Pioneer Long Island planner Lee E. Koppelman dies at 94

Lee E. Koppelman, a planning visionary who for four decades fought to impose a regional economic development and environmental conservat...


Lee E. Koppelman, a planning visionary who for four decades fought to impose a regional economic development and environmental conservation agenda on Long Island, died March 21 in Stony Brook, NY He was 94 years old.

His death, at Stony Brook University Hospital, was confirmed by his daughter Lesli Ross.

As executive director of the Nassau-Suffolk Regional Planning Board from 1965 to 2006, Mr. Koppelman was instrumental in preserving tens of thousands of acres of farmland and open space in the county of Suffolk, protection of coastal wetlands and groundwater supply, creation of the county of Suffolk. park system and the preservation of the vast Pine Barrens Forest.

“All of these things were way ahead of contemporary thinking at the time; now they are taken for granted,” said John VN Klein, a former Suffolk County executive. The New York Times in 1999.

As an appointee accountable to elected county executives, Mr. Koppelman wielded little direct power. But as impartialso dodgy, expert town planner, he won the respect of politicians, conservatives and developers.

During his long career, he persuaded lawmakers to pass an initial 2% sales tax, which began bringing in about $100 million a year in 1970; warned that road runoff was a primary pollutant of aquifers and estuaries; and successfully lobbied to extend the Long Island Freeway and the Sunrise Freeway east to the Hamptons.

When Mr. Koppelman resigned as CEO in 2006, Mitchell H. Pally, vice president of the Long Island Association, a business and civic group, said, “There hasn’t been a bigger person on Long Island in the last 40 years.

Author Robert A. Caro recalls first meeting Mr. Koppelman when he was a reporter for the Long Island Newsday newspaper and then researching his masterful biography of Robert Moses, “The Power Broker.” (1974).

Moses was a master builder who left a legacy of parks, highways, public beaches and bridges. Mr. Koppelman was also a man of big ideas, but more of a master planner.

“I have met very few planners with such brilliant and far-sighted ‘big, far-reaching vision’,” Mr. Caro wrote in an email. “Among his many accomplishments, he was the driving force behind Suffolk County’s initiation of a program to preserve Long Island’s farmland – and endangered open space – by ensuring that the county buys development rights.”

While Mr. Koppelman has survived partisan political upheavals on Long Island, he has sometimes been more successful in sparking heated debate about his plans than in implementing them.

His suggestions for a commuter rail line along the Long Island Freeway, an investment in 100,000 affordable homes and apartments, and an expanded bridge or ferry service across Long Island Sound never went much further. beyond the drawing board.

He wrote four master plans for Long Island, including one in 1970 that filled 60 volumes.

“There are two types of planners,” Frank DeRubeis, Smithtown’s chief planning officer, said in Long Island History Journal in 2009. One guy, he says, “makes the plan and then leaves it up to the elected officials to implement the plan or not”; the other “is a planner who completes the study and then uses everything in his power to implement the plan”. Mr. Koppelman, he said, “was the latter of the two.”

Lee Edward Koppelman was born on May 19, 1927 in Manhattan and grew up in Astoria, Queens. His parents, Max and Madelyn (Eisenberg) Koppelman, owned a greenhouse in Queens and a florist on Madison Avenue.

After graduating from Bryant High School in Astoria, Mr. Koppelman joined the Navy in 1945, earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from City College in 1950 and a master’s degree from Pratt Institute in 1964. He earned a doctorate in New York public administration. University in 1970.

Besides his daughter Lesli, he is survived by his wife, Connie; three other children, Claudia and Keith Koppelman and Laurel Heard; and three grandchildren.

In 1952, Mr. Koppelman, owner of a landscape architecture firm, moved to Hauppauge, Long Island, where he became active in civic affairs. In 1960, Suffolk County Executive H. Lee Dennison appointed him as the county’s first director of planning. He held this position until 1988.

In addition to being executive director of the Regional Planning Council, he became director of the State University of New York at the Stony Brook Center for Regional Policy Studies in 1988.

He is the author, with Joseph De Chiara, of “Site Planning Standards” (1978) and of “Urban Planning and Design Criteria” (1982).

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Newsrust - US Top News: Pioneer Long Island planner Lee E. Koppelman dies at 94
Pioneer Long Island planner Lee E. Koppelman dies at 94
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