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Gordon, Garbarino Vie To Replace Retiring Rep. King

L. t R.: New York State Assmblyman Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) and former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon (D-Copiague). Photos courtesy of New York State Assembly and Olivia Vecchio

With Election Day fast approaching, a competitive race for an open Long Island congressional seat long-held by Republicans is shaping up to be a closely watched match-up.

New York State Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) and former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon (D-Copiague) are vying to replace retiring 14-term U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), who represents New York’s 2nd Congressional District. 

“Pete King is a giant in the Congress and running to succeed him is truly a humbling experience,” said Garbarino. Gordon echoed the sentiment, saying, “I’m humbled by the tremendous grassroots support we’ve received across the district.”

King, who historically won re-election by large margins, won by just over 6 percent of the vote in 2018, setting the scene for a competitive race to succeed him that Cook Political Report, an independent and nonpartisan election tracker, now labels as a “Republican Toss Up.” The district covers the South Shore of eastern Nassau County and western Suffolk County — territory ranging from Levittown and Massapequa to Islip and Ronkonkoma. 

Garbarino, an attorney and four-term state assemblyman whose district includes Bohemia, Patchogue and Islip, won the congressional GOP primary with nearly 64 percent of the vote against state Assemblyman Mike LiPetri (R-Massapequa). On the Democratic side, Gordon, a combat veteran, retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, educator, and Babylon Town Councilwoman from 2007 through this year, won almost 73 percent of the vote in her respective primary against perennial candidate Patricia Maher. 

In terms of fundraising, Gordon has outpaced Garbarino, as her campaign had more than $1.1 million cash on hand to Garbarino’s $104,100 by the end of June, according to Federal Election Commission data. In total, Gordon had received more than $1.7 million in receipts to Garbarino’s $488,566 by that same June 30 recording. 

Both candidates have secured significant endorsements. Garbarino is backed by King, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Long Island officials including Town of Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin, and several Nassau County legislators. Gordon’s endorsements have ranged from Suffolk County legislators to those on the national stage such as President Barack Obama and Vice Presidential Nominee Kamala Harris. 

But on the issues, while the candidates agree on the importance of working to better the lives of Long Islanders, there are fundamental disagreements about the solutions and which agenda items should take priority. Interviews with both candidates, which are outlined by topic below, reveal those stark points of contention. 

COMPETING PRIORITIES

Responding to the question of “big-ticket” issues heading into the election, the candidates diverged on what takes priority. 

Gordon said the pandemic has revealed the importance of bolstering both the economy and health care for Long Islanders, while ensuring that residents are given tax relief rather than large corporations. 

“Not only do we need to protect the Affordable Care Act, but we need to expand access to health care, protect people with pre-existing conditions, and lower the cost of prescription drugs,” Gordon said. “We need to rebuild the economy so that it works for everyone; that means providing support to small businesses, reducing student loan debt, and expanding access to skills training and apprenticeship programs.” 

Garbarino said the biggest issue on the Island right now is restoring the state and local tax (SALT) deduction for homeowners, an issue Gordon agrees on. President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which placed a cap on the state and local tax deduction, in 2017.

Other high priority issues for Garbarino include securing federal funding for law enforcement, “combating MS-13 and other violent gangs,” and advocating for a new infrastructure bill. 

“There hasn’t been an in-depth infrastructure bill passed in Washington in a long time and that has caused New York State and local municipalities to pump the brakes on major infrastructure improvement plans,” Garbarino said. “These improvements would make the lives of every constituent in New York better and we need to get one passed.” 

POLICE AND PROTESTS

Both candidates expressed support for the peaceful protests that have taken place across the country and on LI as the national conversation around racial injustice continues. However, both Gordon and Garbarino made clear that they do not support calls to defund the police. 

A Black woman and former military police officer, Gordon said she understands “the effects that systemic racism has on our communities, and I also know from experience what good policing looks like.” On that front, Gordon expressed support for community policing, and noted the work she has done with police in her past. 

“As a Babylon Town Councilwoman, I worked closely with Suffolk County Police Department’s First Precinct on community policing programs,” Gordon said. “And as a guidance counselor for over two decades, I worked closely with local police to keep students safe and root out gang violence in our communities.” 

Garbarino in recent months has voted in favor of state Assembly bills that mandate police-worn body cameras and require officers to provide medical and mental health attention. He has also voted against bills that would require the disclosure of law enforcement disciplinary records or prohibit police officers from using racial and ethnic profiling, according to the state Assembly. 

In a press release from July 10, Garbarino said laws like those he voted against and others to institute bail reform showed the Democratic-led legislature had “turned its back on our law enforcement and imposed rules that make them vulnerable in the course of their work.” 

Calling the killing of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers in late May a “tragedy,” Garbarino said those officers need to be held accountable but that “we can’t vilify every police officer for the actions of a few.”

COVID-19 RECOVERY

On the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, both candidates agreed on the need for federal assistance without raising taxes, and each has worked in the community over the last few months to help those facing hardship. 

Garbarino said he has worked to secure thousands of pieces of PPE for healthcare workers and first responders while making sure to check in on constituents throughout the pandemic. In the Assembly, he also co-sponsored a bill that will “repurpose existing funds in New York to create grants for Chambers of Commerce to advertise small businesses.” 

Garbarino said he is also working in the Assembly through the Health Committee to question the state’s handling of coronavirus patients in nursing homes, while he continues to advocate for federal funding and decreased taxes. 

“The pandemic should be treated similarly to a natural disaster, where the federal government should come in and help the localities that were hardest hit,” Garbarino said. 

Meanwhile, Gordon said she has volunteered with her campaign team at local food banks and supply drives, as she continues to notice that “the need for assistance has not gone away,” despite the low case numbers on the island. 

Along with advocating for tax relief and a Congressional infrastructure package, Gordon said she would call for an investment into a medical supply chain on Long Island to ensure residents’ health and safety moving forward. 

“We have the facilities and the research and development talent to make that happen in our district,” Gordon said. “And it’s important for both public health and national security that we make PPE domestically.” 

EYE ON THE ENVIRONMENT

On the environment, candidates noted the importance of protecting the Great South Bay, located between the South Shore and Fire Island, as an important part of their environmental agendas. 

But Gordon said she is the “only pro-environment candidate in this race,” criticizing Garbarino for his prior Assembly votes “against protecting freshwater wetlands, against setting standards for clean drinking water and against critical environmental protection standards.” But in 2018 and 2019, Garbarino was rated 84 and 72 out of 100 respectively on his environmental votes by the New York based nonprofit EPL-Environmental Advocates. 

While Gordon said she does not support the proposed Green New Deal, she is in favor of other measures including the investment in clear energy jobs. 

“Contamination of our drinking water, rising sea levels, and pollution of the Great South Bay all threaten our way of life here on the South Shore,” Gordon said. “We need to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement, invest in clean energy jobs and stem the tide of environmental deregulation coming out of Washington.” 

Garbarino said protecting waterways like the Great South Bay will require “eliminating waste” and cleaning smaller water sources, while also placing much of the pressure on the federal government to enact change. 

“I will also fight to ensure the federal government does its part in protecting our local gem by contributing its fair share,” Garbarino said. “That means increasing federal funding for the EPA, allocating more funds to preserve our waterways, and voting against offshore drilling.” 

FINAL PITCHES

While certainly both candidates expressed confidence in their respective campaigns, each laid out different reasons for why they best resonate with the voters.  

For Garbarino, he said he has lived and worked in the community throughout his life and is hoping his children become “fourth-generation Long Islanders.” 

“I grew up in Sayville and chose to stay here on Long Island’s South Shore for many of the same reasons as lots of residents in NY-2 — local communities with thriving downtowns, long-standing family-owned businesses, strong schools, and safe neighborhoods,” Garbarino said. “In Congress, I will fight every day to preserve our way of life making our communities safer, and even better places to live, work, and raise a family.”  

Gordon, who was born in the nation of Jamaica and grew up in Queens, now lives in Copiague with her son while her daughter is a captain in the U.S. Air Force. Gordon said her journey and ability to relate to residents is the driving force behind her campaign. 

“When veterans learn that I’m a veteran, they know that we share the same language and we share the same experiences. They know that I’m going to understand what they’ve gone through,” Gordon said. “When an immigrant sees another immigrant, when a single mother sees another single mother, when a member of organized labor sees another union member, the story remains the same. Voters in this district are looking for a representative who lives like them and will take their interests to Washington.”

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PSEG-LI Head Vows Change, But Gives Few Details at Isaias Hearing 

PSEG-LI workers restore power after Isaias

Nassau County Legislators grilled PSEG Long Island President and COO Daniel Eichhorn for his company’s response to Tropical Storm Isaias at a committee meeting Monday, but questions about the company’s immediate next steps remained unclear.  

Over the course of nearly two hours, Eichhorn fielded questions relating to PSEG Long Island’s preparedness, response and needed improvements, but ultimately, legislators could not get Eichhorn to detail what the company would change in the immediate future. Calling the company’s response to Isaias an “anomaly,” Eichhorn assured legislators numerous times that his company would conduct a “thorough after-action review” to assess failures in service and communication. 

“There’s no hiding from the issues, we take full responsibility for what occurred, it wasn’t what we expected to have happen,” Eichhorn said. “I think we’ve performed well in other storms and we really have to get to the root cause of what happened here and make those improvements.”

After striking the island on Aug.4, Tropical Storm Isaias left more than 420,000 homes and businesses without power, some for more than a week, in what was seen as one of the company’s first major tests since taking over for the Long Island Power Authority after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Denise Ford (D-Long Beach), who chairs the legislature’s Hurricane Sandy Review Committee, announced last week that the committee would come together for the first time since May 2019 to question PSEG Long Island.  

Eichhorn said the storm itself presented an “unusual challenge” given the clusters of outages around LI, but maintained that the company’s planning and preparation were effective based on the anticipated damage. Eichhorn said around 1,600 line workers from out of state arrived on the island the day of the storm via a mutual assistance organization, pushing the number of total line workers in the area to about 4,000.  

But on questions of frequent communications failures, which infuriated customers for days as they attempted to call, text or the use the company’s website for updates, Eichhorn offered few resolutions outside of a re-evaluation following the after-action review. Eichhorn said the company’s estimated response times, which were continuously pushed back to the dismay of residents, occurred because of an underestimation of the damage. 

“In this storm, what we found is when our crews were out working, instead of finding one damaged location to restore a neighborhood, it was multiple damaged locations,” Eichhorn said. “Those models that we were using proved to be much more optimistic than what our crews were seeing.” 

For days, lawmakers have also demanded PSEG Long Island reimburse customers for food and medicine lost as a result of the outages. Although not announced at the hearing, soon after it on Monday, the company said that it would reimburse customers for those items if they lost power for at least 72 hours and apply by Sept. 16. 

According to the policy, residential customers can receive up to $250 while commercial customers can receive up to $5,000 for food spoilage. Up to $300 will also be reimbursed for prescription medication spoilages. 

Regarding a billing credit for customers over the days that power was lost, Eichhorn said the company had not had that discussion and would consider it as part of the after-action review. Throughout the hearing, legislators provided their own feedback and recommendations to Eichhorn, which ranged from replacing rotting wood poles to distributing more generators to coordinating more effectively with out of state crews. 

Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove), ranking member of the committee, said the company’s reaction to the storm was “extremely poor,” given both the relative weakness of the storm and the preparatory measures taken like tree trimming and grid fortification. 

I know we’ve spent millions and millions of dollars on tree trimming, we’re like the third highest in the nation for our energy and our electric,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “So it’s not only that we expect more, but we’ve been told to expect more, that we were going to be able to handle this type of thing, this was not a hurricane, it wasn’t even close to Superstorm Sandy.”

Many legislators also emphasized the importance of protecting seniors and those on the critical customer care list, many of whom require power for their health-related devices and were still left without answers for days. Eichhorn said the protocol for placing people on the list will also be a thoroughly examined area in the after-action review. 

Although public attendance was limited due to the coronavirus, some residents were given the opportunity to speak, including Dr. Cynthia Paulis of Massapequa Park, who slept in her car as constant efforts to contact the utility failed over a period of days. Paulis said she lost faith in a company that she had high hopes for after losing power for over two weeks following Sandy. 

“We have a lot of seniors in our community, we have a lot of veterans and we have a lot of people that are disabled – we have so many people that rely on you, and you said we’ve got 1,500 people, we have 2,000 people,” Paulis said. “I have something on my phone right now that talks about 4,000 workers, so I said, ‘Wow this is great,’ but where were they?”  

In a post-hearing press release issued Monday night, DeRiggi-Whitton expressed dissatisfaction towards Eichhorn’s responses, and said that Eichhorn “appears to have misinformed the committee,” in one instance regarding knowledge of traffic light outages.

“Although he claimed that PSEG-LI had no way of knowing what traffic signals were without power during the storm, later testimony by Deputy County Executive Brian Schneider revealed that the department of public works provided a comprehensive list of critical post-storm needs,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “Including the location of every traffic signal without power as identified by the County’s Traffic Management Center to PSEG-LI by the evening of Tuesday, Aug. 4.”

Moving forward, the legislature itself can issue further recommendations, but it does not have significant authority over PSEG Long Island. However, the company will also have to answer to New York State legislators at a hearing on Thursday co-chaired by Senator Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach). 

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Nassau Dems Call for New Redistricting Commission 

Among the changes the last time Nassau County legislative district maps were redrawn was that the Five Towns area was split up between four districts.

Nassau County Democrats renewed calls for the creation of an independent redistricting commission on Wednesday, a push that comes amidst the counting of the 2020 Census and its implications for the future balance of power in the legislature. 

First introduced in late January by Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), the Democrats’ bill would create a nine-member commission free of government or political party officials to oversee the drawing of new legislative district boundaries. Abrahams said the current district map ensures that around 95 percent of incumbent politicians in the county are continually re-elected, a statistic the commission would remedy. 

“We need a system in place where that changes, where we’re constantly evolving and we’re constantly bringing in new people into the process, and the elections are fair and people are accountable,” Abrahams said. “And if you don’t do the job of your legislative district then you couldn’t rely on this [current] map to get you into office.” 

According to the bill, three members of the commission would be chosen by the Republican-majority legislature’s presiding officer and three would be chosen by the minority leader, with the last three chosen jointly by the two officials. Individuals who have served as an elected official, political party official, lobbyist or an employee of the county or state in the last three years would also be barred from serving on the commission. 

Currently in the county, redistricting responsibilities fall to an 11-member board comprised of five voting members chosen by the leaders of each party. The last member is a non-voting chairperson chosen by the county executive, but ultimately, the legislature is still given final approval over the map. 

This has led to political deadlocks in previous redistricting cycles and frustration among local activists, who argue the current system has resulted in widespread gerrymandering. 

Lisa Tyson, director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, noted that Nassau is “one of the most segregated communities in the country,” which is why redistricting is needed to restore a “belief in fairness.” 

“The last redistricting plan continued segregation, it made it so regular people could not run for office and win,” Tyson said. “We need to change this and we need fair redistricting now.”   

Abrahams was joined at the press conference by fellow legislators Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview), Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove), Debra Mule (D-Freeport) and Ellen Birnbaum (D-Great Neck), along with Josh Lafazan (I-Syosset). Drucker said the redistricting plan is necessary to reflect a county that has changed significantly since the legislature was first formed in 1994, and now has to address growing calls for reform. 

“We’re at a turning point in our country’s history now where we do have to undertake and make very marked institutionalized change to the structure of how we govern and how we exist,” Drucker said. “This the first step in that regard.”

Republican spokesperson Christopher Boyle said in a statement that while the GOP majority will review the resolution, he did not indicate whether the caucus will call for a vote and instead questioned the timing of the push for one. 

“It is difficult to understand why in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, fiscal crisis, and with thousands of residents still without power after the recent storm, the minority chooses to focus their energy on changing the county’s redistricting process,” Boyle said. 

If passed through the legislature, the commission’s new map would take effect for the 2023 election cycle and be redrawn every ten years after, according to the bill. In determining the districts, the commission would also have to ensure new areas “respect communities of interest” and are “geographically compact and contiguous.” 

In a Wednesday night tweet, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran praised the bill and said the current system benefits politicians more than the voters they serve by allowing legislators to “pick their voters.”  

“Gerrymandering is a political curse – an incumbent protection program – which has left a deep stain in Nassau County that can only be lifted by drawing fair and representative district lines irrespective of party affiliation,” Curran said. 

Related Story: Report: Citizens Redrawing Nassau Districts Avoids Gerrymandering

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College Knowledge 2020 Webinar: Academic Experts Weigh-In

(Photo: Shutterstock via QNS.com)

For high school students, the coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into a college admissions cycle that is already a lengthy and stressful one, but four Long Island experts in navigating the process shared their advice at a Schneps Media webinar on Wednesday. 

The webinar, titled College Knowledge 2020, was hosted by Schneps Media Vice President Elizabeth Aloni, and featured private college advisor Andy Lockwood, test preparation and academic expert Tom Ehlers, clinical social worker Catharina Kleuskens, and college counselor, advisor, and educational consultant Patty Ziplow. Although the pandemic has halted students’ ability to physically visit colleges they are interested in, Ziplow said it is still important to show interest virtually. 

“Many schools do track demonstrated interest and they have very sophisticated ways of finding out who has opened emails that have been sent, who has attended virtual information sessions,” Ziplow, who is co-founder of A2Z Admissions Consulting Group, LLC, said. “But schools will tell you that the most important way you can illustrate your demonstrated interest is to apply early.” 

Lockwood, who is the founder of Lockwood College Prep, also specializes in the financial side of helping students and their families search for colleges that are right for them. Lockwood said this demonstrated early interest can help students get more money from schools in the form of scholarships. 

Lockwood added that despite the constraints of the pandemic, which have placed colleges under “tremendous budgetary pressures,” students can still avoid paying full tuition in many cases through merit-based aid or by negotiating financial aid. 

“There’s still a lot of money out there and I think anyone can afford college,” Lockwood said. “Paying full price is a choice, only about 25 percent at any given college pay full price or are subsidizing the other 75 percent of families who are getting some sort of discount.” 

Tom Ehlers, president and founder of Method Test Prep, said even as more colleges are transitioning to test optional amidst the pandemic, it’s still important to take standardized tests like the SAT or ACT because many schools are not “test blind,” meaning that they won’t look at test scores. Ehlers said good scores on the test can also contribute to larger merit-based aid, and that despite the anxiety and buildup going into tests like the ACT or SAT, studying intelligently can make a huge difference.  

“What I find is that most students, they have such a fear of these exams because they just don’t know anything about them,” Ehlers said. “And they actually can be successful, so they just need to put in a little bit of time.” 

Kleuskens, a clinical social worker based in Merrick, said she has most recently worked with patients to discuss their apprehension about the transition process to college and laid out the pros and cons of going away to school given the pandemic. Kleuskens said the inability of most high school seniors to finish their semesters in-person this spring also changed the course of many discussions. 

“They kind of got shorted and didn’t get to graduate [in-person], didn’t make that start of that big transition phase, and a lot of them show a lot of anxiety towards what’s lying ahead,” Kleuskens said. “So we’ve really been addressing how can we adjust the initial plan which we’ve been working on for possibly two years and change it into something that can work.” 

Sharing concluding advice, Lockwood said college is ultimately a “means to an end” and students need to take a step back to understand where they would fit best based on choices of study and what they might see themselves doing later in life.

“I think the biggest problem is we’re all so focused on this artificial, narrow four years of kids’ lives, and really the bigger picture is the 40 or 50 years,” Lockwood said. “It’s almost as if we were all just putting all our time and energy and effort into rushing to the airport and we have no idea where the flight is going.” 

Watch the webinar below:

Related Story: Coronavirus Concerns Loom Over Fall College Semester Plans on Long Island

For more education coverage, visit longislandpress.com/category/education

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Nassau Committee Will Study Police Response to Mental Health Crises

Nassau County Police
Nassau County Police

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed a bill Wednesday that addresses growing calls for reform around the response by law enforcement to mental health crises. 

The bill, which was introduced by Legislators Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) and Josh Lafazan (I-Syosset) in late June and passed unanimously by the county legislature in early August, calls for the creation of a committee that will study alternative approaches to law enforcement intervention in situations regarding mental health. Curran called the bill “another positive step” towards building trust between county residents and police officers on an important issue.  

“Mental health response is one of the toughest parts of the police’s job, and increasingly it’s becoming a bigger part of the job,” Curran said. “We ask a lot of our police these days and we owe it to them to make sure they have the training, the tools and the support they need to do their jobs.”  

Curran also cited increases in the number of community affairs police officers and the recent push for mandatory body cameras on county officers as other steps her administration has taken to strengthen police-community relations. But the bill signed ultimately marks one of the legislature’s first concrete responses to an issue raised by the nationwide protests around racial injustice that have also played out nationwide and across Long Island since late May. 

The committee, which will be co-chaired by Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Nassau County Department of Human Services Commissioner Dr. Carolyn McCummings, will likely seek to redirect the responsibility of mental health responses by law enforcement in one of two ways, according to the text of the bill. 

The first would see the creation of a mental health unit within the police department staffed by mental and behavioral health professionals, which would aid law enforcement in providing resources and assistance to members of the mental health community. The second would see an expanded role for mental health professionals, like those in the Nassau County Mobile Crisis Team, by “co-deploying” them with police officers in response to all mental health related calls. 

In its current state, the county’s mobile crisis team, which is run by the Department of Human Services, has its own hotline to respond to mental health calls by dispatching social workers and nurses to the scene of a crisis. But when a 911 call is placed reporting a mental health crisis in the county, the decision to alert the mobile crisis team often rests with the responding police officers and the police department’s emergency services personnel, according to statements by a police official at the legislature’s August 3 session. 

L. to R.: Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, Nassau County Legislator Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury), Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Nassau County Legislator Josh Lafazan (I-Syosset), and Kyle Rose-Louder, deputy county executive for health and human services, at the bill signing ceremony creating the new police response committee.

Left without a coordinated response to these situations, McCummings told the legislature that the police often do not call the crisis team for help, something the new committee could help resolve.

“The resolution would be a good way for us to establish a protocol for having both the mobile crisis team and the police department work together in order to make sure that any of these calls are handled properly,” McCummings said. 

At the bill signing, Bynoe said the committee presents a chance for the county to “fine tune” its approach towards aiding the mental health community while reducing the possibility for escalations with law enforcement. 

“We look at how we respond to physical aided calls when they come into 911 — we dispatch police and we dispatch EMS,” Bynoe said. “I think that it’s important that when we get a call that comes in from some loved one, a relative, a friend or a bystander who notices somebody in crisis, that we send the proper personnel to support our police or that our police receive higher training in the area of mental health so that they can respond in the best possible way.” 

Not immune to issues surrounding law enforcement response mental health crises, Bynoe cited several recent incidents on Long Island that inspired the legislation, including the death of a man with a history of mental illness who was shot by two Nassau police officers in Oceanside last September after he charged at them with a sword. An internal investigation by the department’s homicide squad into the shooting later ruled that it was “justified.” 

Officers in the county currently receive around 40 hours of training in areas including communicating with those in emotional distress and de-escalation, with emergency services unit officers receiving an extra five-day course on dealing with mental health crises. In both 2018 and 2019, the department responded to more than 300 violent mental health calls, according to statistics shared at the August 3 session. 

Also speaking at the bill signing, Lafazan noted that mental health related calls have risen considerably in the last few decades, while nationally, police departments only dedicate a fraction of their cadet training time towards responding to those crises. Lafazan added that while the Island-wide protests certainly pushed the full legislature towards action, the decision to call for a committee was not reactionary and instead rooted in better serving the community. 

The committee, which will also consist of two non-voting members in addition to Ryder and McCummings, will now have 30 days to hold its first meeting and six months to submit its report and recommendations to Curran and the legislature. 

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Trump to Host Hamptons Fundraiser This Weekend 

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump spoke at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Friday, July 28, 2017.

President Donald Trump plans to hold two high-dollar campaign fundraiser events in Southampton this Saturday, the latest effort by the campaign to expand its war chest ahead of Election Day. 

The visit is similar to a Trump fundraising event held in Southampton last August, as access to events featuring the president will cost anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000 per person, according to CNBC. Proceeds from the events will go toward Trump Victory, a fundraising committee for both the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee. 

Although Trump is not scheduled to arrive until the weekend, his son Donald Trump Jr. and Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top Trump campaign and RNC fundraiser and Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, attended a dinner on Thursday night. Tickets for the dinner reception started at $2,800 per person, and rose to $50,000 per couple to participate in the dinner, according to CNBC

Tickets to attend Trump’s Saturday afternoon event start at $50,000 per person for photo ops and access to the president’s remarks, with $100,000 tickets also being sold to attend a roundtable discussion and meet-and-greet. The second event later on Saturday costs up to $500,000 per couple to gain entry, according to CNBC

The fundraiser comes after the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee raised $165 million in July, compared to the $140 million raised by the Biden Campaign and Democratic National Committee, according to The Washington Post. In both May and June, Biden led Trump in fundraising numbers following the former vice president’s own virtual high-dollar events. 

As of June 30, Trump has $113 million cash on hand as compared to Biden’s $109 million, according to the Federal Election Commission. 

The visit also comes amidst Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s continued enforcement of coronavirus safety precautions, including the limiting of gatherings to 50 people, social distancing and mask wearing.

Related Story: Trump Tweets Support For Long Island Pizzeria Amid Flag Controversy  

Related Story: Montauk Key To Trump Taking Over Family Empire, Niece Writes

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Nassau Pols to Question PSEG-LI Reps Following Days of Isaias Outages

LIPA-crews
LIPA crews working to restore power after Superstorm Sandy. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

A special committee of the Nassau County Legislature will reconvene next week for the first time in more than a year to call on PSEG Long Island representatives to explain the utility’s response to mass power outages in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias. 

The Superstorm Sandy Review Committee plans to meet at 10 a.m. Aug. 13 with both PSEG-LI representatives and the county’s Office of Emergency Management, with the goal of making recommendations to fix response issues raised in the last few days. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), chairwoman of the six-legislator-committee, said the committee is convening to not only review the problems of this week but also to “get ahead” of storms that may hit Long Island in the coming months. 

“We want to do this now because of the fact that so many people have complained that they’re out of service for a number of days,” Ford said. “Some of the legislators and other people have said that they have not been able to get responses from PSEG, and I’m sure that they are overwhelmed by a storm that was so early in the hurricane season and the damage that it has done.” 

After striking Long Island on Tuesday, more than 420,000 PSEG-LI customers were left without power, a situation that was only compounded by communications issues. As of Thursday morning, more than 160,000 homes and businesses were still without power. 

Ford said the committee will focus on lapses in communication by PSEG, which she sees as one of the main issues in the power company’s storm response over the last few days. 

“I think if you could tell people that ‘we could get you back on by Friday at 5,’ it may not be something that somebody would like, but even though they’re angry, they know that it will be resolved,” Ford said. “Nothing’s worse than when they said, ‘well, we don’t know when we’re going to get you back,’ and so many people are stuck in their homes because of the virus.” 

Ford added the committee will not only make suggestions for improvement but may also make recommendations to the state legislature, as the state is responsible for power companies. 

The committee, which held its first session in August 2018 and last met in May 2019, was formed with the stated goal of using the lessons learned after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 to plan and strategize for future disasters. Along with Ford, the committee is comprised of Legislators Steven Rhoads (R-Bellmore), James Kennedy (R-Massapequa), Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove), Debra Mulé (D-Freeport), and Josh Lafazan (I-Syosset), an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

Lafazan called the breakdown in communication by PSEG Long Island “absolutely unacceptable,” and said he hopes the committee is able to get answers from the company following struggles from a storm that “could have been a lot worse.” 

“During a time of crisis quite frankly, utilities have to be at their best and the lack of communication in which my office has been fielding literally hundreds of complaints and trying to answer for folks, the utilities should be able to give those answers in the first place,” Lafazan said. “So the communication breakdown for whatever is the contributing factor here needs to be remedied immediately.” 

Lafazan added that an important population his office has worked to help in the last few days is senior citizens, many of whom only have landline phones and are in need of electricity to power health-related devices. 

“So many seniors in my community utilize oxygen and need power, and have devices that rely on power and need to be charged,” Lafazan said. “These seniors, they need to have their calls answered and they need to have their needs met immediately during a crisis.” 

In addition to the county hearing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered the state Department of Service to investigate “failures” by PSEG Long Island and Verizon, who PSEG blamed following the storm for poor phone, text and internet connections. Several members from Long Island’s Democratic state senate delegation also called on New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate PSEG Long Island, Verizon, and the Long Island Power Authority. 

A spokesperson from PSEG Long Island did not immediately return a request for comment. 

Related Story: For Some, Long Island Power Restoration Will Take Days

Related Story: Long Island Reports Strongest Isaias Gust In NY Metro Area

Related Story: Tropical Storm Isaias Wreaks Havoc on Long Island

Related Story: Pols Call For Probe of PSEG-LI Isaias Response, Communication Trouble

 
 

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College Knowledge 2020 Webinar: Academic Experts To Teach Higher-Ed Prep

(Photo: Shutterstock via QNS.com)

The coronavirus pandemic is teaching college students a lesson in disruption, but four Long Island experts in navigating the college admissions process will lead a crash course in preparing during an upcoming free webinar.

The webinar, titled College Knowledge 2020, will feature private college advisor Andy Lockwood, test preparation and academic expert Tom Ehlers, clinical social worker Catharina Kleuskens, and college counselor, advisor, and educational consultant Patty Ziplow. 

Lockwood is a best-selling author and founder of Lockwood College Prep, based in Glenwood Landing on the North Shore, where he has worked with clients from across the country and around the world. A member of the National Collegiate Advocacy Group and the National Association for College Admission Counseling, Lockwood is also a graduate of Wesleyan University and St. John’s Law School. In addition to his work as a college advisor, Lockwood specializes in financial aid. 

Ehlers is the president and founder of Method Test Prep, which has offices in both Plainview and Mineola. More than 1,500 schools worldwide currently use Ehlers’ online ACT and SAT program. A graduate of Princeton University, Ehlers has also worked as an educational consultant with various school districts across the country that are looking to improve their college admission test scores. 

Kleuskens has worked in the clinical social work field for more than 20 years and is currently based in Merrick, where she specializes in childhood anxiety and works with families through adolescence and teens. She is also a graduate of the University of Sittard in the Netherlands and is currently pursuing a doctorate from Adelphi University. 

Ziplow is co-founder of a2z Admissions Consulting Group, LLC and is a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association. Having served as a director of admissions and in other top administrative roles over the last two decades, Ziplow earned her educational consulting certificate from the University of California, Irvine. 

The webinar, hosted by Schneps Media, the parent company of the Long Island Press, is scheduled for 3 p.m. on August 12 via Zoom. To register, visit us02web.zoom.us For more webinars, visit schnepsmedia.com/webinars

L. to R.: Andy Lockwood, Tom Ehlers, Patty Ziplow, and Catharina Kleuskens.

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Pols Propose Renaming Nassau Police Headquarters For First Black Commissioner

Nassau lawmakers proposed renaming police headquarters on Thursday, July 30, 2020. Photo by Alec Rich.

Nassau County lawmaker proposed renaming the Nassau County Police Department Headquarters in Mineola in honor of the department’s first Black commissioner, William J. Willett.

The proposal marks the second time in a week that a resolution has been introduced in the legislature to rename a county building after a notable Black public servant. Nassau Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), presiding officer of the GOP-led county legislature, said Willett was a “trailblazer” and a “role model” for the department and the community, which is why he was chosen to name the headquarters after. 

“He was a true leader and he was committed to the residents of this county, he was committed to his brothers and sisters in law enforcement and to this police department,” Nicolello told reporters during a news conference Thursday outside police headquarters. “He was the guy you would go to [in order] to get things done. So I cannot think of anyone better to name this building after.” 

Last week, Nassau Legislator Josh Lafazan (D-Syosset) introduced his own legislation seeking to rename the county building at 240 Old Country Road in honor of the nation’s first Black congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm. Both proposals come amidst national protests against systemic racism that have also played out on Long Island since May. 

Willett, who was born in Glen Cove, first joined the department in 1953 as one of just a few Black officers working there. Over the course of his nearly 50-year career with the department, he held numerous different positions including as deputy chief of patrol, inspector, and deputy commissioner. Appointed commissioner in 2000, Willett retired in 2002 and passed away the following year after a battle with lung cancer at 71. 

Joining Nicolello at Thursday’s press conference included members of Willett’s family, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Town of Hempstead Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, several legislators, and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder. Ryder, who served as deputy commanding officer with the Asset Forfeiture Bureau while Willett was commissioner, called Willett a “true hero” who he learned from each day. 

“I got to know him more as a person, and someone that I saw go through the ranks, and then go and lead us in this department in tough times,” Ryder said. “His leadership, many of things that he taught me then, I use those same things today.”  

Ryder also announced that he would grant Willett the title of detective, the one position Willett never had but wanted, once the building is renamed. This was well-received by Willett’s daughter, Rachelle, who noted that her father, “loved his job, his people, his police officers, and his county.” 

Curran, who called Willett a man of “unshakable integrity,” said she looked forward to signing the bill once it is voted on, which Nicolello said will take place in September. Nicolello also acknowledged that the bill’s passage would make the police headquarters building the first county building named for a Black figure, thereby eclipsing Lafazan’s Chisholm bill that has yet to be considered by the full legislature. 

But as calls for change that go beyond the renaming of buildings continue to resonate among members of the community, William Biamonte, Democratic minority caucus chief of staff, said in a press release that “memorialization must not be a substitute for systemic change.” 

Nassau County Legislator Carrié Solages (D-Elmont), who was not in attendance at the press conference, said he was “very happy” with the bill to honor Willett, but also urged Republican legislators to consider recent proposals by the minority caucus. Those include the creation of a third-party misconduct complaint hotline, studying alternative approaches to mental health responses by law enforcement, and the mandating the use of body cameras by officers. 

“I’m very thankful to the majority for taking this very first important step,” Solages said. “And I’m asking them to also consider the legislation presented by my colleagues if they truly want to address systemic issues in the department and beyond for the benefit of all individuals.” 

Related Story: Nassau Pol Proposes Renaming County Building For Nation’s First Black Congresswoman

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Long Island Shark Week Continues With Fifth Consecutive Day of Shark Sightings

Nassau County police Marine Bureau officers are performing shark patrols. (Photo by Kevin Kane)

A shark sighting off the coast of South Shore Long Island was reported Friday for the fifth day in a row, prompting the Town of Hempstead to close off swimming from Civic Beach to Town Park Lido West Beach.

The latest shark was sighted off Lido Beach after 3 p.m. by Hempstead’s “Shark Patrol,” which began using jet skis and bay constables Thursday to supplement the ongoing search work of lifeguards on the shore and Nassau County Police Department boats and helicopters. Eight shark sightings off South Shore beaches between Monday and Wednesday, including at Nickerson Beach and Long Beach, prompted the hefty response by local officials.

On Thursday, the Town of Hempstead permitted regular swimming at Atlantic Beach and East Atlantic Beach, but only knee-deep swimming from Civic Beach to Lido West Town Park Beach. Meanwhile, in the Town of Oyster Bay, a shark sighting at Tobay Beach in Massapequa led to the closure of ocean access Thursday.

Officials have primarily attributed the increase in sightings to warmer water. Paul Sieswerda, executive director of the marine research organization Gotham Whale, said at a press conference Wednesday that his organization has received “more than double” the number of shark sightings around the Island this summer than in past years.

While officials have yet to determine whether the sightings are of the same or multiple sharks, a widely circulated photo of Manhasset resident TJ Minutillo reeling in an 8-foot bull shark off Nickerson Beach on Saturday night confirmed beliefs that many of the recent sightings can be attributed to that species.

Related Story: Lido Lifeguards Report Shark Sighting of “Significant Size”

Related Story: Shark Sightings at Long Island Beaches Force Swimmers Out of Water For Second Day in A Row

Related Story: Shark Patrols Launch on 3rd Straight Day of Shark Sightings on Long Island

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