Rashed Mian

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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

Ed Walsh Fraud Trial Begins, May Feature A Who’s Who Of Suffolk Political Elite

Ed Walsh Zeldin Schaffer
U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) (L) and Suffolk County Democratic Party Chair / Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer may be called as potential witnesses in embattled Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Ed Walsh's federal fraud trial in Eastern District Court in Central Islip.

[Photo Caption: U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) (L) and Suffolk County Democratic Party Chair / Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer may be called as potential witnesses in embattled Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Ed Walsh’s federal fraud trial in Eastern District Court in Central Islip.]

By Rashed Mian and Christopher Twarowski

Opening statements begin Wednesday in the federal fraud trial against Suffolk County Conservative Party Chairman Ed Walsh, with a judge informing the jury Tuesday that a who’s who of the county’s political power elite, including three Republican lawmakers, would potentially be called as witnesses to testify.

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Walsh’s defense team and prosecutors with the Eastern District of New York spent about five hours selecting jurors Tuesday, agreeing on a 12-person jury evenly divided by sex. During jury selection as part of the interviewing process, Magistrate Judge Arlene Lindsay asked a pool of about 34 prospective jurors whether they had any connections to a smorgasbord of some of Suffolk County’s most powerful politicians and deal-makers who’d potentially be called to testify, including, among more than a dozen names listed: U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Suffolk County Democratic Party Chair and Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer, New York State Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore), state Assemb. Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco.

Prosecutors in a recent 58-page court filing heavily cite allegations by Sheriff DeMarco that several of his attempts to investigate Walsh—who besides Suffolk Conservative Party chair is also an ex-correction lieutenant in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office—were quashed by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Spota, in a nearly 850-word response posted on his office’s website, denied those claims.

Magistrate Judge Lindsay had ordered more than 200 prospective jurors to appear for the opening day of the trial in Central Islip Tuesday, forcing that day’s proceedings to be moved to the much larger ceremonial chamber. Walsh’s trial is expected to last approximately three weeks.

Walsh is accused of scheming to defraud taxpayers of $80,000 in no-show work at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office and Suffolk County jail. Prosecutors allege Walsh falsely represented that he was working while he was actually gambling at Foxwood’s Casino in Connecticut, golfing, or conducting Conservative Party business on the taxpayer dime. The party big was also accused of lying to FBI agents when he allegedly claimed he worked flex time for the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office.

Walsh pleaded not guilty in January 2015 to those charges, and pleaded not guilty to additional theft and wire fraud charges again in March of last year. He enjoyed a salary of nearly $127,000 until he retired this February, ensuring he’ll also enjoy a generous taxpayer-funded pension whether he’s found guilty of the alleged crimes or not.

Suffolk Democratic Party boss and Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer tells the Press he received a subpoena to testify “as to certain dates that I met with Walsh,” adding that he’ll be appearing in court Thursday or Friday.

Edward Walsh
Edward Walsh

Walsh’s case is the latest amid an ongoing federal probe of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and Suffolk County Police Department sparked by the criminal misdeeds of disgraced former Suffolk Chief of Police James Burke, who recently pleaded guilty to beating a Smithtown man for unsuspectingly stealing his duffel bag—containing Burke’s sex toys, pornography, gun and ammo—and demanding those who witnessed the assault to lie to federal investigators to cover it up. That inquiry has reportedly expanded to include Spota’s public corruption bureau chief, Christopher McPartland.

Burke was Spota’s chief investigator for more than a decade. Despite his record of documented improper behavior throughout the years—including an Internal Affairs report concluding, among other “substantiated” allegations, that he “engaged in a personal, sexual relationship” with “a convicted felon known to be actively engaged in criminal conduct including the possession and sale of illegal drugs, prostitution and larceny”—Burke continued to climb the department’s ladder, facilitated by Spota and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who crowned him police chief in 2012.

Sporting a gray blazer and dark pants in court Tuesday, Walsh remained silent.

The Suffolk County Conservative Party has been instrumental throughout the years in getting lawmakers, almost always Republicans, elected to office, because of unusual election rules in New York State that allow politicians to appear on multiple party lines. In his first run for the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office in 2001, Spota’s opponent, incumbent Suffolk DA James Catterson, lost the Conservative Party line, costing him his seat. Due to Walsh’s high-profile position as a backdoor kingmaker, Judge Lindsay instructed jurors to refrain from reading news media accounts relating to Walsh and the trial.

“That means you don’t do independent research, either,” the judge told the packed room.

Magistrate Judge Lindsay oversaw jury selection, but the case will be heard before U.S. District Court Judge Arthur Spatt, who on Monday reportedly limited the scope of government evidence, despite prosecutors’ voluminous March 8 filing implicating Spota as Walsh’s primary source of cover.

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In one such instance detailed within the court papers, federal prosecutors, including U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert L. Capers, alleged that Spota killed an investigation sparked by DeMarco after Walsh had been detained in 2012 by the Suffolk County Police Department in a bust of an illegal gambling establishment in Medford. Instead of aiding DeMarco’s probe and possibly prosecuting or disciplining Walsh, the documents claim, Spota let Walsh skate free.

“Spota told DeMarco, in sum and substance, not to do anything and that the DA’s Office would take care of it and get back to DeMarco,” it reads. “DeMarco will testify that after some time passed, Spota informed DeMarco that the defendant’s conduct was not criminal and that it was not illegal to be a player at an illegal gambling establishment.”

“I’m not subpoenaing anything,” Spota allegedly commanded in response to DeMarco’s request for a subpoena for Walsh’s golf records, which he hoped to use to investigate Walsh’s alleged fraud, according to the motion—and a subpoena of Walsh’s cell phone records allegedly documenting a barrage of calls between Walsh and Spota made around that period of time.

The district attorney’s office’s lengthy rebuttal, states: “…it was the Sheriff [DeMarco] and his staff who thwarted the District Attorney’s Office, not the other way around.”

Pedestrian Killed in Central Islip Crash

A 49-year-old Brentwood man was killed crossing the street in Central Islip Sunday night, Suffolk County police said.

Luis Alfredo Rios Arevalo was walking eastbound across Route 111 at Chestnut Street at 9:35 p.m., police said, when he was struck by a 2005 Toyota Highlander driven by a teenager.

Arevalo was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

The 18-year-old female driver was not injured, police said.

Her vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing, police said.

Detectives ask anyone with information about the crash to call the Third Squad at 631-854-8352.

Wantagh Man, 60, Killed in Crash

A 60-year-old Wantagh man was killed Sunday morning when his car veered into another lane and struck another vehicle in his hometown, Nassau County police said.

The victim, Preston Stockman, was driving a white 1996 Toyota Camry east on Jerusalem Avenue at 8:50 a.m. when his vehicle entered the westbound lane and hit a white Buick. Police have yet to determine what caused the vehicle to enter the opposite lane.

Stockman was transported to Nassau University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. The 57-year-old driver of the Buick was hospitalized for minor injuries, police said.

Police removed both vehicles from the scene for brake and safety inspections. Investigators say they believe at this time there is no criminality.

Nassau Holocaust Center Gives Voice To Genocidal Rape Survivors

Sexualized genocide
Women are often victims of sexualized atrocities during genocides. (Photos via Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County)

Consolee Nishimwe knows how important it is to speak out.

Nishimwe was only 14 years old when on April 6, 1994 Rwanda exploded into a state of chaos. That day also marked the beginning of the 100-day Rwandan genocide, which claimed upwards of 800,000 lives.

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Her family did what most would do when hate-filled perpetrators seized upon the instability enveloping the nation: They fled.

Along with her mother and father, both elementary school teachers, three brothers and her sister, they hopped from place to place, desperately hiding from murderers targeting the Tutsi minority. Even neighbors couldn’t be trusted. Each moment was excruciating, and there was almost a feeling of inevitably that they’d be discovered. They resigned themselves to a heartbreaking realization that no matter where they fled to, or what they did, their time together was fleeting.

“We were waiting to be killed,” Nishimwe, who now lives in the Bronx, tells the Press.

Hoping to keep her family alive, Nishimwe’s father decided it best they separate, as to prevent the entire family from being discovered if the Hutus caught up.

They reached her father first. He was killed on April 15, just nine days after genocide broke out. Her three brothers also met the same fate.

The three remaining Nishimwes kept running.

Shortly after half her family were slaughtered, however, Nishimwe and her mother and sister were captured. Nishimwe was brutally raped, yet she survived—a “miracle,” she says.

At the outset of the devastation, Rwanda boasted a population of 7 million people—14 percent of whom were Tutsi. The genocide claimed 800,000 lives. While it’s difficult to ascertain how many women were subjected to torture and rape, the widespread nature of sexual atrocities can be measured to some degree by the number of children born from rape: an estimated 20,000. Not only were many of these women faced with the burden of caring for a child alone, but they bore other scars, physical and psychological, that festered for years. Some women like Nishimwe decided to speak out. Still, some survivors fear reliving their own sexualized atrocities—what many experts deem to be a weapon of war used during genocides that’s not to be overlooked as just a matter of circumstance.

“Rape is used as a weapon of genocide, war, and other types of conflicts in many parts of the world,” Nishimwe wrote in a post on Medium last year. “It often goes unreported during the ensuing chaos, as the more visible occurrences take most of the media spotlight. Apart from their suffering resulting from the destruction, displacement and other physical effects of the conflict, victims of this ‘silent’ atrocity are left to bear their psychological pain and trauma alone.”

Nishimwe and a panel of experts will spread that message this Sunday during a symposium at Nassau Community College titled “Women, Not Victims: Moving Beyond Sexualized Atrocities During Genocide,” presented by Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County.

The event will document how rape and other sexual crimes have historically been used to dehumanize vulnerable populations, from the Holocaust—and likely for centuries before that—to the current day civil war in Syria.

Consolee Nishimwe
Consolee Nishimwe

Speakers will discuss the trauma caused by rape during genocides across the globe, not just in Nazi Germany or Rwanda.

“We are presetting an issue that is generally neglected in Holocaust and genocide studies, and it’s only been in the past two years or so that this topic on sexualized violence has started to get the attention of mainstream media,” says Beth Lilach, Senior Director of Education and Community Affairs at the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center of Nassau County.

Discussions about genocides are often followed by the shocking number of people killed as a result, and rightly so. But advocates say rape is oftentimes misunderstood as an outgrowth of atrocities, and not a weapon used to brutalize thousands of people.

Lilach says one of the conference’s many goals is to “shatter myths” about rape, so that people understand that rape is part and parcel of genocide.

“It’s a weapon that’s not acknowledged,” Lilach tells the Press.

Sexualized weaponry is deployed in a number of ways, Lilach says. Several Nazi concentration camps were outfitted with so-called “brothels”—actually, they were “rape barracks”—where non-Jewish male prisoners were brought to reclaim a sense of “normalcy”—by raping female prisoners. Guards also assaulted enslaved women.

“What is so stunningly, strikingly missing [from history] is the female perspective,” Lilach says.

Besides individual survivors speaking out, international bodies are also battling the scourge of genocidal rape through the courts.

For seven years, Najwa Nabti worked as a prosecutor for the United Nations International Tribunal (ICTY) for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague in the Netherlands.

Established in 1993, the ICTY is charged with investigating war crimes that arose out of the conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Nabti, who currently serves as director of the Undergraduate Law and Master of Legal Studies Program at the University of Arizona, said the ICTY and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda were among the first judicial bodies created to seek justice for victims of wars or genocide.

During her keynote address on Sunday, Nabti plans to discuss how the testimony of survivors of sexual violence has shaped international law.

Nabti says evidence provided by survivors has been crucial in understanding the prevalence of sexual crimes. As a result, she tells the Press, “we can legally view sexual violence as persecution, as torture, as genocide, and not just rape—that it really does form part of the broader campaign during armed conflict.”

“The more we can include these cases in our efforts establishing accountability…the more it should really deter these acts, but possibly even more importantly, help us understand how to avoid allowing these situations to happen where its likely to be prevalent,” Nabti explains.

While it’s important not to understate the importance of international tribunals in handing out justice, the legacy of these courts may be reflected in how nationalized courts have used international concepts to prosecute perpetrators.

“You have survivors willing to come forward, even in these domestic cases where it might be even more difficult because they’re so close to the conflict and the perpetrators,” Nabti says. “And it’s difficult to perceive how all of that could have happened on the scale that it’s now…without those kind of groundbreaking steps that these initial survivors were willing to make.”


“We were waiting to be killed.”


Of course, it’s not easy for survivors to express the constant pain—and sometimes shame—as a result of being raped.

Nishimwe didn’t find her voice until she moved to the United States in December 2001.

She lived in Queens for a period, then Elmont, and now resides in the Bronx.

It was only when she came to America that she started writing about her experience in a journal—which she parlayed into a book: Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope.

Once here, Nishimwe began receiving therapy, discovering that talking about the atrocities she faced was cathartic. But her horrific ordeal did not just end when the mass rapes and murders ceased. While Nishimwe found her voice, she also discovered that she was HIV-positive, as a result of the rape.

She now devotes herself to helping other survivors—many of whom have sent her heartwarming letters thanking her for being an inspiration.

“I want to make sure that I become a voice for others,” she says.

“It has not been very easy for me to talk about, of course…it took me a long time to talk about my experience, but I realize that for me, having the courage to talk about it is so important…so I have to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

The “Women, Not Victims: Moving Beyond Sexualized Atrocities During Genocide” conference is Sunday, March 13, at the Multi-purpose Room, College Center Building (CCB), Nassau Community College. It runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free. Those wishing to attend are urged to RSVP.

Miller Place Man Killed in House Fire

A 70-year-old Miller Place man was killed in a house fire Thursday night, Suffolk County police said.

Members of the Miller Place Fire Department responded to the blaze on Parkside Avenue just before midnight and found the 70-year-old man inside the home, police said.

He was transported to John T. Mather memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, where he was pronounced dead, police said. The man’s identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

Firefighters from Rocky Point, Sound Beach, Mount Sinai and Middle Island assisted in putting out the fire, police said.

After a preliminary investigation, detectives believe the fire is non-criminal, police said.

Feds: 16 Arrested in Long Beach Beach Drug Bust

Federal agents and Long Beach City police arrested 16 people Latin King gang members and associates Thursday for allegedly peddling large quantities of drugs throughout Long Island, authorities said.

A four-count indictment alleging that the defendants conspired to distribute cocaine, molly and marijuana on LI was subsequently unsealed.

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The FBI said the arrests were the result of a two-year investigation in which authorities were able to identify the most prolific drug dealers in the Long Beach area, including gang members.

In all, the investigation allegedly involved the distribution of more than 50 kilograms (or 100 pounds) of cocaine, five kilos of crack cocaine, two kilos of molly and 500 pounds of marijuana, the feds said.

“This indictment should serve as notice to all gang members—we will not tolerate the flooding of our streets with illegal drugs,” Robert Capers, US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement. “We are committed to rooting out all drug trafficking and gang activity on Long Island.”

Investigators eventually received court authorization to intercept phone communications by the alleged drug dealers, authorities said.

James J. Hunt, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said the arrests “have dismantled an alleged drug gang that preyed upon the Long Beach community.”

Authorities did not say when federal agents stepped in to assist Long Beach City police.

Those charged were identified as: Jose Giovanny Amparo of the Bronx; Baldwin residents Amanda Andujar, Roxanee Andujar, Daniel Ojedis and Gregory Vanroten; Anthony Ramirez and Tysaun Cobb, both of Hempstead; Frank Labella of Oceanside; Arthur Collins of Island Park; and Long Beach residents Jordan Ayala, Fernando Cerda, Travis Curry, Sean Diggs, Nelson Fernandez, Ronald Rupay, and Sly Wilson.

They were all scheduled to be arraigned at federal court in Central Islip on Thursday afternoon.

Suffolk Community College Exhibit Shines Light On Long Island Nazi Camp

Camp Siegfried Long Island

In the late 1930s, thousands of German Americans spent their summers at Yaphank’s Camp Siegfried. They were greeted by a Nazi-saluting welcoming party as their train—the “Siegfried Special”—screeched to a halt. The journey wasn’t complete until they made a two-mile march to their lakeside enclave festooned with swastikas and teeming with unabashed pride for the Fatherland and its sinister, mass-murdering leader.

They’d walk passed streets named after Nazi luminaries: Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, and Hermann Goring, to name a few. Many people came after receiving postcards from the German-American Bund, a pro-Nazi organization in the United States, promising a bucolic summer haven.

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“For at the camp you will meet people that think as you do…cheerful people, honest and sincere, law abiding!” declared one postcard advertising the camp.

Once they made their way into the encampment, some adults donned Nazi military regalia while their children were subjected to Nazi propaganda.

As was customary, kids dressed in Hitler Youth garb were instructed to sing Nazi songs.

When Jewish blood drips from the knife,” they spewed, “then will the German people prosper.”

The pro-Nazi camp endured for four years, right until World War II broke out.

“They wanted to propagandize as much as possible German-American youth,” says Steven Klipstein, assistant director of the Suffolk Center on The Holocaust, Diversity and Human Understanding.

With the exhibit called “Goose Stepping on Long Island: Camp Siegfried,” the nonprofit group, based within Suffolk County Community College (SCCC), is bringing one of the most mysterious and perplexing periods of Long Island’s history back to the forefront on SCCC’s Riverhead campus. It is on loan from Queensborough Community College.

Running through March 31 on the campus’ Montaukett Learning Resource Center, the exhibit can be disorienting at first.

When Jill Santiago, the group’s Holocaust Educator, tells her students about what happened on LI eight decades ago, they are often astonished, she says.

“This is not an easy population to shock, so if you can shock them, you can see there interest immediately spikes,” explains Santiago, who is also a history professor at SCCC.

Camp Siegfried Long Island
The exhibit displays photos from German American Bund camps in the US just before World War II. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

On Wednesday, about three dozen people perused the exhibit’s powerful, disturbing photos while Klipstein provided an account of what life was like on suburban Long Island before World War II. Enjoying refreshments, visitors got a chance to check out photographs from a German-American Bund rally in 1939 at Madison Square Garden, which attracted thousands of people, as well as a large number of opponents who gathered outside the arena.

The photos also document people gathered around a stage featuring a podium flanked by the American and Nazi flag, Hitler-sympathizers greeting new arrivals at the Yaphank train station, children wearing matching uniforms, and camp-goers waving Nazi flags as dozens of onlookers performed the “Heil” salute.

Not all of the displays are as provocative; a number simply show kids frolicking in the lake and adults mingling on the lawn.

“The camp is really being advertised as a place for German Americans to get together with like-minded people…but there was definitely an anti-Semitic tone to it, and very anti-communist, eulogizing Hitler,” Santiago says.

The plot of land in which the camp existed was owned by the German-American Bund, but was eventually transferred to the German American Settlement League in 1937. The camp itself, which came under intense government scrutiny, was abandoned in 1939, after Frtiz Kuhn, national leader of the German-American Bund, was arrested for embezzlement and Germany invaded Poland.

A lawsuit filed last October by a Yaphank couple unable to sell their house in the area rekindled interest in the camp. Philip Kneer and Patricia Flynn-Kneer, who both have German roots, were trying for six years to sell their home but couldn’t because of the league’s “racially restrictive policies” that only permitted purchasers to be of “German extraction,” according to the federal complaint. Both parties reached a settlement in January stipulating that the league will welcome new homeowners irrespective of their race or ethnicity. It also agreed to refrain from using any Nazi-related symbols on the property.

The original property was purchased by the Bund in 1935, and at its height welcomed approximately 100,000 people to the camp. Many of the people lived in the tri-state area and either enrolled their children in the camp for most of the summer or came for celebratory occasions, like “German Day.”

“They wanted to transform America into a Nazi system,” Klipstein told the audience.

Kuhn, a frequent visitor, had dreams of being the American Fuehrer if the Nazi’s won the war, and gave a speech at the camp one summer about the importance of properly educating children about the group’s “ideals.”

“The youth of our great Bund are the hope, the life line of our organization. Through them we must live into the future,” he said, according to testimony he gave a Congressional committee investigating “Un-American propaganda activities” in the United States. “It is, therefore, necessary that we must stand united behind them, educate them, and raise them to manhood and womanhood with our ideals imbedded in their hearts. We must fight together for their freedom.”

“We [must] work to win over the youth of all German-Americans and some day when our labor has reaped its reward we shall hear fine and strong German-American youths come marching from the east and west, from the south and [north]—marching onward to build a greater nation,” he said, according to testimony.

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German-American children received more than a lesson in “ideals” at the camp.

Every Sunday morning, according to the committee’s report, boys and girls would join separate ranks to greet “storm troopers” arriving to the camp.

“Some of the scouts march behind the German swastika and the American flag to the railroad station 2 miles away through Yaphank,” according to the report. “They line up at attention beside the track and, as the train pulls in, their arms are outstretched in a Hitler salute to the arriving guests.”

There’s little evidence available to definitively say how many people joined the Bund, which Kuhn maintained was nothing more than a political organization with divisions in the east, midwest and western part of the country. But the government believes the Bund had as many as 25,000 loyal followers.

In its report, the committee said that testimony from several witnesses “establishes conclusively that the German-American Bund received its inspiration, program, and direction from the Nazi Government of Germany through the various propaganda organizations which have been set up by that Government and which function under the control and supervision of the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda and Enlightenment.”

The rally at Madison Square Garden in 1939 turned out to be the Bund’s last hurrah. That same year, Kuhn, its leader, was arrested by the feds. It’s also important to note that, although the camp was a bastion for Nazi sympathizers, it did have its detractors. Namely, those in the surrounding communities saw them as a “menace,” according to Klipstein, and camp efforts to expand into Riverhead were thwarted by Riverhead Town.

All these years later, Klipstein says it’s important to shine on a light on what he calls Long Island’s “checkered past.”

“As much as we repeat the message [of intolerance] these things still happen,” he told the audience.

The Suffolk Center on the Holocaust, Diversity & Human Understanding continues to teach the lessons of the Holocaust, but also tackles hate crimes, slavery, and modern-day human trafficking.

“This exhibit is really about examining a period of history that’s not very well known and kind of promoting the idea that we have to take a stand against things that are rooted in prejudice of hate,” Santiago says.

“Goose Stepping on Long Island: Camp Siegfried” runs through March 31. It is located at Suffolk County Community College’s Montaukett Learning Resource Center in Riverhead. The exhibit is free. Special tours can be arranged by calling 631-451-4700. The exhibit is on loan from the Harriet and Kenneth Kupferberg Holocaust Center and Archives at Queensborough Community College.

Cuomo: LIRR Third Track Wouldn’t Impact Homes

Long Island Rail Road (Photo by MTA).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced that a controversial Long Island Rail Road expansion project is no longer predicated on the agency’s acquiring homes in the long-sought third track’s path.

The LIRR’s reversal came on the same day Cuomo joined the Long Island Association for an event announcing the formation of a broad coalition called “Right Track for Long Island” that is committed to seeing the project move forward.

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“You have one of the worst commutes in the country on Long Island, literally one of the worst in terms of hours and time,” said Cuomo, adding that the project would alleviate some of the railroad’s woes.

To limit congestion, the LIRR has envisioned a 9.8-mile-long third track between Floral Park and Hicksville that would run along the current right of way.

The controversial $1.5 billion expansion once hinged on the railroad acquiring at least 20 residential properties along the route, but that is no longer on the table, Cuomo said.

The Right Track for Long Island Coalition includes a number of leading business organizations, labor unions, research institutions, environmental groups such as Citizens Campaign for the Environment and the commuter advocacy group, Long Island Railroad Commuter Council.

The extension is part of a much more ambitious attempt to improve the railroad’s infrastructure. It also includes a review of seven of the busiest grade crossings in the region in order to eliminate potential collisions between trains and vehicles stuck at the crossings.

Bill Corbett Sr., a Floral Park resident and staunch opponent of the proposal, said construction of a third track would create considerable disruptions for people living in the affected communities.

“We’re really upset with the governor,” Corbett said, adding that construction will be “very unpleasant for a lot of people.”

“The thought that this can be done without intruding on private property is absurd,” he added.

But proponents of the project believe the supposed benefits are hard to ignore.

“One track is always out; it seems like,” Cuomo said, adding that the third track would serve as a redundancy in the event another track goes off line.

LIRR Third Track
Map of the Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project. (Courtesy: Right Track for Long Island)

The governor argued that the LIRR’s current two-track system limits how it can perform, especially during peak times, when the railroad has no choice but to run trains in a single direction between Floral Park and Hicksville. Adding a third track would uncork the bottleneck and reduce delays, according to the governor’s proposal.

Former Greenport Mayor Dave Kapell, co-chair of the Right Track for Long Island coalition, said the railroad is long overdue for a major expansion.

Begun in 1844, the original premise of the railroad was to create a connection between New York City and Boston, Kapell said, adding that the system today is running on the same two tracks built when Long Island’s population was only 50,000.

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The dual-track system is a hindrance to Long Island’s economic expansion, Kapell said.

The proposal to expand the LIRR “is both exciting and critically needed for our communities,” he added.

A Rauch Foundation study published in 2014, titled “The Economic and Fiscal Impacts of the LIRR Third Track,” noted that the construction of a third track would create 14,000 jobs and generate $40 million in new sales tax revenue, $103 million in property tax gains and $5.6 billion in Gross Regional Product by 2035.

But opposition remains on track.

More than 100 local organizations and elected officials are opposed to the project, plus mayors of each village on the route that will potentially be impacted by the construction, Corbett said.

“There’s been no demonstrated need for a third track,” he said. “We’ve proven that the reverse commute does not exist; the trains are now coming out half-full.

“We don’t oppose the elimination of grade crossings,” he said. “We think that’s a good idea as long as it’s done with the cooperation of the individual communities and meets their needs.”

Those looking toward the future say the expansion is critical to attracting young people to the Island.

The railroad’s current two-rail system “prevents the transit-oriented economic and community development that the Coalition believes is essential if Long Island is to be competitive in a 21st-century economy and attractive to the young people we want to live and work here,” the Right Track for Long Island coalition wrote on its website, which was also launched on Tuesday.

Schumer Wants Federal Funds for Proposed Brewery

One of the local craft beer industry’s biggest cheerleaders, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, is pushing for federal funds to help transform a dilapidated building in Copiague into the state’s first ever craft beer incubator.

The New York Democrat Monday pledged to help the Town of Babylon obtain $1 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help pay for the estimated $12 million project.

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Schumer said the so-called Babylon Brewery Incubator meets the criteria for federal funding, and it would be a “game changer” for Long Island and New York State.

“This could be the Mecca of beer brewing in all of New York State,” proclaimed the senator at a press conference held outside the building, which was once home to a wallpaper manufacturing company and a defense contractor before that.

Transforming the one-acre site into a beer incubator is a no-brainer given the craft beer industry’s meteoric rise over the last several years, Schumer explained. Long Island now boasts more than a dozen craft breweries, and the robust industry has shown no sign of tapering off.

Town officials said the proposed facility would house a 4,000-square-foot tasting room where artisan beer lovers could sample brews concocted by microbrewers who would be tenants there. The beers would be made in the facility using on-site equipment essential to the beer-making process, like fomenters.

Schumer and others believe a facility like this would give home brewers the space and the machinery they need to create their product and allow them to “mix and mingle” with like-minded beer connoisseurs.

The Copiague site was built in 1951. It has been abandoned for three decades, officials said. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)
The Copiague site was built in 1951. It has been abandoned for three decades, officials said. (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press)

“Hundreds of Long Islanders who brew in their garages or make-shift facilities would have a chance to hone and perfect their recipes in a state-of-the-art commercial space,” Schumer said.

The property at 1305 South Strong Avenue would need more than a face-lift. The building has been abandoned for about three decades, according to Babylon Town Industrial Development Agency’s chief executive officer, Matthew McDonough. As a result, the building is tagged with graffiti, its windows are broken, and the roof has partially collapsed, rattling dangerously on windy days. Apparently, local kids have turned the interior into a skate park littered with empty beer cans and broken glass. The local fire department has reportedly complained about bonfires being set inside the building, prompting firefighters to respond on several occasions.

Lower Credit Card Processing Fees

The Babylon IDA said that the site had more than $900,000 owed in back taxes, and that New York Department of Environmental Conservation had had to spend $750,000 in remediation costs, which included the disposal of 20 tons of contaminated waste from a cesspool.

According to the DEC, “significant contamination was removed,” thus no further remedial action plan is proposed for the site. The property had been listed in the State Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites, but “the site no longer poses a threat to human health or the environment,” the DEC concluded in a report published in February.

The property was originally developed in 1951 by Dayton T Brown Co., a defense contractor currently based in Bohemia.

Assuming the Babylon IDA receives the funding it needs, local officials believe the beer incubator could eventually create about 35 to 50 full-time positions. Once the Town acquires the property, it plans to send out a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a site manager.

Schumer said New York’s craft beer industry currently supports 60,000 jobs and brings in $5.3 billion in economic activity. The incubator will bolster job growth by giving Long Island microbrewers the opportunity to perfect their product before they open their own operations, he added.

The senator cited as a success story the Patchogue-based Blue Point Brewery, which began as a home-brewing operation before becoming the largest craft brewery on the Island. Blue Point was sold to international beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014 for an estimated $24 million.

Fire Kills Woman, 90, in Sayville

A fire killed a 90-year-old woman inside her unit at a retirement community in Sayville early Sunday morning, Suffolk County police said.

After the fire was extinguished, first responders found Elizabeth Sclafani’s body inside her home, police said. Sclafani was already dead by the time they reached her, police said.

The 4 a.m. fire destroyed a neighboring residence, which was vacant at the time, and damaged another unit, police said.

Authorities said that half a dozen fire departments responded to battle the blaze. A Sayville firefighter was hospitalized for minor injuries, police said.

After a preliminary investigation, detectives believe the origin of the fire was non-criminal, police said.