Immediately following State Senator Norman Levy's death in February, people from Long Island to Albany called him a transportation legend. Now, his colleagues have made it official.
Governor George Pataki, flanked by Assembly members and Senators from across Nassau County, last Friday dedicated the Meadowbrook Parkway to Levy's memory. The ceremony, which took place near Jones Beach on the Meadowbrook Parkway, followed the enactment of legislation to rename the thoroughfare after the late senator. The renaming is of a ceremonious nature only, with the parkway's original name remaining. Newly erected signs which dub the road "Norman J. Levy Memorial Highway" will remind millions of motorists of his impact.
Levy is perhaps best known as the author of the state's first mandatory seatbelt law, the first of its kind in the nation. The former chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee also successfully pushed for several other traffic safety measures, including anti-DWI laws, and was known as a tough defender of Long Island's budgetary interests.
Senator Charles Fuschillo, who succeeded Levy in representing several southeastern Nassau communities, introduced the memorial bill in the Senate. "I look at Norman Levy as someone who followed in the footsteps of Robert Moses," he said at the ceremony, noting that while Moses was the architect of the state's parks system, Levy was a giant in the realm of transportation safety.
Governor Pataki said that he was immediately impressed by Levy upon meeting him in Albany. "He devoted his life to helping people - to helping them have better lives and safer lives," he said, adding that because of the senator's work on the seatbelt law, "Today, all across America, and all across Long Island, millions of people have their seatbelts on." He also noted that Levy's efforts to improve mass transit has helped maintain air quality in New York.
Assemblywoman Kathleen Murray (R-Levittown), who represented Levy in the Assembly, was a prime sponsor of the memorial bill in that arm of the legislature. Describing the late senator as a "statesman," she said, "I will look to him as I grow in my own career."
Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), another Assembly sponsor of the unanimously approved bill, said, "Norman Levy was born to be a senator."
In addition to focusing on transportation, Levy supported such health causes as 1 in 9: The Long Island Breast Cancer Action Coalition. The coalition's Fran Kritchek praised him while waiting for the ceremony to begin Friday. "He's so sorely missed," she said, "There are a lot of good people he's influenced, and we'll continue to fight until we rid Long Island of this horrible disease."
Assemblyman Steven Labriola (R-Massapequa), another sponsor of the memorial bill, also compared Levy to Robert Moses. "He was just a legend up in Albany," he said, "And, to me, he was a mentor and a friend, and I miss him terribly."
"Norman Levy was a giant," said Assemblyman Marc Herbst, (R-Hicksville). "He was one of the few people in elected office who wasn't a politician. He was a statesman. He ranks right up there with Robert Moses. Whenever I needed anything, I went to Norman."
Several of Levy's colleagues had personal stories to tell about a man whom they described as a humanitarian. However, his wife, Joy Levy, with whom he was known to share a deep devotion, seemed to glow as she told them. "Norman was the most modest of men, and he would probably be embarrassed," she said of the tribute just before the ceremony began, expressing pride in his work. "He did so much for Long Island." Married to her husband well past their silver anniversary, she added, "Every day that I've known Norman I was proud of him. That's what keeps me going."