Suffolk County Legislator Lynne Nowick discussed her St. James childhood, passion for preservation and how she's making Main Street businesses happy in an interview on Aug. 12. Watch the video and read excerpts from our time with the legislator here:
You grew up here on Long Island, in St. James. How was it growing up and raising a family here?
When I lived in St. James when I was a little girl there was nothing here. It was a farming town - St. James, Kings Park, Commack - were big farming towns. My dad was a farmer in St. James. It was different than it is now. There was not any Smithhaven mall - I don't event think there was a Huntington Mall until later on when I moved to another house in St. James. But it was a very small town, Norman Rockwell kind of thing. For excitement we would go to my brother's baseball games... we didn't have a lot to do. Maybe there was a carnival once in a while.
But it was a wonderful experience. I am so happy to have stayed here, that I live here. I am hoping my two daughters Dana and Keri, who are now 28 and 30, I hope they stay here and raise a family here because I think it is a beautiful place to be. The schools are wonderful. I don't think you can do better than what we have here. Now we have all the stores. Maybe it is built up a little more than we wanted it to - 98% of the Smithtown area is built up - but it is beautiful communities. I am very, very proud to live here.
Since earning a spot on the legislature, you've fought to preserve open space and farmland and to help support local businesses. Why these issues in particular?
Environmental protection is very important, groundwater protection [in particular]. There are several areas of the town of Smithtown, because we are so close to the sound, that are environmentally sensitive. Several years ago, I preserved several acres on the beautiful Stony Brook harbor in Nissequogue, an incredible beautiful area. I went on a press conference with the county executive at the time and he said it took his breath away. It is now forever preserved.
Today, I am going over to property in Kings Park that is part of the Greenbelt property. We just acquired six acres. It will be forever preserved. I'm not against building but these are the areas you want preserved. These should be protected. We've been able to do good things and I think it is important.
Another more sensitive issue you have been passionate about is the Long Island wide heroin epidemic, especially after the tragic accident last fall on Main Street. What are you working on to help solve this in your district?
We have been fortunate in Suffolk County because we have been working together with the Suffolk County District Attorney, who has a special task force for heroin abusers and people that sell heroin. I am working together with the police commissioner. Also recently myself and one of my colleagues Legis. Horsley have put together an advisory panel, not a task force. I call it an advisory panel because we all know there is an opiate abuse problem, this is a panel that will hopefully find some solutions.
Two weeks ago, I had a press conference with all of my colleagues in support of legislation that is in the New York State Senate and Assembly. This is for when young people are at a party and there is an overdose and a young person at the party is passed out. The young people there are sometimes drinking underage, doing illegal things and they are afraid to call 911 because they are afraid they will get in trouble. This legislation, I want to say, gives a pass. Call 911, save the life of your friend and at this point we are not looking to arrest the person that is calling or the person that is in trouble. We met with Natalie Ciappa's parents who have supported this. It is important. I am not looking to give a pass to pushers. It is not what it is about. But if we can save a life, it is time to tweek.
The summer concert series has very been well - received. Has the impact on local businesses been measurable?
We started the concert series because the library was looking to be more active in the community. I must tell you it was my brother who came to me and said let's do a summer concert series - he knows all things about different performers. He's my volunteer who does all of the work along with Dave Berner over at the library. So my brother and Dave do all the work and I am able to get the grant through the legislature's downtown revitalization plan. Pizza boxes coming in, subway sandwiches, who's going for the ice cream, who is going into town. What the people in Smithtown do is come in, leave their chairs and go into town and have dinner. The stores are happy, the restaurants are thrilled with it. It is a shot in the arm for them on a Thursday night. If you go to Buona Sera, you can't get in. All of the restaurants are realizing an economic upturn on Thursday nights. It is a beautiful Norman Rockwell setting, again, on the lawn of the Smithtown library. I tell them at the beginning of the concert to put your chairs down and go spent your money. It works very well.
Any plans for projects like this in the winter months?
Putting together a concert is a very difficult thing. It is not an easy thing, it is a lot of work. You have to worry about port-o-potties and the weather and the show mobile. It is a little more difficult in the winter, but it is not something out of the question - maybe at the holidays. That may be a nice thing. But it expensive. Some are groups $3,000 some are $1,500 and you still need to get the port-o-potties, the show mobiles and the police, who do a wonderful job. They close one of the lanes on Jericho turnpike for safety reasons and get everyone out right away. All of this costs money and time. It is time-consuming [but] it is a mission of love and I love it. I am at every concert. You can find me up at the front dancing. It is great.
What's your favorite thing about Smithtown?
I love Smithtown because it is my home forever. It has a feeling of family, a feeling of community. The Chamber of Commerce is a feeling of everyone working together to do well for each other. The Rotary works as well gives back to the community. My hope as a legislator here for the past 9 and a half years is to give back to the community, to do my best to have the quality of life continue the way it is now. And it's a beautiful quality of life.