Long Island Press

The Long Island Press

‘Ash vs. Evil Dead’: TV Adaptation Revives Horror Classic

Ash is back. (Photo credit: Starz/Facebook)

By Chuck Cannini

Fans of the horror classic Evil Dead were rewarded the biggest treat of them all Halloween night when Starz premiered Ash vs Evil Dead, a 10-episode revival of the ’80s cult film that made it cool to appreciate the undearly departed long before the arrival of The Walking Dead and similarly themed projects jumped on board the zombie-fright bandwagon.

For Evil Dead loyalists, it was the perfect night cap, one that offered a nostalgic trip to the gory past and a bloody feast to feed our ever-present primal urges.

One-handed Ash Williams (Bruce Campbell) returned to the revived horror series the same way many long-time fans probably did: much older and out of shape. And he had a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time.

Campbell produced this reboot after years of sequel rumors had kept the cult-followers’ cinematic hopes alive. This new television adaption takes place 30 years after Ash Williams had last battled the bad ones. Viewers unfamiliar with Evil Dead, originally written and directed by Sam Raimi, may recognize Campbell from USA’s more recent hit drama Burn Notice. For Campbell’s role as producer, finding Starz–a network tolerant of carnage and mayhem–may not have been as challenging artistically as recapping a 23-year-old plot to the uninitiated. Campbell had to bridge the gap separating the first three installments–The Evil Dead (1981), Evil Dead II (1987), and The Army of Darkness (1992)–and keep those fans satisfied while hoping to snare new ones to the cause.

The last time Ash kicked undead butt, he found himself trapped in 1300 A.D. and drank a magic potion to sleep for thousands of years until he could return home to the present. Or, if you prefer the alternate ending, Ash overslept for thousands of years and awoke in a post-apocalyptic future. Neither ending has much relevance to the current series. While Ash’s waistline has widened, not much else has changed.

In this version, the time-traveling hero sets out for his annual survival celebration by “getting blackout drunk” and shagging trashy women in foul bar bathrooms. Later, equally intoxicated, he attempts to impress one particularly poetry-crazy lady by reciting incantations from the Sumerian Book of the Dead, and by doing so, Ash unwittingly summons the living dead—all while he is totally stoned out of his mind and his long-term memory of ancient texts is still intact.

As you can probably tell, Ash vs. Evil Dead doesn’t take itself too seriously, and acknowledges itself for what it is: a horror comedy.

In one moment Ash may battle the strangling hands of a demonic baby doll and in another he’s tossed around effortlessly by a possessed old lady. Ash is also locked and loaded with such one-liners as: “They’re coming in all right, and it ain’t for Shabbat dinner.” To top that off, as Ash dives through the air, he fastens a chainsaw to his outstretched stump of a hand—hacked off during the first movie, for those who don’t know the sad tale–and beheads that same possessed old lady.

Watching the headless corpse twitch and jerk after the blood-soaked blades of Ash’s chainsaw have cut her to the quick, few words come to mind.

Ash summarizes it thusly: “Groovy.”

Sure, it’s silly, but who’d argue with Ash? For what it’s worth, the new series brings an unexpected deeper focus on his character. We got to know him better—an irresponsible loser driving a run-down car back and forth from his bullet-shaped silver trailer house to his dead-end job as a stock boy. Ash has nothing going for him, so the first episode is about Ash embracing the chainsaw-wielding demon-slayer he once was, which happens rather quickly in this fast-paced bloodbath.

The action and comedy are supported by Ash’s coworkers: the awkward “nobody” Pablo (Ray Santiago) and Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo), who want to find out why her deceased mom is back from the grave. Other character intros are left unexplained for now, such as demon-survivor deputy sheriff Amanda Fisher (Jill Marie Jones) or the mysterious Ruby (Lucy Lawless, Xena: Warrior Princess), but we’ve got many more gory episodes to go before everything unfolds–20 in all, if you count Starz’s green light for a second season.

Ash vs. Evil Dead is pretty straightforward: demons, action and laughs. With so many film-to-television adaptions (Minority Report, Limitless, Fargo), Ash vs. Evil Dead’s long-awaited return will not disappoint audiences already “terrorized” by dead-centric shows like The Walking Dead. This first episode boasts a reborn Ash doing what he does best with a chainsaw, and viewers can expect more awesome Saturday nights filled with slashing blood-fests like this one.

(Photo credit: Starz/Facebook)

How N.Y.’s Biggest For-Profit Nursing Home Group Flourishes Despite a Record of Patient Harm


By Allegra Abramo and Jennifer Lehman, special to ProPublica

Charlie Stewart was looking forward to getting out of the nursing home in time for his 60th birthday. On his planned release day, in late 2012, the Long Island facility instead called Stewart’s wife to say he was being sent to the hospital with a fever.

When his wife, Jeanne, met him there, the stench of rotting flesh made it difficult to sit near her husband. The small wounds on his right foot that had been healing when Stewart entered the nursing home now blackened his entire shin.

“When I saw it at the hospital … I almost threw up,” Jeanne Stewart said. “It was disgusting. I said, ‘It looks like somebody took a match to it.’ ”

Doctors told Stewart the infection in his leg was poisoning his body. To save his life, they would have to amputate above the knee.

Stewart had spent about six weeks recovering from a diabetic emergency at Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation & Health Care Center on Long Island. The nursing home is one of several in a group of for-profit homes affiliated with SentosaCare, LLC, that have a record of repeat fines, violations and complaints for deficient care in recent years.

Despite that record, SentosaCare founder Benjamin Landa, partner Bent Philipson and family members have been able to expand their nursing home ownerships in New York, easily clearing regulatory reviews meant to be a check on repeat offenders. SentosaCare is now the state’s largest nursing home network, with at least 25 facilities and nearly 5,400 beds.

That unhindered expansion highlights the continued weakness of nursing home oversight in New York, an investigation by ProPublica found, and exposes gaps in the state’s system for vetting parties who apply to buy shares in homes.

State law requires a “character-and-competence” review of buyers before a change in ownership can go through. To pass muster, other health care facilities associated with the buyers must have a record of high-quality care.

The decision maker in these deals is the state’s Public Health and Health Planning Council, a body of appointed officials, many from inside the health care industry. The council has substantial leverage to press nursing home applicants to improve quality, but an examination of dozens of transactions in recent years show that power is seldom used.

Moreover, records show that the council hasn’t always had complete information about all the violations and fines at nursing homes owned by or affiliated with applicants it reviewed. That’s because the Department of Health, which prepares character-and-competence recommendations for the council, doesn’t report them all.

The department’s assessments of Landa and other owners of SentosaCare homes have routinely found that the facilities provided a “substantially consistent high level of care” – the standard owners must meet to receive council approval.

Yet the agency’s assessments in 15 separate ownership applications since 2013 did not mention at least 20 federal fines paid by the group’s homes, records show. In more than a dozen cases, the department reported “no repeat violations,” even when a SentosaCare home had been cited multiple times for the same serious deficiency.

Many of the nursing home deals ProPublica reviewed received a go-ahead despite rules saying they “shall not be” approved when facilities have repeat violations that put residents at risk. Under a narrow interpretation of the rules, however, the department still recommends approval if violations aren’t strictly identical or were promptly addressed.

SentosaCare’s owners or associates weren’t the only applicants to get incomplete vetting, but the council has had repeated opportunities to scrutinize their records. Landa, Philipson or relatives bought shares in a dozen homes in 2013 and 2014, records show.

Advocates for nursing home patients say that instead of a backstop, New York’s approval process has become a rubber stamp.

“The law establishes mechanisms for at least a moderate review of an applicant’s character and competence,” said Richard Mollot, director of the Long Term Care Community Coalition in New York. “The failure to provide complete information on a provider’s past performance fundamentally undermines the review process.”

Mollot’s group published a recent report saying the Health Department has one of the nation’s lowest rates of citing nursing home operators for deficiencies in care. New York is also among a minority of states that don’t mandate minimum staffing ratios, even though research shows a strong link between nursing staff and residents’ well-being.

Thirteen of SentosaCare’s homes (though not Avalon Gardens) have Medicare’s bottom score for nurse staffing. Inspection reports also show that at least seven residents have wandered away from the SentosaCare affiliated facilities in recent years — including one who froze to death in 2011. Inspectors and prosecutors have found that staff falsified records in some cases. Dozens of patients at SentosaCare homes have experienced long delays before receiving necessary care; some ended up in hospitals.

The Stewarts said the staff at Avalon Gardens showed “no sense of urgency” when they complained about missed meals, soiled sheets and unanswered call bells. Even though nurses dressed the wound on Charlie’s leg daily, and a doctor checked it each week, no one warned them about its worsening condition, the Stewarts said.

Dr. Kris Alman, a retired endocrinologist who reviewed Stewart’s medical records and photographs at ProPublica’s request, said that the two quarter-sized lesions on his foot when he was admitted to Avalon Gardens could not have “become what it did overnight.” That the condition “progressed as far as it did, with him coming in septic and needing an above-the-knee amputation, was inexcusable,” Alman said.

Landa’s attorney and business partner, Howard Fensterman, declined to comment on Stewart’s case for reasons of patient privacy. Fensterman defended Avalon Gardens and other SentosaCare facilities, however, saying that when inspectors have found problems, the homes quickly addressed them and secured state approval of correction plans.

Fensterman also said that SentosaCare does not have “ownership or control” over the facilities in its network and only contracts with them to provide administrative and rehabilitation consulting, regulatory advice and purchasing services. Records show, however, that Landa and Philipson, or family members, have ownership stakes or directorships in nearly all of SentosaCare’s facilities. Fensterman also co-owns 14 nursing homes with Landa in several states, including one SentosaCare home.

Fensterman is a former member of the state health council, as is Landa, who entered the nursing home business in the late 1980s and emerged as one of the sector’s biggest players over the next decade. Landa, Philipson or family members now hold stakes in at least 33 nursing homes in New York and an equal number in nine other states.

In 2013, the latest year for which state data is available, homes under the SentosaCare umbrella paid the company more than $11.5 million for financial, staffing and other services, and spent nearly $630,000 with Fensterman’s law firm.

The nation’s $137 billion nursing home industry has made major improvements since the landmark 1987 federal Nursing Home Reform Act imposed mandates to combat abuse and neglect. But the industry, which draws heavily on taxpayer funding via Medicare and Medicaid, still struggles to provide safe care for many.

One-third of Medicare patients suffered preventable harm within a month of being admitted to nursing homes for short-term rehabilitation, according to a 2014 study by the Department of Health and Human Services’ inspector general. The harm cost Medicare $2.8 billion for hospitalizations alone in 2011, the study estimated.

New York spends about $13 billion each year on the state’s 627 nursing homes, which collectively care for more than 100,000 residents. The Department of Health is charged with day-to-day oversight of safety, but patient advocates say the agency lacks the staff and expertise to do the job adequately.

SentosaCare homes, which took in nearly $538 million from Medicare and Medicaid in 2013, aren’t the only facilities in the state with repeat violations and low staffing, and several of the company’s homes have above-average ratings on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare web site, which rates them with one to five stars. (State-by-state inspection reports can be searched on ProPublica’s Nursing Home Inspect, which also lists deficiencies by severity level.)

But federal data through August shows that 11 of SentosaCare’s homes exceeded the state average of 24 violations over the past three years, and three had double that number.

The most critical nursing home deficiencies are known as “immediate jeopardy” violations — incidents or conditions that have caused or are likely to cause the “serious injury, harm, impairment, or death” of patients. Less than 6 percent of all New York homes were cited for four or more immediate-jeopardy violations in recent years.

By comparison, Avalon Gardens was cited for 10 immediate-jeopardy violations in the three years ending in August, the third-highest number in the state for that period. Two other SentosaCare homes — Woodmere Rehabilitation & Health Care Center and South Point Plaza Nursing and Rehabilitation Center — each have been cited for four.

Elopements — where residents leave the premises without the knowledge of a home’s operators — have been a repeat problem for Avalon and Woodmere, where SentosaCare co-owner Philipson has been listed as longtime managing partner.

Two days before Thanksgiving in 2011, a group of Woodmere residents walked to a nearby school for a holiday lunch. When aides took a head count, one of the 19 residents, a 55-year-old with dementia named Dennis Buckham, was missing.

Buckham wasn’t found until four days later, face down on a Brooklyn sidewalk, frozen and without a pulse. He died of cardiac arrest and hypothermia, according to the chief medical examiner’s report cited in the Department of Health investigation.

Fensterman said Woodmere overhauled its policies and procedures, and that the state signed off on an official plan of correction. Two years later, however, a 64-year-old Woodmere resident with schizophrenia left a secure unit 10 times over three months. Staffers found her in the basement and at the front door, but according to the state’s report, the home did not investigate, change her care plan or conduct a doctor-ordered psychiatric evaluation.

About a month later, the woman walked past a security guard and was found in the road. Fensterman said no harm resulted, the home fired the security guard who let the resident slip out, and the state again approved a correction plan.

Residents also wandered from Avalon Gardens in 2011 and 2013, state inspection reports show. In all, at least seven residents wandered away from SentosaCare facilities between 2011 and 2014, according to state inspection reports.

The reports also document dozens of cases of delayed treatment at SentosaCare homes. At Woodmere in 2012, staffers failed to promptly send four patients to the hospital, two of whom died. Two years later, a resident at Parkview Care and Rehabilitation Center in Nassau County suffered from a collapsed lung for four days while staff failed to check results from a chest X-ray or assess his breathing or vital signs.

Fensterman said that each SentosaCare home is distinct. “There is no pattern of delayed treatment among facilities,” he said, “as each facility cited had separate issues, which in no way relate to each other.” He said the Health Department found the incidents to be isolated and that all were corrected.

On multiple occasions, state inspectors discovered that staff at SentosaCare facilities tried to cover up lapses in care — allegedly lying about elopements or the failure to spot bedsores, for example. After a 2012 investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the administrator of The Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, a SentosaCare home in Suffolk County, pled guilty to falsifying records after a resident wandered away and was found walking on the highway five hours later. The administrator was sentenced to a $2,500 fine and probation.

In June, after another investigation by Schneiderman’s office, four Woodmere nurses were arrested for falsely signing off on forms saying they had checked on a resident who fell three times in a week and ended up hospitalized. Three pleaded guilty to misdemeanors; the fourth case is pending.

Researchers and patient advocates say that insufficient staffing is one of the biggest contributors to poor outcomes for nursing home residents. The issue is important enough that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) tracks staffing and has determined that less than 4.1 hours of total daily nursing care per long-term resident increases the risk of bed sores, weight loss and other types of harm to patients.

“Direct bedside nursing home staff is probably the most important factor in nursing home care — end of story,” said Dr. Michele Bellantoni, clinical director of geriatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Only three SentosaCare homes meet the 4.1-hour threshold, however. Six provide less than three hours of daily nursing care per resident, according to data the facilities self-report to CMS.

Fensterman said CMS’ overall staff ratings are not a good measure for comparing homes because they don’t reflect the different nursing needs of homes’ patients or high scores on other quality measures. As an example, he cited Park Avenue Extended Care, another SentosaCare facility, which CMS rated with one star on staffing but five stars for health quality, which tracks data such as how often patients get bedsores or infections.

On the other end of the scale is Avalon, with nearly 45 percent more complaints and double the number of complaint-related citations per 100 beds than the averages found in New York homes. In its most recent inspection, this past June, Avalon was cited for 21 deficiencies. Among them: Eight residents received medications up to three hours late because the facility did not have sufficient nursing staff.

Tom Bennett, 60, spent about a month in short-term rehabilitation at Avalon Gardens in 2013. Obesity and a back injury made it impossible for the Long Island man to get out of bed. In an interview, he said he didn’t receive regular sponge baths and sometimes sat in his own feces for hours because no one was available to help.

“They were all over-worked. They were telling me, you know, we just don’t have enough help to take care of everybody,” Bennett said. “And you can hear the buzzers going off constantly — meep, meep, meep, meep. And the aides are just like running from room to room to room.”

Fensterman declined to comment about Bennett’s situation. State records list SentosaCare partners Landa and Philipson as co-owners of Avalon Gardens, each with an interest of more than 30 percent. In 2013, the home reported paying $1 million to SentosaCare for services and $90,000 to Fensterman’s firm.

Although New York doesn’t mandate minimum staffing ratios, federal law says homes must have “sufficient staff” to “attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”

Patient advocates say that vague standard is one reason that the state rarely cites homes for insufficient staffing. Health Department officials, in response to an email asking about the agency’s citation rate, also noted the lack of specific minimum staffing rules.

Avalon Gardens and a second SentosaCare home, South Point Plaza Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on Long Island, were among only 29 cited specifically for insufficient staffing in the past three years.

Patient advocates say lack of staff is one of the most common complaints from residents and that state inspectors should be following federal guidance, which instructs them to look for staffing issues “whenever quality of care problems have been discovered.”

Advocacy groups and the state’s biggest nurses’ union have pushed for mandatory staffing ratios, and “safe-staffing” bills have been introduced in the New York Legislature for at least a decade, according to the office of Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, D-Manhattan, the health committee chairman. Hospitals and nursing homes have objected, saying the mandates would be too costly.

Mollot said that while legislating a staffing floor would help, the key is whether the Health Department does more to police the problem. If a new staffing law “just becomes another requirement that’s not enforced,” he said, “what good is it?”

When nursing home ownership changes hands in New York, character-and-competence reviews are supposed to provide an important checkpoint.

State law gives the Public Health and Health Planning Council the power to bar new owners or directors based on the compliance record of any facility they are “affiliated” with. “If some bad actor wanted to buy a new nursing home,” said Susan Regan, a lawyer who spent 18 years on council, “we could say no.”

Except the council seldom says “no.”

ProPublica’s review of Health Department and council records did not turn up any nursing home ownership applications within the last five years that were rejected because of lapses in patient care. In most cases, the council — 24 volunteers appointed by the governor — follows the department’s recommendations.

Although the department’s reviews summarize past violations and fines at an applicant’s related facilities, they typically conclude there is a “substantially consistent high quality of care.” Regulations say applicants “shall not” receive such a finding if a facility’s violations were “recurrent or were not promptly corrected.”

But the council doesn’t always get a look at the complete record.

Thanks to home purchases and shuffling of ownership shares, Landa, Philipson, their family members and other owners of SentosaCare facilities have come up for council reviews a dozen times since 2013. In addition to omitting mention of at least 20 federal fines paid by SentosaCare homes, the department’s reviews reported “no repeat violations” a dozen times when there had been multiple citations for the same problems.

Since 2011, Woodmere has been cited and fined several times for the same class of violations that put residents in immediate jeopardy, including giving unnecessary medications and failing to protect residents from falls. The home paid more than $80,000 in federal fines, which are shared with the state. In 2013, the federal government also temporarily halted payments for new admissions at Woodmere, a stiff penalty for homes with ongoing problems.

None of those actions was noted in character-and-competence summaries provided to council members on at least three occasions in 2013 and 2014, when Landa, Philipson and others associated with Woodmere applied to buy shares of other nursing homes. Instead, the department wrote that Woodmere had “no enforcements” or made no mention of the home.

In each case, the department recommended approval, and the council voted in favor without any objections. Records list Landa as a director and Philipson as the managing partner of Woodmere. Fensterman, who served on the council from 2010 until 2014, recused himself from votes involving business partners and clients.

When SentosaCare’s South Point Plaza was part of reviews in 2013 and 2014, the department also said it had “no repeat enforcements,” even though the home had been cited and fined more than once for residents having pressure sores. Although three state fines were noted, an additional $90,000 in federal fines and one Medicare payment denial were not included in the reviews.

Asked about the omissions, the department initially said its character-and-competence process includes federal investigations and fines. In a later statement, it said federal fines are not currently included, but that its policy is being reviewed. The agency began listing them in council papers in February, it said in an email, but only “for informational purposes.”

A review of dozens of health council applications shows that the department doesn’t always flag serious violations if there was no state fine, or if the amount isn’t finalized. The state did not settle $18,000 in fines for elopements at Woodmere and Avalon until last month, more than two years after the incidents. Recent character-and-competence reviews did not mention pending fines or report that the elopements had occurred.

About a year ago, the department began appending copies of its website pages on citations and quality ratings to council review documents. A list of deficiencies and their severity isn’t always included.

Concerning what it counts as a repeat enforcement, the agency said that while some violations may fall in the same category, they are not necessarily the same. That is consistent with its reviews, which sometimes note that violations were not “identical.”

Mollot said it was “extremely alarming” that violations and fines might be omitted.

In interviews, three former or current council members expressed uncertainty about what standards apply in character-and-competence reviews. With dozens of projects and ownership changes to vote on at each monthly meeting, council members must rely on the department’s information to do their jobs.

For many of her years on the council, Regan chaired the establishment committee, which reviews applications to buy or build facilities. Members would often ask for more details about applicants’ histories, she said, “but what you do about it is difficult.” Operators argue that they have paid their fines and corrected deficiencies, she said, or that repeat violations were not connected.

“I would argue, you know what, if you’re in business to find every opportunity to game the standards, and do the minimum, and give the shoddiest care you can possibly give while still getting out from under the deficiency, it should raise a question of whether you should hold a license,” Regan said.

Arthur Levin, a current establishment committee member, said that he and others are increasingly asking the Health Department for information about quality of care, not just violations, especially for dialysis centers. Levin is director of the Center for Medical Consumers and the council’s lone representative from a patient group.

“At the very least, let it be the basis of a question to an applicant: ‘What are you going to do to do better?’ ” Levin said.

Three years ago, the council recommended changes to character-and-competence reviews as part of a regulatory overhaul requested by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Among the proposals was one to give the department and council more discretion to disqualify applicants for patterns of violations across multiple facilities affiliated with an applicant.

“When a proposed owner or trustee presents affiliations with a health care facility or agency that has a pattern of, or multiple, enforcements, or a sub-standard quality record, there should be a presumption of disqualification which may be rebutted in limited circumstances,” says the recommendation, which is still on the shelf.

Recent versions of the safe-staffing bill would expand character-and-competence reviews to consider not only staffing but worker safety violations like those that resulted in 13 citations and $24,600 in fines to Avalon Gardens in 2013.

In his short stay at Avalon Gardens, Charlie Stewart remembers waiting for hours for help getting from his bed to the toilet. One time, when no one answered the call bell, he started yelling, he said. Still no one came. Eventually he decided to crawl across the floor to the bathroom rather than soil the bed.

“When you need help and it’s not coming, you know, your reality changes immediately,” said Stewart. “It’s not nice feeling helpless. And several times in that place, I gotta say, I felt like I was helpless.”

On multiple occasions, Stewart said, no one brought him dinner, even though he needed to eat regularly because of his diabetes. His wife, Jeanne, said she thought pain medications were making him forgetful. But he kept calling. “I might have been drugged, but I know I wasn’t fed, ’cause I’m starving,” he recalls telling his wife.

Fensterman said privacy laws prohibited SentosaCare from responding to specific questions about Stewart’s care.

Jeanne said she called the Health Department while Charlie was still at Avalon to complain about the missed meals and lack of help getting to the bathroom. When a representative finally called back to follow up on her complaint, she told the caller she was sitting next to her husband in the hospital as he recovered from an amputation.

A few weeks later, she said, a letter arrived saying the state hadn’t substantiated the initial complaint. Furious, Jeanne threw it away.

Today, Stewart is learning how to walk up stairs on his prosthetic leg. Jeanne limits the hours in her job at a grocery store so she can care for her husband. She still finds the episode difficult to talk about.

“I felt more could have been done sooner,” she said of her husband’s care. “And it just shouldn’t have gotten as far as it did.”

Charlie Stewart agreed. “That’s what I sincerely wish — that this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”

Allegra Abramo is a freelance writer and photographer living in Seattle. Jennifer Lehman is a writer living in New York City.

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2016 Honda Accord: Revamped & Revered

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A perennial honoree across reviewers’ “Top 10” lists for multitude reasons, Honda has improved even more on the Accord’s winning recipe, reinforcing its reputation as one of America’s most beloved vehicles and adding new dimensions of quality to this highly praised model.

Among the upgrades: structural reinforcements, suspension changes, and new technological advances, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, a second, 7.7-inch screen that can show rearview images or Lane Watch cameras, trip-computer information, turn-by-turn directions, audio data, text messages and phone calls!

Critics gush.

“The refreshed 2016 Honda Accord has big shoes to fill—its own,” explains Car & Driver. “Consider the Accord’s shoes as nicely filled as ever.”

“The 2016 Honda Accord, with its refresh this year, continues to be a top-rated choice in the family sedan class,” states Edmunds.com. “Roomy and high-quality interior; refined and efficient powertrains; exceptional ride and handling balance; quick acceleration; generous standard features; available coupe body style.”

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Kelley Blue Book raves about the 2016 Honda Accord’s new, too, highlighting its “more aggressive looks,” “revamped interior” and “broad lineup.”

“Honda’s Accord has been a class leader for as long as just about anyone remembers and even though the competition has had a number of refreshes, the current car has soldiered on atop the heap,” reads one of its reviews. “To be honest, though, in our last midsize comparison there were murmurs that some things need to be changed. Mainly, they involved styling as well as minor creature comforts it lacked relative to its rivals.

“The company must be listening, for lo and behold, along comes the 2016 Honda Accord with a mid-cycle refresh that gives it bolder looks, better ride and some of those lacking features,” Kelley continues. “Also, in keeping up with the industry’s headlong rush into better connectivity and infotainment, the availability of Apple Carplay and Android Auto.”

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How To Cut A Hole In Sheetrock For An Electrical Outlet With Alure Home Improvements

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Alure Home Improvements Chief Operating Officer Doug Cornwell instructs the best way to cut a hole in Sheetrock for an electrical outlet during a recent episode of “60-Second Fix: How to Cut a Hole for an Outlet in 60 Seconds.”
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Do you want to add an outlet to your home but you’re worried that you might be unable to cut a hole in the wall?

Fear not, because Doug Cornwell, the chief operating officer of Alure Home Improvements, shows you how easy it is to create the space you need in this recent installment of Alure Home Improvements’ “60-Second Fix: How to Cut a Hole for an Outlet in 60 Seconds.”

Here, the goal is simple. He’s recently installed a new double-switch for the lights, and now he wants to add an electrical outlet nearby for the plugs. He demonstrates how to cut through the finished Sheetrock without making a big ordeal out of it so you can simply insert an electrical outlet box right into the hole.

The key to this process is that the wall is already finished. The Sheetrock has been installed and painted; the underlying wall studs are covered up so you can’t access them. This distinction is important because it determines what kind of electrical box is suitable for installation.

“Part one is getting the wire there,” he explains. “The other part is cutting the hole out so you can put the box in. Today I’m going to show you how to cut the box out.”

Cornwell uses what is called an “old work” or “retrofit” PVC outlet box, which means that the plastic box is not intended for new construction projects.

“The walls are closed,” Cornwell explains here. “They’re not open.”

He holds the plastic blue box, and recommends that you make sure it’s up to code in your area, which you can do when you’re at your local hardware store.

Generally, these electrical boxes come in two kinds: plastic or metal. The plastic boxes are easier for the amateur handyman to handle because they’re lighter than metal and they’re also cheaper.

“First thing you want to do is determine the location of the hole,” Cornwell advises.

As he shows here, you want to keep the outlet at approximately the same height as the switch for aesthetic purposes and convenience. Take the box and place it firmly against the wall with one hand so you can outline the straight edges with a pencil. Carefully mark all four sides of the box on the wall.

“This way you know the area you want to cut out,” he says.

You can cut the hole out in several ways. For this job, he wields a small keyhole-type Sheetrock saw, which can cost between $5 and $10. Use whatever tool you’re comfortable with, because this task is not too time-consuming and the hole is manageably small.

The keyhole saw is built to penetrate the wall and enable you to perform the in-and-out sawing motion easily. Use the blade to follow along the pencil lines carefully. Try to be as exact as possible because you don’t want to leave an unnecessarily wide gap. When you come to the corner, carefully remove the blade so you don’t tear the wall surface, and then start on the other side.

Once you have the little section of the wallboard almost completely cut out, make sure you hold onto the piece so it won’t fall behind the wall.

Now comes the installation of the electrical box.

As Cornwell points out, the plastic box has two corner screws, one for the top and one for the bottom. Tightening each screw moves a little wing-like flap attached to the back of the box and starts to draw it up until it touches the other side of the Sheetrock and locks in place. These plastic tabs are supposed to act as clamps as they flip into action but they can be rather flimsy flappers, so don’t take them for granted.

“You want to go slow with this,” Cornwell says. “You don’t want to go too fast because you just want it to be snug up against the back of the wall.”

Done properly, it locks up the box’s top corner and bottom corner.

After you’re ready, you can place the box into the wall, line up the screws, and tighten them accordingly.

“Once you see the screw start to pull further into the box, stop,” says Cornwell. “You don’t want to pull it through the Sheetrock. That’s it. It’s in.”

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To make sure he’s done, Cornwell prods all four sides with his fingers to make sure the electrical box won’t wiggle.

See how simple that was? Thanks to Alure Home Improvements, cutting a hole in Sheetrock is as easy as 1-2-3!

Do This: Long Island Concerts & Events October 29 – November 4

Anna Nalick
Singer/songstress Anna Nalick brings her melodic blend of guitar/piano-driven pop to YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts in Bay Shore on Oct. 30!

The Mavericks
This country-steeped garage band with Cuban American lead singer Raul Malo emerged from Miami in 1989 with their sultry debut equal parts innocence, intensity, and vintage influences. Reunited since 2012 after an eight-year hiatus, this gig is sure to be one for the books. For one thing, that Malo sure has a “bueno” voice. The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Ave., Westbury. thespaceatwestbury.com $39.50-$65. 8 p.m. October 29.

Classic Albums Live – Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon
If almost weekly Pink Floyd tribute band and laser light show performances on Long Island weren’t testament enough to the British progressive rock band’s lasting influence, this concert dedicated to their most popular album should convince any doubters still remaining in the dark. Expect the classic in its full, psychedelic-rock glory! The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $15-$45. 8 p.m. October 29.

Keller Williams
With nothing prerecorded, the end result of this one-man-acoustic band often leans toward a hybrid of alternative folk and groovy electronica. A genre Williams jokingly calls “acoustic dance music” or “ADM,” this smorgasbord of a get-up-and-dance creations will inspire many in attendance to do exactly that. Did we mention this extraordinary musician is known for his live shows? Wow. What are you waiting for? Come on out! YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts, 37 West Main St., Bay Shore. boultoncenter.org $40-$45. 8 p.m. October 29.

Laura Lynne Jackson
This local psychic will speak about and sign her new book The Light Between Us. Her mind-blowing story offers a new understanding of the vast reach of our consciousness and enlarges our view of the human experience. Book Revue. 313 New York Avenue, Huntington. bookrevue.com Price of book. 7 p.m. October 30.

Read The Press‘ “Long Island Haunts: 13 Creepiest Haunted Places on Long Island” HERE

Drop Me Off in Harlem
Travel back in time to the era when jazz, big bands and speakeasies ruled. Singer and Broadway star T. Oliver Reid stars in this award-winning show that is as funny as it is informative. Through the songs of Duke Ellington, Harold Arlen and Andy Razaf, Reid provides an overview of the clubs, musicians and social context of the music that harken back to the days of the golden sound. Adelphi University’s Performing Arts Center, 1 South Ave., Garden City. aupac.adelphi.edu $25-$30. 7:30 p.m. October 30.

Solid Soul Featuring Mavis Staples and Joan Osborne
These two singers are a powerhouse together, a divine diva duo delivering a range of genres from several generations of music including rock, gospel, blues, Americana, and of course, soul. Expect Osborne’s 1990’s hit “One of Us” and Staples’ timeless “I’ll Take You There,” plus tons of collaborative duets from both ladies’ discographies. Staller Center for the Arts, Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Rd., Stony Brook. stallercenter.com $48. 8 p.m. October 30.

Read The Press‘ “Long Island Fall Festivals and Street Fairs 2015” Guide HERE

Monsters of Freestyle Halloween Ball
Last year’s inaugural ball was such a huge hit that these freestylers are bringing the show back with a bang. This concert-turned-party features Rob Bass, Lisa Lisa, DJ Chef, TKA, Jade Starling, Coro and many more. Don’t miss this dance/pop/rap celebration! NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury. venue.thetheatreatwestbury.com $75-$128. 8 p.m. October 30.

Veterans Benefit Concert Starring Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot
True Long Islanders have seen Big Shot, the uncanny Billy Joel tribute band, at least once. If you haven’t, this benefit concert is the perfect opportunity. DelGuidice has been Big Shot’s frontman for 27 years, and the Piano Man himself once said, “They had a hard time convincing me it wasn’t me!” And he ought to know. The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $20-$40. 8 p.m. October 30.

Gallagher’s Pumpkin Smash
The Sledge-O-Matic has arrived on Long Island, and it works just as well on pumpkins as it does on watermelons! Whether he’s finding new foods to smash or adding new material to his stage show, this iconic comedian’s routine never gets old. The front rows are the Splatter Zone, so don’t forget your poncho, and get ready to laugh your artichokes off! Suffolk Theater, 118 E Main St., Riverhead. suffolktheater.com $49-$55. 8 p.m. October 30.

Think Pink Floyd Laser Light Show
This unforgettable concert experience captures the mood, emotions and intensity of an authentic Pink Floyd theatrical presentation, including a six-piece band with four vocalists, album sound effects and a choreographed laser light show. Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 East Main St., Patchogue. patchoguetheatre.org $38-$68. 8 p.m. October 30.

Jessica Kirson
Smart, talented and over-the-top, this comic received the Nightlife Award for “Best Stand-Up Comedian” in New York City and the MAC Association’s “Best Female Comic” award. It’s easy to see why–her unique style and captivating stage presence will have you doubled over, whether she’s cracking jokes about diets, dates or her therapy sessions. McGuires Comedy Club, 1627 Smithtown Ave., Bohemia. mcguires.govs.com $15-$45. 8 p.m. October 30.

Anna Nalick
Nalick first broke onto the music scene in April of 2006 with the release of her platinum Sony debut Wreck of the Day. The album entered the Billboard 200 chart at #20. Single “Breathe (2AM)” has sold nearly 3 million copies to date and was featured prominently on Grey’s Anatomy and other TV and film soundtracks. Expect that gem, along with many others. YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts, 37 West Main St., Bay Shore. boultoncenter.org $25-$30. 8 p.m. October 30.

Read The Press‘ “Long Island Haunted Houses and Halloween Events 2015” Guide HERE

Edgar Allen Poe Festival
Whether the bard from Baltimore ever haunted Riverhead in the days of yesteryear is a mystery but the place will go stark “Raven” mad about him come Halloween. In fact, the Edgar Allan Poe Festival, hosted by the Town of Riverhead and the Town of Riverhead Business Improvement District, promises to be Long Island’s largest “spooktacular” event. For three days, beginning Oct. 31 and ending Nov. 2, the streets and shops along Main Street will be taken over by street performers portraying Edgar Allan Poe, plus embodying many of his infamous literary characters who promise to step off the pages of his frightful fiction and take shape right before your eyes. [Read: “Edgar Allan Poe Death Anniversary Resurrects Writer’s Visions” HERE] Riverhead, Main Street. riverheadbid.com October 30-November 1.

David Bromberg Big Band
Bromberg’s material, based in the folk and blues idioms, continually expanded with each new album to encompass bluegrass, ragtime, country and ethnic music, and his touring band grew apace. Witness the powerful force of this timeless music firsthand! And see for yourself why Dylan digs this guy so much. Landmark on Main St., 232 Main St., Port Washington. landmarkonmainstreet.org $57-$72. 8 p.m. October 31.

Paul Anka
The Canadian singer, songwriter and actor has written hit after hit after hit throughout the decades, including the theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and one of Tom Jones’s biggest hits, “She’s a Lady,” along with the lyrics for Frank Sinatra’s signature song “My Way.” Expect a night of classics, including “Diana,” “Lonely Boy” and “Put Your Head on My Shoulder.” NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury. venue.thetheatreatwestbury.com $88-$174. 8 p.m. October 31.

The Darkness
Touring behind their latest drop, this year’s Last Of Our Kind, these Brit glam metal rockers will undoubtedly blow the lid off The Mountler, converting all attendees present into diehard fans, and making this one Halloween they will never forget! Don’t miss this gig! Opening the show will be These Raven Skies. The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $25-$45. 8 p.m. October 31.

Last Comic Standing
The top five comics for the latest season of NBC’s hit show—Rocky LaPorte, Lachlan Patterson, Nikki Carr, Rod Man, and Joe Machi—proved they can come up with an act in a race against the clock. The question that remains is: How quickly can they make local audiences’ sides split? NYCB Theatre at Westbury, 960 Brush Hollow Rd., Westbury. venue.thetheatreatwestbury.com $43-$136. 3 p.m. November 1.

Ben Folds with yMusic
Putting the “Ben Folds” into the platinum-selling “Ben Folds Five,” the man is back to rock the suburbs. Following a successful reunion/live album release with the band in 2013, Folds tackles his latest live performances with a piano concerto he’s composed as part of a global symphonic tour. The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $30-$65. 8 p.m. November 1.

Children’s Medical Fundraise Fest Featuring The Chainsmokers
They say music can heal the soul and transcend time. No better way, then, to combat illnesses and diseases plaguing young children than with music. Join the Billboard-topping dance and electronic DJ producing duo The Chainsmokers as they transform this soothing medium into a powerful force for helping others with a night not soon to be forgotten, and most definitely, their smash hit #SELFIE. The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Ave., Westbury. thespaceatwestbury.com $60-$250. 7 p.m. November 1.

Plain White T’s
These Illinois pop punkers’ 2007 song “Hey There Delilah” struck platinum along with two Grammy noms; expect that track, as well as a slew of other power chord-driven numbers during this high-energy local performance. With opening acts Matt McAndrew, Beta Play and Shiffley. Revolution Bar & Music Hall, 140 Merrick Rd., Amityville. clubloaded.com/events $20-$23. 7 p.m. November 4.

The Doctrine of Discovery: Unmasking the Domination Code
This compelling documentary by Dakota filmmaker Sheldon Wolfchild tells the story of how obscure Vatican documents from the 15th century led the United States and Canada to adopt laws against North American Original Peoples still in effect to this day. Filmmaker/writer Steven Newcomb will discuss the film, followed by a Q&A with John Kane, Native American activist and WBAI 99.5 radio host. Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington. cinemaartscentre.org Members $10, Public $15. 7:30 p.m. November 4.

Mom-Mentum Achieving Extraordinary Women’s Leadership Conference
Long Island women are being asked to step away from their desks and get a new perspective on their lives by attending this day-long conference presented by Mom-Mentum, a nonprofit dedicated to providing leadership, education, advocacy and support to mothers in meeting today’s professional and personal challenges. Attendees will be given the opportunity to reassess their careers and share personal and professional experiences with each other in a positive, supportive environment while hearing CEOs, entrepreneurs, and other professionals share their experiences as innovators, trailblazers, and leaders. “We are bringing together a powerful group of female leaders to inspire action and continue to work towards moving the needle on women’s leadership,” says Mom-mentum executive director, Alison LaFerlita. “We want to empower women to execute change.” Danielle Campbell, co-anchor for News 12 Long Island, will emcee. The conference begins at 8:30 a.m. with breakfast, an exhibitor expo and networking. Immediately after, the first course, an interactive workshop called Building and Leading High Performance Teams and Leaders, is being presented by Ellen Cooperperson, CEO of Corporate Performance Consultants. Lively conversations will continue throughout the day, featuring a host of panelists and lecturers leading attendees through multiple discussions on a wide range of pressing topics and issues. Crest Hollow Country Club, 8325 Jericho Turnpike, Woodbury. cresthollow.com For more information and to purchase tickets check out: mom-mentum.org 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. November 6.

—Compiled by Desiree D’iorio, Timothy Bolger & Zachary B. Tirana III

New ‘Wicked City’ Thriller About a Serial Killer Gets Lost in the Dark in ’80s L.A.

Set in 1982 L.A., with the classic melody of Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time” throbbing on the soundtrack, a nameless girl inside a car parked in the Hollywood Hills is bobbing between the thighs of an unimpressed Kent Grainger (Ed Westwick) just before he plunges a knife into the back of her head.

It turns out that Kent’s also a serial killer and a necrophiliac. But he does have a softer side—he likes babies.

The opening minutes of Wicked City’s premiere Tuesday night mostly encapsulated the gist of ABC’s newest and boldest show: sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and, evidently, death.

“That’s right, folks,” said a local news anchor character early on. “Another day, another corpse in the murder capital of the country.”

It was a warning there’d be more clichés to follow. While the anchor mentioned above referred to killings in ‘80s L.A. as routine, the same could be argued of modern-day America in general.

Audiences today are numb—desensitized, some claim—to the oversaturation of dismembered corpses, blood-streaked walls, and “shocking” crime scenes lit in the flashing bulbs of the paparazzi, all of which appeared in the first 30 minutes of Wicked City. Differentiating among all these competing crime dramas may be more difficult than identifying a dumped body. This was Wicked City’s true killer: unoriginality.

Beneath his charm and prickly stubble, we discover that Kent has child abandonment/mommy issues. Stabbing unsuspecting women trying to please him is one thing, but apparently he draws the line at killing a nurse named Betty Beaumontaine (Erika Christensen) because she’s a single mom. The plotline’s reprieve ignores the likelihood that he’s probably already murdered lonely single moms before without knowing or caring about their back story.

Conveniently, Betty is also a little cuckoo. This insight is revealed when she crushes a spider in her hand, away from the eyes of her impressionable children. The moment left me wondering if I could be a serial killer, too, because I also kill bugs when they come into my house, but at least I feel guilty about it. Betty hones her sadistic ways on duty in the hospital when she yanks stitches out of an old man after stabbing him with a needle.

Maybe Kent knew Betty had that side to her, just waiting to develop under his tender care. His sparing her sparks the beginning of a whacky and disturbing romance. It’s too early to tell where this pair will go. They are reminiscent of a Bonny-and-Clyde-like duo, but that comparison—referenced constantly by ABC’s marketing campaign—creates concern that this psychotic couple will not stray far enough from the source material to make watching their exploits compelling.

On the flip side of Wicked City, we meet “good cop” Jack Roth (Jeremy Sisto). He bickers with his undesirable-sidekick Paco Conteras (Gabriel Luna) each and every step of the way, making this crime procedural a grueling process. Jack is hell-bent on taking down the famed “Hillside Strangler” (no, not Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono), but the closest the detective gets to Kent in the season premiere is an accidental shoulder-brush in a cramped nightclub on Sunset Strip, making this “cat and mouse” storyline explicit for any viewers who somehow may have missed it.

While Wicked City airs late at 10 p.m., presumably after the kids are in bed, it is a risky step for Disney-owned ABC Family channel, considering their usual fare. Featuring disturbing adult-oriented content like this may be an early sign of what’s to come when the network changes its name in January to Freeform, with the goal of attracting a wider audience in the coveted 18-34 demographic.

The show is being promoted as a 10-episode anthology series, similar to American Horror Story or True Detective, which means the next season—if Wicked City even lasts that long and let’s hope it doesn’t—would jump to a different time slot. But it means 10 episodes of serial-killer-and-tortured-cop clichés, people yelling “bitchin’!” as an adjective, an overabundance of cocaine and way too much hairspray, accompanied by an ’80s soundtrack of Soft Cell, Iggy Pop and Joan Jett. Wicked City might be worth a binge-watch on Netflix, but definitely not a long-term committed relationship.

When The Public Funds Sports Stadiums, Fans Win, Taxpayers Lose



When the Cubs made the final out last week in Chicago, long-suffering Mets fans back home were ecstatic. The line for Modell’s Sporting Goods in Plainview stretched across the shopping center parking lot as people waited after midnight for the chance to commemorate the newly won National League pennant by buying an official baseball hat for $35 or a jersey for $110—a World Series patch raised the retail price an additional $15.

Sports always have an interesting effect on people’s judgment. All one has to do is look at Mineola’s efforts to convince themselves that the New York Islanders will come back. Whether it’s a local government financing a $900 million stadium or fans buying hundreds of dollars of souvenir memorabilia, professional athletics have a funny way of convincing people to spend their money when they know they’re getting hosed.

The Mets, for this season at least, are New York’s team. So goes the fortunes of ball clubs: when you’re on top, you’re the king. When you lose, fans want to throw the bums out and bring in new blood. Somewhere, Yankees fans are counting their 27 championship rings while they wait for next season.

This passion for the home team runs deep – local sports franchises know it, as do the municipal governments that house these teams. The logic is that voters love their teams – and any politician who loses a franchise will rue the day the club packs their bags and leaves town. It is with this knowledge that sports organizations negotiate for new stadiums, arenas and ball parks.

Trying to cater to professional teams isn’t exclusive to Mineola, for even relatively level-headed policymakers succumb to sports madness. Before leaving office in 2002, Mayor Rudy Giuliani doggedly tried to push through a flawed $1.6 billion plan for two new stadiums in New York City. The New York Times editorial board said the mayor’s emotional attachment to baseball had “warped his judgment.” The proposal was axed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who eventually floated his own eventually successful proposals to replace both aging venues.

Locations for a new Yankee Stadium were debated, but the site selection for Shea’s replacement was easy for the Mets. They could build their new monument to America’s pastime in as much of a convenient spot as you can get: the parking lot next to their existing stadium.

Both New York complexes have transit and highway options, which helps determine the geographic concentration of fandom. The better the access, the more fans see baseball—an asset for any team to get people to the game, and revenue into their coffers.

Source: NYC IBO
Source: NYC IBO

The access theory holds, because the New York demographics of New York fandom tell who, exactly, these stadiums cater to. In a 1998 report by the city’s Independent Budget Office, the authors “attended games at each stadium and asked about 1,000 attendees at each game for their zip codes.”  The breakdown is a bit enlightening:

Not surprisingly, Long Island was the principal home of Mets fans for those particular games, while the Yankees can thank New Jersey and Manhattan for the fannies filling their stands, thus lending merit to the argument that easier access can drive fandom.

The geographic trends found in IBO’s 1998 report were further supported from more recent (and comprehensive) data released by Facebook in 2014, which measured MLB fandom by the number of people’s LIKES on each team’s page. While the Mets are the talk of the town these days, the disparity between Facebook users who showed a preference for the Yankees outnumbered those who liked the Mets almost 3 to 1.

As the Times wrote in their data analysis: “The Yankees are the preferred team everywhere in New York City, and nearly everywhere in the U.S. over the Mets (in more than 98 percent of ZIP codes nationwide).”

What all this data means is that stadium policy doesn’t necessarily cater to the residents that city officials and sports teams always assume it does, nor do the suggested economics bring in the out-of-region revenue assumed. Sports franchises always state that these stadiums will benefit their particular city itself, when in reality, wealthier suburbanites reap the benefits of the increased transit availability and associated stadium amenities.

While detailed analysis has been conducted by IBO concerning both the economics of Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium, the findings are almost the same: “…findings from econometric studies across the nation consistently agree: taken together, baseball teams and stadiums do not spur economic growth in a metropolitan area.”

While IBO found that stadiums aren’t the economic powerhouses they are touted to be, the group did mention that integrating restaurants and retail into stadium neighborhoods would have a positive fiscal impact. Only a comprehensive approach to development would extract the maximum economic potential of a newly constructed stadium. Smart development in these areas would not only keep visitors in the area longer on game day, but during the offseason as well.

If executed correctly, these areas could help bolster the ball parks in order to bring newfound economic prosperity. But it’s an uphill battle, whose odds of successful implementation hinge on the strength of the regional economy. The problem, of course, is one of coordination. How would a development at Willets Point interact with one of the many projects being built in Nassau or Suffolk County?

As Long Islanders and Queens residents pour into Citi Field to watch the Mets take on the Royals, city officials should understand that the economics of sports isn’t always a home run. After the city invests hundreds of millions of dollars into the Bronx and Queens for improved transit access, demolition of both old stadiums, the foundations of the new ball parks, and in the case of Yankee Stadium, relocation of displaced parkland, is it worth it for the typical New York City resident?

To the thousands of suburbanites who fill the stands, and afterwards leave the area by car or train, it doesn’t matter, for they reaped the benefits of that sizeable public investment…all while wearing a $35 hat.

Rich Murdocco writes about Long Island’s land use and real estate development issues. He received his Master’s in Public Policy at Stony Brook University, where he studied regional planning under Dr. Lee Koppelman, Long Island’s veteran master planner. Murdocco is a regular contributor to the Long Island Press. More of his views can be found on www.TheFoggiestIdea.org or follow him on Twitter @TheFoggiestIdea.

Pathmark’s Passing Leaves Pangs For the People Who Stock Its Shelves

Writer James H. Burns bids farewell to Pathmark. (Photo credit: Matthew Rutledge/Flickr)

When the news hit this summer that many Pathmark stores would be closing as part of the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company’s bankruptcy, I was stunned, as most here were.

For decades the supermarket has been part of our lives on Long Island. And I’m old enough to remember when the store in Franklin Square opened in the late 1960s.

But, for reasons I’m not quite sure of, I can’t feel any nostalgia for the place.

Maybe that’s because it’s always been there. Or because, somewhere deep in my cranium, I can remember it meant as a boy that my Mom and I were no longer going to be making trips to Hills Supermarket on Franklin Avenue, which ultimately had to close down, or the A&P on Dutch Broadway in Elmont, which persisted into the 1990s, and where one of the cashiers, Clara, had been nice to me since I was even a much younger toddler.

There were times when I’d accompany my parents to Pathmark in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and it always seemed like a chore. In those days, it was considered safe to let a kid wander around alone inside. I would check out the cereal aisle, to see if there were any neat premiums being offered in that era’s assemblage of Quisp and Quake and Sugar Crisp and so many other cereals whose names remain familiar. I still peruse the cereal boxes, to see if there are any neat toys being offered inside.

There was also a toy section featuring an assemblage somewhat bigger than what has become the usual assortment of supermarket bits and pieces.

Ultimately, the neatest feature at Pathmark for a youngster may have been a huge paperback section featuring an amazing array of bestsellers and non-fiction books. Pathmark was where I bought some of my very first books on the history of movies, including, in my monster-loving youth, a biography of Boris Karloff!

From its inception in Franklin Square, Pathmark had tried to be unique. At the back of the store was a section invoking the classic Horn and Hardart cafeterias in Manhattan, famous for all the food, sandwiches and cakes and the like, being offered through slots in the wall protected by a glass cover. If you put coins in the apparatus, you could lift the cover and take your treat.  Horn and Hardart was famous for the quality of its offerings, and for being a very affordable place for any New Yorker to put together a decent meal. More than one location also became known as a writers’ hangout, with some of the best-known reporters and talent of the era sitting for a long while, sipping their coffee, and enjoying the conversation.

Beginning in the 1970s, Pathmark also had a long running series of television commercials, starring James Karen. Most of us probably presumed he was a Pathmark executive, until he also began popping up as an actor in horror movies like “Poltergeist” and “The Return of the Living Dead.”

As I moved back and forth from our area over the decades, Pathmark was my supermarket of choice.

But then, about five years ago, something very sad began to happen, at least at a couple of Pathmark locations that I frequented. If you weren’t careful, it was far too easy to buy out-of-date products off Pathmark’s shelves. My discovery occurred when making a salad dressing mix one night, and a strange gelatinous form suddenly floated to the top of the bowl. I looked at the expiration date on the ingredients box. It had passed six months earlier.

I didn’t stop shopping at Pathmark. I just became disappointed, and far more careful.

Besides, I was very fond of some of the employees, and I had a particular problem: I am addicted to Pathmark Instant Coffee. Or at least I was. The store’s been out of its own label for a while.

I’ve been compensating by experimenting with a myriad of other makes. In years past, I would take several jars with me, on the road.

It was odd, by the way, when earlier this year, my local Pathmark reached into the warehouse, and began using plastic bags, from some time back, apparently having run out of the newer editions.

I also love the deli counter’s fried chicken. To me, it’s the best in New York by far. Pathmark must have a proprietary recipe, which I can only hope it’ll share with its successor.

The loss of the store, otherwise, doesn’t seem particularly perceptible. After all, there will be another supermarket in its place.

What has been heartbreaking, however, is seeing the looks of uncertainty in the eyes of so many of the long-time employees, and even on the faces of the store’s younger veterans. All told, more than 4,000 people on Long Island could be without a job by Thanksgiving. My greatest hope is that the new owners will do the right thing for those who have been part of our lives for such a very long time.

James H. Burns is a writer/actor living in Franklin Square, who has written for The Village Voice, Newsday, CBS.COM, The Sporting News and The New York Times.

Sicario’s Dirty War on Mexican Cartels is Not Yet Reality

I saw the movie “Sicario” the other day. And it reminded me why the border still haunts me.

“Sicario” is an important contribution to a cinematic genre that examines the dark realities of the U.S.-Mexico border. The film centers on an FBI agent in Arizona who joins a shadowy, CIA-led task force pursuing a Mexican drug lord. She becomes alarmed by secretive, brutal methods that leave a trail of corpses. She discovers that the unit’s mysterious Colombian “consultant” is an assassin (sicario) unleashed by the U.S. government on the cartels.

“Sicario” has drawn admiring reviews, commentary about the tough subject, and criticism in Mexico. My editors asked me to assess its portrayal of the underworlds of the U.S.-Mexico border.

I covered the borderlands for the Los Angeles Times in the 1990s and return there now and then. I’ve spent years reporting about mafias, justice and intrigue across the Americas and around the world. And I’ve written fiction and nonfiction in which the border plays a big role.

My first novel, “Triple Crossing,” describes the troubled dreams of a rookie Border Patrol agent: “The border seethed on the edge of his sleep. Haunting him. Disembodied faces surging up out of the riverbed at him.”

That image comes from personal experience. I still see the faces of people I knew — heroes and outlaws, bigshots and grunts — who lived intensely and died violently.

I remember interviewing a reformist police chief days before rogue federal cops assassinated him. I see a young prosecutor in a Tijuana diner telling me about investigating the chief’s murder — 18 months before killers butchered him in front of his house. I relive an early-morning phone call with sad news about a gentle, doomed warden who let me explore one of the world’s strangest prisons: a savage village where gangsters lived with their families, inmates ran shops and eateries, and gunfights erupted on the basketball court at high noon.

So I watched “Sicario” with a wary but respectful eye. I once wrote that the storytellers of the border know there is no better story in the world. But it’s a hard tale to tell, especially for Americans. Even if you speak fluent Spanish and have walked both sides of the line.

Overall, I found “Sicario” artful and thought-provoking. The focus is intentionally narrow: Villeneuve portrays a battleground obscured by a permanent fog of war. The film succeeds in evoking the menace, paranoia and ambiguity of the turf.

“Sicario” falls short for me in other aspects. While it has impeccably realistic moments, the federal agents broke the rules with a casualness (and lack of consequences) unlike anything I’ve reported on. I also would have liked more depth in the depiction of the Mexican side, though there’s a limit to what can be done in two hours.

The first thing I look for in a drama like this is the authenticity of the characters — how they compare to the swashbuckling and ferocious ones I’ve met.

Josh Brolin is convincing as the chief of the task force, a brash spy who drops enigmatic lines about his plan to “dramatically overreact” against the cartel that has murdered dozens of people on the U.S. side of the border.

Benicio Del Toro’s role as the brooding, relentless sicario is the best thing about the film. An early scene in which he shudders awake from a nap establishes him as a man who has nightmares — and inflicts them on others.

The FBI agent played by Emily Blunt is refreshingly unglamorous. Her clashes with the CIA/Pentagon crew have a real-life basis in conflicts among U.S. agencies. Her mystified indignation becomes less credible, however, as she continues to tag along with the marauding unit.

The lack of Hispanic characters on the U.S. law enforcement team surprised me. This is not an abstract issue of diversity in Hollywood; traveling the borderlands, you meet many sharp Hispanic federal agents making the most of their language and cultural skills.

The film sticks to a largely north-of-the-line viewpoint. A nice subplot about a Mexican police officer seemed underdeveloped. That’s a recurring pitfall in this genre: exploring a Mexican reality with limited presence of actual Mexicans.

“Sicario” does include a spectacular sequence in Ciudad Juarez. With Delta Force operators riding shotgun, the U.S. task force zooms in to pick up and bring north a cartel figure for questioning. The tension builds to a claustrophobic shootout in a monster traffic jam at the port of entry. The scene triggered my residual paranoia from many a border crossing.

Officials in Ciudad Juarez were upset about scenes showing cadavers hanging from downtown viaducts and firefights and explosions lighting up the night. They pointed out that crime has gone down since the city was the world’s murder capital. Nonetheless, it’s legitimate to depict the anarchy and bloodshed that have periodically engulfed Juarez, Tijuana, Acapulco and other Mexican cities.

Above all, “Sicario” puts a spotlight on U.S. antidrug policy. It imagines a world in which federal agencies have decided to fight dirty. Del Toro’s Colombian water-boards a suspect at a U.S. military base, physically abuses a corrupt U.S. cop in a vehicle in Arizona and runs up the body count elsewhere.

I understand that movies take liberties in the name of drama. The director has said he’s making a larger point about moral choices, about the excesses of vengeful covert action. I had reservations, however, about the premise of the black-ops campaign.

First of all, most takedowns of drug lords end in arrest and prosecution. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement put money and effort — from high-tech intercepts to training and vetting foreign units — into building cases against kingpins and battering through their concentric circles of firepower and political protection.

I’m not suggesting abuses don’t happen. I’ve covered brutality and corruption in U.S. agencies. But the brazen excess depicted in the film is pretty rare on U.S. soil. American intelligence and law enforcement operatives do work closely with foreign counterparts who are brutal and corrupt. Agents have told me about teaming with Mexican investigators who pursued traffickers diligently, but weren’t given U.S. leads about a certain drug lord because they were on his payroll.

Another story about misconduct-by-proxy: U.S. agents once helped local forces arrest a suspect in a Latin American nation. The Americans waited awkwardly outside while the locals began their interrogation. It went badly and the U.S. agents had to rush in to revive the suspect with CPR.

The larger argument of Villeneuve and scriptwriter Taylor Sheridan is that the drug war risks turning us into the very monsters we are trying to defeat.

It’s tempting to agree — at least about the futility. Despite considerable blood and sacrifice, the basic story in Mexico hasn’t changed much over the past two decades.

In 1993, I covered the capture of Joaquin (Chapo) Guzman, the boss of the Sinaloa cartel, and the discovery of his first smuggling tunnel between Tijuana and San Diego. Guzman has escaped from prison twice. His operation still uses tunnels. The latest headlines suggest his days are numbered, but he has reigned for a quarter century.

I do see glimmers of hope. Look at the remarkable transformation of Colombia, the result of Colombian tenacity backed with U.S. resources. Or Peru’s defeat of cartels, narco-guerillas and a malevolent spy chief. Or Guatemala’s recent strides against high-level mafias. The driving force in those cases was dogged police work, not death squads.

Tangible progress has also happened in Mexico, including Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. “Sicario” portrays part of the problem. But it doesn’t venture into the Mexican political labyrinth that is the root of the crisis.

My reporting in Latin America has convinced me the conversation needs to be about more than drugs. Mafias profit from an array of rackets: extortion, migrant smuggling, political thievery. The region’s greatest single problem is lawlessness in high and low places alike. Weak justice systems protect the elites.

In a column this week in Spain’s El Pais newspaper, a Mexican academic declared that a “pact of impunity” dominates his society.

“Ample sectors of the political class have established regional alliances with criminal actors,” wrote Alberto J. Olvera of the Veracruzana University. “The regime can’t and doesn’t want to reform itself. A gigantic mobilization is necessary of a united civil society focused on the fight against impunity.”

Signs of such a mobilization can be seen in Mexico, Central America and elsewhere. The vanguard includes brave cops, journalists, activists, and citizens in the streets. Things will change not with the capture of Chapo Guzman, but when the police start arresting senators, governors, bankers and others in suits and ties.

The longer that takes to happen, the more likely the dirty war depicted in Sicario could one day become a reality.


Read senior reporter Sebastian Rotella’s report on terrorists and Europe’s revolving-door prisons.


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Travel Diary: Port Washington’s Waterside Wonders

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Winter is coming.

Yes, this is inevitable. Yet before the plummeting temperatures, blustery winds and menacing snow (hopefully not too much) transform our beautiful island into a frozen winter wonderland, there’s still enough time to eke out one or two more road trips down to the gorgeous, soothing waters bordering our coastline. There’s still one or two last chances to stare out at those precious waves—whether the ocean, harbor, or Long Island Sound—before those whirling winds whip along the shore, sending chills up your spine and cooling that giant pumpkin latte in your hand faster than you can say “Vaaa-Room.”

The North Shore hamlet of Port Washington, with its colorful history, myriad parks, shops and restaurants, and endless, breathtaking romantic waterside views, makes just the perfect destination.

You’ll want to roll into this majestic community in style, however. A 2015 MINI Cooper from NY Auto Giant, therefore, is exactly what the doctor ordered!

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As you cruise into town in your cute, stylish ride, you’ll undoubtedly be interested in learning some history about this special, special gem. Port Washington’s modern-day origins date back to the 1600s, when more than a dozen English families purchased this precious land from the Matinecock Indians. During the 1800s, shellfishing and sand-mining became important industries here, with millions of yards of the area’s sand eventually used to form the concrete comprising some of the most iconic and well-known buildings in New York City, including the Chrysler and Empire State Building!

If you’re a fan of literature, you’ll be excited to know that Port Washington is also represented within the East Egg area of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby.

First order of business is caffeine, of course. Luckily, besides the aforementioned wonders awaiting you and your loved ones here at “The Portler,” as some call it, this community is absolutely loaded with java-licious cafes and bakeries to get your heart a-pumpin’!

Swing by COFFEED, a nonprofit micro-roaster that supports numerous charities and employs locals with disabilities, as well as serving some of the most exotic blends around. You simply can’t go wrong with the Ethiopian! Saint Honore Pastry Shop is also worth a visit—this place rocks not only the joe, but cakes, cookies, and cupcakes galore!

Sip those lattes while you stroll Main Street and peruse its many stellar shops and storefronts, including Wright Music, Painting With Flowers, and The Dolphin Bookshop—the latter an independent bookstore that’s been feeding the minds and caffeine urges of patrons since 1946.

You’re going to want some great food on your day adventure, and Port Washington is replete with high-quality restaurants serving some of the most delectable dishes around.

Dating back to 1905, Louie’s Oyster Bar & Grille offers hungry locals and travelers premium seafood as well as absolutely breathtaking views of Manhasset Bay, the New York City skyline and Long Island Sound.

DiMaggio’s is another prime choice for eats and memories. Since 1978 this trattoria and bar has been delighting hungry patrons with traditional Old World cuisine comprising only the freshest ingredients and made-to-order dishes that will leave your lips a-lickin’ for weeks. Roasted rabbit, ossobucco, stuffed zucchini blossoms are just a few of its many culinary masterpieces that make this a must-stop spot on any Port Washington road trip.

So is Ayhan’s Mediterranean Marketplace & Café, serving so many joyous Greek delights—stuffed grape leaves, chicken souvlaki, lamb burgers—you’ll be dreaming of that ancient land and its irresistible cuisine for a long, long time afterward. [Note: Ayhan’s sells Feta Cigars—warm, mouthwatering oozing Feta tightly wrapped into a stogie with crisp phyllo dough—the name says it all!] The place is right next door to Ayhan’s Shish (Fish) Kebab, too!

Ice cream goes great with Feta (as does pretty much everything), so grab a cone and sundae with all your favorite toppings at Sweet Treats On The Wharf before heading over to a comfy bench along the waterfront.

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You and your loved one might just be in for yet another special treat on this uber-special road trip bonanza:

Several gorgeous, enigmatic sea creatures have recently been spotted swimming and frolicking amongst Port Washington’s idyllic surrounding waters. Humpback whales as well as a giddy pod of Belugas have been enjoying the ever-improving depths of the Bay and Sound—providing local residents and adventure-seeking boaters the rare, moving experience of witnessing these extraordinary beauties up close and personal!

You never know what adventures await you in this remarkable, idyllic community, so head down to NY Auto Giant’s Massapequa Nissan to drive home your very own 2015 MINI Cooper today and roll through Port Washington, and any other town, in style!