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Some Long Island Primary Frontrunners Declare Victory While Challengers Await Absentee Ballot Count

Workers prepare ballots from a drop box for the mail sorting machine during the presidential primary at King County Elections ballot processing center in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

July 1 marked the first day absentee ballots from last week’s primary election started being tabulated, but some frontrunners have already declared victory based on unofficial results.

Unofficial tallies released by both Nassau and Suffolk County boards of elections reflect ballots cast in person, but turnout averaged around 5.5 percent, according to election commissioners. Due to coronavirus, there was a significant increase in absentee ballots in the primaries. The question now is if candidates in the lead from in-person votes will maintain their frontrunner status after the paper ballots are counted, a process that could take weeks.

Historically, “the paper matches the machine,” James Scheuerman, the Nassau Democratic elections commissioner, told the Press.

Primary election participation has traditionally been low on Long Island, but turnout was higher this year due to the Democratic presidential primary, which former Vice President Joe Biden clinched in his bid to unseat Republican President Donald Trump. As of June 29, Scheuerman said 48,176 absentee ballots for the Democratic presidential primary had been received by the Nassau Board of Elections. In comparison, 34,278 ballots were cast at Nassau polls for the same race.

Candidates may have only 5 to 7 business days to wait until official results are released, Scheuerman estimates. State law mandates that absentee ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received by June 30 to be counted. While Nassau and Suffolk elections boards have both invested in high-speed tabulators that can count up to 300 ballots per minute, Scheuerman says that the upcoming July 4 holiday could delay results.

Mail-in ballots also require additional processing to make sure there are no instances of double-voting, or a voter submitting both a mail-in ballot and voting at the polls.

CONGRESSIONAL PRIMARIES

In the much-watched first congressional district on the East End of LI, turnout in the 2018 Democratic primary nearly doubled that of 2016, jumping from 7.9 to 14 percent.

Candidates awaiting the final count are businessman Perry Gershon of East Setauket, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Southampton), Stony Brook University professor Nancy Goroff, and business strategist Gregory-John Fischer of Calverton.

“As we await the counting of votes, Democrats should be united in our need to support the primary’s winner over incumbent Lee Zeldin,” said Gershon, the primary frontrunner seeking a rematch of his 2018 race against the congressman.

In the second congressional district on the South Shore of Nassau and southwestern Suffolk, New York State Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) had enough of a significant lead over his opponent, Assemblyman Michael LiPetri (R-Massapequa), that Garbarino declared victory for the Republican line in the race to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford).

“I’m proud of this victory, and even more proud of our campaign,” Garbarino said. “However, this is just the beginning.”

Jesse Garcia, chairman of the Suffolk County Republican Committee, said that “the math is in our favor,” referring to historical trends that mail-in ballots match the results of in-person voting.

“We were very heartened to see that Andrew Garbarino had secured 65 percent of the vote,” he said, emphasizing that the committee is still waiting for official results.

In the Democratic primary to decide who will face the Republican in the second congressional district, candidate and attorney Patricia Maher also expressed the need to wait for official results, but questioned potential issues with the democratic process at the polls. Maher shared a story about a longtime voter whose name was initially not found on the roster. She persisted, and was finally allowed to vote.

Maher’s opponent, former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon of Copiague, who declared victory on the night of the primaries, also expressed concern regarding the issue, vowing to resolve voting concerns before the November general election.

A representative for the Suffolk County Democratic Committee said the committee was also waiting for official results before declaring a winner. The Nassau County Democratic Committee did not respond to requests for comment.

In the third congressional district on the North Shore of Nassau, western Suffolk, and eastern Queens, progressive challenger Melanie D’Arrigo announced she was awaiting official results, despite incumbent U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) celebrating victory by planting a yellow magnolia tree in his yard and Michael Weinstock, another candidate, conceding the primary to Suozzi.

In the fourth congressional district representing south central Nassau from Mineola and Hicksville to Long Beach, Hempstead Town Commissioner of Engineering Douglas Tuman declared victory in the Republican primary over Woodmere activist Cindy Grosz, who has not commented. The winner will face U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City).

And in the fifth congressional district, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), who represents a part of southwestern Nassau, maintained a commanding lead as his opponent Shaniyat Chowdhury kept his eye on official results. The district mostly falls under the jurisdiction of the New York City Board of Elections, where delays in reporting official numbers are expected.

STATE PRIMARIES

Candidates in a handful of New York State legislative primary races maintain that patience is a virtue.

In the North Fork’s second state Assembly district’s Democratic primary, businessman William Schleisner of Sound Beach, who received 500 in-person votes to former Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smiths’ 1,732, criticized his opponent’s victory declaration as disrespectful to voters and the democratic process.

“I am disappointed that my opponent took the opportunity to declare victory despite 80 percent of the electorate having not yet had their votes counted,” he said, asking Jens-Smith to rescind her declaration and emphasizing the need for patience. “It’s incredibly disrespectful to the voters who are putting their trust in absentee voting.”

Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio is running on the Republican line in that race in which the winner will replace state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), who is vying for the seat held by retiring state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) in the first state Senate district on the East End.

Competition was also fierce for five Democratic candidates vying to replace LaValle. Parents For Megan’s Law Executive Director Laura Ahearn of Port Jefferson said she was happy to be in the lead with 240 votes from the in-person vote, but the candidates are still awaiting final results with 18,000 mail-in votes to be counted in the race.

Rounding out that primary are Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni (D-North Haven), Suffolk County Community College political science student Skyler Johnson of Mt. Sinai, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), and Nora Higgins, a Public Employees Federation regional coordinator from Ridge.

Related Story: Long Island Primary Preview: Local Races To Watch

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Filters May Be Key To Reopening Malls, Which Were Bumped From Phase 4

Roosevelt Field Mall

New York State may require specialized air filters for malls, which were recently taken out of phase four of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown along with gyms and movie theaters.

Long Island leaders have been calling for malls to reopen sooner, citing their importance to the region’s economy, but state officials say without proper filtration, air conditioning systems could exacerbate the spread of COVID-19.

“Any malls that will open in New York, large malls, we will make it mandatory that they have air filtration systems that can filter out the COVID virus,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Monday during his latest pandemic press briefing.

High-efficiency particle air (HEPA) filters can be installed on top of pre-existing air conditioning or air filtration systems, the governor said. These filters can remove particles as small as 0.01 microns in diameter. By contrast, COVID-19’s particle has a diameter of around 0.125 microns.

“You look around the country, and you’re seeing malls, air conditioning systems, indoor spaces that have been problematic,” he said, alluding to an earlier comment that air conditioning systems were a point of concern in New York City’s indoor dining reopening.

While official U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that COVID-19 spreads primarily due to human-to-human contact, some experts say that air quality and circulation may be a factor in spreading the respiratory virus.

“I’ve seen protocols for malls, I’ve seen how detailed they are,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “If we can walk through Penn Station and go to places like Costco, it makes a lot of sense to me that we can reopen the malls.”

In New Jersey, malls reopened statewide Monday for the first time since mid-March, with restrictions such as capping capacity at 50 percent, social distancing, and mandatory face coverings. Some Connecticut malls have been open since May 20.

Aside from malls, all businesses and offices are also recommended to explore the possibility of adding COVID-rated filters to their air conditioning systems, Cuomo said.

Mall stores with entrances separate to the general mall entrance have been allowed to open since phase two.

Related Story: Curran To Cuomo: Open Long Island Malls Now

Related Story: Long Island Enters Phase 3 of Reopening

Related Story: Long Island Gym Owner Plans Class-Action Lawsuit After Reopening Bumped From Phase 4

For more coronavirus coverage, visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus

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Long Island Libraries Offer Curbside Pickup To Help Patrons Amid Pandemic

A man speaks with a library worker after receiving an unemployment form, as the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Hialeah, Florida, U.S., April 8, 2020. REUTERS/Marco Bello

As Long Island entered phase three of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown, local libraries are turning to curbside pickup to help patrons access physical collections without setting foot into the buildings themselves, in accordance with social distancing mandates. 

All 110 public libraries in Nassau and Suffolk counties are or soon will be offering contactless services. Though each library has its own policies for curbside pickup, in most areas, patrons can now reserve items at their local library online or by phone, and schedule an appointment for pickup. 

“We’re talking about reopening libraries, but they never stopped working,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters last week during a news conference outside the Farmingdale Library. 

While stay-at-home orders were in place, public libraries played a key role connecting patrons with digital collections, online services, and increased virtual programming. Nassau libraries approved up to 6,000 new library cards during stay-at-home orders, according to Nassau Library System Director Caroline Ashby, while Kevin Verbesey, director of the Suffolk Cooperative Library System, said the system saw up to 2,500 temporary library cards issued per month since mid-March. 

The new curbside pickups have been a hit.

“In our first week [of curbside pickup] alone, we were able to complete 180 transactions,” said Danielle Paisley, director of the Patchogue-Medford Library, one of the largest in the Suffolk system. 

The return process has also been designed with patrons’ safety in mind with returned books being placed in “quarantine,” to ensure proper sanitation. Library patrons in Suffolk can even reserve items from libraries system-wide using Live-brary.com, which connects libraries across the county, according to Verbesey.

Beyond standard library materials, Patchogue-Medford Library is pioneering a program that allows patrons to pick up print-outs.

“One of the services patrons are looking for is computer use, and it’s been difficult to let people in the library at this point,” Paisley said of the decision to add printing services to the curbside pickup menu. “We realized that most of the time, patrons use the computers to print.” 

Under the new program, patrons need only email the library with their specified documents, and the printed material would be available for curbside pickup.

This role is in addition to the unprecedented number of new patrons accessing digital collections, which include Overdrive (e-books and audiobooks), Flipster (e-magazines), and Kanopy (movies), among others. Across Suffolk, demand for digital collections increased by more than 50 percent, with a 50 percent jump in new and unique users, Verbesey says. The data show that patrons are not only discovering the library, but also all that the library has to offer beyond their collections. 

“We’ve seen a significant uptick in the use of homework help services, because of all the parents who are now homeschooling their kids,” Verbesey said, quoting the increase at around 25 percent.

He also noted that more patrons were calling in to ask librarians reference questions, as well as participating in community-building events such as online book groups and online storytimes. While fielding huge patron demand, libraries in Nassau and Suffolk counties also quickly responded to the COVID-19 crisis by 3D-printing personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.

“Our libraries are here, no matter what, and we’re very grateful for them,” said Curran.

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Plainview Fairway Market Closing As Grocery Chain Shutters

Fairway is slated to open on Wednesday. Photo by Christina Santucci

Fairway Market in Plainview is closing after an unsuccessful effort by its parent company to sell it and three other Fairway Market grocery stores after declaring bankruptcy in January.

The Plainview store, located in Manetto Hill Plaza, was Fairway Market’s last location on Long Island. A 2014 bid to expand into Suffolk County via a location in Lake Grove proved unsuccessful, with the store closing within two years of its debut.

The move comes after legal documents in May showing that Fairway Market expected “mass layoffs,” affecting up to 2,412 employees. In addition to stores, Fairway’s distribution center and corporate headquarters in New York City are also closing.

In an announcement on social media, Fairway Market stated that ownership of the brand, as well as five New York City locations, had been purchased by Village Super Market, owner and operator of Shop-Rite stores.

“We want to thank the 1,400 Fairway associates that have kept this business running through the turmoil of the last seven years and more importantly the last three months,” the company wrote on their Facebook page, calling their employees “front-line heroes.” Village Super Market did not return a request for comment.

Founded in 1933 on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Fairway Market gradually expanded with the Plainview location opening in 2001 as the chain’s first store on Long Island. The store employed 95 associates at time of closing and boasted a loyal customer base, including Suffolk resident Barbara Blumberg, who described travelling “30-45 minutes” to patronize the store.

With its motto of “The Place to Go Fooding,” Fairway was a treasured local chain for the Greater New York area, describing itself as “the iconic market like no other” and “New York’s favorite grocery store.”

“We are committed to establishing a neighborhood presence, improving the offering of these specialty markets, and providing a memorable experience in the products and services we offer,” Fairway Market stated of its direction under new ownership.

Other Fairway locations have been converted by new owners into an Amazon Go store in Paramus, N.J., and a Foodway Supermarket in the Georgetowne neighborhood of Brooklyn, operated by Key Food, Inc.

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Long Island Summer Camps Pivot for a COVID-19 Season, Campinar Panelists Say

Getty Images

While Gov. Cuomo has banned overnight camps for the summer, would-be campers have no fear — Long Island summer camps are still offering a plethora of both virtual and on-site options this summer that echo the traditional camp experience.

That’s according to the panelists in this week’s Campinar, a webinar hosted by Schnep’s Media, the parent company of the Long Island Press. The panel of camp professionals from across LI discussed this summer’s camp landscape.

For camps revolving around digital technology and gaming, going virtual may even add to the camp experience. This summer is no exception to a growing trend of technology-focused camps that teach kids how to code or design video games. 

Panelist and Hofstra University Continuing Education associate director Jessica Dease revealed that video game development and eSports, a form of competitive multiplayer gaming, were among the most popular choices for campers today because “it’s something out of the academic box.” In particular, the immersive nature of a virtual camp would allow for campers across a wide age range to “learn the technology and the coding behind [eSports], as well as compete with each other.”

“Being at a large university and having different offerings allow for many different individuals to be able to come together and connect with one another, whether it’s in a larger group or a smaller group,” said panelist Terence Ryan, director of Hofstra University Continuing Education.

Higher levels of collaboration can come without a university backing, however, and is one of the core benefits of an online experience, several of the panelists echoed. SummerTech, a camp based out of SUNY Purchase whose offerings include Python, 3D modeling, and web design, plans to join the digital nature of the camps’ content and their newly digital platform. According to founder Steven Fink, campers will be able to easily share their work with one another using the screenshare feature on Zoom, while the chatting app Discord will enable them to bond over various electives or social gatherings.

“Students are engaging in the material that they’re working on and better able to collaborate in a way that allows them to achieve a common goal,” Head of School Tiffany Belferder said of Fusion Academy, a program that emphasizes customized learning for middle and high school students. “It’s a group learning opportunity.” 

This summer, Fusion will offer both small-group online camps as well as personalized summer school for those whose learning has been adversely impacted by school closures.

Building a real, social community is one of the main functions of camp, the panelists agreed. Yet while Fink seeks to accomplish this via Discord events that turn “geek culture” into more social gatherings, Mark Transport of Crestwood Country Day Camp seeks to take this summer one step closer to normal by offering an in-person, onsite program in Melville.

“This virtual meeting here is the antithesis of what camp is about,” Transport joked, referencing the Zoom webinar. “Right now, all kids are doing is communicating on their phones, but camp is a place where we are really socially bringing kids together again.”

Coordinating an in-person day camp is no easy feat when strict health protocols are necessary to ensure the wellbeing of everyone involved, from staff to campers. Transport explained that some measures that will be taken include no bussing, electrostatic spray gun disinfection, cancelling rain days to limit amount of time spent indoors, requiring a COVID-19 test for each participant and staff member prior to the first day of camp, and small group activities as opposed to camp-wide gatherings. Kids will also not be required to wear masks on the 17-acre property, with Transport stressing the need to maintain participants’ mental health and retain an overall sense of normalcy.

“The way I look at it, this will be the most rewarding and important summer in my 26 years of operating camp,” he said.

Though this summer may not feature the traditional camp activities families and campers hoped for, 

“It’s not too late to think forward to 2021,” says Laurel Barrie of The Camp Connection, a free “summer camp matchmaking” service that connects families with the best option for their budgetary, geographic, religious, and personal preferences.

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Hard-Working Federal Judge Arthur Spatt Dies

U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt

U.S. District Judge Arthur Spatt, who presided over some of the most high profile cases in recent memory at Central Islip federal court, died Friday. He was 94.

The World War II veteran spent a lifetime serving New York, often describing himself as “just a lucky kid from Brooklyn,” according to Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. 

“He had the best reputation for his capacity to do an enormous amount of work, and to churn out a huge number of cases,” said longtime colleague former U.S. District Court Judge Jack Weinstein, a fellow World War II veteran who retired in February as the then-longest serving federal judge in the nation. “He probably was the hardest working district judge in the country, working seven days a week.”

After surviving a kamikaze attack as a navigation petty officer in the U.S. Navy, Spatt went on to receive a law degree from Brooklyn Law School on the GI Bill. He worked in private practice as well as various New York State courts before his appointment to the federal bench in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush.

Spatt’s devotion to his life’s work as a judge was exemplified by a final, uncompleted wish. According to an email sent by Donoghue to his staff, Spatt had once shared his “hope to be found in my chambers, quietly passed away with the last decision on my desk and signed.”

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, however, Spatt’s last days as a judge were spent telecommuting from his Commack home. Despite a 6-year battle with blood cancer, the senior judge never took less than a full caseload, though he had not been required to do so since 2004.

Of the many cases spanning his 31-year career as federal judge, Spatt was known for a nearly $1 million ruling against a Muttontown couple who mistreated two Indonesian housekeepers as slaves. He also presided over the trial of former Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Ed Walsh, who was convicted of corruption.

That Spatt counted among his heroes President Abraham Lincoln, baseball player Lou Gehrig, and trial lawyer Henry Miller of White Plains, who died in April of the coronavirus, indicates the range with which Spatt engaged with his community and his country.

“He was a light to all those involved in federal practice,” Weinstein said.

Spatt is preceded in death by his wife Dorothy, known as Dee, and is survived by five daughters, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

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