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Neal Capria, an environmental lawyer and a pioneer in Democratic politics who helped bring his party to power in Brookhaven in the 1970s, was found dead in his Port Jefferson Station condominium Tuesday morning. He was 66.

Capria, who last month began work as an aide to the Suffolk legislature, was found in his bed by his son Justin who came by to drive his father to work.

"He was one of the trailblazers," said Richard Schaffer, Suffolk Democratic chairman. "People should know who he was because he is partly responsible for where we are today," referring to recent party victories in the county and various Suffolk towns.

Capria served as part of the Democratic majority on the Brookhaven Town Board from 1978 to 1982. He was the last elected Democratic town board official until the party regained power in 2006. For the past 18 months, Capria worked as an assistant town attorney, but was let go last month when Republicans regained control of the town board.

From 1982 to 1987, Capria was also a law partner of the late state and county Democratic chairman Dominic Baranello. He continued to share offices with him until 1995. He also served as a counsel to the state Senate minority for five years in the 1980s.

Capria also made his mark as an environmental attorney. In 1991, he won a $7.2-million settlement for 550 South Setauket homeowners who were damaged by a 1-million gallon spill - the largest in Long Island history - caused by leaks in a Northville Industries pipeline.

Brookhaven Supervisor Brian X. Foley, a Democrat, lauded Capria as "very principled" throughout his career. "What clearly came across with Neal was his sense of decency, his concern for his community," Foley said.

For the past four years, friends said Capria had problems with his eyesight, requiring him to use a large screen computer, and make large print copies of documents.

"He was never negative about it and used the right kind of tools," said Mark Grossman, a Foley aide. But the eye problems, he added, "Gave him a real sensitivity to the special needs issue and had him advocating for other employees."

Born in Brooklyn, Capria attended public schools, moved to Freeport at age 16 and later graduated from C.W. Post College, and later Chicago Kent College of Law.

He also served in the Navy and later became a reservist in the Navy. He worked in New York City for several years as a Legal Aid attorney, before moving to Suffolk. He married in 1970 and had two children. He and his wife Denise, divorced in 1994.

"We was a very nice man, who always listened to you," said his son Justin of Holbrook. "Only a few weeks ago, we watched the Super Bowl together. We bonded and had a great time together."


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