Nassau County: The Decade That Was

President Barack Obama served an 8-year term, from 2009 to 2017.

In 2008, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States. That meant that 2009 would be a good year for the party out of power. Nassau County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi was persuaded to run for a third term that year. In a Republican year, he lost to the challenger, Edward Mangano, by a slim margin. Suozzi, a former mayor of Glen Cove, was elected in 2001 on a wave of discontent over the county’s budgetary woes. He won reelection in 2005 and then ran for governor the next year.

Victims of the Long Island serial killer were discovered along Ocean Parkway in 2010. An A&E docuseries, The Killing Season, explored the case. (Photo courtesy of A&E)

Late in 2010, Nassau County police uncovered a grim discovery. In December, the remains of four victims of the notorious Long Island serial killer (LISK) were found along the South Shore. According to police, the LISK is an unidentified suspect who is believed to have murdered 10 to 16 people over a period of nearly 20 years, mostly women associated with prostitution. The victims were found along the Ocean Parkway, near the remote beach towns of Gilgo and Oak Beach in Suffolk County, and the area of Jones Beach State Park in Nassau County. The first victim was discovered in 1982 and as late as 2013 more victims washed onto the beach. Police have had suspects, but no arrests. It is even believed that there might be two serial killers along this grisly trail. The media has speculated about a profile of the killer, referred to by police as “Joe C” (unknown subject), claiming that he is “most likely” a white male in his mid-20s to mid-40s.

In November 2011, theaters across the North Shore were home to the first annual Gold Coast International film festival. The event has since then become an annual event, drawing film fans from across the tristate area to the region. The launch was held with great promise, which has been fulfilled in the succeeding years. Hicksville native Edward Burns was the recipient of the 2012 Artist of Distinction Award.

Over the years, property taxes have driven hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders out of New York to low-tax havens points west and south. When he ran for reelection as governor in 2010, Andrew Cuomo promised a property tax cap of 2 percent. In 2012, that legislation was signed into law. The 2020 state budget, the governor office’s maintained, would build upon the approximately $25 billion in taxpayer savings since the cap was implemented in 2012 by supporting the phase-in of the middle class tax cuts.

Football legend Jim Brown returned to Manhasset in 2013 to unveil a plaque in honor of his amazing career. (Photo by LBJ Foundation via Wikimedia / CC by 2.0)

In April, 2013, football great Jim Brown returned to Manhasset High School for an emotional homecoming. “This school formed my life, gave me my foundation and taught me to never give up,” he told an enthusiastic crowd. In addition to the plaque, a commemorative Jim Brown “Hometown Hall of Famers” road sign is now on display in the village. A Syracuse University alumnus, Brown was All-American in both football and lacrosse and a letterman in basketball. The first player taken in the 1957 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns, Brown’s immediate impact on the football field earned him Rookie of the Year and league MVP honors in 1957. In all, he earned league MVP honors four times (1957, 1958, 1963 and 1965).

In June 2014, Long Island footballers defeated All Stars from New York City to win the annual Empire Challenge Football contest, 24-18. The challenge is also known as “the Boomer game,” in honor of its founder, football great Boomer Esiason. Ben Kocis led the Long Islanders to victory, marshaling a 95-yard drive in the second quarter that he capped with a 5-yard scoring run and throwing a 44-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Proceeds for the game, which drew a crowd of 9,762 to Hofstra’s Stuart Stadium, benefit the Boomer Esiason Foundation which supports cystic fibrosis research.

In the late 1990s, Nassau County was roiled by a financial crisis that resulted in the takeover of the county’s finances. By 2015, the county seemed to be out off the hole, but problems remained. Writing in The City Journal, E.J. McMahon claimed that ongoing budget deficits proved that “Long Islanders failed to learn from the mistakes of the big city…Instead, Nassau’s Republican machine spent the boom years building a suburban version of the profligate…urban-governance model that almost bankrupted New York in the mid-seventies…The putative moderates…running…local governments spent as though the good times would never end. As of 2014, the average local government salary on Long Island was $71,393…Government jobs also come with more…benefits than are commonly available in the private sector. Small wonder that Long Island’s property taxes are among the highest in the country…The finances of Nassau and Suffolk counties…are likely to experience severe stress in any economic downturn over the next few years. Perhaps then, at last, real reform will happen.”

Former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife, Linda, arrive at the federal courthouse in Central Islip. (Photo by Johnny Milano for The New York Times)

In 2016, County Supervisor Ed Mangano and his wife were arrested on corruption charges related to a bribery and kickback scheme. The charges allege that Mangano helped restaurant owner Harendra Singh secure contracts with the county in exchange for free vacations and home improvements. Singh, federal prosecutors charged, also sought Mangano’s help in obtaining a loan guarantee from Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto. In October, Singh pleaded guilty to bribery. Mangano and his wife were convicted of multiple counts of corruption in March 2019.

Construction begins on the LIRR’s third track between the Floral Park and Hicksville train stations. Mineola train station is pictured. (Photo by Rich Forestano)

On the heels of the Mangano scandals, Laura Curran, in November, was elected as the county’s first female executive. Curran previously served on the county legislature from 2014 to 2017. Also that year, the state legislature approved a plan to add a third railroad track to the Long Island Rail Road corridor between the communities of Floral Park and Hicksville. The project will cost $2 billion and hopes to accommodate anticipated growth in rail ridership and facilitate commutes between New York City and Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The new Islanders arena is being built adjacent to the Belmont grandstand. (Photo by Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

In 1972, the New York Islanders hockey franchise found a home at Nassau County. Later in the decade, the team won a record five Stanley Cups in a row. In the 2018-19 season, the Islanders split their home games between the Barclays Center and Nassau Coliseum. But the team is just marking time. In the 2021 season, the Islanders will return home for good to play at the new 18,000-seat arena at Belmont Park in Elmont. On Aug. 8, 2019, the Empire State Development Corporation board (ESD) voted unanimously in favor of the Belmont Park Arena project.

In 2019, the county faced legal problems as a class-action lawsuit claimed that in 2010, the county imposed a system that transferred $1.7 billion in taxes onto nonwhite residents. Also that year, Rep. Peter King (R­—Seaford), the county’s senior member of Congress, announced his retirement from a career that began in 1993.

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Joe Scotchie
Joe Scotchie is the editor of both The Roslyn News and New Hyde Park Illustrated News. In 2009, he won a New York State Press Association award for a sports feature. Joseph Scotchie’s past publications include biographies of Thomas Wolfe and Richard Weaver and a comprehensive history of the city of Asheville, North Carolina.

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