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Briana Bonfiglio

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Briana Bonfiglio is the Digital Editor of Long Island Press.

Hofstra Professor Competes in Jeopardy! Tournament Airing Dec. 8

jeopardy
Dr. Lisa Dresner. (Photo by Philip Hinds.)

Dr. Lisa Dresner, a writing professor at Hofstra University and resident of Forest Hills, Queens, says she has auditioned to compete on Jeopardy! for decades, since the late ‘90s. It wasn’t until this year that she made it onto the beloved trivia game show, which is pre-taped and airs on television every weekday evening.

The country will get to see Dresner compete in Jeopardy!’s first-ever professors tournament on the episode airing Wednesday, Dec. 8. 

“I was surprised to be chosen,” Dresner says, “but I was thrilled because I’ve been trying for so long.”

Dresner, who has taught at Hofstra since 2004, is an associate professor in Hofstra’s Department of Writing Studies and Rhetoric and director of the LGBTQ+ Studies program. She is also the author of The Female Investigator in Literature, Film, and Popular Culture.

In the past, Dresner had traveled to California and auditioned in person at the Jeopardy! studio — once in the ‘90s and again in the 2000s and 2010s.

This time around, there were several rounds of online tests and Zoom auditions, she says. In late September, she learned that she was chosen for the professors tournament. Then, in late October, she was in California for the filming.

Though the Covid-19 pandemic made Dresner leery about traveling, she noted that Jeopardy!’s health and safety protocols made her feel well-protected, including mask wearing by all producers on set. Contestants also wore masks while not filming or getting their makeup done and were tested for the virus. 

While she couldn’t reveal much about the show itself, Dresner says she enjoyed bonding with the fellow Jeopardy! competitors.

“It was really fun to meet all the professors from all over the country,” Dresner says. “It was pleasant to just chat with all these great people.”

In the Dec. 8 episode, Dresner competes against professors from The Naval Postgraduate School in California and the University of Colorado-Boulder.

The Jeopardy! Professors Tournament begins Dec. 6. Contestants will compete for $100,000 and a spot in the Tournament of Champions. Mayam Bialik hosts the special Jeopardy! episodes.

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Holiday Hop Bar Crawl Comes to Downtown Riverhead This Friday

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A new, multicultural bar crawl is set to kick off in downtown Riverhead on Friday, Dec. 3.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District (BID) will host the holiday-themed bar hop event in partnership with Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, Discover Long Island, and Vee Media. Dubbed the Holiday Hop, organizers are encouraging bar crawl attendees to “wear whatever holiday gear you’ve got.”

“The Holiday Hop bar crawl is the first of its kind for downtown,” Kristy Verity, executive director of the Riverhead BID. “Riverhead is a melting pot of culture, and we’re highly focused on embracing diversity in new and fun ways. This crawl invites people to share their traditions and say cheers to all ethnic, racial, and religious groups.”

Bar crawlers will participate in a scavenger hunt and take selfies to check in to each of the four locations along the route: Montauk Distilling Company, North Fork Brewing Company, Tradewinds Brewing, and Peconic County Brewing. Participating in the scavenger hunt will earn attendees raffle tickets for chances to win gift card prizes.

The ticketed event begins at Riverwalk Bar and Grill at 6 p.m., then a shuttle will bring attendees to each of the locations, where there will be food and drink specials available, until 9 p.m. There will also be after-parties at Diggers Ales ‘N Eats, which will have a live band performing; Riverwalk Bar and Grille, which will have a DJ that night; and Craft’d, which will offer food and drink specials.

Tickets are $14.99 for general admission or $19.99 in person on the day of the event. Proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless.

To learn more, visit downtownriverhead.org.

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Long Islanders Give Back With Turkey Donations for Thanksgiving

Food drive at St. John's Episcopal Hospital, which serves southwestern Nassau County and Queens.

Across Long Island, communities have banded together over the past week to donate turkeys to families in need this Thanksgiving holiday.

Many nonprofit organizations have reported an increase in families facing food insecurity on Long Island due to the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation driving up grocery prices. So this year, nonprofit leaders, business owners, and community members came out in full force to help their neighbors.

Staff at St. John’s Episcopal Hospital make Thanksgiving baskets to distribute to patients in need.

St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway, which treats underserved patients from Queens and southwestern Nassau County, donated baskets of food items to more than 80 patients and their families for the holiday. The baskets included turkeys, chicken, ham, stuffing, vegetables, gravy, stuffing, and more.

“It brings us great joy to know that we were able to help make this year’s Thanksgiving both enjoyable and nourishing for more than 80 families,” said Sharika Gordon, vice president and chief human resources officer. “We care deeply about our patients and community members, and the hospital’s staff wanted to do all that they could to make sure that no person is left hungry this Thanksgiving.”

Molloy College students packed vans and delivered food to the Mary Brennan INN in Hempstead.

Students at Molloy College in Rockville Centre delivered 1,000 pounds of food items to the Mary Brennan INN food pantry and soup kitchen in Hempstead.

“Nutritional access on Long Island is a big problem right now,” said Mike Malinowski, of Molloy College’s Office of Campus Ministry, which organized the donation drive and delivery. “There are people who don’t have access to the amount of food that they need. Especially since Covid this has become an increasing problem. We think it’s more important than ever to collect things and provide for places like The Mary Brennan Inn who help people who need it.” 

“I think it’s important to give back,” said Elizabeth Hertler, a junior at Molloy College who helped organize the food drive. “To recognize how much we have and to give to those who may not have as much and who are in need. And remember that we should do it all the time, not just at this time of the year.”

James D’Addario and members of the D’Addario family distributed 100 turkeys to families and veterans at Long Island Cares Harry Chapin Food Bank and Humanitarian Center in Huntington Station on Nov. 21

King Quality employees help hand out food to those in need this holiday season.

In Central Islip, King Quality, a roofing company, donated and handed out 150 turkeys, side dishes, baked goods, and beverages to those in need alongside Lighthouse Mission, a nonprofit mobile food pantry.

Bethpage Federal Credit Union held its 13th annual turkey drive on Nov. 19. Long Island families drove by the credit union’s headquarters building in Bethpage to drop off food and monetary donations, which Bethpage Federal Credit Union donated to Island Harvest.

“Thanks to Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s annual turkey drive and the generosity of countless Long Islanders, we’re able to provide a traditional holiday-style meal, complete with a turkey and all the trimmings, to thousands of local families who are struggling to make ends meet,” said Randi Shubin Dresner, president and CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank. “Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s support extends beyond the holidays. They are a longtime and year-round partner in our mission to end hunger and reduce food waste on Long Island, and we are grateful for their caring and support.”

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London Jewelers Sparkles on Long Island For 95 Years

Courtesy London Jewelers.

The famous London Jewelers is a Long Island company through and through — it got its start in Glen Cove, expanded to Manhasset and the Hamptons, and has done business on LI for the past 95 years.

It all started when Charles London, a clockmaker, came to Glen Cove from Europe to make enough money repairing clocks on the Gold Coast to bring his family to the United States. Eventually he did just that, as well as opening a watch and jewelry storefront: London Jewelers. 

“Over more than 95 years, we became known as the home to the world’s most celebrated designers of fine jewelry, timepieces and giftware, and built an unparalleled reputation for service, quality and expertise,” says vice president Randi Udell Alper.

The family business is now in its fourth generation, with London’s granddaughter, Candy Udell, and her husband, Mark Udell, at the helm, and their children, Randi and Scott, serving as vice presidents. Before them, London’s daughter, Fran, and her husband, Mayer Udell, ran the company.

The very first London Jewelers storefront opened on School Street in Glen Cove in 1926. Though London’s specialty was watches, he incorporated jewelry to meet the changing fashion trends of the Roaring ‘20s. His wife and three children, including Fran, came to America three years later.

By the 1960s, London Jewelers was carrying some of the most popular watch and jewelry brands. Since then, the company has expanded several times with new luxury boutiques at Americana Manhasset, as well as opening new storefronts in East Hampton in 1996 and Manhattan in 2016.

“We carry the most prestigious jewelry brands in the world,” Randi says. “In addition, we design and curate our own London Collection in collaboration with jewelry artisans all over the world and our own in-house jewelers. We also carry the best watch brands, plus luxurious giftware and home accents.”

With the holidays just around the corner, Randi has some recommendations for gifting your special someone a piece from London Jewelers.

“Gold and diamonds never disappoint, since new pieces can layer in seamlessly with her existing jewelry wardrobe,” Randi says. “We have something for all different tastes, whether her style is classic, contemporary or something in between. For something more out-of-the-box, check out our colored stone pieces, from rubies to emeralds to sapphires of all shades.”

London Jewelers sells Rolex, Cartier, Chanel, Bvlgari, Omega, Tudor, and many other brands. And although much has changed in nine decades, the business still retains its roots by providing service, such as watch and jewelry repairs, as well as professional assistance with finding the perfect gift.

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Long Island Restaurants Serving Thanksgiving Day Dinner 2021

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Don’t want the hassle of cooking this Thanksgiving? These 12 Long Island restaurants have you covered with Thanksgiving Day menus of their own.

COOPERAGE INN

Cooperage Inn has a to-go Thanksgiving menu this year. Order ahead by the day before and pick up your hot meal on Nov. 25 between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The menu is a la carte, so prices will vary. 2218 Sound Ave., Baiting Hollow (Calverton), cooperageinn.com, 631-727-8994.

CRABTREE’S RESTAURANT

Crabtree’s Restaurant also offers a to-go menu for $42 per person, which includes your choice of appetizer and entree. There are also children’s options, and it comes with a family dessert platter. 226 Jericho Tpke., Floral Park, crabtreesrestaurant.com, 516-326-7769.

DAVENPORT PRESS RESTAURANT

Dine out at Davenport Press this Thanksgiving. The restaurant still has reservations available online for Nov. 25. There will be a special menu with your choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert. $54.95 for adults, $29.95 for children under 10. 70 Main St., Mineola, davenportpress.com, 516-248-8300.

EAST WIND LONG ISLAND

Enjoy fine dining at East Wind. From noon to 5 p.m., the restaurant will serve a full Thanksgiving buffet with turkey and all the fixings. $59.95 for adults, $34.95 for children 3-10, and free for children 2 and under. Reservations are required. 5720 NY-25A, Wading River, eastwindlongisland.com, 631-929-6585.

HARBOR MIST

Join Harbor Mist for delicious autumn eats on Thanksgiving. Reservations are a must, and the restaurant will also take to-go orders between noon and 6 p.m. $57 for adults, $32 for children 12 and under. 105 Harbor Rd., Cold Spring Harbor, harbormistrestaurantli.com, 631-659-3888.

MILLERIDGE INN

Milleridge Inn will offer both a dine-in and to-go Thanksgiving dinner menu. Reservations/pre-orders are required. Prices vary — if you dine in, there is a pre-fixe option and a buffet option. 585 North Broadway, Jericho, milleridgeinn.com, 516-931-2201.

MILL POND RESTAURANT

Mill Pond will have a full, a la carte menu and holiday specials available on Thanksgiving from noon to 8 p.m. Call to make a reservation now. 437 East Main St., Centerport, millpondrestaurant.com, 631-261-7663.

THOM THOM RESTAURANT

Thom Thom’s Thanksgiving Celebration Menu includes your choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert. The restaurant will serve guests from 1 to 7 p.m. $55 per person. 3340 Park Ave., Wantagh, thomthomrestaurant.com, 516-221-8022.

THYME

Choose from dining in, catering, or taking out a cold meal to heat up later from Thyme this Thanksgiving. Pre-orders or reservations are required. The restaurant will serve guests from 1 to 7:30 p.m. 8 Tower Pl., Roslyn, thymenewyork.com, 516-625-2566.

UNCLE BACALA’S

Enjoy a Thanksgiving meal or eat from Uncle Bacala’s regular menu. $49.95 per person for the special menu. Call to make a reservation. 2370 Jericho Tpke., unclebacala.com, Garden City Park, 516-739-0505.

WILD HONEY RESTAURANT

Wild Honey’s pre fixe Thanksgiving menu features many options for starters, entrees, and desserts. The regular menu will not be available. $59 per person. 1 E. Main St., Oyster Bay, wildhoneyrestaurant.com, 516-922-4690.

WINDOWS ON THE LAKE

Get fancy with a Thanksgiving dinner on the lake or stay in and order a feast on the go from Windows on the Lake. Seatings start at 12:30 p.m., and prices vary. Call for reservations. 235 Lake Shore Rd., Ronkonkoma, windows-on-the-lake.business.site, 631-737-0088.

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AG James’ Office to Investigate Alleged Sexual Misconduct at Babylon Schools

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New York State Attorney General Letitia James in New York City, U.S., November 19, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office will investigate widespread allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct in the Babylon School District, James announced on Tuesday.

During a school board meeting last week, dozens of former Babylon High School students revealed their stories of experiencing alleged sexual misconduct by coaches and teachers. They came forward after a 28-year-old woman shared her story with News12 about a coach, who no longer works at the school, who she alleges groomed her from when she was 16 years old and then sexually abused her when she was in college. She also detailed the alleged abuse in a letter to the Babylon school board.

“Every student on Long Island and across New York deserves to feel safe and protected at school,” James said in a statement. “The reports of sexual abuse of students at the hands of their teachers and coaches are troubling and must be investigated.

“My office is launching an investigation into the Babylon School District over these disturbing allegations,” she continued. “The safety and wellbeing of students — both past and present — is of utmost importance, and we will do everything in our power to protect their right to a safe learning environment.”

Current Babylon High School students staged a walk-out in protest after hearing of the allegations against some of their teachers and coaches at the board meeting. The school district also reassigned five employees after the allegations made at the meeting.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone expressed support for James’ investigation and commended those who came forward.

“I am in awe of the courageous individuals who have come forward, both former and current students, to tell their stories,” Bellone said in a statement. “Their allegations must be thoroughly investigated and I’m confident that will now happen with the Attorney General’s investigation.

“Finally, as a parent with children who attend the Babylon school district, I also want to acknowledge the many outstanding teachers and professionals that I have personally encountered for the outstanding work they do for my kids and all of the children in our district,” he added.

According to News12, a former Babylon school board president had noticed a culture of sexual misconduct for many years but allegations were not taken seriously.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department are also investigating the allegations, the DA’s office said in a statement.

“In light of the announcement of the civil investigation, the District Attorney’s Office and Police Department advise any person that believes he or she was the victim of a crime to contact the Suffolk County Police Department’s Special Victims Section at 631-852-6167,” the statement said.

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Helping Hand Rescue Mission Offers The Gift of Giving

rescue mission
Volunteers help wrap and distribute toys to families in need with children each holiday season. (Courtesy The Rev. Kimberly Gaines-Gambino)

In 1965 in Huntington, a newlywed couple began feeding struggling families out of a space they rented on New York Avenue.

The Rev. Rose Marie Gaines and her husband the Rev. Jim Gaines fed 10 people that Thanksgiving and from there grew the community initiative, Helping Hand Rescue Mission. Fifty-six years later, the mission founders’ daughter, the Rev. Kimberly Gaines-Gambino, has taken over as president and expects to distribute food to more than 1,200 families this Thanksgiving.

“We’re looking forward to a great season of helping a lot of families,” Gaines-Gambino says. 

Year round, Helping Hand Rescue Mission runs a food and clothing pantry, also known as the Helping Hand Rescue Mission Community Closet, Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. It also holds a weekly Baby Blessings distribution program at a local church. Mothers in need stop by to get essentials, such as baby clothes, diapers, wipes, formula, strollers, cribs, and toys. The Mission receives donations from community members and through partnerships with organizations.

“We have appreciated so much, especially during these times that have been so challenging, the amazing support we have received from the community,” Gaines-Gambino says. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the help of people.”

Before the Covid pandemic, the Mission served about 90 people on average per week. At the pandemic’s height, volunteers served 500 or more people per week. Now, there are about 250 people seeking assistance weekly.

Recognizing that many families cannot afford presents around Christmastime, Helping Hand Rescue Mission holds a large toy drive in December. Volunteers wrap the new gifts and distribute bagsfull in a drive-through fashion to families. 

Other yearly events include the Mission’s Family Fall Fun Day, coat and backpack drives, and kids’ Easter celebration. In the past, the Mission held an annual Christmas party but has not returned to the event since the pandemic began. 

Helping Hand Rescue Mission has continued its Thanksgiving tradition of providing meals to families in need, but also in a different way since 2020. Community members now participate in “Fill a Box, Feed a Family,” in which they decorate and fill a box with food that registered families can pick up at a scheduled time and use for their Thanksgiving meals.

“Without even planning for it to be this way, it gives families an opportunity to come together to help another family,” Gaines-Gambino says. “The families we serve want to have Thanksgiving at home. To be able to cook and be with your family on the holidays is very special.”

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Mount Sinai South Nassau’s Long Beach Emergency Unit Closes After Vaccine Mandate Creates Staff Shortage

long beach emergency
Dr. Adhi Sharma, president of MSSN, speaks at a groundbreaking for a new emergency building in June. (Courtesy Mount Sinai South Nassau)

Mount Sinai South Nassau’s emergency department in Long Beach closed Monday and will not reopen for at least a few weeks due to nursing staff shortages that resulted from the state’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, the Oceanside-based hospital announced.

The decision to close the facility came after the New York State Department of Health’s order on Thursday to suspend hospital staff who had temporarily claimed religious exemptions from getting the vaccine and could not show proof of first dose, and those who did not present a valid medical exemption, the hospital’s news release stated. Mount Sinai South Nassau (MSSN) did not immediately respond to The Press’s request for how many nurses the hospital let go due to the mandate.

“We regret having to take this step but the safety of our patients is always our No. 1 priority,” Dr. Adhi Sharma, president of MSSN, said in a statement. “This will allow us to shift nursing staff to the Oceanside campus to ensure that we maintain adequate staffing at the Emergency Department at our main campus.”

The hospital is currently recruiting new staff members who can show proof of receiving a first dose of the Covid vaccine or a valid medical exemption. It aims to reopen around Dec. 15 given the staffing shortage has been resolved.

MSSN’s free-standing emergency medical facility in Long Beach, which opened in 2015, serves the barrier island, and MSSN officials say they’ll continue serving that population. An ambulance will stay on site at the Long Beach location and bring emergency patients to the main hospital’s emergency room in Oceanside.

“We are committed to serving residents of the barrier island,” Sharma said. “This closure should not be interpreted as anything beyond what it is – a temporary measure designed to relieve current staffing challenges in our Emergency Department. Our nurses, physicians and support staff have been on the frontlines of the pandemic for more than 21 months. We will continue to be there for our patients.”

The Long Beach emergency department gets about 10,000 visits annually, with most patients being treated on site without needing to be transferred to the main Oceanside campus, hospital officials said.

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Long Island Climate, Labor Leaders Advocate for Build Back Better Act

build back better
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Congressional Democrats discuss the 'Build Back Better Act' and climate investments during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., November 17, 2021. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

Environmental and labor leaders on Long Island gathered Tuesday to bring one message to congressional elected officials: vote “yes” on the Build Back Better Act.

Advocates specifically called upon Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) and Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Syosset) to vote in favor of the bill, which would fund projects in offshore wind, solar, battery storage, clean transportation, and more, while simultaneously creating union jobs nationwide.

“The Build Back Better Act is a transformational investment of funds for America to fight climate change,” said Adrienne Esposito, director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. 

“The talk about what climate change will bring us from 20 years ago has now become the climate crisis reality of today. We can no longer wait; we must act.”

The bill would invest $555 billion to lower greenhouse gas emission by 50% by 2030. This would add an average of 1.5 million jobs each year for the next 10 years, said Matthew Aracich, Long Island Building and Construction Trades.

“The Build Back Better Act is the answer to fighting climate change while addressing the lingering effects of Covid that have been plaguing our economy,” he said. “It will also invest in communities that all too often have been left behind.”

In addition to addressing climate change, President Joe Biden’s bill offers funds for clean drinking water, housing assistance, small business assistance, cybersecurity programs, universal pre-school, childcare, and more.

The U.S. House of Representatives will have enough votes to pass the bill after the Congressional Budget Office publishes a complete cost estimate for the plan, Democratic House member Dan Kildee told CNN.

The $1.75 trillion proposal aims to expand the social safety net in the United States and boost climate change policy. The CBO anticipates publishing a complete cost estimate by Friday, Nov. 19.

-With Reuters (Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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Officials Unveil New LIRR Station in Elmont Ahead of UBS Arena Opening

elmont
Lt. Governor Brian Benjamin and Acting MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber host a ceremonial first train ride and ribbon cutting at the LIRR Elmont station, the first new Long Island Rail Road station in nearly 50 years. (Marc A. Hermann / MTA)

Government and transportation officials unveiled the first new Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station in nearly 50 years on Tuesday in Elmont.

The Elmont LIRR station will open to riders on Saturday, Nov. 20, the same day that the New York Islanders play their first home game at the brand-new UBS Arena, located at Belmont Park.

“Nothing says New York is back like building bigger and better transportation infrastructure,” said Gov. Kathy Hochul. “Just in time for the Islanders’ season opener, the start of service for the first new LIRR station in 50 years is the type of project that my administration will continue to pursue as we strive to make Long Island more accessible and give Long Islanders the quality public transportation they deserve.”

Riders will be able to travel eastbound from the Elmont station. Westbound service will be added in summer 2022. Both platforms are still being completed. Once finished, the station will feature:

  • two 12-car-long, high-level platforms with canopies

  • elevators that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act

  • a pedestrian overpass

  • USB charging stations

  • Help Points

  • security cameras

  • digital signs with train arrival information

  • Wi-Fi 

  • snow melting system embedded in the concrete of the platforms to ensure they are ice-free after winter storms

Officials, including State Sen. Todd Kaminsky, MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber, and others, took a ceremonial first ride from Jamaica station to Elmont station on Tuesday to celebrate.

“As New York continues its comeback, this beautiful, modern new station will provide our customers with the fastest, safest and greenest way to get to the state-of-the-art UBS Arena,” Lieber said. “This station delivers amenities and conveniences that give customers the ability to enjoy New York Islanders games, concerts and all of the fantastic events that will happen here, further incentivizing them to return to mass transit.”

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