Southampton Councilman Chris Nuzzi was nominated by the Suffolk County Republican Committee last week to challenge the five-term incumbent Jay Schneiderman for Suffolk County legislator. Mr. Schneiderman, a member of the Independence Party, is seeking his sixth and final two-year term.
Mr. Nuzzi is serving his second and final term as a member of the Southampton Town Board.
Mr. Nuzzi cited the county’s budget, the environment, and state and federal mandates that he said handcuff the county as top issues in this race. Southampton, he said, “is fiscally stable at a time when many other municipalities are in distress, Suffolk County being one.”
Conservative budgeting and practices, and the ability to reinvent government, are important, he said, “especially throughout these difficult times. We’ve been able to do that without increasing the tax levy three years straight while reducing staff through attrition — not layoffs — so services weren’t impacted. I certainly believe that some of the commonsense practical solutions we’ve brought to Southampton can be brought to Suffolk County as well,” he said.
A continued commitment, on the county level, to the environment is also crucial, Mr. Nuzzi said Monday, calling for further county cooperation with towns on land preservation efforts. “As a town board member, it’s been vitally important to have that partnership with the county on certain acquisitions — in particular, some of the very expensive acquisitions on the eastern end of the town. The county’s presence and participation has helped us to make a lot of those acquisitions a reality. We need to continue the county’s commitment on environmental preservation, and that means funding programs as well.”
Hurricane Sandy, he said, highlights the importance of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Fire Island to Montauk Reformulation Study. “All of us should be coming together to make sure that plan is not just completed, but funding associated with beach renourishment for areas most at risk [is appropriated]. We tend to look at this somewhat territorially, [but] there has to be a comprehensive plan for all areas. Through our own policies we have initiated what I believe are good programs focused on restoration of areas of beach that have been damaged or are at risk. We’ve implemented those districts without burdening the taxpayer — those are privately funded by individuals who are going to most directly benefit.” But, he added, “there is a tangible benefit to the rest of the community.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Schneiderman referred to many of the same issues, including “the thousands of acres of land I’ve been involved in preserving.” He also cited his attention to “critical issues like [county] buses running on Sundays, and adding an extra lane to the main road coming out to our area, County Road 39.”
“I have had 10 consecutive years without any increases in the county property tax in my district, East Hampton and Southampton Town, which is a significant accomplishment, particularly in light of the county’s fiscal challenges during the recession,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
On Hurricane Sandy and the prospect of future extreme weather events, Mr. Schneiderman said that the planet is clearly warming, weather patterns are changing, and sea level is rising. “We do need to rethink our coastal policies because of it,” he said, “but the most immediate urgency is getting sand put back in place, particularly in downtown Montauk, where you have hotels in jeopardy of being washed away. We need a major beach nourishment project there, and Congressman Bishop has been working on it. I’ve been in close communication with his office.”
Of his opponent, Mr. Nuzzi said, “I have differing viewpoints on many things as it relates to Jay’s presence in the legislature. First and foremost, you have to want to be there, and I do. I’ve gotten an opportunity I’m very thankful to the people of Southampton for. I want to continue in public service and saw this as a position where I could contribute. I don’t know exactly what he wants to do, but I can tell you this is a position I’m excited about seeking.” Mr. Nuzzi works for Skyline TRG Title Agency, a New York City title insurance company, and earned a master’s degree in public policy from the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He lives in Westhampton Beach.
Mr. Schneiderman served two terms as East Hampton Town supervisor, elected on the Republican ticket. He was elected to the Suffolk County Legislature in 2003 and ran unopposed on the Republican, Democratic, Independence, Conservative, and Working Families Party lines in 2009. He switched party affiliation to become a member of the Independence Party before the 2011 election, then ran on the Democratic, Working Families, and Independence lines, winning by a wide margin.
Mr. Schneiderman considered a 2013 run for East Hampton Town supervisor on the Republican ticket, and was named by the Republicans as their top choice, but opted to seek a final term in the Legislature. He lives in Montauk.
“I’ll continue to work hard for my constituents,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I believe this region needs full-time representation. Otherwise, we’ll be taken advantage of, as we have in the past.”