As the special election for New York’s 3rd Congressional District draws closer, members of local environmental groups and North Shore residents gathered at Sea Cliff Beach on Jan. 11 to declare their support for former congressman Tom Suozzi and listen to the congressional candidate discuss some aspects of his future climate policy.
Dozens showed up to the beach despite the wind and the cold to listen to Suozzi and show their support, many representing organizations that he had worked with in the past and spoke about the benefits of his actions to support the local environment and its conservation throughout his 30 year political career. Suozzi also claimed that his opponent in the race, Nassau County Legislator Mazi Pilip, agrees with “the Conservative Party talking points, which actually says that climate change is not real, and that we should pull out of the Paris Climate Accords, and that’s her platform.”
Brian Devine, communications director for Pilip’s campaign, vociferously denied the claim, and wrote on Pilip’s behalf that she had always been a strong supporter of environmental protection and conservation.
“I have prioritized environmental protection and sustainability during my time in the Legislature,” the statement read. “During my time as a member, I voted to allocate millions of dollars in funding for sewer and stormwater improvements, drainage projects, hazardous waste remediation, bicycle and pedestrian pathways, park improvements, historic property restoration, and groundwater protection in Sea Cliff.”
Julie Tighe, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters, a statewide and non-partisan environmental organization, emphasized the former congressman’s positive record on environmental conservation and declared that the league had officially declared their backing for Suozzi. Devine wrote that the league had previously supported Pilip during her 2023 campaign for reelection to the legislature, recognizing “the important work she has done” while there.
Tighe stressed that the upcoming special election is of the utmost importance.
“So to all the voters out there, we ask you to vote for Tom Suozzi on Feb. 13, or to vote early,” Tighe said.
Tighe emphasized the environmental dangers currently threatening New York and Long Island in particular, “from the hottest summer on record to devastating floods.” She touted the former congressman’s strong and continued support for environmental conservation and actions for climate change as the reasons for their support.
Also in attendance was Al Fredericks, the president of Sierra Club Long Island Group, which focuses on local, regional and national actions related to the environment, with focuses on wind power, solar energy and protecting native wildlife. Fredericks said that the club was “extremely pleased to endorse Tom Suozzi,” pointing to his long history of environmental action dating back to his time as mayor of Glen Cove and Nassau County Executive.
“We are confident that Tom Suozzi will restore integrity and confidence to this important office, and that he will be a strong advocate for the environment,” Fredericks said. “In each public office that he’s held, Tom Suozzi has been a staunch champion of the environment, orchestrating the cleanup of brownfield superfund sites and other contaminated venues, preserving and expanding public open space and protecting and improving water quality.”
Brownfield superfund sites are properties where contamination is present and where it may complicate future use and endanger local wildlife. Fredericks also pointed specifically to Suozzi’s previous work in Congress, where he “helped to direct significant resources to New York for environmental protection.”
Last to speak among the environmental groups was Kevin Curtis, executive director of the NRDC Action Fund, which works to avert dangerous climate change, support healthy people and thriving communities and conserve and protect nature and wildlife. Curtis mentioned that although he has not closely the former congressman until recently, he and the action fund were proud to endorse Suozzi based on his environmental record.
Local politicians from the area, including Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, minority leader of the Nassau County Legislature, and Danielle Fugazy Scagliola, a Glen Cove City councilmember. Suozzi himself also addressed the shivering crowd, emphasizing the importance to him of protecting the environment both in his community and nationwide.
Suozzi mentioned that he had recently seen a bald eagle while working at home several weeks ago, and described how wonderful it felt to see wildlife that had not been present in his youth returning to Long Island thanks to decades of work by local environmental groups like those present.
“You don’t see the results right away, you don’t see it happen overnight,” Suozzi said. “But after 10 years, 20 years or 30 years, you see dramatic improvement. I can’t tell you how much clearer the water of the Long Island Sound is since I became mayor of Glen Cove.”
In the statement from the Pilip campaign, Devine also wrote that Pilip had supported several environmental initiatives during her two years in the legislature, and that she “was eager to explore bipartisan solutions” to the climate crises facing Long Island, New York and the entire country.
“I will continue to work on the issues that I have prioritized during my time on the legislature, which greatly affect my community,” the statement from the Pilip campaign read. “In specific, this includes sewer and stormwater improvements, drainage projects, hazardous waste remediation, as well as work with the U.S. Navy to expedite their remediation efforts at the Grumman Navy Plume.”