Connie Eristoff was a Public Servant of Outstanding Competence and Integrity

PolitickerNJ extended a most appropriate condolence to State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff on the passing of his father, Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff.  I enjoyed a warm professional and personal friendship with this remarkable man, and I felt it incumbent upon me to extend my own personal tribute.

 

When I was appointed to serve as Regional Administrator of Region 2 , U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the administration of George W. Bush, Connie Eristoff was one of the first people to offer his congratulations and willingness to be helpful.  Connie had served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of George H.W. Bush.  I did not know him at the time of my appointment, but after hearing the various department directors and the Regional Administrator executive secretary, Nancy Beck sing his praises, I felt that I should get to know this gentleman as soon as possible.

 

Throughout my tenure as Regional Administrator, we met often for lunch, and I eagerly looked forward to each meeting.  Connie possessed a warm sense of humor and a first rate intelligence and intellect.  He was also a marvellous raconteur.  He knew all the key players in government in both New York and New Jersey during a period than spanned almost 50 years, and his stories were both entertaining and informative.  There were no wasted words with Connie Eristoff.

 

All this in itself would have made Connie a treasured friend to me, but there was much more to this remarkable man.  He deeply believed that the needs of the environment and the economy did not have to be in competition but were, in fact, most compatible.  In this regard, his achievement of the New York City Filtration Avoidance Determination (FAD) was of historic magnitude.

 

Under the FAD, New York City received a waiver of the filtration requirements of the Federal Surface Water Treatment Rule with regard to drinking water whose source was the Catskill-Delaware watershed.  The waiver required both effective treatment of the water and the exclusion of development that could have a deleterious impact on the Catskill-Delaware watershed.

 

This waiver saved New York City billions of dollars and resulted in New York City having the best drinking water of any city in the nation.  The FAD was renewed in 1997, 2002, and during my tenure in 2007.  Each renewal resulted in further safeguards of the Catskill-Delaware watershed. The Region 2 EPA staff and I always were most aware that it was the vision and effectiveness of Connie Eristoff that made the FAD a national model for both environmental and economic development enhancement.

 

I always valued Connie’s advice and wise counsel.  He was a person who could have chosen to live a life of leisure and frivolity.  Connie believed most deeply, however, in effective and honest government.  In his years of public service, including his tenure as New York City Transportation Commissioner as well as his membership on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Connie was a model of integrity, character, and competency.  His efforts in these positions and at Region 2 EPA definitely resulted in the enhancement of the quality of life in both New Jersey and New York.

 

I did not know Connie’s family, but I knew from our conversations that family was his top priority.  Unlike all too many others in the world of government and politics, family remained for him his most treasured value. 

 

Connie Eristoff was a man of the utmost goodness and greatness.  May his family be consoled at this time of deep loss, and may his memory be a blessing not only for his family but for all those who were most fortunate to enjoy his friendship.

 

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and eight federally recognized Indian nations. Under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, he served as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission. He currently serves on the political science faculty of Monmouth University.

 

 

Connie Eristoff was a Public Servant of Outstanding Competence and Integrity