In Memoriam: Remembering Irving Like
BAY SHORE—It’s been a little over a month since the passing of Irving Like of Bay Shore, who might be remembered as the top legal strategist in blocking the $6 billion Shoreham nuclear power plant, which was decommissioned in 1989. Like died of cardiac arrest on Wednesday, Oct. 3. He was 93.
His son, Steven Like, says it was “inspiring” to see his father in action over the years. Steven, also a Bay Shore resident, said his father’s death was a bit of a surprise since he was “working right until the end” out of his Babylon office.
Like’s niece, Susan Barbash, said her uncle was “funny” and “relentless” in his work, adding that he never shied away from a cause he believed in, big or small.
“He took on cases no one else would take,” Barbash said, particularly opposition work against developers. She recalled more than a few years ago her uncle’s efforts to prevent a gas station from being built near her house. “I remember him taking sips of Ensure while absolutely decimating the developers [during a planning board meeting],” she laughed.
Collette Szekalski and her husband, Tony, also lived in the residential area close to where the gas station was proposed. Collette still remembers the standing ovation Like received after making his speech against the project. The application for that project was eventually thrown out.
“[The case] wasn’t as big as the others he had worked on,” Collette said, “but you could tell he cared about it just as much.”
Susan Barbash’s late father, Murray Barbash, was Like’s partner in stopping developer Robert Moses from building a four-lane highway across Fire Island back in the early 1960s. Susan said they “complimented each other,” since her father had an advertising background and could tell a story, while her uncle had the legal experience to back it up.
Susan said the men, who both owned beach homes on Fire Island, knew it wasn’t enough to prevent Moses’ initial proposal. The only way to stop all plans in the future was to get Fire Island a national seashore designation, and that’s exactly what they set out to do.
Steven Like says the idea to pursue the designation came to his father while he was out to dinner with Barbash. “My father supposedly wrote [the idea] down on a napkin,” he said. “Or, at least that’s what I was always told.”
The brothers-in-law began a campaign to convince Congress to grant the designation, with Like drafting the legislation. In 1964, a 26-mile section of Fire Island, which is approximately 30 miles long, became the Fire Island National Seashore.
His sister, Lillian Barbash, who was Murray’s wife, founded the Islip Arts Council. She says it was her brother that not only came up with the idea to get the New York Philharmonic to first play Heckscher State Park in 1978, but also secured Citibank as the first major sponsor that made the performance possible.
Lillian says about 20,000 people attended the first concert on Aug. 27, 1978, which was followed by 31 yearly concerts with the New York Philharmonic. “[Irving] was my big brother,” she said, “and I’ve always given him credit for it.”
This publication last spoke to Like over the summer while he was trying to drum up support for Fire Island’s potential designation as a world heritage site (“The significance of Fire Island,” July 5, 2018). Like’s partner for that endeavor was John Tanacredi, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at Molloy College.
Tanacredi said back in July that the designation imposes no regulations on Fire Island, but rather adds to the “identity of a fragile area to be protected in perpetuity for the entire world to appreciate and understand.”
Many U.S. national parks, like the Grand Canyon, are designated sites due to their natural resources. The Statue of Liberty, on the other hand, is designated as a cultural unit. Some of the world’s most famous cities, from Berlin to Venice, to Damascus and Mexico City, are also designated sites.
Tanacredi called Like an “amazing friend and colleague,” and said he would continue to push for the designation, with the help of Like’s family.
In addition to his son, Steven, and sister, Lillian, Like is survived by his son Robert Like of Highland Park, N.J.; daughter Sharon Like of Arlington, Va.; and two grandchildren, one from Robert and one from Sharon.
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