Alan Krawitz

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Hempstead Residents Form Educational Advocacy Group

Taylor Raynor.

A group of Hempstead school parents, students, and community members announced Monday the formation of a new educational advocacy group called Save Hempstead Students.

The group is being led by Taylor Raynor, a 34-year-old business analyst who is also challenging the 18th district’s 30-year incumbent Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) in the Sept. 13 primary. Speaking at a news conference attended by about a half-dozen local community members, Raynor, a Democrat, delivered a sharply worded message to Hooper.

“We are putting you on notice,” Raynor said. “You have failed the students of the Hempstead School district. We cannot, should not and will not stand by any longer and allow your failures to impact our childrens’ future. We are not here to just survive, we are here to thrive.”  

While Raynor didn’t get into specifics regarding her group’s efforts, she said they would “brainstorm” and work on real solutions before classes begin on Sept. 5.

Raynor did say that the more than 8,000 student Hempstead School District’s long list of problems include mismanagement of state funds, rises in dropout rates and double digit drops in graduation rates, to 39 percent in 2017.

She also talked about a lack of bus transportation in the district that was a safety concern given that some students must walk through neighborhoods plagued by gang violence.
Raynor also added that some Hempstead students have gone without heat during winter months and still others have been forced to take classes in trailers in front of schools.

In a May letter from the State Education Department, the Hempstead district was warned that continued reporting inaccuracies of district data could result in an eventual state takeover of the district.

Raynor noted that under Hooper’s watch, adequate funding for the district has not been provided and that the district has “crumbled.”

“For 30 years, Hooper has been responsible for the deterioration of the Hempstead School district, which is why we’re here today, our mission is to fight for our students’ right to quality education,” Raynor said. 

Former Hempstead Village Mayor Wayne Hall Sr, who lost his election last year after holding office for 12 years, was no fan of Hooper, comparing her incumbency to a “dictator that gets into power and stays there.” Hall added that she has done nothing for Hempstead residents and that she’s been allowed to get away with “doing nothing for far too long.”

“Hooper doesn’t care about this district,” Hall said. “Unfortunately, she keeps getting elected because she’s in a heavily Democratic district.”

Reached by phone, following the news conference, Hooper was asked about other help she has provided for the Hempstead School District since 2009, when she helped secure a grant of $200,000 for the district.

When asked to clarify the statement, Hooper again repeated: “The Stop & Shop grocery store, which is located in the village of Hempstead, shall remain open due to the intervention of the deputy speaker.”

In May, Stop & Shop officials confirmed that Hooper was involved in the company’s decision to change course and keep its Hempstead Village store open. Initially, the company had sought to close the store due to under-performance.

The Landing at Jones Beach: Fine Dining by The Sea

After opening last year at Jones Beach State Park, The Landing is gearing up for an even bigger sophomore season of hosting weddings, reunions, special events — and most of all, fine dining.

Located inside the venerable second-floor Marine Dining Room in the historic West Bathhouse, the restaurant and event space features a full bar and two outdoor patios while retaining the Art Deco vibe that master builder Robert Moses originally created when the building opened in 1931.

“We are extremely excited, lucky and grateful to be able to provide catering and food service at The Landing,” says Frank “Turtle” Raffaele, CEO and founder of The Landing at Jones Beach.

The Landing joins two other restaurants of the same name — one at Pier 45 in Manhattan and the other in Long Island City — that are part of New York City-based COFFEED, a food service company and coffee roaster.

The Landing’s debut comes as the West Bathhouse is undergoing more than $16 million in capital improvements.

The menu is New York-centric, featuring local beers, wines, and seafood as well as locally sourced vegetables. Highlights include Duck Empanadas, Blue Point Oysters, Pulled Pork and Honey Lime Sea Bass.

Raffaele believes The Landing’s ocean views, private terraces and an extravagant bridal suite will make it one of the top wedding destinations in New York State.

“Jones Beach is a part of Long Island culture, part of people’s families and their history,” says Stephanie Thornton, The Landing’s catering manager. “It is a privilege to be a part of it.”

For Raffaele, whose first job was working as an adviser for a former New York City Parks Commissioner, he sees this as his life’s work as coming full circle.

“I have an abiding affection for parks,” he says. “My role with The Landing is much more than just food and beverage … It’s been a part of my life for a long time.”

The Landing at Jones Beach is located in the West Bathhouse at Jones Beach State Park, Ocean Parkway, Wantagh. They can be reached at 516-785-0012 or landingatjonesbeach.com

Chef Catherine Schimenti Opening Baked By The Ocean

Catherine Schimenti.

Upscale pastry chef Catherine Schimenti left home on Long Island at 17, only to return 20 years later to open her new bakery, Baked by the Ocean, in Long Beach.

Admitting that “cooking has always been in my blood,” the down-to earth Schimenti, with her signature red-frame glasses and long braids, says she was encouraged by her parents as well as a teacher at Lynbrook High School to make her living in the kitchen.

“I always helped my mom do the baking, cooking at home,” she recalls. “It’s always been natural for me to make food for people.”

Schimenti, now 38, got an early start in the restaurant business working in a local pizzeria before scoring her first cooking gig as a teen at the now-defunct Porthole restaurant in East Rockaway. She did her culinary training at Johnson & Wales University in Providence before switching in her final year to focus on pastry arts exclusively.

“As opposed to traditional cooking, which is more like just turning a raw product into something,” says Schimenti, “there’s a real science to pastry, the blending of ingredients.”

Schimenti’s career took her to some of the finest restaurants, from Balthazar and Gramercy Tavern to Per Se in New York City, before being tapped to oversee pastry at Craft Steak in the Meatpacking District. Her pastry menu was so well received that Schimenti was summoned to Los Angeles to assist with Craft Steak’s LA debut.

“Moving to California was a big deal for me,” recalls Schimenti, who prides herself on being an LI girl.

Following Craft, she moved to San Francisco and joined the fourstar Michael Mina Restaurant as executive pastry chef and later helped to launch Mina’s Bourbon Steak. After arriving back in NY in 2016, Schimenti pursued her long-standing goal of opening her own bakery. She snagged an apartment in trendy SOHO and was “fully committed to looking for bakery space in NYC.”

While looking for real estate in the city, Schimenti consulted for Gelso & Grand in Little Italy, where she worked for a year, helping to revamp the restaurant’s pastry menu. She oversaw the creation of a nearly foot-long cannoli, which gave the venue some buzz.

“I continued to scout potential bakery spots on the Lower East Side, Tribeca, and even NOLITA,” she recalls, but prices were steep, often upwards of $20,000 rent per month. “I couldn’t find anything and that’s when I started coming out to LI every weekend, to
visit friends and family in Lynbrook and Long Beach.”

Schimenti eventually found her bakery location with a little help from her friend.

“I went to dinner and a friend ended up parking in front of a bakery with a for-lease sign,” she recalls. “That didn’t work out, but it led me to my current spot.”

Now that she’s set, Schimenti says her philosophy on pastry is simple.

“I’m going to focus on accessible desserts such as fruit tarts, salted peanut butter tarts, lemon and lime meringue tarts, specialty cakes and even some soft-serve ice cream, sure to be a summer favorite,” she says. “Traditional things with a twist.”

Also, she’ll serve up favorites like black and white and rainbow cookies, macaroons, homemade chocolate boxes, freshly baked cinnamon rolls, and donuts. But the cozy space with seating for 12 won’t be all desserts.

“Savory foods will also be served, such as salads of the day, toasts of the day, Quinoa bowls with veggies and brunch items on weekends,” she says.

And while many chefs are drawn to the glamour of TV, Schimenti eschews show biz.

“I was approached by producers who wanted me for a few cooking shows due to my ‘polished yet approachable,’ attitude, but my focus is on the bakery, not TV,” she adds. “I want my food to speak for itself.”

Baked by the Ocean, scheduled to open in late May, is located at 919 West Beech St. in Long Beach. They can be reached at 516-889-BAKEor bakedbytheocean.com.

Cuomo Talks Gains, Battles at Nassau Democratic Dinner

Gov. Andrew Cuomo teleconferenced in to the gala from Albany (Photo by Thomas DeJosia)

Despite being a last-minute no-show at a high-profile Nassau County fundraiser, Gov. Andrew Cuomo managed to outline ambitious accomplishments from securing funds to improve the Long Island Rail Road to championing wind energy, all while reiterating his disdain for the Trump Administration and the GOP.

Nassau County Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs apologized for Cuomo’s absence to nearly a thousand guests at the committee’s annual spring dinner explaining that he was engaged in “tense,” last-minute budget negotiations in Albany. The state’s budget is due April 1.

During his speech, broadcast from Albany, Cuomo outlined numerous achievements including what he termed the “largest reconstruction in LIRR history,” by securing nearly $6 billion in state funds to help transform the railroad by adding additional tracks, renovating close to 40 stations and building critical infrastructure to increase train capacity by 80 percent.

“The LIRR will be ready to handle the next generation,” he said.

Saying that “politics is a means to an end, to do good things,” Cuomo cited economic progress on LI, pointing out that today there are almost 1.2 million private sector jobs, with unemployment on the island dropping from 7 to 4 percent.

Newly-elected Nassau County Executive Laura Curran called Cuomo a “great Democrat” who understands the importance of building the middle class and championing the Island.

The governor also spoke about ambitious environmental projects, such as one of the nation’s largest off-shore wind-energy arrays, to be built off Long Island called Empire Wind.

Highlighting his progressive record of accomplishments, Cuomo said he was proud of establishing the $15 minimum wage, a strong paid family leave program, and the closure of more prisons than any other administration in state history, thanks to newer sentencing solutions as alternatives to incarceration.

“We passed the marriage equality act four years before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was discriminatory.”

And, on the heels of sweeping, national anti-gun protests, Cuomo said that New York’s Safe Act is the “smartest gun law in the country.”

The Safe Act vastly broadened gun regulations in the state following the Sandy Hook shooting which took the lives of 20 children and six adults in a Conn. elementary school.
Going forward, Cuomo said there is still much more work to do including more funding for education, better gun legislation and passage of “the best anti-sexual harassment legislation in the nation,” following extensive “me too” campaigns, detailing personal stories of sex harassment that have rocked the media and entertainment world in the last few months.

Taking aim at President Trump and the GOP, Cuomo said that “Republicans are savaging our state,” referring to the passage of a federal tax reform law, detrimental to Island taxpayers by eliminating long-standing property tax deductions.

“Democrats shouldn’t give Donald Trump one dollar for the wall,” he said. “Not one dollar.”

He added that Trump also never made good on his infrastructure program to build bridges.

“That’s what we in New York are about…building bridges, while he’s building a wall,” he said, referencing the replacement of both the old Kosciuszko Bridge in Brooklyn and The Tappan Zee Bridge in Tarrytown.

Cuomo predicted “Democrats will challenge every Republican member of congress in the state in the next election.

“The blue wave that is growing has not even begun to crest.”

Attorney Kathleen Dee Han Dickson and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas
Attorney Howard Festerman and Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs
Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran