Farewell to two accomplished public servants

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“Incidents involving gun violence over the last two years serve as yet another reminder that although modest progress has been made over the years, there is much more work to do,” she said in a press release announcing her retirement. “But,” she added in a phone interview with the Herald, “I’m not really retiring . . . I’m not going anywhere.”

We hope she stays active for a long time to come.

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State Sen. Chuck Fuschillo had big shoes to fill when he first took office in 1998. He replaced the legendary Sen. Norman J. Levy, for whom a state parkway, an elementary school and a nature preserve are named. Many wondered whether anyone could continue Levy’s legacy of public service. As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, Levy had authored and fought for the state’s seatbelt law, which has saved countless lives over the years.

During his 16 years in the Senate, Fuschillo, who also became the Transportation Committee chairman, built a remarkable legislative record, authoring numerous driving-while-intoxicated statutes as well as the state’s Clean Indoor Air Law, which banned smoking in restaurants and bars. He took considerable heat for the measure, which the restaurant industry opposed. But Fuschillo believed in the law. He understood that it would save lives. Today you can’t smoke in most public places –– and we’re all healthier for it.

In 2001, Chuck Fuschillo had been a state senator for only three years when hundreds of his Merrick neighbors started speaking out against the Village of Freeport’s Power Plant No. 2, saying that its unfiltered diesel exhaust suffused local neighborhoods and was a possible cause of the area’s apparently high cancer rate.

No other elected leader wanted to take on the issue. Fuschillo did. He met with his constituents and Freeport officials. When a group of civic activists organized a protest march from Merrick to the plant, Fuschillo joined them, standing side by side with the hundreds of residents who took part. He then led negotiations between Freeport officials and the Long Island Power Authority to permanently shut down Plant No. 2. After more than 30 years of operations, Freeport finally closed the plant in 2003. Merokeans rejoiced.
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