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Dana Chiueh

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Dana Chiueh is an editorial intern for the Long Island Press based in East Setauket. She studies communication and computer science at Stanford University. When not covering Long Island news or investigations, she can be found exploring Suffolk County, reading, or tinkering around on her film camera.

Bowling Alley Owners Call For Reopening From Coronavirus Shutdown

Bowling for a cause. (Photo by Ed Shin)

Bowling alley owners who say their businesses are an integral part of Long Island communities have prepared extensive safety protocols they hope will convince Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow them to reopen.

Bowling centers are prepared to implement safety measures that include screening all visitors, social distancing by using every other alley, instituting half an hour of extensive cleaning between parties using the same alley, delivering refreshments to each group rather than having them walk up to the counter, and contact tracing protocols in line with state efforts.

“Some in government may consider bowling nonessential, or not important enough to reopen right now,” said Chris Keller, owner of The All Star in Riverhead. “But we are the fiber of many communities.”

Despite LI being in the fourth and final phase of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown, industries that have yet to get the green light to reopen include catering halls, gyms, and bowling alleys.

Despite most bowling centers clocking in at a spacious 30,000 to 40,000 square feet, under the proposal, each bowling alley lane would also be limited to four players in an effort to minimize crowds.

For local officials, the issue is bigger than the need for summer recreation. Bowling centers are small businesses that have contributed much to communities across LI, and now need community support more than eve.

“Bowling centers offer fun and family-friendly recreation and access to a beloved pastime by employing more than 9,000 New Yorkers and providing tens of millions of dollars in economic activity and tax revenue,” said New York State Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Hicksville).

Brenda Shasho, second-generation owner of Massapequa Bowl, emphasized the role of bowling centers in hosting events for seniors and handicapped individuals, as well as hosting fundraisers for local charitable causes like the Boys and Girls Club.

“We are reaching a point that if we do not open soon, we will lose everything that we built for the last 30 years,” Shasho stated, saying that the state’s expectation that bowling proprietors continue to pay “incredibly large” tax bills despite not being allowed to operate constituted an “unjust and unfair situation.”

Keller emphasized that bowling center owners were committed to their patrons’ safety, with him spending $20,000 personally to modify his business. However, fixed costs, including mortgages, electrical bills, and property taxes continue to eat into financial reserves, and two of the roughly 300 bowling centers statewide have already closed permanently.

Another group disproportionately impacted by bowling centers’ closures have been high school hopefuls on the competitive circuit, where upwards of $90 million in college scholarships are up for grabs for the NCAA Division I sport.

Even among these students, the COVID-19 pandemic may be exacerbating social inequities.

“Students who cannot afford to or are not able to travel to other states to train are losing their competitive edge,” said Amy Sheldon, a high school bowling coach.

State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin (D-Rockville Centre) pointed out that with bowling centers open safely in New Jersey and Connecticut, unnecessary interstate travel may have increased that could have been avoided by simply opening centers stateside.

“Governor Cuomo, we are ready,” said Keller. “We just need your guidance.”

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

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Coronavirus Concerns Loom Over Fall College Semester Plans on Long Island

Masks and social distancing will be part of the college curriculum this fall. (Getty Images)

After an impromptu remote spring semester thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities across Long Island are developing measures to ensure a safe fall semester.

Of the 15 institutions on LI, only Touro College and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy have not yet released plans for the new academic year as of press time. Officials at other institutions warn that despite their plans, policies may still be subject to change.

“We need reopening plans, monitoring plans, containment plans, and shutdown plans,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said of colleges in September.

Experts have warned that Thanksgiving break may result in a spike in cases as students travel nationwide. As a result, all colleges will be operating remotely after the holiday, many shifted their academic calendars, and Stony Brook University cancelled fall break.

LESSON IN SAFETY

When it comes to health department guidance, colleges are leaving no stone unturned. Face coverings will be mandated in all spaces, gatherings will be limited, and common areas shut down. Hygiene and social distancing signs, plexiglass barriers, plentiful hand sanitizer, and increased surveillance are all a part of the “new normal” outlined in each college’s reopening plan.

New York Institute of Technology is upgrading its HVAC systems to eliminate viral particles through filtration, said President Hank Foley. Meanwhile, Adelphi University unveiled a new Health and Wellness Office to increase its health response.

Temperature checks and health screenings via smartphone apps will become a facet of students’ routines. At St. Joseph’s College and SBU, students will be required to fill out the screenings every morning they are on campus. At Molloy College, all individuals will have to take their temperature at a kiosk prior to entering any building.

SETTING UNSETTLED

Most local institutions have announced an array of education formats to be offered in the fall semester, including synchronous online learning through platforms such as Zoom, asynchronous online learning (prerecorded videos), hybrid classes that have students alternating between in-person and remote elements, and fully in-person classes, especially for hands-on, experiential education such as laboratory work.

At Adelphi and Molloy, an additional HyFlex course option is available, “offering students the option to participate live, synchronously, or asynchronously,” according to Adelphi. Students choosing this option can attend in-person, watch lectures live, or watch recordings, for maximum flexibility.

This flexibility may be important to accommodate out-of-state or international students who may struggle with time zone issues, inability to travel to campus, or new restrictions on student visas. Students with health concerns can also benefit from a home environment.

However, accreditation requirements for certain degree programs may pose a challenge for students in a largely remote semester. Programs such as Farmingdale State College’s professional pilot program require demonstrated hands-on experience, necessities the college says applies to around 35 percent of its students.

Webb Institute, Long Island University Post, and Five Towns College are forging ahead with all in-person instruction, keeping in mind social distancing and sanitation within classrooms.

“We also are adjusting class schedules to allow for more time between classes, because we know it will take longer to get from place to place on campus safely,” Hofstra University wrote in an announcement. 

Both Nassau and Suffolk County Community Colleges are anticipating a largely remote reopening; at SCCC, 88 percent of all classes offered will be completely remote.

By contrast, FSC announced its intentions to have “an on-campus experience that includes no more than one-third to one-half of its students and faculty on campus on any given day.”

DORM LIFE

Most schools with residential programs are reducing dormitory capacity and encouraging students to seek off-campus housing or live at home, in efforts to promote social distancing, which can be a challenge in a shared living space. However, if a student resident has been exposed to the virus, there will be isolation areas.

Hofstra announced that in dormitories, “students will be assigned to use only one sink, one shower and one bathroom throughout the semester to reduce the number of people sharing facilities.” Elevator capacity will also be capped at two.

SUNY College at Old Westbury will be the only local residential college not offering student housing in fall 2020, citing the possible need to house first responders if the temporary COVID-19 hospital constructed on its campus is activated in a second wave.

Among LI college officials, Webb Institute President Keith Michel was alone in requiring that all students reside on campus, citing a 130-year tradition. 

“The overwhelming majority of students, faculty, and staff have expressed a desire to return to campus in the fall,” he wrote.

Related Story: Back To School Season Anxiety Abounds on Long Island Amid Coronavirus Uncertainty

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Racial Justice Marches Spark Police Reforms on Long Island

Protestors kneel on Merrick Avenue in Merrick. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

As racial justice protests continue across Long Island, police and lawmakers are debating how best to address the issue of police brutality without handcuffing officers’ ability to effectively protect communities they serve.

There have been more than 100 protests against police brutality on LI since a Minneapolis police officer allegedly murdered George Floyd in May, triggering nationwide demonstrations that have been dubbed the largest-scale civil rights movement in American history. New York State, Nassau and Suffolk counties and some villages have all proposed, and in some cases enacted, police reforms in response — prompting some soul searching along the way.

“As someone that has always been law-abiding … I’ve been called ‘boy,’ I’ve had guns drawn, I’ve had a gun held up to me, and it’s from law enforcement,” said Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport), one of two Black members of the county legislature. “So when I get pulled over, even in Suffolk County, until the point where that officer recognizes who I am, I’m terrified.” 

The national reckoning on race relations has prompted nationwide calls to defund police departments and reallocate the taxpayer money to social services programs as was enacted in New York City, but local leaders have resisted the idea.

Some measures have been more symbolic, such as the Village of Hempstead, the municipality with the highest density of Black residents on the Island, renaming its Main Street “Black Lives Matter Way.”

The New York State Capitol in Albany. (Shutterstock)

STATEWIDE REFORMS

New York State lawmakers passed police reforms in June. Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law a 10-bill legislative package that included a ban on police using chokeholds, mandated that New York State Police wear body cameras, and designating as hate crimes false accusations made to 911 based on religion, race, or other identifiers.

Most notable was the repeal of a 1976 law that allowed police departments to shield disciplinary records from public scrutiny. For years, critics of the law had called for greater transparency, while backers said the law protected the privacy of essential workers.

“They are passing legislation that is actively hurtful and detrimental to law enforcement officers and their careers,” Suffolk Police Benevolent Association President Noel DiGerolamo, who represents rank-and-file police officers, said in a radio interview. 

Cuomo also created the New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative in which 500 police departments statewide are mandated to reform with community input by April or risk losing state funding.

“We’re not going to be as a state government subsidizing improper police tactics,” Cuomo said.

Local officials expressed confidence in county training programs. 

“I believe our academy is world class,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said, touting the department’s language assistance and hate crime training. 

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran took it a step further and mandated anti-bias training for all county employees, not just members of law enforcement.

Both the Nassau and Suffolk police have been under consent decrees requiring the U.S. Department of Justice monitor their hiring practices to avoid discrimination since the 1980s. Suffolk police also remains subject to DOJ review of its relations with the Hispanic community as part of a 2014 discrimination lawsuit settlement.

Police separate a crowd of rally attendees and counter-protesters at a Back The Blue Demonstration at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on July 25, 2020. Photo by Mira Lerner.

POLICE PUSHBACK

As the marches and police reforms advance, several pro-police Back The Blue rallies have been formed in response. 

The Nassau County Legislature launched a Blue Ribbon Initiative, encouraging residents to show support for police officers by displaying a blue ribbon outside their home or business. And lawmakers expressed concern for officers’ health and safety while juggling marches and pandemic rules enforcement on top of daily duties. 

“This notion of defunding the police, that somehow we don’t need police, it just doesn’t work,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

“When you speak to defunding the police, you’re eliminating core services, which is going to affect minority communities the most,” DiGerolamo said, noting that the majority of 911 calls come from minority communities.

A pair of Suffolk County police officers patrol Main Street on Islip on foot on Thursday, April 9, 2020. (Long Island Press photo)

REBUILDING TRUST

Officials recognize the need for improving relations between police and the communities. 

“Current events have demonstrated that people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds are frustrated with law enforcement, and they have some legitimate reasons to feel this way,” Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon, Jr. said while announcing the formation of an advisory board to provide community input on local policing efforts. 

“We have to change the culture in policing,” Hart said. “Making sure that every police officer is involved with the community… that has to be in the DNA of our department.”

In Nassau, Curran announced the creation of the Police and Community Trust committee that will join community activists with police officials for discussions on how to improve Nassau’s community policing model.

“As a young Black woman from this community I’m excited to have and push these conversations forward,” said Blair Baker, one of four community activists represented on PACT.

Advocates are still pushing for Nassau and Suffolk counterparts to New York City’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, a program instituted in 1993 that allows citizens to file complaints to a third party investigator rather than police departments. Another Nassau bill seeks to create an alternative reporting option for community members to reach a specialized mental health crisis response unit without calling 911. 

“How is it humanly possible that an officer who starts in the academy at about the age of 24-26 can be all that in every [emergency] situation?” retired 25-year NYPD officer Dennis Jones asked at a Long Island Advocates for Police Accountability rally.

“Our police officers are people too, and our system, the way it is currently structured, does not provide them the monitoring and the support that they need to be able to properly do their jobs in their communities,” said Rashmia Zatar, executive director of STRONG Youth, a Uniondale-based anti-gang violence nonprofit. 

She pointed to heightened substance abuse, domestic abuse, and suicide rates among police officers that have ripple effects on law enforcement’s abuses in community responses.

Freeport Police Body Camera
A Freeport police officer, now a detective, pictured several months ago wearing a body camera on his right shoulder. (Credit; Freeport Police Department)

BODY CAMERAS

Nassau and Suffolk lawmakers are also searching for vendors in anticipation of expanding police body-worn camera systems on Long Island. Suffolk previously experimented with a pilot program in 2017, while a $150,000 pilot in Nassau stalled in 2015 after objections from police unions.

Now, legislators are pushing to bring these programs to full deployment. Nassau Legislators Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) and Carrié Solages (D-Elmont), who were behind the 2014 effort, renewed their calls for a countywide bodycamera program.

“Suffolk County, New York State, and the entire nation are entering a new phase of understanding and advocacy with respect to the use of force by police and ensuring accurate monitoring of police activity,” Suffolk County Legislator Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) wrote in a recent resolution.

Body cams not only provide a record in case of police misconduct, but may also protect officers from being falsely accused, according to local police chiefs. While an important tool for maintaining objective records, clear protocols regarding when officers must turn the cameras on and when they are allowed to turn them off, are needed, lawmakers said.

As legislators are mulling how to pay for an expensive new program amid a pandemic-induced budget crisis, some local villages are taking matters into their own hands. The Village of Head of Harbor announced June 18 they would equip all officers with body cams. In 2015, the Village of Freeport was the first municipality in New York State to equip all 95 officers with body cameras. 

Ironically, a recent high profile police brutality case occurred in Freeport. A viral video from December shows 44-year-old Freeport resident Akbar Rogers screaming for help while being physically assaulted by police officers, one of whom is the mayor’s son. 

“But for the grace of God, this rally could have been my memorial service,” Rogers said at a rally June 29. “But for the grace of God, I could have ended up like George Floyd.”

Charges against Rogers for assaulting a police officer were dropped July 7. He has since filed a $25 million suit against the police department.

Long Island Segregation
Elaine Gross, president of ERASE Racism, a non-profit civil rights organization based in Syosset.

NEXT STEPS

Some advocates say the police reforms don’t address the underlying systemic racism on LI, such as the continuing practice of redlining — real estate agents steering minorities away from buying homes in predominantly white communities, exacerbating the region’s status as one of the most segregated suburbs in the nation.

Last month, Nassau Legislators Solages and Arnold Drucker (D-Plainview) proposed creating a database of racially restrictive covenants in housing policies, with the goal of educating the public on structural racism. Both Suffolk and Nassau legislatures also recently passed addendums to local human rights codes protecting natural hairstyles, protective hairstyles, and religious garments from discrimination.

“It’s important in this day and age, especially with the diversity of our county, that we recognize that these hairstyles and garments are important to people’s different cultures and faiths and they should be able to have those things without worrying about discrimination in terms of employment or housing,” said Nassau Legislature Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).

Advocates remain cautiously optimistic that real progress will be made.

“Governments at every level need to address the structural racism that underpins police brutality,” said Elaine Gross, president of E.R.A.S.E. Racism, a nonprofit that investigates housing discrimination. “Only then will the African American community be treated fairly by the police.”

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Back To School Season Anxiety Abounds on Long Island Amid Coronavirus Uncertainty

Parents, teachers, and students remain concerned about how safe school will be this fall. (Getty Images)

As local school districts get busy developing reopening plans for the upcoming school year, Long Island parents, teachers, and students have mixed emotions on the feasibility of going back to school during a pandemic.

School administrators are asked to come up with plans that incorporate social distancing, mask-wearing recommendations, frequent health screenings, and more measures that prioritize health and safety in accordance with health department guidance. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said the plans will be announced in early August. Yet many stakeholders remain skeptical of the idea of schools being able to stick to their plans. 

“Many kids have a hard time paying mind to their actions when it pertains to cleanliness and personal hygiene,” said Nicole Cast, an educator and parent from East Setauket.

Dora Zou, a rising sophomore at Ward Melville High School in Setauket, said she doesn’t believe schools reopening “in the middle of a pandemic” will be safe, considering the difficulty of enforcing mask-wearing among students.

Even under normal circumstances, diseases such as the common cold or flu easily spread in a school environment, and life in the time of COVID-19 is no different, according to some parents.

Though school-age children may statistically be less susceptible to deaths from COVID-19, Cast urged administrators to protect students battling chronic conditions. 

“This is a matter of life and death,” she said. “If they want kids back in school before a vaccine, they better darn well have a tight plan. No kid is sitting next to my child with asthma without a mask.”

“That’s one sneeze away from a disaster,” she added.

Teachers are also raising concerns about returning to an environment that puts them at risk, with lackluster support to enforce new guidelines. 

“In all honesty, I can’t see how recommended social distancing can take place with 30 to 32 students in a classroom,” said Mike Stencel, an English teacher at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. The school alone has more than 2,100 faculty, students, and staff.

New York State guidance encourages schools to take advantage of existing large spaces like gymnasiums and auditoriums for socially distant instruction, but in most schools, the number of classes clearly outweighs the number of large spaces available.

“We all want to go back to normalcy,” he said. “We all want to return to the profession we love. We all know that education is important and needs to commence in the traditional way…but it is both illogical and unethical to recklessly reopen schools without adhering to or following the advice of trained medical professionals.”

Stencel added that it is “irritating” to see elected officials leave reopening plans for school districts to figure out without concrete solutions or ideas.

The State Department of Education guidance released July 13 states that due to the size and diversity of the state “there will be no ‘one size fits all’ model for reopening our schools.” Instead, local education agencies can submit reopening plans that incorporate remote learning, in-person instruction, or a combination of both.

Instead of reopening in-person instruction prematurely, Cast hopes schools will “prepare for a stronger, more comprehensive plan to teach remotely,” citing the number of students who had a negative experience with distance learning in the latter half of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Rather than risk their children’s health in a group education setting, some families are turning to homeschool or private teaching options. A representative for Central Park Tutors, a private tutoring agency with operations in the East End, confirmed that the firm had seen unprecedented interest in its homeschooling services for Fall 2020.

Schools reopening affect more than students, teachers, and staff. While acknowledging her “selfish” excitement to see her friends again, Zou emphasized the threat of asymptomatic teachers and students bringing the virus home to their loved ones. 

“There could be students carrying pathogens without knowing it that could easily be transmitted to more vulnerable people,” she said. “Many people live with their grandparents, and with large gatherings of people happening again and many interactions, I’m really worried for the older people.”

“The real question is, ‘Should someone’s life be put at stake for others’ inconveniences?’” Cast concluded.

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Trump Tweets Support For Long Island Pizzeria Amid Flag Controversy

President Trump tweeted support for a Long Island pizzeria that generated controversy after flying a Keep America Great flag.

President Donald Trump tweeted support Thursday for a Long Island pizzeria that was subject of a local Facebook controversy after a customer complained about the store flying a “Keep America Great” flag.

The Patio Pizza in St. James was inundated with calls after the president’s tweet promoting the pizzeria days after the woman’s Trump flag complaint went viral in local social media groups.

“Support Patio Pizza and its wonderful owner, Guy Caligiuri, in St. James, Long Island (N.Y.),” tweeted Trump, who’s seeking a second term in November. “Great Pizza!!!” 

The president’s pizza promotion comes after he recently came under fire for his recent tweets in support of Goya Beans, which critics say is a breach of presidential ethics. Trump critics recently began boycotting Goya after the company’s CEO praised the president.

“I’m running out of pizza boxes!” Caligiuri told the Press.

He said that having been in business for more than 40 years, the customer’s in-store complaint and ensuing Facebook post didn’t faze him, despite the “nasty” comments that had been made. But what he didn’t expect was the “humbling” response.

“The response has just been incredible,’ Caligiuri said. “I’m getting people from all over Long Island, all over the nation, even from Cuba, and Australia saying they supported me.” 

He said a quasi-Trump rally broke out after the customer’s Facebook complaint.

There were Trump masks, T-shirts, hats,” he said. “At one point a man with a giant Trump flag sticking out of his sunroof drove by beeping loudly. The place went crazy with a huge ovation. Then a motorcycle drove by with a flag.” 

“It was awe-inspiring,” he added.

He doesn’t believe the community support is politically motivated. 

“The people who have supported me are coming out against bullying,” he said. 

“Just because they see a flag, they think they can judge me?” he said, noting that his store has been an active contributor to the community, donating “thousands” to support those affected by the COVID-19 crisis. “They don’t know me…They have to look beyond the flag.” 

The president’s pizza tweet received more than 106,000 likes and over 32,000 retweets as of Friday morning.

“People have been blowing up my phone, asking me if we ship,” an employee told Caligiuri.

To Caligiuri’s knowledge, Trump has never tried Patio Pizza.

It wasn’t the first time Trump has weighed in on a local controversy. The president repeatedly retweeted News12 Long Island reporter Kevin Vesey’s video showing Trump supporters harassing him at an anti-coronavirus lockdown rally in May. Trump retweeted the video with the chant the supporters used: “Fake news is not essential.”

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

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NY Probes Social Distancing Violations at Hamptons Drive-In Concert

The Chainsmokers performed at KTUphoria on Saturday, June 15, 2019. (Photo by Amanda de Lauzon)

Safe and Sound, a benefit concert Saturday that The Chainsmokers headlined in the Hamptons, may not have been so safe after all, prompting a New York State probe of alleged social distancing violations.

Social media videos from the event in Water Mill, show a not-so-distanced crowd of more than 3,000 attendees dancing and singing in close proximity. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday that health authorities would investigate the charity concert, which included performances by Goldman Sachs Group boss David Solomon, who goes by stage name DJ D-Sol.

“I am appalled,” Cuomo tweeted, calling the alleged violations egregious. “We have no tolerance for the illegal & reckless endangerment of public health.”

The drive-in event had space for about 600 cars. It was the first in a series of such concerts planned for the United States, according to its organizer’s website. It came as entertainment venues struggle to find new ways to organize performances amid crowd-size limits intended to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tickets for the event, hosted by promoter In the Know Experiences, ran from $250 to $25,000 for a package that included a personal RV. Proceeds from the event were donated to healthcare nonprofits such as the Children’s Medical Fund of NY and the Southampton Fresh Air Home.

The organizers said in a statement that they collaborated with all state and local health officials and the concert followed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines.

“The group that put this together did an incredible job in a difficult environment,” Solomon told Bloomberg.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and his band were also among the performers.

“It was a fun night,” Schneiderman said, noting a highly positive reception to his band’s original compositions with lyrics he had penned himself. But event promoters did not follow the plan they had submitted to the town for approval, he said. By the time The Chainsmokers had begun performing, the venue was “packed,” he added.

The governor said Tuesday that the New York State Department of Health is going to do a full investigation into how the concert plans were approved by town officials, how the event as it was going on was allowed to get out of control, and why law enforcement on site didn’t do anything to control the situation, Cuomo said, with the possibility of civil fines and criminal liability.

Original plans for the drive-in concert show the 100-acre field venue marked with “cubicles” for each group of attendees to park and stay in, where each cubicle is physically distanced from others, Schneiderman said. But officials did not foresee the rave pit that ended up forming at the base of the stage, nor the number of attendees per car.

“The pit was not part of the permit,” Schneiderman said, saying he was told upon complaining that the pit was for VIP attendees. “We had gone over the whole plan, to make sure all the safety requirements were met.”

“There were definitely some people who didn’t stay in their cubicle,” he added.

Schneider said that expectations had been for 2,000 attendees, while an estimated 3,000 showed up.

“We had police there, but had we known the organizer wasn’t going to aggressively enforce mask-wearing and social distancing, we would likely have had four times the number of law enforcement that was actually present,” he said.

Ninety percent of the people followed the rules and stayed in their area with their family group, according to Schneiderman, but the remaining non-compliant 10 percent would make him “reluctant” to approve another large-scale concert during a pandemic.

On August 6, Southampton Town will be sponsoring another drive-in concert, but Schneiderman is determined not to repeat the mistakes made with The Chainsmokers, an EDM group known for their hit single “Don’t Let Me Down.”

“We’re going to have 100 cars instead of 500, and we’ve been going over what went right and what went wrong, tweaking our plans,” he said.

Cuomo said the town is going to have to do better in the future.

“The concert that happened in Southampton was not only a gross violation of public health rules, it was a gross violation of common sense,” the governor said. “The Town of Southampton is going to have a problem. The promoters are going to have a problem. I don’t know how while it was going on, there wasn’t a response from law enforcement.”

-With Reuters

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

Crowds packed Jones Beach State Park on Saturday, July 18, 2020. Photo by Mira Lerner.

Shark sightings prompted officials to clear swimmers out of the water at South Shore Long Island beaches for the second day in a row Tuesday.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran tweeted that a shark was spotted at 3 p.m. off Jones Beach State Park Field 6. County officials closed Nickerson Beach in Lido Beach as a result. Ocean access was temporarily shut down at both Jones Beach and neighboring Long Beach as a result, but a representative of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Long Island office could not confirm whether the sightings were sharks, due to the presence of dolphins.

An investigation is ongoing. A Nassau County Police Department helicopter is monitoring the situation from the air.

The sightings come a day after shark sightings at Lido Beach West, Nickerson Beach, and Long Beach prompted all beaches along the South Shore to be temporarily shut down Monday with limited water access. A New York City woman was also killed in a rare shark attack in Maine on Monday.

All South Shore LI beaches reopened Tuesday, though some with restrictions. Prior to today’s sightings, Nickerson Beach visitors were limited to knee-deep water.

While town officials said they believed Monday’s sharks were of a “dangerous” and
“aggressive” bull shark, experts disagreed, saying the sightings were likely of sand tiger or sandbar sharks that are common around Long Island in warm weather.

The shark sightings and restrictions come during a heat wave that saw local officials extending beach opening hours across the Island.

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

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Long Island Restaurants Making Improvement on Social Distancing Compliance

Outdoor dining returned to Long Island in June following a three-month coronavirus shutdown. Photo by Mira Lerner.

More than 100 bars and restaurants across New York State were found violating social distancing mandates this weekend, mostly in New York City, but none were found in violation on Long Island, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

The governor commended Nassau and Suffolk counties for increased local enforcement of COVID-19 social distancing measures, saying that state patrol visits to Long Island establishments found that all had followed official guidance.

“Nassau and Suffolk have been doing much better,” Cuomo told reporters in a conference call with the press, contrasting LI’s successes with previous violations that prompted stern warnings.

Dox, a waterfront bar in Island Park, and Secrets Gentlemen’s Club, a strip club in Deer Park, recently had their liquor licenses suspended by the New York State Liquor Authority (SLA) for alleged social distancing violations. At Dox, 235 patrons were found in a space only approved for up to 42, while undercover investigators found maskless patrons enjoying prohibited lap dances, alcohol without food, and adult entertainment.

A new regulation that debuted July 16 mandates bar patrons order food along with alcoholic beverages, in an attempt to reduce stand-up “mingling” as opposed to seated, socially distant small gatherings, Cuomo said.

Summonses were also issued last week when state officials stopped by restaurants across New York State, including stops in Rockville Center and Baldwin. Statewide, 10 establishments had their liquor licenses suspended over the weekend, adding to a total of 40 during the pandemic. 

With Friday and Saturday seeing 52 and 53 summonses, respectively, across New York, Cuomo said more liquor licenses will likely be suspended as establishments accumulate more than three strikes.

“We don’t want to go backwards and have to take away bars and restaurants,” Cuomo concluded.

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American Airpower Museum To Host Air Show Saturday

AAM's Grumman TBM Avenger

The American Airpower Museum in East Farmingdale is roaring back from the coronavirus shutdown with a thrilling air show showcasing its historic military aircraft for its grand reopening on Saturday.

Highlights of the diverse display will include bomber planes from World War II, Vietnam War combat fighters, and even Cold War era Russian jets “lift off to perform spectacular low-altitude flyovers” right from the museum’s ramp, according to the museum.

“We recently resumed maintenance and inspection of our aircraft so that much- anticipated flight operations can begin with our grand reopening event,” said Jeff Clyman, AAM president and museum founder.

Social distancing measures will be in place to ensure all attendees’ safety. A maximum of 150 guests will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis to the outdoor viewing area, and will be required to wear masks as well as have their temperatures checked by museum staff. Limited museum access will also be available.

The first 20 families will also be entered in a raffle to win a WACO Biplane flight with a value of $300 later in the summer. 

With AAM’s 20th anniversary and the 75th anniversary of the end of WWII falling at the height of COVID-19 and non-essential business closures, festivities have been delayed but not forgotten. 

The aviation museum in East Farmingdale, located at Republic Airport, has been closed since March 16, when preemptive measures were taken to curb the spread of the pandemic.

This is the first of many events to come.

“We also promise a flying salute to our veterans and front line workers very soon,” said Clyman.

The American Airpower Museum is located at 1230 New Hwy. in Farmingdale. The event is scheduled for 11 a.m. August 1. Admission: Adults $13, Seniors & Veterans $10, and Children $8.

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Lido Lifeguards Report Shark Sighting of “Significant Size”

Swimmers were ordered out of the water at South Shore Long Island ocean beaches Monday following three shark sightings, one of which officials termed “significant.”

Logan Fitzgerald, who’s been an ocean lifeguard for three years, made the first sighting about 20 to 30 yards off the coast of Lido Beach West shortly after 10 a.m., according to the Town of Hempstead, which operates that beach. Later, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran confirmed a shark sighting at neighboring Nickerson Beach, a county-run beach in Lido Beach. And lifeguards in the nearby City of Long Beach later made another sighting.

“The lifeguards and crew who have been here for 20-plus years said this is one of the most sizable sightings they’ve seen,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Don Clavin said. 

All beaches along the South Shore were notified and ordered swimmers out of the water from Jones Beach to Atlantic Beach. The sightings come a day after Adriene Esposito, executive director of the nonprofit Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said swimmers cleared out of the water following a shark sighting Sunday at Robert Moses State Park, although the state parks department officials could not immediately confirm that sighting.

The sightings come two years after a shark bit a boy in the surf on Fire Island in the first confirmed shark attack in local waters in 70 years. The sightings also come on the same day as a rare fatal shark attack in Maine. The victim in that case was reportedly from New York City.

Clavin said his lifeguards believed Monday’s sighting was that of a bull shark. While shark sightings are not uncommon on Long Island, experts doubt it was a bull shark.

“Even if I was on the beach, it would be very difficult even for me to identify it as a bull shark,” said Greg Metzger the South Fork Natural History Museum’s Shark Research Program chief coordinator.

He added that the chances of spotting and correctly identifying one offhand around LI is nearly zero. He believes the sighting was of a sand tiger shark or sandbar shark, both of which are much more common around the Island and have very similar appearances to the bull shark, while being much less aggressive.

A shark was spotted in shallow waters off the Hamptons last year. A Great White named Cabot was spotted in the Long Island Sound in May 2019. Another shark named Mary Lee that, like Cabot, is being tracked by GPS, pinged several times off the Atlantic coast. And the nonprofit group Ocearch tracking those sharks led an expedition that revealed a shark nursery in deeper ocean waters off LI.

Several harmless basking sharks forced a brief swimming ban in Westhampton Beach in 2011, another shark was spotted off Atlantic Beach in 2013, and two sharks spotted off Tobay sparked a scare in 2015. Dead sharks also occasionally wash up on LI shores, such as a dying basking shark that washed up in 2009.

Lifeguards, Bay Constables and the Nassau County Police Department coordinated a patrol response to ensure beachgoers’ safety. NCPD helicopters were also deployed to monitor the situation more closely. Beachgoers were later allowed to re-enter the water up to a waist-deep level.

“Sharks are there every single day,” Metzger said. “Even if you don’t see them, they’re still there. The risk of you having a negative interaction is the same whether you see the shark or not.”

-With Timothy Bolger

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