Former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi’s legacy is rich with accomplishments helping the North Shore, from securing money for a roof for Sid Jacobson JCC to ensuring the rehabilitation of the Roslyn Grist Mill is federally funded.
And he’s always been there for his hometown of Glen Cove and its residents.
Glen Cove resident Howard Stillwagon has known Suozzi his entire life. An Army combat soldier in Vietnam, Stillwagon has post-traumatic stress disorder from his service. Unable to sleep at night, among other issues, he applied for a service dog from Americas VetDogs in 2021, but after a phone interview, was rejected. Stillwagon appealed the decision and then asked Suozzi for help.
“Within a week I got a call to go in for an in-person interview,” Stillwagon said.“They took me for a tour and everything and I was put on the waiting list.”
Stillwagon was united with a service dog a year later. “Cruiser goes everywhere with me,” he said. “Tom helped me out. He’s a lovely person who has always been kind to me and my family.”
During his six years as congressman for the 3rd District, the Democrat secured millions of dollars for community projects.
Suozzi secured $2 million for Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory for its Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Center for Advanced Cancer Diagnostics. The project supports advanced cancer research through state-of-the-art technology. It will provide in-depth study of
tumors with a goal to characterize different cell types and allow for earlier detection of cancerous cells.
According to Charles Prizzi, the senior vice president at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the not-for-profit research programs in cancer and neuroscience encourages high school students to become scientists, hosting a summer program. In 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic, Suozzi hosted a reception for the high school students who were Regeneron Scholars from his district presenting them with a congratulatory certificate.
“Congressman Suozzi is a great advocate for the Cold Spring Harbor Lab,” Prizzi said. “We will miss him in Congress and are grateful for this important financial assistance.”
Glen Cove Hospital received $2 million through Suozzi’s efforts for its Geriatric Center of Excellence in March 2022. Kerri Anne Scanlon, RN, the hospital’s executive director, said a 20 percent increase in residents over age 64 in Nassau County in the last decade makes the center vital to the community.
Residents in Glen Cove are benefitting from Suozzi’s roughly $3.5 million appropriation for the Duck Pond Road water infrastructure project. The funding covered the cost for installation of a packed tower aeration system at the well station. The former aeration was meeting only 60 percent of its needs and reached its life expectancy.
“Tom got us a lot of grants and money to improve our water systems, our drinking water,” Glen Cove Mayor Pam Panzenbeck said. “He’s always paid attention to Glen Cove.”
Suozzi also moved forward the hiking trail project at Garvies Point Museum, which will extend 800 feet to connect to Garvies Point Road. The $294,000 grant will also be used to upgrade the boathouse and the waterfront. In addition, funds will be used to add an elevator in the museum to make it handicap compliant and upgrade the museum’s basement classrooms. The project is projected to be completed by 2023.
Suozzi’s interest in the hiking trail is indicative of who he is. Named “Environmentalist of the Year” for New York state by the League of Conservation Voters in 2008, he has maintained his commitment to the environment throughout his political career.
As congressman, he increased funding for the Long Island Sound by 1,000 percent, from $4 million in 2016 to $40 million in 2022.
He’s worked to keep the Sound viable by securing funding for a variety of purposes, including $300,000 for shellfish seeding.
“I’ve always been passionate about the environment,” Suozzi said. “The Long Island Sound is like our national park.”
When Suozzi was elected to Congress in 2017, he joined the Problem Solvers Caucus — 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans who meet weekly to try and find common ground — and served as the co-vice chair. The group, committed to bipartisan lawmaking to end the gridlock in Washington, remained important to Suozzi throughout his time in the House. He stayed with them until he left Congress.
“In this crazy world that we’re living in, we are so divided these days. I managed to work across the aisle and get things done with the Problem Solvers,” he said. “A lot of the big things we did for the country, I wasn’t the leader of it necessarily, or the main person, but I played a big role in contributing to get these bipartisan bills done.”
Being a member of the Problem Solvers was a way Suozzi built personal relationships with Republicans. He was also a member of an intense work-out class led by a Republican with a background in martial arts. Suozzi said he was the “old man” in the group and eventually had to stop going. But he continued to do his own work out there, maintaining the relationships he had built.
“I just always made it a point to get to know people, to understand where they were coming from,” he said. “And even people I disagree with, I still tried to let them know that I’d work with them in good faith if they were working to solve a problem.”
And through it all, Suozzi continued to help his neighbors in and around Glen Cove.
When a fire broke out in August, 2021 at Glen Cove’s Veterans of Foreign War James Donohue Post 347, veterans were left without a home base. The cost of repairs was estimated at $400,000, and insurance was offering only $140,000. Stillwagon, a member of the organization, asked Suozzi for his help.
Veterans are close to former U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi’s heart. His father, Joseph, a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, was a World War II navigator on a B-24.
“The prime responsibility of government is to take care of our veterans,” Suozzi said. “In Ukraine, they are fighting for freedom and democracy. That’s what our vets have done for us.”
Hosting the fundraiser, Rebuild the VFW, in March 2022, Suozzi donated $10,000 from his congressional funds, which he included in the $35,000 he raised from donors. An additional $100,000 was raised.
“I did the fundraiser as an individual,” Suozzi said. “I did all kinds of stuff for Glen Cove. I never forgot about my hometown.”
Suozzi said he misses being in Congress. He left not because he didn’t like the job or was worried Democrats would be in the minority. He wanted to be governor to help his state, which he said is troubled by crime, taxes and corruption — issues he’s been fighting for his entire political career. Although he lost the Gubernatorial Democratic Primary, Suozzi said he has no regrets.
“Everything happens the way it’s supposed to happen,” he said. “Our system will work.”