Rashed Mian

1264 POSTS 0 COMMENTS
Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: rmian@longislandpress.com. Twitter: rashedmian

Cuomo Calls for Probe Into Latest Wave of JCC Threats

JCC threats

 

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday directed state authorities to investigate bomb threats made to a handful of New York’s Jewish Community Centers, including one on Long Island that was targeted Monday morning.

The governor is ordering State police to collaborate with local and federal agencies to investigate the threats and arrest those responsible. The rash of threats, which began nationwide in January, has unnerved Jewish communities—a religious group that is consistently the target of the most hate crimes, according to FBI statistics.

“I share the pain and the outrage of so many New Yorkers who are affected directly and those who are sickened by watching these attacks unfold,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will not allow anyone to intimidate or strike fear in the state of New York. The full force of government will be brought to bear in these efforts, and these perpetrators will be punished.”

On Monday the Mid Island Y JCC in Plainview was one of four Jewish Community Centers in New York to receive a threatening message during this current spate of hateful provocations. Earlier that day more than a hundred tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were reportedly discovered vandalized. About a week before, more than a 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis were desecrated.

Rick Lewis, chief executive officer of the Jewish center, said about 400 people were taking part in a range of activities Monday when the center received a phone call at 11 a.m. saying a threat had been made to the building.

In response, emergency protocols were immediately put in place and the building was evacuated, Lewis said. Nothing dangerous was found during a subsequent sweep of the building, and the center was reopened at 12:15 p.m., he said.

At the time of the threat, several hundred people inside the JCC were partaking in a host of activities, including swimming and exercising. The center’s nursery school was also open.

“It’s upsetting that there’s somebody out there targeting the Jewish communities,” Lewis said. Last Thursday night, this JCC had hosted a town hall meeting by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), which was attended by hundreds of people without any incidents reported.

Nassau County police confirmed that its units did respond to the threat, and the incident is under investigation.

While Suffolk County JCC’s were not threatened, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the department is “closely monitoring the situation.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), one of only two Jewish Republicans in the House of Representatives, called for those responsible to be prosecuted.

“There must be zero tolerance of any kind for this rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United States and abroad,” Zeldin said in a statement.

The latest round of JCC threats comes a week after President Donald Trump finally condemned anti-Semitic attacks, which had become increasingly prevalent during the presidential election. Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center, said that Trump did not go far enough. “The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration,” said Goldstein in a statement.

Anti-hate organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center attribute Trump’s anti-immigrant comments for emboldening radical right-wing groups. SPLC in a report released last week said the number of hate groups in the US has increased for the second consecutive year.

In a telephone conference call with constituents last week, Zeldin said he was critical of the Trump administration for omitting the plight of Jews when the White House issued a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“It’s important that our statements reflect and honor and never forget the loss of millions of other people who weren’t Jewish,” Zeldin said.

According to 2015 FBI statistics released in January, anti-Jew attacks accounted for the highest number of hate crimes and for half the 1,354 religious bias offenses reported to the agency. That year also saw a significant spike in hate crimes—67 percent—against American Muslims.

Minority groups nationwide have expressed concern about such crimes, citing election year xenophobia. An attack on two men from India inside a Kansas bar last week has garnered nationwide attention after witnesses recalled the suspected gunman yelling, “Get out of my country.”

On Monday Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the creation of a new Hate Crimes Unit charged with investigating these crimes.

“The diversity of Nassau’s communities is one of our greatest assets, and nobody should be a victim because of the color of their skin, the faith they practice, their gender, or the person they love,” Singas said in a statement. “Crimes motivated by hate and intolerance are especially despicable, and the creation of this unit underscores our commitment to aggressively prosecute these offenses.”

Flood-Prone Nassau Expressway to Get $130M Overhaul, Cuomo Says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that a flood-prone section of Nassau Expressway in the Five Towns will be rehabilitated sooner than expected and that the state would pour $130 million into the project.

Nassau Expressway, also known as Route 878, runs from western Nassau County into Queens, carries 56,000 vehicles daily, and is a designated evacuation route for more than 400,000 people.

The plan, which was borne out of post-Superstorm Sandy NY Rising discussions, calls for the beleaguered one-mile stretch to be elevated to mitigate flooding while improving upon existing drainage. Cuomo said the project would be fast-tracked to begin in 2019 as opposed to its original starting date of 2025.

The governor was critical of past repairs, which he said were done “piecemeal,” and noted that the previous timeline was inadequate.

“The problem is that I may be dead by 2025,” Cuomo said during an appearance at the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence on Sunday. “That’s a long time from now, and who wants to wait and put up with it until 2025?”

Cuomo, who is fond of recalling his own experiences while highlighting the need for new projects, painted a nightmarish portrait of past trips along the parkway.

“I lived in Hollis, Queens. I had a good friend for many years who lived in Inwood, so I would come down the Cross Island Parkway, come across Brookville Boulevard, which was an undertaking in and of itself,” Cuomo said. “That is like going over the mountains, when you go over Brookville Boulevard. You dodge the potholes and you’re going through a whole marsh area, you wait for a boat to float past as you go through Brookville Boulevard, and then you’d run the floods. It was like a road test for a vehicle, that’s what it was.”

“Did you have the shocks to handle Brookville Boulevard, and then did you have the ground clearance to make it through the water on Burnside?” he continued. “So this is a situation that has gone on for way too long.”

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) in a statement said the infusion of cash will “protect a vital piece of infrastructure—and the New Yorkers who rely on it—for decades to come.”

Cuomo’s appearance also put him in the same room with indicted Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who in October pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges.

The governor made light of the fact that the pair were in the same room together.

“Normally when I’m with the County Executive, we’re in some kind of snowstorm, hurricane, Mother Nature wrath, never-happened-before-but-now-it’s-going-to-happen-to-us situation,” he said. “So to be with Ed when the sun is shining and it’s not raining is really nice and unusual. We are talking about flooding so it’s basically where we’ve been, but let’s give the County Executive a round of applause.”

(Photo credit: New York Governor’s Office)

‘Early Spring-Like Pattern’ Brings Above Normal Temps to Long Island

The winter thaw that has taken hold of Long Island over the last month is expected to continue thanks to an “early spring-like pattern” that has Long Islanders dreaming of long walks in the sand amid crashing waves.

The unusually warm weather has produced a half-dozen 50-plus temperature days on the Island, including 16 such days greater than 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service’s Upton office. Readings taken in New York City indicate that there’s been 15 days with above normal temperatures there, three of which that were greater or equal to 60 degrees, NWS said.

Of the last six days on the Island, five have been above 50, and one day even reached the mid-60s—and it’s not even spring, let alone March.

Forecasters are attributing the unusual February warm-up to “an early spring-like weather pattern.”

And there’s good news for those who can’t wait to put winter behind them: the trend will continue into next week.

Temperatures over the next five days will range from 44 degrees to 55, forecasters said.

Friday’s forecast calls for a high near 58 with areas of fog in the evening, plus a very manageable low of 49. A high of 56 is expected for Saturday, but there’s also a chance of thunderstorms heading into Sunday and wind gusts of 30 mph. Strong gusts could hang around for most of the day Sunday, which will feature a high of 44.

Next week is also looking up as well, with forecasters calling for sunny skies Monday and temperatures in the low-50s Tuesday and Wednesday.

And it’s hard to think that just three weeks ago Long Islanders were clearing away more than a foot of snow courtesy of the first blizzard of 2017.

For those counting down the days, spring begins March 20.

Cops: 1 Dead in Multi-Car LIE Crash, Driver Arrested

Nassau police charged Jonathan Santos in the crash that killed one of his passengers late Thursday. (NCPD)

A 20-year-old Manhasset man has been charged in a crash on the Long Island Expressway late Thursday that killed his passenger, Nassau County police said.

Homicide Squad detectives arrested Johnathan Santos Friday and charged him with second-degree vehicular manslaughter and driving while impaired. Santos was scheduled to be arraigned Friday at First District Court in Hempstead.

Police said at least two cars were involved and detectives are investigating the possibility of a third.

The crash occurred near Route 135 around midnight. A police spokeswoman said Santos was behind the wheel of the car that crashed into a guardrail. The force of the collision caused a passenger in the car to be ejected. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Investigators are still waiting on a toxicology report to determine what was in Santos’ system at the time of the crash, the spokeswoman said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. Police are withholding the victim’s name pending notification of next of kin.

Police had shut down all eastbound lanes of the LIE for several hours overnight before reopening it at 6 a.m.

Former Tech Company CEO Who Fled Country Sentenced in Fraud Scheme

fraud

The former chief of an Israeli technology firm who had eluded U.S. authorities for more than a decade before his extradition last year was sentenced Thursday to nearly three years in prison for his role in a lucrative fraud scheme.

In what authorities said was the heaviest penalty ever handed down for a stock option backdating scheme, Jacob “Kobi” Alexander was ordered to serve 30 months in prison during his sentencing at U.S. District Court in Central Islip Thursday.

Alexander’s punishment follows his guilty plea in September for a securities fraud scheme dating back nearly two decades. He was indicted more than 10 years ago but had fled to Namibia, a country in southwest Africa, with his family, to evade prosecution, authorities said.

Federal prosecutors said Alexander, the former CEO of Comverse, which was traded on the NASDAQ 100, operated a fraudulent backdating scheme and subsequently lied to investors in public filings. Comverse had offices in Woodbury.

The scheme went on from 1998 to 2006, authorities said. By backdating stock options, Alexander and his alleged co-conspirators made tens of millions in profits by selecting issuance dates when Comverse stock was trading lower. This allowed Comverse to inflate the amount of its profits and also violated the company’s shareholder-approved stock option plans, authorities said.

Alexander’s plan to escape legal scrutiny included an attempt to bribe a witness into making false statements and abruptly fleeing the country, authorities said. Alexander was extradited from Namibia last year.

“I deeply regret having participated in this conduct,” Alexander reportedly said back in September.

In a statement, Robert Capers, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Alexander’s conviction and sentence “should send a powerful message to high-ranking executives that corporate rank is no shield to criminal liability.”

Trump’s Rollback of Transgender Rights Condemned by Parents & Advocates

transgender

Long Island transgender advocates condemned as “deplorable” President Trump’s decision to rollback federal guidelines protecting the rights of transgender students in the nation’s public schools.

The Trump administration’s new order rescinds a directive laid out last year by the Obama administration, which warned that preventing students from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity could potentially make schools vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits under Title IX, a federal anti-discrimination law.

Parents and supporters of transgender youth on Thursday expressed dismay at the rollback of the Obama-era guidelines, which they characterized as a dangerous assault on human rights.

“All students deserve the dignity and right of being free from harassment and discrimination, including use of the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity,” David Kilmnick, CEO of The LGBT Network, said during a press conference Thursday with transgender Long Islanders and parents. “Refusing to protect our most vulnerable youth is both deplorable and dangerous.”

The Departments of Justice and Education on Wednesday published a joint “Dear Colleague Letter” to the nation’s public schools revoking Obama’s guidance measures from a year ago. The administration argued that the previous administration’s directive created confusion, led to a rise in litigation and was ill-advised because it lacked “extensive legal analysis.” The letter also makes clear that the new administration believes that decisions regarding education policy should fall on individual states and local school districts—a notion long championed by Republicans.

Transgender advocates bristled at the suggestion that protection for trans youth fall under education policy instead of more broad federal anti-discrimination laws.

“They covertly use the words like safety, privacy, state rights and choice to justify their actions when in fact they are working against the values Americans hold most dear: freedom, equality, and justice,” Kilmnick said.

LGBT advocates acknowledged that students in New York State are protected under a similar guidance directive issued by the state Department of Education in 2015 and more broadly, under the Dignity for All Students Act, which was signed into law in 2010.

Regardless of state law, Kilmnick said falling complacent is dangerous because the protection groups currently enjoy at the state level could eventually be eroded depending on the ever-changing political winds.

“We have to be vigilant, we have to resist, we have to stand together and not let this administration keep stripping away civil rights and liberties from all these different groups,” Kilmnick said.

Those most affected expressed consternation at the president’s latest decision.

“Yesterday really hit home because I am a parent of a transgender youth,” said Lauren Bocketti of Massapequa.

Turning to her son Zach Mahmud, she said, “He is my hero, he is the greatest person that I know.”

Mahmud, who is 10, transitioned at the age of 4. He was only 2 when he went to his mother and said: “Why did God make me a girl?”

Despite the challenges, Mahmud has been “treated fairly” at his elementary school, Bocketti said, adding that her son’s principal often reaches out to report on how he’s doing.

“This cannot be allowed to go on,” she said of the attacks on transgender people.

Madeline Bruni, 18, began her transition in middle school, she said. She owed her ability to persevere to her family, who supported her through the process.

“If you’re going to take away something it has to be a privilege, using the bathroom of your choice is not a privilege, it’s a human right,” Bruni said.

Bruni said she’s been mocked, had the police called on her at a local restaurant after entering a bathroom, and was told to use the nurse’s bathroom at school following complaints from other parents.

“It almost made me feel like I was some kind of deviant,” she said.

Ethan Diaz of Hempstead said he personally had never been confronted but has heard troubling stories from friends about their bathroom odysseys.

“Just knowing my friends, my community, had problems and can’t even bring themselves to use the bathroom they feel they’re assigned to—not even assigned—deserve to use,” he said. “They can’t feel comfortable enough, so they go to the restroom that makes them uncomfortable, gives them anxiety, makes them feel scared even more.”

New York State in 2015 issued its own guidance to school districts stipulating that students should be allowed to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

On Thursday, state officials reminded schools of their responsibility and said they’d stand up for students’ rights.

“In New York, whether you are gay, straight or transgender, Muslim, Jewish or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown, we respect all people–and we will continue to enforce our laws and stand united against those who seek to drive us apart,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

“Transgender youth are valued members of our schools and communities across New York State, yet statistics show that more than half of them will attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday,” said state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “So we must do everything in our power to create learning environments that are safe and welcoming for all. The guidance we have developed with Attorney General [Eric] Schneiderman and our partners underscores the value we place on respecting all students and indeed all people.”

Schniederman, one of Trump’s most staunch critics, said schools are mandated to protect the rights of all students, including transgender youth.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to rescind this guidance sends a dangerous and divisive message and threatens some of our most vulnerable young people,” he said. “But in New York State, the law remains the law—and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school.”

What’s most egregious, Klimnick of LGBT Network said, is how fear among transgender kids has become normalized in society.

“That is not something that we should accept,” he said.

Long Island Reps Plan to Phone-In Their Town Hall Meetings

Congressional Town Halls
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) visits Make the Road New York in February 2014. (Photo credit: Long Island Civic Engagement Table/Facebook)

Long Island’s Congressional representatives are planning to host town hall events in the coming days for their constituents but the two Republican incumbents are avoiding meeting the public face to face.

As the local lawmakers leave Washington D.C. for their first recess at home after the new Trump administration’s chaotic start, Reps. Peter King and Lee Zeldin have scheduled “tele” town halls that require participants to “opt-in” via a web address.

Only freshman Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) has committed to holding a traditional face-to-face town hall, which the former Nassau County executive will host Thursday night at the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview. A spokesman for Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said her office is organizing a large “town hall-type” event in response to her constituents’ wishes.

At other town hall events in recent days, lawmakers across the country have been peppered with questions since they’ve returned home to their districts. They’ve encountered large crowds decrying a number of President Trump’s policies, including his desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and the administration’s now-frozen anti-Muslim travel ban. Some Republicans have been booed and publicly admonished.

Videos from this current round of town halls recall similar scenes that played out after the emergence of the Tea Party in 2009, which was funded in part by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire oil business brothers.

In 2009, former six-term Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop encountered a large crowd at a town hall in Setauket, with people waving signs and mocking him as Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) lapdog. At that meeting, Bishop was reportedly grilled about former President Obama’s bailout of Detroit’s auto industry and his health care reform, among other hot-button issues. Afterward, he temporarily suspended hosting town hall events.

“I had felt they would be pointless,” Politico quoted Bishop for an article titled, Town Halls Gone Wild. “There is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent discussion.” Bishop lost his seat to Zeldin in 2014, one of the most expensive Congressional elections in the country.

Facing pressure from those adamantly opposed to Trump—whose popularity is at record lows for a newly elected president—Republicans are now using similar explanations to avoid meeting their constituents in public venues.

“Way too many of the people at the moment requesting Town Halls across the country are doing so with the purpose of disrupting the Town Hall without any interest at all in decorum,” said Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Zeldin, in an email to the Press. “It’s impossible to take a request like that seriously.”

DiSiena noted that Zeldin has addressed constituent concerns through telephone town halls going back to his days as a state Senator, which he typically holds quarterly.

DiSiena claimed that forums held over the phone are more efficient because they allow the Congressman to establish a dialogue with a greater number of people “interested in constructive dialogue.”

“Constituents will be asking questions to the Congressman and participating in interactive poll questions throughout the call. It’s a modern way to bring a town hall directly to the constituents’ home,” she said, adding that Zeldin also holds district-wide “mobile office hours.”

Public town hall events are the preference of Eileen Duffy, founder of Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin, a 2,000-member Facebook group dedicated to securing a forum to ensure that Zeldin and his constituents “have equal opportunities to tell their stories without disruption.”

Duffy thought that Zeldin was keeping the public at bay.

“One-on-one meetings in his offices and tele-town halls allow the Congressman to vet who can ask a question, or indeed who can participate,” Duffy told the Press. “Even the mobile office visits only allow for a few constituents at a time.”

Duffy’s group has kept up the pressure on Zeldin since Trump’s election. On Jan. 3, they rallied outside his Riverhead district office. Since then they’ve had face-to-face meetings with Zeldin’s district director, including one in the Riverhead public library that attracted upwards of 90 people. Duffy herself met with Zeldin this Wednesday morning and discussed a variety of topics, including town halls.

“The Congressman cannot say that very few people have contacted his office or even want a town hall,” Duffy said.

Visit Lee Zeldin is among a number of groups borne out of Trump’s victory in November. Further west, New York’s 2nd District Democrats are also eager to have King host a town hall.

List of upcoming opportunities to speak with Long Island Reps:

Rep. Tom Suozzi town hall Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainvew.

Rep. Lee Zeldin “tele” town hall Thursday, Feb. 23 from 7-8 p.m. Constituents must opt-in here to receive a phone call from Zeldin’s office and be able to participate in the event. Zeldin’s office said it will be calling approximately 100,000 homes. The district has a total of 470,000 active voters.

So far, Rep. Peter King, Rep. Kathleen Rice and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have yet to release any details about town halls.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) held a town hall on immigration and health care last week.

Long Beach Votes Down Sale of Alcohol on Boardwalk

Long Beach Boardwalk. (Credit: City of Long Beach/Facebook)

The Long Beach City Council Tuesday night voted down a hotly debated measure that would’ve allowed alcohol sales along the boardwalk.

The 4-1 vote opposing the ordinance came after impassioned comments from people on both sides of the issue, including representatives for the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce and an underage drinking prevention organization.

“I appreciate what the vendors are doing, I appreciate the creativity,” said City Councilman Scott Mandel, who voted “no” out of concern with how the resolution wad drafted.

“What is out vision of the city with respect to the overall boardwalk? Are we committed to creating safe spaces for our children?” said city councilwoman Anise Moore, who also opposed the measure.

The proposal would have amended the city’s lease agreements with four concession operators on the boardwalk, which serve food but are prohibited from selling alcohol.

Prior to the vote, council members questioned potential liability issues facing the city.

“What are the liabilities to the city with regard to this industry?” said City Council President Len Torres. “Because it really technically brings the city government into the business of alcohol. What are our responsibilities—legal responsibilities—for this?”

The council meeting attracted a large crowd, many of whom clapped enthusiastically when supporters of the ordinance spoke about the potential benefits of approving alcohol sales.

The measure’s chief opponent was Long Beach Aware, an underage drinking prevention group that itself became the topic of much debate during the meeting, with speakers questioning the group’s statistics.

Judi Vining, executive director of Long Beach Aware, warned council members that there’s a connection to “outlet density”—the number of businesses that serve alcohol—and the prevalence of underage drinking.

According to the group’s statistics, Long Beach 11th graders are 20 percent more likely to have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days than their Nassau County counterparts.

“It’s not something we’re very proud of,” Vining said. “It’s something we‘re worried about, and should be worried about.”

Among those who supported the ordinance was the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce. Chamber member Jamie Lynch took exception with the notion that such sales would harm the quality of life in the city and the boardwalk’s appeal.

“People are under the perception that the boardwalk is going to be booze-filled and cups all over the place, and that’s not the case,” Lynch said, adding that the proposed ordinance protects against open containers on the boardwalk and the beach.

“The chamber always wants to see business open and flourish,” he added.

A representative of the concessionaires said they had gathered more than 1,000 signatures from residents backing the ordinance. She said the establishments were committed to setting tough restrictions to prevent underage drinking and reminded council members that beachgoers are already known to sneak drinks onto the beach. Despite that, there had been no drowning deaths in recent years connected to alcohol consumption.

Roy Lester, a lifeguard of more than 40 years, countered that the quality of lifeguards has prevented such deaths.

“Alcohol and the ocean don’t mix,” he said.

Debate over the issue went on for more than two hours. At the end, it was not meant to be.

“I think I’m going to side on the side of safety,” said Torres, who said he had two family members die from cirrhosis of the liver.

Trump Condemns Anti-Semitic Attacks Amid Wave of Bomb Threats

anti-semitic

Following yet another round of threats against Jewish Community Centers across the country, President Donald Trump Tuesday called anti-Semitic attacks “horrible” and “painful” during a speech at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The president’s remarks came about halfway through his speech following a tour of the museum, which opened last year, and in the context of the continued struggles of African Americans. Trump’s visit to the museum coincides with Black History Month.

“This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

Trump’s comments came amid a fourth wave of bomb threats directed at Jewish Community Centers across 27 states and one in Canada, which began in January. Among those affected was the Barry & Florence Friedberg JCC in Oceanside, according to reports. The latest rush of threats came Monday, when 11 JCCs received bomb threats.

Authorities have not found any of the threats to be credible, though that’s done little to alleviate concerns among Jewish leaders. Also troubling was the desecration of more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis over the weekend. In response, a crowdfunding effort spearheaded by Muslim Americans to help restore the damaged tombstones has raised more than $50,000.

“While we are relieved that all such threats have proven to be hoaxes and that not a single person was harmed, we are concerned about the anti-Semitism behind these threats, and the repetition of threats intended to interfere with day-to-day life,” David Posner of JCC Association of North America said in a statement. “Local JCCs serve not just the Jewish community, but the entire community. Participants from all different backgrounds come to their local JCCs for activities, Jewish cultural and religious programming, and opportunities to come together as a community.”

Criticisms that he hasn’t done enough to address threats targeting the Jewish community have plagued Trump since the presidential campaign. Most recently, when a Jewish reporter asked at a press conference how the Trump administration was addressing such incidents, the president became defensive and appeared to misunderstand the question.

“I’m the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life,” Trump said, despite the reporter never hurling such an accusation.

“Let me tell you something—I hate the charge,” Trump said. “I find it repulsive.”

He never said whether his administration had a plan to respond to anti-Semitic attacks.

Prior to that, Trump’s administration was criticized for failing to mention the plight of Jews in a statement recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day. Going back further, Trump’s presidential campaign was accused of giving a voice to far-right hate groups that openly celebrated his victory. On the day after Trump’s election win, a writer for a popular far-right website characterized the election as a “referendum on the international Jewish agenda” and referred to Trump as “our Glorious Leader,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

The campaign also put reporters—specifically Jewish journalists—on the receiving end of attacks. The Anti-Defamation League tracked 2.6 million tweets containing “frequently found anti-Semitic speech” and anti-Jewish attacks on 800 journalists on Twitter.

Organizations that track hate crimes have reported a string of anti-Semitic attacks in the United States since the election, including the spray-painting of swastikas on buildings.

On Long Island, Nassau Community College student Jasskirat Saini, who allegedly told police he felt slighted by the Jewish community, was arrested for vandalizing college property with swastika drawings. Other incidents, including a “Make America White Again” drawing on a sidewalk in Mineola, remain unsolved and thus the suspects’ motives are unclear.

Jewish leaders welcomed Trump’s condemnation on Tuesday but said more work still needs to be done to address hate speech.

“I am glad that Mr. Trump has denounced anti-Semitism and racism in general, but I believe that his bullying campaign style, his themes of a return to American greatness if not dominance, has given license to those who think their anger and bigotry are precisely what this country needs,” Rabbi Rafi Rank of Midway Jewish Center said in an email. “The president is clearly not an anti-Semite. But he does seem oblivious to a host of racial, religious, and ethnic sensitivities. This may be owing to his inexperience as a public servant. For example, his omission of Jews as victims from his statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day just points to a cluelessness that is scary for a person who occupies the highest office in the nation. He speaks as if he still works within the private sector, and of course, he does not.”

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect issued a strongly worded statement of its own.

“The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration,” said Steven Goldstein, the center’s executive director. “His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting Antisemitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record. Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration.”

In response, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president has made it a goal to unite the country.

“I saw that statement,” he said. “I wish that they had praised the president for his leadership in this area. Hopefully as time continues to go by they recognize his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans.”

The Anne Frank Center took issue with Spicer’s comment and recommended a three-point plan to address intolerance, beginning with Trump firing chief strategist Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News.

In response to the cemetery desecration, leaders from the Selden Mosque issued an open letter condemning the incident, saying they stand in solidarity with the Jewish community.

“The Muslims stand with our Jewish brothers against all forms of oppression, hate, bigotry, and religious atrocities and intolerance,” the letter said.

Long Island Dumping Sites Target of State Crackdown

Aerial view of Sage and Rte 111. In 2014, authorities said an illegal dumping site was found at this location. (Photo credit: Suffolk County District Attorney Office)

Authorities identified nine illegal dumping sites on Long Island and in neighboring regions and issued nearly 200 tickets last week as part of a two-day crackdown on illegal waste haulers.

The clampdown on illegal dumping of contaminated construction and demolition debris took place Feb. 15 and 16 throughout Long Island, Mid-Hudson Valley and the five boroughs. Twenty-eight truck drivers were ticketed and 167 additional tickets were issued for various misdemeanors and safety violations, authorities said. The operation included Department of Environmental Conservation officers, State police, the Department of Transportation, and Suffolk County police.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced the results of the operation on Monday but did not clarify where the nine dumping sites are located.

“New York is a leader in environmental protection and we will continue to do all that we can to keep toxic waste and debris from being dumped in our communities,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The illegal disposing of contaminated construction and demolition debris is worrisome because they can contain asbestos, treated lumber, petroleum products, roofing shingles or soil from previously contaminated areas, officials said.

For Long Island especially there’s concern that such toxins could seep into the region’s vulnerable underground aquifers, LI’s sole source of drinking water.

The violations ranged from operating a solid waste management facility without a permit and allowing illegal emission violations. Ten vehicles were put out of service due to serious safety violations.

New York State DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said the two-day operation was the first of several targeted crackdowns that are in the works.

“Those who break New York’s environmental laws to help pad their profits are putting our groundwater at risk, and threatening the quality of our health and environment,” Seggos said in a statement.

Dumping scandals on LI are not new. Several people connected to the disposal of about 50,000 tons of toxic debris at Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood three years ago have been convicted, including former Islip Parks Commissioner Joseph Montuori Jr. Aside from criminal convictions and political fallout, the scandal cost Islip Town $3 million to remediate. The probe led to the discovery of other contaminated sites in Suffolk County.