Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk received a plum assignment in this, his sixth and final term in office, when he was elected deputy presiding officer on Jan. 2. Legislator DuWayne Gregory, a Democrat from Amityville and the legislature’s majority leader, was elected presiding officer.
Mr. Gregory is the first African-American to assume the legislature’s top leadership position. Mr. Schneiderman is the first representative from the East End to be named to a leadership role since 1986, when Gregory Blass of Jamesport was elected presiding officer.
A former two-term East Hampton Town supervisor, Mr. Schneiderman is the legislature’s sole Independence Party member. He was elected unanimously to his new post by the legislature’s majority caucus, which includes 10 Democrats and one member of the Working Families Party.
“There are only two positions that the legislature elects as a body, the presiding officer and the deputy presiding officer, so it’s a real honor,” he said.
Having served 10 years on the legislature, Mr. Schneiderman is its senior member. His new post is largely honorary, he explained: He will preside over the legislature in Mr. Gregory’s absence and represent him at public events he is unable to attend. He pointed out, however, that “it’s significant for someone from the East End and someone from a minor party . . . in this position I can speak on behalf of the legislature and not just my district.”
Although he received unanimous support from the majority caucus, Mr. Schneiderman said that was not the case with the six Republican legislators. “Five of the six voted against me and one abstained,” he said, lamenting that their action launched the new session on a “very partisan tone.”
“I’ve always tried to be bipartisan. I’ve helped Republicans get bills out of committee. I’ve always looked at bills on their merits,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
This week, Mr. Gregory announced that Mr. Schneiderman had been appointed chairman of the Parks and Recreation Committee and will serve on the Government Operations, Personnel, Housing, Consumer Protection, and Economic Development committees as well.
Of his decision to appoint Mr. Schneiderman chairman of parks and recreation, Mr. Gregory praised his earlier work as head of the Public Works and Transportation Committee. “He brings 10 years of experience as a legislator to the table,” he said, “and he has a thorough knowledge of the county’s parks . . . I expect him to continue his groundbreaking work as chairman.”
Besides overseeing the county’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation, the committee has jurisdiction over 46,000 acres of county parkland, including golf courses, campgrounds, and beaches.
In his role as chairman of the committee, Mr. Schneiderman said he would like to see, in Montauk, a stewardship arrangement established to protect the Lindley house, which was originally built as a lookout for enemy ships, the restoration of Third House at Theodore Roosevelt County Park so it can be reopened to the public, and the establishment of an observatory at the park.
The legislator is optimistic that sales tax revenue will continue to increase in the coming year with the improving economy. “I feel like we’ve turned a corner and no longer need to contract,” he said. “Hopefully, we are done with layoffs and cuts to contracted services.”
This session, Mr. Schneiderman promised to press for initiatives as diverse as the completion of a sidewalk to the Springs School, the enactment of limits on pesticide use, and an effort to “codify” a percentage of sales tax revenue to be earmarked for towns and villages that are not covered by the Suffolk County Police Department.
“Right now, it’s about 7 percent of what the police district gets and it should be closer to 11 percent,” he said, which would amount to about $3 million a year. “That would be hundreds of thousands of dollars a year” for towns like Southampton and East Hampton, “and it would make it a lot easier to live within the governor’s tax cap.”
“I’d like to get that done this year, so my successor doesn’t have to struggle with it,” Mr. Schneiderman said.