Best known as an artsy enclave, the Village of Sea Cliff flexed its environmentalism over the past year, becoming the first village in Nassau County to enact a reusable bag law and ban single-use plastics.
Leading the charge is Sea Cliff Mayor Edward Lieberman, who is running unopposed to his second term in Tuesday’s village elections in the scenic Gold Coast village with Long Island Sound views, storybook charm, and a deep sense of community pride.
“We are progressive and lead the way with regard to environmental concerns,” said the mayor, criminal defense attorney, and former Nassau prosecutor. “I always like to call it the shining gem of the North Shore.”
It’s not an overstatement to say that Sea Cliff stands out from the pack of 64 villages in Nassau and 96 villages on Long Island. It has a rich history. Originally a Methodist campground and religious meeting site during the mid-1800s, the town emerged as the setting for live theatrical performances by the turn of the century. More than two dozen historic landmarks dot the one-square-mile village.
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“That heritage remains today,” said Lieberman, a longtime village resident married 45 years with two children and two grandchildren. He cited the Latin motto on the village seal, Suum Cui Que, “which to me translates into a community of openness, diversity, and enjoyment of all people.” A more stringent translation is, “Their own be allowed also,” or more loosely, “To each his own.”
To protect the community from litter and pollution, the Sea Cliff village board required businesses to charge customers five cents for plastic bags to encourage the use of reusable bags. The law went into effect on Earth Day 2018. The City of Long Beach was the first municipality in the county to enact a similar ban a year prior, Suffolk has a similar law, and statewide legislation is pending.
In January, another Sea Cliff village law went into effect banning businesses from using plastic straws, stirrers, single-use utensils, and foam containers. Like with the bag law, violators face $100 fine for the first offense, and $200 for each violation thereafter.
Sea Cliff was also on forefront in the fight against New York American Water’s rate hikes for the about 5,000 residents in the village, which sued the New York State Public Service Commission in an attempt to reverse the increases. That case is pending. Lieberman hopes to see a public entity providing water instead of a private company.
The village additionally sued to block the RXR Realty’s $1 billion Garvies Point project that is building 1,100 condos and luxury apartments on Glen Island off the coast of Glen Cove and neighboring Sea Cliff. Although an appeals court recently upheld a lower court’s rejection of that suit, Lieberman feels vindicated.
“Given the fact that there’s a new administration in Glen Cove, we hope that moving forward we have a mutual understanding [that] new developments will have an effect on our village,” he said. “I have met with the new mayor there numerous times, we have a very good working relationship, and I hope that continues.”
In addition to the village’s progress, members of the community have also made some firsts of their own. Former FBI supervisory agent and Sea Cliff resident Geraldine Hart last year became the first female Suffolk County police commissioner.
There have also been some big names drawn to life in the self-proclaimed “Victorian village by the sea.” Former notable residents include influential writer William Cullen Bryant, actress Natalie Portman, Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik, and Saturday Night Live comic Kate McKinnon.
“We have a real network of artists and musicians who display their talents on a regular basis at some of our local restaurants,” the mayor said. “A lot of people are coming to explore our village … We have an influx of young, family-oriented newcomers who are finding Sea Cliff to be a very unique suburban environment to bring up their children and enjoy their community and the unique individuals that make up our village.”