Democratic contender Thad O’Neil will be running against Republican incumbent Jim Mazzarella in the 3rd District. O’Neil is an associate adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design, part of New School University in Manhattan.
Republican incumbent Jim Mazzarella filled Suffolk’s 3rd Legislative District’s Legis. Rudy Sunderman’s vacated seat in May of 2021, during a special election.
Mazzarella is a lifelong resident of the community and 1984 William Floyd High School graduate. Mazzarella served on the board of trustees of the Crystal Beach Property Owner’s Association for 15 years, and for a decade on the Mastic, Shirley Moriches Community Library, where he served as president from 2013 to 2018.
He has also been a member of the Rotary Club of Shirley and the Mastics since 1998 and a member of the Town of Brookhaven Board of Zoning Appeals in 2019 as well.
Mazzarella and his wife, Mary, also a William Floyd graduate, have two children: a son, a 2021 grad; and a daughter, a 2018 grad. Together, they live in Moriches. Professionally, he is a 33-year union leader and Maritime College graduate.
“I had a busy two years; fortunately, I was here to implement the ground-breaking of the Forge River Watershed Sewer Project,” he said of his short time in office.
The project, he explained, will be able to connect 2,000 households and 200 businesses. Mazzarella said that in an effort to help the small businesses connect to the sewers, he started a pilot program with a $1 million fund to award grants to qualified small businesses. He said the county also partnered with a local bank for low-interest loans.
Once complete, the project is anticipated to cost about $230 million, with a date projected for some time in 2026.
As for his time in the county, he said that the legislature was able to add 200 Suffolk County police officers as well as multiple new positions in the D.A.’s office. Additionally, he said that they were able to eliminate a $30 fee from the red-light camera program, saving taxpayers $7 million.
As for the district’s flooding issues, which he called a “monumental task,” he said that under his term, the county mitigated marshland at Smith Point Marina by filling old “mosquito ditches” for better drainage and creating new areas for tidal pools, which effectively benefitted coastal resilience as well as reduced mosquito larvae.
Mazzarella also worked to demo the old Violet Cove in Mastic Beach, which was destroyed and abandoned after Superstorm Sandy. The property was then preserved by the county and partnered with the town for a kayak launch. A committee was also formed by the county to create a project for public access.
“We want to see something down there for public park access and include something educational,” he said.
As for the failed clean water bill, Mazzarella promised he is concerned, and for clean water.
“I am very much in favor of clean water; we just wanted to see more of the money going towards sewers, rather than IA systems,” he said, noting that there is nothing wrong with those systems. “We just have shovel-ready projects that have been ready for a year, and we need to fund the sewer portion.”
If reelected, he promised to rework the water bill and get it back up for a referendum.
Lastly, he said, he anticipates the Smith Point Bridge project, which will feature several amenities for residents, including a pedestrian and bicycle path and a fishing pier. Mazzarella said he also worked to create a $2 million line item to ensure funding for the recreation area of the project.
In his next term, he said that after spending so much time on the coastline in Mastic Beach, he hopes to turn some of his attention to the Montauk Highway corridor in Mastic and Shirley for some revitalization.
“I really want to be able to beautify that stretch; it needs a little bit of a facelift,” he added, noting that new businesses drawn in from the sewer project will also help with the revitalization.
As for why residents should vote for him, he said: “I am a lifetime resident. I have been civically involved. I know the community. I know the community’s needs and I have a passion for making this community the place that everyone wants to live in,” he said. “I went to high school here; I raised a family here. It’s just important to me.”
Thad O’Neil (D)
Thad O’Neil was born and raised in Suffolk County near the Great South Bay. He currently lives in Brookhaven Hamlet with his wife, Pania Rose, and two children, Cassius and Cleomë.
O’Neil has long been dedicated to environmental conservation as he co-founded the Fire Place Initiative and Bluewater Vagabond Surf Festival, a not-for-profit that is focused on creating equal access to the natural environment.
As an associate adjunct professor at Parsons School of Design, part of New School University in Manhattan, O’Neil is also an advocate for education and believes strongly in the need for quality education for all.
As an entrepreneur, O’Neil also supports small business. He started a small apparel business over 10 years ago. O’Neil earned his master’s in philosophy at Stony Brook University.
Personally, he enjoys surfing on the beaches of Smith’s Point and Cupsogue, and playing tennis.
O’Neil said he is running for Suffolk County Legislature—his first shot at politics—to build a future for his children which is safe, affordable, and clean.
“You can only get frustrated for so long before you decide to have a seat at the table,” he said of his decision to run. “As a kid, I fished and clammed in our bays and grew up surfing. Now, I have a wife and kids, and I want a better future for my children. I think a lot of people can relate to that.”
The environment, he said, is his top priority, seeking clean water.
“This summer, our water quality was the worst on record it has ever been—this is the water we drink every day, our kids shower and play in,” he said. “It’s horrifying that our own government to save our environment—I feel like we’re in this mortal combat in fighting our own government to do what’s right for our land, sea, and air.”
If elected, O’Neil promised to show up to votes for clean water and to support the recently failed water bill, which would have given residents the choice to vote for clean water infrastructure funding.
“I think Suffolk County deserves better,” he said.
Another priority, he said, is roads and public safety.
“We need to fix our roads, all of them. Our roads are disgraceful,” he said, noting any neighbor he has spoken to during his campaign has reiterated the same.
As for public safety, he added that fixing the roads will also allow for police to respond to crime rather than avoidable car accidents.
“At the end of the day, my platform falls under clean water, safe roads, and safe communities,” he said. “Clean water shouldn’t be a red or blue issue. It’s a no-brainer.”
He also mentioned the sewer project in Mastic Beach and seeing that over the finish line, as well as the redevelopment project for Neighborhood Road.
“I will show up for the community,” he said of why the public should vote for him.