ridicule. He does so by cleverly turning the spotlight on himself and turning courthouses into kangaroo courts. Barbara has amassed a small fortune by doing so and has consistently stayed in the limelight. But many would be surprised to know how much sway Barbara has over some of the other influential people on this list. His source of power is the ability to steal the show in front of the camera while whispering in the ears of the powerful when the mic is off and the lights are dimmed.
40. David Mejias - Nassau County Legislator (D-Farmingdale)
Mejias being named to the Power List is mostly based on the fact that the only real action to emerge from the Nassau County Legislature in 2008 was Natalie’s Law, named for Natalie Ciappa, the Massapequa teen who became the public’s poster child for LI’s heroin epidemic. It was the most significant legislation to come out of Mineola last year. His next big move? The New Deal For Nassau, which could win some points with the bean counters in Mineola and taxpayers alike. Mejias will once again fight for his seat this November, and all signs point to a brutal battle. Yet he is a battle-weary campaign veteran and does not back down from even the stiffest competition. It may be the race of his life and judging from the past, Mejias will be ready for the fight.
41. Reverend Roger C. Williams - The First Baptist Church Pastor, Glen Cove
The election of Barack Obama as seen through Jesse Jackson’s tears at Obama’s victory speech said more than any pundit could about the depth of the struggle for recognition and fairness in America. But as we watched the historic transition when Obama left the embrace of a singular community to become a global hero, it highlighted the void in grassroots leadership in black America. Though he is a young preacher, Roger Williams is an old soul and a throwback to the days when a black Baptist minister was the voice of a community. He has no plum appointments or government job; instead he is completely immersed in the work of his congregation. Equal parts fire and brimstone and gentle mentor and leader, Williams just may be the greatest orator on Long Island. He is the co-chair of the Enough is Enough Campaign, a coalition that encourages positive messaging to the youth through the media. He is also the newly appointed head of the Glen Cove NAACP. If rumors of his rise in the community are true, we may be witnessing the next generation of great leadership in the African American community.
42. William Savino - Managing Partner, Rivkin, Radler
It’s tough to find someone who doesn’t like Savino. That is, unless they had to face him in court. As the leader of one of LI’s largest law firms, Savino has seen it all. He has worn his shoes thin walking into courtrooms. You would be hard pressed to find anyone with his kind of energy, and it is infectious. Savino works hard and seems to love what he does. It is that spirit that has helped catapult his firm to the top echelon of the legal industry.
43. Harry Wallace - Unkechaug Nation Chief
Representing one of Long Island’s native people is an unenviable task. Wallace is the elected chief of the Unkechaug Indian Nation that calls the Poospatuck Reservation in Mastic home. The media generally portrays Poospatuck as the smaller, renegade and insignificant sister of the high-profile Shinnecock, but while Poospatuck may be geographically tiny, Wallace’s influence is not. Law enforcement officials and the court systems have long misunderstood issues related to native lands in our nation, but they made a big mistake by underestimating the long arm of Wallace and the Unkechaug Nation. Recent attacks from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis and New York State over taxation of cigarettes have awakened the sleeping giant. What makes the Poospatuck provocation dangerous is that Wallace is a trained attorney with means who has lost patience with the encroachment on native lands. His power doesn’t all stem from disagreements, however, as Wallace has been a tireless preservationist of Unkechaug language and tradition.
44. Ted Rall - Association of American Cartoonists President, Pulitzer Prize Finalist
East Hampton: the home of political dissent? Thanks to Rall’s pen and ink, computer and acute political thinking, it is. One of America’s most controversial political cartoonists best known for his depiction of former President Bush as a deranged generalissimo, Rall is syndicated to 100 newspapers around the nation, including The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. A Pulitzer finalist and twice the winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Rall also writes a weekly opinion column about politics and current events that is syndicated to more than 40 papers. He’s the author of 14 books including the Gen X manifesto Revenge of the Latchkey Kids and the award-winning graphic novel travelogue To Afghanistan and Back, which The Nation called “some of the best war reporting from Afghanistan by an American reporter.” Always fighting the good fight, his no-holds-barred blog may be found at www.rall.com. Rall’s multi-faceted journalism forces people to think…and rethink.
45. John Venditto - Oyster Bay Town Supervisor
In a sea change that has swept many Republican-controlled towns and villages to the Democrats, Venditto has remained steadfast, continuing to deliver for his constituents and standing as a strong leader in Oyster Bay. His tenacity and unwillingness to bend in the face of Taubman Centers, Inc.’s more than decade-long quest to develop a mega mall at the Cerro Wire Property was a classic example of steadfast governing in the face of adversity. Venditto’s mastery of the law to serve his residents during the battle was nothing short of brilliant. Goliath? You don’t stand a chance against this guy.
46. Rabbi Marc Schneier - Foundation For Ethnic Understanding Founder and President
Ask people about who is the most influential Jewish spiritual and social leader on Long Island, and one name keeps coming up: Rabbi Marc Schneier, the chairman of the World Jewish Congress American Section and the past president of North American Board of Rabbis. In 2007 and 2008, he was on Newsweek’s top 50 American Rabbis list. As the founding rabbi of the Hampton Synagogue in Westhampton Beach and the New York Synagogue in Manhattan, his influence grows. And he uses his high profile to build religious and racial tolerance (he won the Civil Rights Leadership Award in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.). The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, which he founded, is chaired by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons and promotes understanding between black and Jewish youth. His ongoing work to encourage understanding between Jews, Muslims, Christians and blacks, is a legacy as powerful as any.
47. Patti Wood - Grassroots Environmental Education Founder
Danger. Danger all around us. That’s what we face in the air we breathe, food we eat, products we use, clothes we wear. From the crayons our kids draw with to the shampoo we use. From our carpeting at home to our kids’ school playgrounds: beware. Wood is the founder and executive director of Grassroots Environmental Education, an LI-based not-for-profit dedicated to the research and dissemination of information about pesticides and other toxins and their impact on our health and the environment. So you have two choices here—lock yourself away in a toxic-free box (good luck finding that) or be like Patti and fight like hell to make this a safer and healthier world for ourselves and our kids. The information she imparts and the changes she works so hard for are both fascinating and essential. Soon the only danger will be if you’re messing up Patti Wood’s planet.
48. Todd Fabricant - Cerro Wire Coalition Chairman
Chalk one up for the little guy. When Taubman Centers, Inc. announced plans to build a mall on the abandoned Cerro Wire Property in Syosset more than a decade ago, a battle of civil will was launched that, to this day, still has as much acrimony and firepower as it had on day one. Fabricant is the Chairman of the Cerro Wire Coalition, a group of 32 business and civic groups who have opposed the plan from the beginning, citing traffic concerns, safety, overcrowding and every other NIMBY-ish worry associated with such a project. Much to the dismay of Taubman, which is based in Michigan, in January, the Appellate Division in Brooklyn overturned a State Supreme Court ruling that would have forced the Town of Oyster Bay—where the project falls—to issue a special use permit allowing the mall to go forward. The ruling requires the developers to conduct another envinmental impart statement and was reaffirmed by the Appellate Division on appeal this month. At the root is the Coalition, which has tirelessly fought the plan, urging Taubman to modify its project to fit the area. Fabricant’s name falls on this Power List because he is dedicated, smart and determined. But it’s also a nod to all civic groups on LI, which usually capture the spirit of the Island perfectly.
49. John Kominicki - Long Island Business News Publisher
This is one funny guy, a great roast master, public speaker and advocate for the newspaper industry. What gives John Kominicki the power is what he does with it. His paper is willing to help not-for-profits, and does so often. As the sole provider for business news in the region, the paper has a lot of ground to cover. Yet even with the demanding schedule, Kominicki is willing to sacrifice his time—or that of his staff—to keep Long Island business moving forward.
50. One Is Greater Than None - Nonprofit
There is certainly strength in numbers but it has to start with one. In this case, a group of 14-year-old girls who were inspired to help others after seeing an episode of Oprah about children being sold into slavery and servitude in Africa, started their charity work by saving one child. The girls, from Merrick and Lynbrook, founded One is Greater than None, a nonprofit that would do more than raise money, it would raise social awareness as well. That was one year ago, and since that time, the group has gained international notoriety for their service, and last year the organization was working with the International Organization of Migration to save more than two dozen children in Ghana. Leave it to our youth to lead us. And we have a simple answer for those who ask, “How does someone make it on to the Power List?” It is One is Greater Than None’s motto that is the main requirement to make this list: “Do Anything. Do Something.”
Power Town: Huntington
It is said that Long Island’s geography discourages having an individual cultural center, but Downtown Huntington might beg to differ. Indeed, the idyllic North Shore village is so rich in culture that it can honestly be said to offer something for everyone—and it can offer a great wealth of evidence to support that statement. This begins with Huntington’s diverse arts community, built around the Huntington Arts Council, which brings to town performances, exhibitions and grants for the arts. Then, of course, there is Huntington’s many venues for appreciating those arts: the Cinema Arts Centre, one of the nation’s most respected and influential independent cinemas; the Inter-Media Arts Center (IMAC), an intimate and excellent-sounding concert hall bringing in an amazing array of musical talent from around the world; Book Revue, the best bookstore on the East Coast, featuring readings and appearances from some pretty noteworthy names (J.K. Rowling; Regis Philbin; Barbara Walters; President Bill Clinton…). There is also, of course, the town’s mainstream movie theater (the AMC Loews Shore 8 ) and the generous selection of art galleries, as well as one of the Island’s last remaining record stores (Soundtraks). Everything here, it should be noted, is within walking distance of everything else, all nestled in the heart of a quaint yet chic neighborhood. There are world-class dining establishments, coffeehouses, bakeries, boutiques, bars, and enough great stores to keep the most hardened of shop-a-holics happy. When Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi started his “Cool Downtowns” program, he pointed to places like Long Beach and Glen Cove as examples of how a cool downtown on Long Island should look. And don’t get us wrong, those are great, great downtowns, but right now, Suffolk’s Huntington is the class of the Island—and its cultural center, too.