May 13 Officially Declared ‘Geraldo Rivera Day’ By Nassau County, Babylon Town

Geraldo Rivera
From left: Victoria Schneps-Yunis, founder of Schneps Media and Life’s WORC, Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, Geraldo Rivera, and Erica Michelle Levy, television producer and wife of Geraldo Rivera.
Photo by Michael Malaszczyk

May 13 is officially ‘Geraldo Rivera Day,’ in honor of Rivera’s work as a legendary journalist on the infamous Willowbrook State School scandal, as announced by Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman and Town of Babylon officials.

The announcement came during Life’s WORC’s 36th annual Geraldo Rivera Golf Classic, which this year, honors Howard Fensterman of Abrams and Fensterman LLP. Abrams and Fensterman LLP sponsored the event, along with Hudson Regional LTC Pharmacy and Subaru.

“Geraldo Rivera is an amazing guy,” Blakeman said. He’s had an incredible career in journalism and as an advocate. I remember Geraldo when he was a fighting reporter. And he met Vicki [Schneps-Yunis] through his advocacy and his journalistic work at the Willowbrook Center, which was a center that was abusing children. He exposed that and he changed the whole conversation with respect to how we treat people with disabilities and with mental illness. So we’re here to celebrate him, we’re here with Vicki to to raise money and raise the consciousness of people to the plight of these individuals that could use a little extra help.”

Life’s WORC was founded by Vicki Schneps-Yunis in 1971 after finding out of the deteriorating conditions at the former Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, where her daughter Lara Schneps had been. The facility was shut down after Geraldo Rivera exposed the neglect at Willowbrook with a Peabody Award-winning series.

“I met Geraldo at Willowbrook when my daughter was there and I was marching and picketing, and I was working on knocking on air until Geraldo came with his cameras and the power of his passionate coverage of my darling Lara and the 5400 people that lived there propelled us to a class action lawsuit Willowbrook was closed,” Vicki Schneps-Yunis said. “The class action lawsuit was successful and every group home that exists today came out of that.”

Schneps added that Rivera’s work on this story inspired her to found Schneps Media, which began with The Queens Courier in 1985 and has grown to be the number one local media company in New York State with up to 100 newspapers – including the Long Island Press.

“This man showed the good that the power of the press can make in our lives and in our world,” Schneps-Yunis added.

Rivera, a West Babylon native, was presented with a proclamation from the Town of Babylon agreeing with Blakeman’s declaration of May 13 as Geraldo Rivera Day.

“For all these many, many years, we’ve been on this crusade,” Rivera said. “We’ve taken this idea, this idea of humanity, this idea of caring for the disabled, treating them with the same constitutional rights as any able-bodied person. It has changed the world with that simple concept, the concept of equality. We have changed the world. No more warehousing of humanity. No more shutting people away. Now it’s embracing, celebrating and moving forward.”

Officials from Bethpage Federal Credit Union were at the event as well, and expressed their support for the cause.

“Bethpage is out here to support the great cause of Life’s WORC, and the tremendous work that Life’s WORC does throughout the communities,” Robert Suarez, assistant vice president for community development at Bethpage FCU, said. “So we’d like to collaborate support initiatives that can empower future leaders and more importantly, about how we can enrich the lives of those who are less fortunate and for those who are looking to excel.”

Donations to Life’s WORC can be made here. 

Geraldo Rivera