When given the task of finding a new home for the corporate headquarters of Canon U.S.A., executive vice president Seymour Liebman had the world at his feet. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, upstate New York. He could have chosen anywhere other than the notoriously prickly and difficult Long Island real estate environment. Instead, he decided to move the vaunted Canon brand from Lake Success to Melville, proving that sheer will can overcome inertia.
Determined not to let politics stand in the way of public safety and pride of workmanship, Terence Hopper battled valiantly to warn elected officials, civic associations and the media about the perilous conditions at Nassau’s near-failing Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant. His efforts, alongside several other concerned workers at the facility, drew critical attention to an almost calamitous situation that could have endangered the lives of plant workers and nearby residents.
For more than three decades the cries of the impoverished Shinnecock Nation members went unheard in their quest for federal recognition that would set the tribe on the path to economic prosperity and restore a sense of pride to one of the only indigenous groups of Long Islanders. Leading the charge on the front lines and behind the scenes was former Shinnecock Trustee Lance Gumbs, who never wavered in his commitment to his heritage despite countless setbacks.
These are some of the stories you will read about in the 9th annual Power List issue of the Long Island Press where we publish a ranking of the 50 most influential people living on Long Island. This year’s list boasts 17 new members, the fewest number of elected officials since the inception of the list, and inducts six past honorees into the Power List Hall of Fame—a distinction given to those who have been selected to appear on the list five times.
The Power List is subjective and not always popular. This is partly due to the fact that while the Island’s population is growing increasingly diverse, the base of power remains remarkably, and unfortunately, homogeneous. Great care is taken to ensure there are no token appointees on the list as each person carries great significance in his or her field; nevertheless, the lack of diversity among leaders in positions of power is unavoidable when we pause to look in the mirror and examine our collective selves.
This is the gospel according to the Press that sparks controversy, inspires debate and alienates a substantial number of Long Islanders not included herein. For those of you not featured on the list, take heart as the list also excludes a couple of billionaires, scores of politicians and every working actor on the Island. There are no life coaches, high school professors or first responders either, for that matter. To be considered one must either consistently wield influence over particular aspects of our daily lives on the Island, or have done something of specific importance that altered the way we think or behave. There are myriad Long Islanders who have tremendous influence in national or even global affairs, but if their actions have little effect on our daily lives on Long Island they will not appear on this list.
The Power List isn’t a popularity contest or an opportunity to place famous faces on the cover of the newspaper. It’s a critical analysis of the inner-workings of arguably one of the strangest, most fascinating places on the planet; a family album of sorts that is interesting only to family members. Your family and friends who live elsewhere will likely care little about this list or the way in which it was compiled. So whatever you do, don’t drag it out like your wedding album or an old home movie to non-Islanders because they simply wouldn’t understand.
For all of our foibles, we Long Islanders are a curious and endearing bunch, making the process of assembling the list and assigning rankings a labor of love. Many of those who appear are subjects of the stories we write throughout the year, for better or worse. These are mostly profiles of people with great character and ambition, and of course, influence. With a list this subjective there will admittedly be more than a few omissions, which isn’t to say they weren’t in the running. Alas, there are only 50 spots on this list for 2.7 million of us.
Regardless of whether you thumb through the issue or read each entry carefully, take a moment to view it from 30,000 feet and examine the list in its entirety. Personally, I think it paints a hopeful picture. A portrait of an Island where people like Terence Hopper put people before politics and public safety before job security. An Island capable of retaining an important employer like Canon because of an executive who believes in us perhaps more than we believe in ourselves. A community that can finally begin to heal shameful and immoral acts of the past by recognizing the right of its indigenous people to take the first step on the path of prosperity.
These are the stories that represent our Island.