Dana Chiueh

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.

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.

Related Story: NY Steps Up Social Distancing Campaign Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases In Young People

Related Story: Deer Park Club Stripped of Liquor License After Pandemic Lap Dances

Related Story: Island Park Bar Has Liquor License Suspended Due To Social Distancing Violations

Related Story: Not Ordering Food? No Booze For You, Cuomo Says

Related Story: Hamptons Restaurant Crowds May Force Phase 2 Reversal, Cuomo Warns

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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.

Related Story: Long Island Drive-In Movie Guide 2020

Related Story: 7 Fun Socially Distant Things To Do On Long Island

Related Story: 9 More Fun Things To Do While In Quarantine

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

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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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NYPD Cop Arrested in West Islip Drug Trafficking Ring

NYPD Officer Joseph Recca leaves court in Central Islip. Photo by Dana Chieuh

A New York City police officer was arrested Tuesday for allegedly abusing his police powers to further his role in a West Islip-based narcotics trafficking scheme, Suffolk County authorities said.

NYPD Officer Joseph Recca, 28, of West Islip, and two other individuals suspected of involvement were arraigned Wednesday at First District Court in Central Islip. Recca pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy, criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminal possession, and official misconduct. He was released without bail.

“It’s a sad day when, after being involved in law enforcement and public service for 30 years, I find myself sitting in the arraignment of a police officer,” said Judge James Saladino, who gave Recca a supervisory release with mandatory GPS monitoring anklet.

Prosecutors said besides drug dealing, Recca also used his position as an NYPD officer to run license plate checks on surveillance vehicles placed to investigate his conduct. If found guilty, he faces up to 25 years in prison. 

Also charged were Michael Sosa, of Brentwood, and Michael Corbett, of West Islip. Sosa supplied pills to Recca, while Corbett was Recca’s main runner and customer, authorities said. Sosa’s bail was set at $500,000 bail, while Corbett was released without bail.

The investigation began last September after a fatal fentanyl overdose in Copiague. Suffolk police detectives looking into the case found text messages on the victim’s phone from Recca indicating sale of illegal pills. 

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said the trio made up the extent of the local narcotics ring, and no other suspects are currently being considered.

When all three men were busted Tuesday, Recca was in his personal vehicle en route to Corbett’s house. Police also found a gap in the automobile known as a “trap,” where pills were hidden, officials said.

“Not only did we take those drugs off the streets, we got them in the middle of their criminal act,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said, calling the case “shocking.”

When police executed search warrant on Sosa’s residence, investigators confiscated more than $31,000 in cash, 367 grams of purported oxycodone pills, and a loaded nine-millimeter untraceable handgun along with packaging, financial statements, and other drug paraphernalia. More than 100 oxycodone pills and $34,850 in cash were seized at Corbett’s residence.

Though local, the size of the drug ring was “impactful” and “significant,” Hart said.

A representative from the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau declined to comment on Recca’s officer status. The NYPD said he has been suspended without pay. The investigation it ongoing to determine if Recca’s pills were responsible for the overdose in Copiague.

“Our message is consistent: if you’re dealing drugs in Suffolk County, we’re coming for you,” Sini said. 

-With Timothy Bolger

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Preparation Key To Getting Divorce, Experts Say

Getty Images

Divorce has become a hot topic after families have spent months quarantined together amid the coronavirus pandemic, but experts warn against rushing into the process.

Ending a marriage can be overwhelming, panelists emphasized on a recent webinar titled Divorce 101: Love-Law-Finance, and involves much more than a legal dissolution. When it comes to emotional or financial preparation, there are a diverse array of professionals here to help.

“Sometimes, my team tells clients they’re not ready for the divorce process yet,” said panelist and matrimonial attorney Jill Stone of Garden City. “Mental health intervention, financial security, life coach… do all that before [the divorce] so you can help yourself.”

Also featured on the panel were marriage therapist Dr. Joan Neehall from Canada, financial coach Peter Lichtenberg from New York, transformation coach Victoria McCooey from Nassau County, and certified divorce coach Angela Shanerman from Suffolk County. The webinar, hosted by Schneps Media, the parent company of the Long Island Press, was sponsored by JStoneLaw.com

Preparation will help ease the painful divorce process, the experts said.

“You don’t want to spend all that time to have the attorney hold your hand because you’re compromised,” said McCooey, whose own six-year journey in divorcing an abuser showed her that the court system itself can re-traumatize survivors. Instead, she suggests going to see a mental health professional who can help emotionally prepare the spouse for what is ahead, especially for those dealing with abusive marriages.

Part of the emotional journey of divorce is a “grief process,” according to Neehall. “It’s a death that continues through life there’s no finality.” 

Her number one tip was to seek meaning and purpose throughout the journey so that both sides would not devolve into self-blame.

“The marriage failed; you didn’t fail,” Neehall stated.

There are also more factors to consider in a divorce, though McCooey says they shouldn’t hold one back from making the right decision for themselves. It just requires more careful planning.

“Find out who the doctors are, your children’s friends… Bills, finances, joint accounts… did you ever look at a tax return?” Stone said. 

Since most of the time, childrearing and financial planning are tasks one spouse takes care of for the family, spouses considering divorce need to make sure they “get educated” on all aspects of their family’s affairs, Stone said.

Lichtenberg echoed these thoughts, specifically regarding finances. He said often, two spouses may have diverging financial philosophies and risk tolerances. His service not only helps with alimony payments, but also conducts “comprehensive financial X-rays” to aid spouses with little financial experience.

All experts agreed that the most important thing is to maintain as much control as possible, despite a volatile system.

“You have to make sure that you put everything in place before you move forward, or else you won’t be an asset to yourself in the divorce process,” Stone said. “There are some things that we do not have control over. You’re putting your life and your children’s lives into a stranger’s hands.”

Shanerman compared the divorce process to jumping into quicksand. Luckily, there are many divorce experts who can help navigate unfriendly territory. 

“I know how to get you out. I’ve been through the process, and I can get you out with minimal impact,” she concluded.

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Prominent Long Island Developer Jerry Wolkoff Dies

Jerry Wolkoff

Renowned and Long Island real estate developer Jerry Wolkoff died Friday of a brief neurological illness, according to a family statement. He was 83.

Born into a low-income Brooklyn family in 1937, Gerald “Jerry” Wolkoff was an exemplar of the American Dream. To help his mother, he began working at age 10 and started his first business by 16. Despite not having the opportunity to attend college, he would go on to become one of the most prominent real estate developers on LI, known for 5Pointz Towers in Long Island City and the proposed Heartland Town Square in Brentwood, as well as major business parks in Edgewood and Hauppauge. 

Despite his age, Wolkoff vowed never to retire and maintained a highly active role in his company, G&M Realty, as recently as a few weeks ago, working alongside sons David and Alan at the family business that bears both Wolkoff and his wife Michele’s initials.

Today, G&M Realty owns upwards of 12 million square feet in industrial acreage across New York City and the Island, with each space 99 plus percent full at all times. Those he worked with said his stellar track record was a result of prioritizing tenants’ satisfaction at all costs.

“He was in his 80s and he would come up from Manhattan to Edgewood every day to work long hours. He was just relentless,” said Philip Schwom, president of Schacker Realty and the broker who represented Wolkoff in many of his major deals, including Heartland Business Center in Edgewood and the proposed Heartland Town Square. 

Wolkoff did not live to see his two most headline-grabbing projects to fruition. 5Pointz, a Long Island City building he leased to artists starting in the 1990s, became a “graffiti mecca” and was covered in murals — until he had the property whitewashed in 2013 without warning, triggering a February 2020 court order of $6.7 million in damages to be paid to artists. The two new 5 Pointz Towers at the site, which house upwards of 1,100 apartment units, as well as interior replicas of the original 5Pointz murals, are nearly completed.

Arguably Wolkoff’s white whale was the 452-acre Heartland Town Square in Brentwood, a passion project which he pursued for over 18 years. If approved, the smart growth development would be the largest planned community on Long Island since Levittown, with 9,000 housing units, millions of square footage in office and retail space, and plans for an aquarium among other public spaces. Wolkoff dreamed of using the development to revive local community and prosperity.

“He had a very strong connection particularly with Brentwood. Whenever he did a lease, one of the biggest questions he had was what jobs are you bringing to Brentwood?” Schwom added, emphasizing Wolkoff’s connection to his community. “That was always one of his major concerns when he was considering who to lease industrial space to, was who was going to bring in good high-paying jobs for the people of Brentwood.”

The development’s plans stalled for years due to disputes with Suffolk County and Town of Islip officials over zoning issues. The plans were approved by the Islip Town Board in 2017 but face additional litigation from the Brentwood School District and complications with sewage lines. 

David Wolkoff vowed to complete his father’s legacy and see the project to its end.

“Where despair lingered, Gerry found opportunity, constructing homes, industrial parks, and a better community for all,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “His heart was as big as his proposed mixed use development.”

Wolkoff “will go down as one of the greatest builders in New York state history,” Bellone added.

Along with his wife Michele and sons David and Adam, Wolkoff is survived by daughter-in-law Stephanie and grandchildren Zachary, Tyler, and Alexi.

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Bubble Tea Trend Gains Steam on Long Island

Purple Sweet Potato with golden bubble. Getty IMages

Arnor Crepes & Bubble Tea debuted last month in Stony Brook, joining a growing roster of bubble tea shops on Long Island.

Chewy tapioca “bubbles,” also known as boba, and a silky-smooth texture are among the highlights of the Taiwanese beverage that has enjoyed increasing popularity on LI and nationwide in recent few years. 

“Bubble tea is definitely becoming more popular because there are all kinds of flavors and toppings available,” said owner Tony Pang. “We have tapioca, mango, strawberry, chewy bubbles … all of them attract young people.”

The past four years have seen tremendous growth in the bubble tea sector on the Island as the drink’s popularity grows. Originally found mostly on the drink menu in some Asian restaurants, besides Stony Brook, bubble tea shops have also opened in Great Neck, Williston Park, Hicksville, Centereach, Lake Grove, Garden City, Syosset, and more since 2016. 

From specialty milk teas to fruit-flavored slushies and shakes, as well as a variety of toppings and sugar and ice customizations, the number of combinations may seem endless and overwhelming for a first-timer. Pang recommends Arnor’s signature rose milk tea with bubbles ($5.95), which he says sets the chain apart. The bubbles found at Arnor are a delight to the senses, with the perfect texture and give, while the milk tea base is shaken with specialty equipment to produce a quality blend.

Pang admits that opening a shop during a pandemic hasn’t been ideal, but the store’s specialties have helped keep it afloat amidst fierce competition. Six years after opening his first Arnor location in Brooklyn, Pang is hoping that joining a bubble tea menu with an extensive offering of crepes will help him repeat his success in an area where three other bubble tea establishments have opened in just the last two years.

Kung Fu Tea, student-run Jasmine Tea House on the Stony Brook University campus, and a Chatime food truck that is open when school is in session, are among Arnor’s closest competitors. Pang says he chose the Stony Brook location for its proximity to the university campus. 

According to Brian Wang, owner of neighboring Kung Fu Tea, Asian students generally make up 50 percent of their customer base during weekdays when school is in session. Stony Brook University statistics show that in 2019, 37.6 percent of its student population of nearly 26,000 identified as Asian. But more local residents are now enjoying the delicacy, Wang said. Over the year and a half the store has been open, Wang said he’s seen a significant increase in the number of customers who were familiar with the bubble tea concept. 

Carl Buchman, manager of Coco Fresh Tea & Juice, another bubble tea shop in Syosset, said despite initial concerns that a wave of anti-Asian racial profiling would hurt the store’s sales in March and April, sales actually doubled following the store’s reopening in mid-May. 

Buchman emphasized that bubble tea is uniquely suited for delivery services such as UberEats or DoorDash, as it is generally served with a plastic seal to avoid spillage. He also noted that due to the limited number of bubble tea shops in the area, many customers traveled far distances to enjoy his shop’s offerings.

And with the region recently entering phase four of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown, bubble tea proves an ideal refreshing drink to celebrate restaurants’ resuming sit-down dining

Arnor Crepes & Bubble Tea is located at 1113 North Country Rd. in Stony Brook. It can be reached at 631-364-9730 or facebook.com/arnor.crepes.sb

For more food and drink coverage, visit longislandpress.com/category/food-drink

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Long Island Real Estate Legend Frank Castagna Dies

Frank Castagna

Frank Castagna, philanthropist and influential Long Island real estate developer, died Tuesday from a year-long fight with cancer. He was 91.

Born in 1928 and raised in Sheepshead Bay, Castagna earned a degree in civil engineering from Pennsylvania Military Academy before applying those skills at his father’s construction firm, which was soon renamed to Castagna & Son. Over the years, the family-owned business was responsible for many major public contracts on Long Island and in New York City, including Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, the correctional facilities on Rikers Island, New York State Supreme Courthouse, and the New York City Police headquarters.

The firm was also responsible for major healthcare and education sector developments, including North Shore University Hospital, New Bellevue Hospital, Stony Brook University Hospital, Harlem Hospital, Coney Island Hospital, Great Neck South Middle School, and buildings at Hofstra University, Yeshiva University, and Adelphi University.

Constructed in the 1950s, the crown jewel of the firm’s impressive portfolio remains the 220,000-square-foot Americana Manhasset, a luxury fashion development whose commanding presence has drawn high-end tenants such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci, and the independently-owned luxury store Hirschleifer’s.

Loath to call it merely a “mall,” Castagna emphasized the experiential factor of the Americana, which spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on fresh flowers alone. 

“The first thing people say is, ‘Don’t you love the flowers?’” he was quoted as once saying.

In the 1980s, the newly renamed Castagna Realty expanded its luxury shopping destinations with Wheatley Plaza in Greenvale.

“With his generosity of spirit, Frank touched countless people in both his business and his personal life, and for him there was hardly a line between the two,” Americana Manhasset wrote in a memorial to Castagna. Sneakerology, a tenant at Wheatley Plaza, remembered him as “a friend and a mentor for 40 years.”

Alongside his wife Rita, of the family originally behind Ronzoni Macaroni, Castagna was active in philanthropic efforts across the Island, serving on the board of trustees for Old Westbury Gardens, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center, Nassau County Museum of Art and The Viscardi Center, among many others. Under their leadership, Castagna Realty also hosts an annual Champions for Charity benefit that raised more than $1 million for local charities in 2019. For these and countless other philanthropic efforts, the couple has been honored with numerous awards from local organizations.

“Frank Castagna was an absolute prince,” Charles A. Riley, director of the Nassau County Museum of Art, told the Press. “So many of the highlights of  the 30-year history of the Nassau County Museum are the direct result of his magnanimity and perfect taste. The Museum as it is today is unimaginable without his guidance.”

“Personally, I think of Mr. Castagna’s civility as a paradigm that we all strive to live up to, a torch he has passed onto future generations,” he added.

Castagna is survived by his wife Rita; daughter Catherine, who is now the president of Castagna Realty after her father’s 50-year tenure, and her husband Ernie; son Fred; grandsons Brian, Michael, Frank and Mario; and step-granddaughters Amber and Marissa. 

The funeral will be private. In keeping with Castagna’s philanthropy, the family has requested donations be made to the Nassau County Museum of Art, North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center and Island Harvest in lieu of flowers.

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Publisher Moves Up Release Date For Tell-All By Trump’s Niece From Long Island

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

Simon & Schuster has bumped up the publication date for Mary Trump’s hotly anticipated tell-all book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man to next week due to high demand.

Originally scheduled to be published July 28, the 240-page book by President Donald Trump’s niece from Long Island would be the first by a member of the Trump family that comments directly on the president’s affairs. The new date comes after the president and his family sued in an attempt to block publication of the book — and Mary is appealing to have her gag order lifted.

“The act by a sitting president to muzzle a private citizen is just the latest in a series of disturbing behaviors which have already destabilized a fractured nation in the face of a global pandemic,” said a spokesperson for Mary Trump. “If Mary cannot comment, one can only help but wonder: what is Donald Trump so afraid of?”

Last week, the president’s younger brother Robert Trump filed a new lawsuit in upstate Dutchess County against Mary and Simon & Schuster in an attempt to thwart publication, arguing that the book violates a 20-year-old nondisclosure agreement. The NDA was a part of a 2000 settlement between Robert, Donald, their sister Maryanne Trump Barry, Mary, and her brother Fred Trump III over Fred Trump, Sr.’s will. It prevented any involved parties from publishing anything “concerning the litigation or their relationship with each other.”

Though the book faced a temporary block last week, a judge eventually removed the publisher from the suit, allowing the book to be distributed as planned.

The author, however, is still under a gag order as courts continue to determine whether she has violated the agreement with her family. She has since filed an appeal to remove it, and a response from the president is expected in the unfolding court drama.

Mary, 55, has had a history of opposing the president’s actions. According to the Daily Beast, she reveals in the book that she was responsible for exposing the president’s involvement in an allegedly fraudulent tax scheme to The New York Times, in an investigation that would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize. 

According to the publisher, Too Much and Never Enough promises juicy insight into the Trump family’s lives, including “a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse,” combining the author’s expertise as a trained clinical psychologist with her insider knowledge.

The new release date is July 14.

Related Story: Trump’s Niece From Long Island Set To Publish Tell-All

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Protesters Call For Removing Statue of William Floyd

A protest in Shirley calling for the removal of slaveowner William Floyd's statue. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

Protesters gathered at the William Floyd Parkway in Shirley on Sunday to call for removing the statue of former New York Senator William Floyd that greets visitors to the community. 

While remembered for being a general in the Revolutionary War and signer of the Declaration of Independence, Floyd was also a slave owner, an act that protesters say should not go unacknowledged. Floyd owned between six and 12 slaves, and his family was among the first to bring slavery into the Town of Brookhaven.

“For students of the William Floyd School District the history of their own town was erased and white-washed,” organizers of the protest wrote. “We learned about [Floyd’s] accomplishments as if they outweighed his sins. The statue is a constant reminder that people of color are second-class citizens in this town and in this country.”

The William Floyd Community Summit was gifted the statue by late artist Santo Matarazzo and was the organization responsible for installing it. But like the statue outside Babylon Village Hall of the late master builder Robert Moses, whose policies have been deemed racist, protesters are now calling for it to come down.

A petition to remove the Floyd statue started by Desiree Magee of Shirley and circulated online had gathered more than 3,200 signatures as of this post. 

“I learned about William Floyd being a slave owner a couple of years ago,” one black protester from Shirley said. “I went to William Floyd [High School]. I should have known that earlier.”

Magee says while she didn’t expect the overwhelming community support she received in the first few days of launching the petition, the petition also galvanized opposition, “who are against the removal, who are enraged and say we are trying to erase history.” 

“We are not trying to erase history, we are simply trying to stop the division that is clear in our community,” she said.

Shortly after Magee’s petition gained traction, a counter petition was launched by resident Vincent Viola to keep the statue where it stands. The petition has amassed nearly 3,700 signatures.

“We are proud of [Floyd’s] historical significance in this country,” the petition reads. “If your problem is with the government, take it up with them and don’t bully Billy.” 

Protesters demanded replacing the statue with a monument to the indigenous Unkechaug people, defunding police, instituting salary caps for law enforcement, and transparency in the appropriation of a local Boys and Girls Club’s funds.

While police officers were present at the protest, Magee commended their efforts at community dialogue. She said Commander McCormick of the Seventh Precinct was on site opening “a line of communication to a part of our community that normally the [police department] wouldn’t reach out to.”

Monique Fitzgerald said the protests will continue.
“There was a lot of energy at the protest,” she said. “We have been building support over the last few protests in the area to keep the energy high around the issues of injustice in the country by relating them back to specific local community concerns.”
A protest in Shirley calling for the removal of slaveowner William Floyd’s statue. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

Related Story: Protesters Call for Removal of Robert Moses Statue

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