Rashed Mian

Rashed Mian has been covering local news for the Long Island Press since 2011. He graduated from Hofstra University in 2010 where he studied print journalism. Rashed, the staff's multimedia reporter, covers daily news for the web, shoots/edits feature videos and writes about civil liberties. He loves Afghan food and sports. Rashed is also a caffeine freak. Email: rmian@longislandpress.com. Twitter: rashedmian

Nassau Resident Infected With Birth Defects-Linked Zika Virus



A person living in Nassau County is among three people statewide who have tested positive for the mosquito-borne Zika virus that has officials in Latin American countries warning of potential birth defects.

The person who contracted the virus has recently traveled to an area outside the United States where there is confirmed transmission of the virus, according to Mary Ellen Lorraine, a spokeswoman for Nassau County Department of Health.

The unidentified resident contracted the virus in August, she told the Press. Lorraine was unable to provide details of the person’s sex, age or town of residence. She did say, however, that the person is not pregnant.

One patient has fully recovered and the two others are recovering without any complications, state health officials said.

The virus is not contagious and cannot be transmitted by coming into physical contact with another human, said health officials. Zika virus is primarily contracted from an infected Aedes mosquito. It can also be transmitted from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control.

State health officials urged residents who are considering traveling to Central and South American countries where the virus is prevalent to check all health advisories and take preventive measures.

“There is virtually no risk of acquiring Zika virus in New York State at this time as the virus cannot be spread by casual contact with an infected person, and mosquitoes are not active in cold winter months,” said state Department of Health Commissioner Howard Zucker.

The CDC says about two-dozen countries are grappling with the virus. The agency also issued a travel alert for people heading to nearly all the countries where the virus is being transmitted.

Officials overseas have turned to drastic measures to try and prevent birth defects in children. In El Salvador, the government has advised women to halt any pregnancies until 2018. Brazil is calling upon its military to help eradicate the mosquitoes.

An image of a baby suffering from Microcephaly. (Courtesy: CDC)
An image of a baby suffering from Microcephaly. (Courtesy: CDC)

The impact to unborn babies could lead to lifelong complications. Among the birth defects that have been reported is microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head fails to grow at a normal pace, according to the CDC.

Pregnant woman are advised to postpone travel or to follow strict preventive steps if traveling is a must. Women considering pregnancy should speak with their doctor about the risks posed by the Zika virus, the CDC advised.

Previous outbreaks of the virus have been reported in such tropical areas as Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

“Zika virus will likely continue to spread to new areas,” the CDC warned.

Health officials said only one in five people who are infected actually fall ill. The symptoms include fever, rash, joint pain, red eyes, muscle pain, and headaches. The incubation period is believed to last anywhere from a few days to a week.

There are no known vaccines to treat or prevent the virus.


Zika Virus Map (Courtesy: CDC)
Zika Virus Map (Courtesy: CDC)


Dominican Republic
El Salvador
French Guiana
Puerto Rico
Saint Martin
U.S. Virgin Islands

Oceania/Pacific Islands

Cape Verde

Top Cop Credits Public, Officers for Uniondale Murder Suspect’s Arrest

Joel Ayala Deras (NCPD)

Nassau County police arrested an alleged murder suspect in Uniondale just minutes after he fled the scene of the slaying Monday, police said.

Acting on a ShotSpotter notification alerting them to the scene and 911 calls from witnesses, two officers spotted the vehicle fleeing south on Uniondale Avenue and apprehended 35-year-old Joel Arquimides Ayala Deras of Westbury, police said. He was charged with second-degree murder.

The two First Precinct officers—Christopher DiGregorio and Gary Butt—also discovered shotgun casings and a .44-caliber handgun on the floor of the car. A subsequent search turned up a shotgun that police believe was used in the slaying, along with a .380-caliber handgun.

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The victim, 37-year-old German Ismael Saravia Melendez, was fatally shot in the head and back, acting-Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said at a press conference at police headquarters in Mineola Wednesday. Melendez was pronounced dead by an ambulance technician 20 minutes after the shooting.

Krumpter credited the two officers for their “keen” observations while racing toward the scene of the shooting.

“ShotSpotter is a great tool but without the great police work by the officers involved, the keen observation, road conditions were pretty horrific…they were able to respond in a timely fashion,” said Krumpter, who was flanked by police brass and officers Butt and DiGregorio.

Investigators have yet to determine a motive for the shooting, Krumpter said. But officials did say that the two men were acquaintances and had an ongoing dispute. Neither have gang ties.

The shooting occurred at 9:44 p.m. Monday, police said. Authorities were alerted to the vicinity near Macon Place and Irving Place by the ShotSpotter alert, which is activated when gunshots are registered in communities where the technology is installed. Calls to 911 and the ShotSpotter alerts came in almost simultaneously, police said.

Witnesses provided police with a description of the car, and the two officers were able to act on that information almost immediately.

“ShotSpotter didn’t jump off the telephone pole and arrest the defendants,” Krumpter told reporters. “In this case it was the police officers who were responding to the scene; the adrenaline’s pumping, and they’re responding to a shots fired and they were paying attention to what was going on around them on Uniondale Avenue where they observed the vehicle fleeing the scene.”

Krumpter defended the department’s perceived failure to adequately alert the public to a homicide, saying the primary responsibility of the department is to conduct probes without compromising investigations.

Police did not release details of the fatal shooting until late Tuesday.

This is the first homicide in Nassau in 2016. The first fatal shooting in Suffolk was Jan. 17 in North Bay Shore, police said. In that case, 44-year-old Marcelo Argueta Chicas’ lifeless body was discovered with a gunshot wound. The shooting, which also registered on ShotSpotter, remains unsolved.

Deras will be arraigned Wednesday at First District Court in Hempstead.

24 is Returning to Fox without Jack Bauer

Fox has found its new Jack.

Corey Hawkins of Straight Outta Compton and The Walking Dead fame will star in Fox’s reboot of the hit thriller 24, the network announced.

For fans who haven’t kept up with 24 news since its miniseries event in 2014, Fox revealed it was rebooting the series with all new characters but will retain the same pulse-pounding, hour-to-hour format it made famous. But Jack Bauer, played by Kiefer Sutherland since the show’s inception, will be on the sidelines.

The new series will be called 24: Legacy.

The man tasked with disrupting the next fictitious terror plot on US soil is Hawkins, who will play a military hero named Eric Carter.

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Hawkins played iconic rapper Dr. Dre in the acclaimed hip-hop biopic Straight Outta Compton, which many observers feel was snubbed out of an Oscar nomination. He’s also appeared in AMC’s cult favorite The Walking Dead as the character Heath.

24 fans are accustomed to new characters because of the show’s high death count since the series began in 2001. But it’s unclear how fans will respond to someone other than Bauer saving the day. Sutherland reprised the role of Jack Bauer in 2014 when Fox produced 24: Live Another Day, a 12-episode event molded after previous seasons. Legacy will also run as a 12-episode series.

The cast may be different but several people instrumental in the series’ success in previous seasons have signed on to the project. Serving as executive producers will be Howard Gordon, Brian Grazer, Manny Coto and Evan Katz.

Much like previous seasons, the reboot will cover one full day but will likely jump around to complete the 24-hour cycle.

While the show inspired a huge following, it also became part of the political discourse as it was criticized for its unapologetic use of torture on terror subjects. Torture was such a staple on the show that after a while it lost its shock value.

The move by Fox to revive the show—again—is just the latest in a growing library of popular shows that have gone off air only to return. Also coming back to Fox is Prison Break, which had a four-season run. And, after a 13-year television hiatus, The X-Files returned Sunday for a six-episode event.

Attorneys for Dean Skelos and Son Request Acquittal

Attorneys for former state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, have requested that the court acquit the pair and grant them a new trial, arguing that the evidence presented in court was not strong enough to warrant their conviction.

In what is largely a procedural move, the Skeloses’ attorneys filed a motion on Tuesday for acquittal on all counts “because the evidence submitted at trial was insufficient to establish beyond a reasonable doubt,” their attorneys wrote in court papers.

The motion is a follow up to a failed acquittal request made by the defense following closing arguments.

Federal prosecutors have until Feb. 12 to respond.

After a four-week trial at Manhattan federal court, the disgraced state senator and his son were convicted in December of bribing firms that had business before the state to pay Adam for jobs he never performed.

The jury deliberated for eight hours before returning a guilty verdict on Dec. 11.

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The elder Skelos’ conviction came just weeks after his former Albany counterpart, ex-state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), was also found guilty of corruption charges in the same courthouse.

Along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assemb. Silver and Sen. Skelos were part of an exclusive group dubbed, “Three Men In A Room,” that called all the shots in the state Legislature.

Following his conviction, Dean Skelos was immediately stripped of his senate seat.

Both Dean and Adam are scheduled to be sentenced on March 3. They face up to 20 years in prison.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to formally schedule a special election to fill either Silver’s or Skelos’s seat, although initial news reports suggested that he might pick April 19th. In the meantime, both seats remain empty.

Service Fully Restored on Long Island Rail Road

(Photo credit: MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins)

Relief finally came to Long Island Rail Road riders Tuesday as the railroad returned to full service following a headache-filled commute a day earlier.

All LIRR branches were fully restored in time for Tuesday morning’s commute, railroad officials said. The restoration of service comes one day after riders were forced to deal with cancellations, delays, and packed trains following this weekend’s blizzard.

“We expect to have all segments of all branches operating Tuesday morning, but customers should allow extra travel time and check for the potential for weather-related delays before traveling,” LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said in a statement.

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Crews had been working since Saturday’s blizzard to have the railroad fully operational by the beginning of the week.

Rail yards were buried in two feet of snow and tracks were blanketed in mounds of white stuff due to the powerful Nor’easter that rolled in on Saturday. On Sunday, officials said they were hoping to have full service restored by Monday morning. But five branches remained closed Monday and only one other line was restored in time for riders to head back to the Island for the evening commute.

Nowakowski said thousands of railroad employees had been working to clear snow and repair damaged equipment.

“I thank them all for a job well done fighting a snowstorm that hit us harder than expected,” Nowakowski said.

The delays Nowakowski had warned riders about materialized early Tuesday morning. There were scattered delays of up to 10 minutes due to ongoing effects from the storm, the LIRR said.

About an hour later, however, service was running on or close to schedule.

Here’s What You Need to Know for Tonight’s LIRR Commute

(Photo credit: MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins)

Long Island Rail Road commuters heading back to work after a snowbound weekend were greeted with long delays and packed trains Monday as the railroad continued the exhaustive task of digging out from Saturday’s powerful blizzard.

The news for the evening commute may do little to assuage frustrated commuters who had rough start to the work week.

The LIRR announced Monday afternoon that train serviced had been restored on the Port Washington branch. Still, four other branches remain suspended: Far Rockaway, Hempstead, Long Beach and West Hempstead. The LIRR noted that the suspensions were due to the “on-going effects of this weekend’s blizzard.”

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Diesel service was also restored in Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson and Montauk branches, as well as between Greenport and Ronkonkoma.

“Please allow extra travel time and expect delays and crowding,” the LIRR said.

There is still no service between Jamaica and Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn, which means Islanders fans with tickets to Monday night’s game will have to take an alternate route to the Barclays Center. The railroad recommended fans take LIRR trains to Penn Station, where railroad tickets will be honored on the No. 2 or 3 Brooklyn-bound trains.

As the blizzard walloped the region Saturday, officials decided to suspend service on all lines beginning at 4 p.m. Officials had said crews would work throughout the day Sunday with the goal of having all branches fully running by the morning.

The LIRR has encouraged riders to visit www.mta.info for information on suspended branches.

(Photo credit: MTA New York City Transit / Leonard Wiggins)

Long Island Blizzard Dumps 30 Inches, Halts Travel

There was a period when it seemed this winter would be remembered not for Mother Nature’s fury but instead for sweaty 60-degree December days. Not anymore.

The blizzard of 2016 lived up to the hype, spawning swirling and driving snow that caused whiteout conditions, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency and issue a travel ban that was lifted at 7 a.m. Sunday, 15 hours after it had gone into effect. A blizzard warning that had been in effect since early Saturday also expired.

“Traveling has resumed and has resumed without issue thus far,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a Sunday morning press conference.

When Mother Nature’s pent up fury finally got under control, nearly 30 inches had fallen on the Island. The Nor’easter also proved fatal. Three people apparently attempting to clear snow had died, a 61-year-old man in West Hempstead, a 94-year-old Smithtown man, and a 75-year-old woman from Huntington Station. Overall, there were 18 reported deaths from the blizzard, which slammed much of the mid-Atlantic.

In Suffolk, County Executive Steve Bellone told the Press county and state roads are passable but secondary roads could take more of an effort to clear. Calling it an “extraordinary” storm, he said it could take a few days for crews to clear all the snow.

Bellone did say the county “dodged” a bullet because there were no reports of significant flooding, which was a top concern among state and local officials.

On Sunday morning residents awoke to mounds of snow along sidewalks and in driveways. There was the ubiquitous hum of snow blowers and sound of shovels colliding with pavement. Instead of drifting snow, LI was being bathed in a glorious blue sky, but despite the superb conditions it could take a few days for local municipalities to clean up the mess.

The National Weather Service’s Upton office released unofficial snowfall totals that surpassed even upgraded predictions of up to two feet. Hicksville had the most significant snowfall with 29.6 inches. Other communities saw a little more than two feet, while others were lucky enough to record about a foot and a half. In Suffolk, the highest total reported by the weather service was 26.5 in Commack.

The storm was so powerful that officials decided Saturday afternoon to suspend service on the Long Island Rail Road and institute a travel ban on the Long Island Expressway and Northern State Parkway. The travel ban has since been lifted. But officials at the LIRR said service would remain suspended with crews working through the day to make tracks passable and clear LIRR yards that remain buried under two feet of snow.

“The problem we’re still having is the Long Island Rail Road, which sustained significant damage in the yards,” Cuomo told reporters.

Crews, the railroad said, will focus on the most highly-traveled branches with the goal of returning service for the Monday morning commute.

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At area airports, airlines were working on a reduced schedule after going a day with no flights at all.

Long Island MacArthur Airport said flights were cancelled until late Sunday afternoon and advised travelers to check with airlines for updates.

The above-ground power lines across Long Island appeared to hold up well through the storm. The number of people without power fluctuated all day Saturday, with PSEG Long Island reporting that it had restored service to more than 25,000 customers.

The one death in Nassau was a 61-year-old West Hempstead man who suffered cardiac arrest while shoveling snow, Nassau County police said. He was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Suffolk County police reported two blizzard-related deaths. A 75-year-old woman shoveling at her Tippen Drive home had difficulty breathing and was transported to Huntington Hospital, where she died, police said. In Smithtown, a 94-year-old man collapsed near his snow blower and was pronounced dead at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, police said.

“I think it’s something we’re going to pay a lot more attention to,” Bellone said of getting the word out about elderly residents shoveling deep snow in the bitter cold.

UPDATE: Authorities have identified a fourth blizzard-related death. A 66-year-old man was fatally struck by a snow plow in front of his Oyster Bay Cove home on Sunday, Nassau County police said.

(Photo credit: New York Governor’s Office)

Long Island Blizzard: Travel Ban on LIE & Parkways, LIRR Shut Down

Citing an inability for plows to keep up with the high rate of snow blanketing Long Island, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will institute a travel ban on the Long Island Expressway and parkways on LI.

The ban went into effect at 2:30 p.m. The Long Island Rail Road also ceased operations at 4 p.m. Saturday.

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“The plows literally can’t keep up,” Cuomo told reporters at a press conference, where he was joined by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his counterpart in Suffolk County, Steve Bellone.

The governor acknowledged that officials want to “keep roads open, you want to keep trains running,” but he said public safety is his No. 1 concern.

The travel ban will be conducted in an “orderly way,” Cuomo said, so people who are at work can head home.

The governor offered a stern message to anyone thinking about driving, and implored residents to let the plows do their job. Anyone caught on the LIE or  parkways during the travel ban could face a traffic infraction, Cuomo said. The governor did not say when the ban would expire.

A blizzard warning is currently in effect until 7 a.m. Sunday.

Officials had spent most of the morning urging residents to shelter at home and stay off the roads. The powerful Nor’easter that barreled into Long Island late Friday night could end up dumping up to two feet of snow on Long Island. Plows have been unable to keep up with the high rate of snow, officials said. The National Weather Service said snow is falling at a rate of 3 inches per hour.

“We will be keeping our county roadways as clear as possible because we have to get to our hospitals and other emergency services,” Mangano told reporters.

As for the Long Island Rail Road, there will be an orderly shutdown of service beginning at 4 p.m. The railroad is currently experiencing system-wide delays.

Meanwhile, potential flooding remains a top concern among officials in both counties.

“We have a big concern with coastal flooding post-Superstorm Sandy,” Bellone said. “We have seen these low-lying areas…flooding more frequently than we have ever seen before.”

Officials are closely monitoring Saturday evening’s high tide cycle. There have been no reports of significant flooding as of yet.

“The wind is compounding the situation,” Cuomo said. “The most dangerous pitch from Mother Nature is the flooding. That is the greatest threat to public safety. That does the most damage.”

Cuomo earlier Saturday morning declared a state of emergency for Nassau and Suffolk counties.

(Photo credit: New York State Governor’s Office)

Long Island Blizzard: Cuomo Declares State of Emergency for Nassau & Suffolk

Gov. Andrew Cuomo holds a storm briefing on the powerful Nor'easter slamming Long Island. (Photo credit: Governor's office)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency for Nassau and Suffolk counties amid a powerful Nor’easter walloping the region.

“We are concerned about Long Island,” Cuomo told reporters during a press conference Saturday morning.

Cuomo said his primary concern for the Island is not heavy snowfall, which is expected to increase in intensity as the day goes on, but rather potential flooding along the coast.

“That is probably the worst curveball Mother Nature can throw,” he said of potential floods.

The governor said he’ll be on Long Island Saturday afternoon and expressed concern about the state of the Long Island Expressway and the Long Island Rail Road.

Under a state of emergency, Cuomo has the power to ban travel on certain roads but he has yet to do so.

“The roads are open but that is a deceptive statement,” Cuomo said. He urged residents to refrain from driving.

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“We have not closed the roads, however, as I’ve said before—and I can’t say forcefully enough—unless there is an emergency situation or a critical need, you should not be on the roads,” he added.

“The Long Island Rail Road has specific issues…and of course flooding is a primary concern on Long Island,” Cuomo continued.

The LIRR is running on its normal weekend service but the railroad may modify service if conditions deteriorate.

State officials also noted that all flights out of John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport have been cancelled. Long Island MacArthur Airport has also cancelled all flights.

The Island could get slammed with up to two feet of snow, forecaster said.

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Long Island Blizzard: 2 Feet of Snow Could Blanket Long Island

Blizzard 2016
Satellite snaps image of blizzard barreling toward Long Island. (Photo credit: NASA/NOAA)

The powerful Nor’easter that forecasters had been warning about for a week finally made its way to Long Island Friday evening, and just as it did, new reports came in indicating potentially higher snowfall amounts then originally predicted.

The National Weather Service’s Upton office reported that Long Island could get blanketed with up to two feet of snow—up from earlier predictions of just a foot. LI was still on track to see potentially dangerous 55 mph wind gusts. The agency’s blizzard warning is in effect until 7 a.m. Sunday.

During a press conference Saturday morning, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced that he had declared a state of emergency, effective at 8 a.m.

“We are now getting a direct hit,” Bellone said, adding that the storm was more intense then originally predicted.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano also announced a state of emergency.

Here is our new storm total snow forecast! #Winterstorm

Posted by US National Weather Service New York NY on Friday, January 22, 2016

In an early morning TV appearance, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned the “the worst is yet to come.” In an interview with NBC New York he announced he would be declaring a state of emergency. That allows the state to more easily move resources around and ban travel on certain roads. The governor did not say if he intends to close any roads on the Island. [UPDATE: Gov. Cuomo declares a state of emergency]

The governor also called on residents to stay off the roads, lamenting that he had already seen stranded vehicles and accidents in his travels.

“Beside Mother Nature, what we end up dealing with is citizens” traveling in poor conditions, he told NBC New York. “Once cars get stranded, now the road is impassable, the plow can’t pass…now you really have a chaotic situation.”

“You should not be on the road, it’s that simple,” he added.

In Nassau County, Mangano urged residents to shelter in place. The blizzard, he said, would complicate efforts of plow operators because of expected whiteout conditions. Bellone had the same message for residents in Suffolk.

“The roads are treacherous,” he said. “Stay off those roads.”

Bellone said the county has already received 60 storm-related calls. He said there had been seven accidents on county roads since the storm hit, but no injuries were reported. Mangano told NBC New York hat there had been 27 accidents. He did not say if any were serious.

The storm is expected to intensify as the day goes on, Bellone told reporters. As heavier bands enter the region, snow could fall at a rate of 1 to 3 inches an hour, he said.

Plow operators in Suffolk have been batting the storm since midnight. There are currently 275 plows on Suffolk roads, and that number is likely to increase as the day goes on, Bellone said.

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The massive Nor’easter is threatening much of the mid-Atlantic, with millions of people in its path. Thousands of flights have already been cancelled, including at John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport. Long Island MacArthur Airport won’t resume flights again until Sunday afternoon, but departure times vary depending on the airline.

Aside from the snowfall, officials all agreed that their biggest concern was potential flooding along the coast. Parts of the Island are also under a coastal flood warning due to the strong winds. The weather service said tides could be more than 3 feet above normal. The agency warned residents in low-lying areas to be aware of rising water levels and “take appropriate action to protect life and property.”

As of 8:30 Saturday, a little more than 1,000 PSEG Long Island customers were without power, the utility reported. At one point, more than 13,000 ratepayers were in the dark.

The Long Island Rail Road was reporting minor delays on several branches. The LIRR has said it could modify or suspend service depending on snow accumulation and if sustained winds become greater than 39 mph.

Snow is expected to taper off late Saturday, forecasters said.

Update 1: This article was updated to include new outage information from PSEG Long Island.

Update 2: This article was updated to include comments from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.