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: [email protected] Twitter: rashedmian

February One of the Warmest on Record

Long Island weather

Last month was the third-warmest February on record—a distinction that wouldn’t shock anyone who enjoyed Mother Nature’s much-appreciated spring tease over the last few weeks.

The National Weather Service’s Upton office reported that February’s average monthly temperature was 37.8 degrees. The reading was .08 degrees cooler than the record established in 1998 and slightly below the second-warmest Februaries in 1984 and 2012. The weather service’s Islip record books date back to 1984.

It was entirely possible for the month to claim the record books, given that February ended with a string of 11 days boasting average temperatures above freezing, including a pair hitting 65. On Tuesday, forecasters recorded a high of 58, the final day of the month. Alas, it was not warm enough to push February 2017 into the record books.

In total, there were nine days that topped 50 degrees, including four that exceeded 60 degrees. The warm days outpaced the handful of days that averaged temperatures at or below freezing.

Forecasters attributed the unseasonably warm climate to an “early spring-like pattern.”

By comparison, this past February was 2.1 degrees warmer than last year and a remarkable 16.2 degrees higher than February 2015—the coldest February on record.

Since Mother Nature has a cruel way of humbling us, those heartened by February’s warm embrace should not get too comfortable jut yet. While Wednesday will top off in the 60s, the upcoming forecast isn’t so inviting.

On Thursday night, the mercury will drop into the 20s and make only a modest climb into the high 30s on Friday, which could see some light snow. Friday evening will be in the teens, and Saturday will be around freezing.

In the meantime, you can set your countdown to spring, which is only 19 days away.

Related: A Look Back at the Brutal Winter of 2015

Nassau Police: Anti-Semitic Attacks ‘Will Not Be Tolerated’

Officials in Nassau County Tuesday characterized as “deplorable” a breakout of bomb threats directed at Jewish Community Centers and said police would continue to maintain intensified patrols in and around synagogues.

At a press conference at the Nassau County Legislative building in Mineola, County Executive Ed Mangano pledged support to the Jewish community, saying a threat to anyone’s right to practice their religion “is a threat to every citizen in our county.”

Mangano said NCPD’s focused patrols on Jewish sites have continued since the Jewish High Holy Days, when police traditionally increase activity around synagogues and other Jewish centers. A pair of threats made to JCC’s in Nassau are currently under investigation.

Mangano, who in October pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges, said Nassau police are working with federal and state authorities to investigate the bomb threats.

On Monday, Jewish Community Center’s across the country reported a fifth wave of bomb threats, including Mid Island Y JCC in Plainview. Last month, the Barry & Florence Friedberg JCC in Oceanside also received a threatening phone call.

There were about 400 people inside Mid Island Y JCC at the time the threat was made, including children from the JCC’s nursery school. The building was evacuated and nothing suspicious was found.

Acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter said the local threats share similarities, but he declined to elaborate further.

The two Nassau cases have been assigned to the Special Investigations Unit, which is receiving support from the Major Case Bureau and intelligence officers.

The department is in the process of contacting the more than 180 Jewish institutions in the county, Krumpter said, adding that individual precincts are reaching out to all religious institutions within their jurisdiction to provide support.

“One biased incident is one too many,” Krumpter said. “We are aggressively investigating this case.”

In addition to these incidents, someone spray painted two swastikas on the side of a Pear Street home in Central Islip, Suffolk County police said. The homeowner reported the crime at 11 p.m. Monday, Feb. 20. Police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

At a separate press conference outside the Chabad of Mineola, Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin), ranking member of the county legislature’s Public Safety Committee, said the hair-raising threats require a forceful repudiation from national leaders, including President Donald Trump.

“It’s so important that elected officials, community and faith leaders and law enforcement binds together and sends a very clear message, in words and in action, that anti-Semitism and racism will not stand,” said Curran, a county executive candidate.

Curran mentioned a pervasive culture of fear ripping through various ethnic and religious communities and expressed concern that xenophobic policies could drive people into the shadows.

“People might not go to church, they might not go to synagogue, they might keep their kids home from school, they might not report domestic abuse because they’re afraid of coming out,” Curran said. “And anything that would further erode the trust between the police and the communities they protect, I think would be very, very harmful for many different reasons for all of our communities.”

Rabbi Anchelle Perl of Chabad of Mineola said the threats would not have the intended effect of sowing fear into the community.

“Nothing will stop us in continuing to contribute to society,” Perl said. “We will only redouble our efforts in friendship and appreciation with all of our friends and neighbors of all walks of life, with all faith communities to counter your world of darkness and evil with our acts of goodness and kindness.”

Curran and Krumpter had a phone conversation Monday evening in which he discussed measures that have been put in place to protect houses of worship, which left the legislator feeling satisfied, she said.

The acting commissioner’s decision not to deputize police as immigration enforcers was also heartening, she said. When asked about the police department’s policy toward immigration officer’s detainer requests, Krumpter demurred. He said the force would be holding town halls, the first of which is Thursday at the Yes We Can Center in Westbury, to give community members the opportunity to air their concerns.

Calls for Trump to be more forceful in his condemnation of anti-Semitic attacks have come from civil rights groups and Jewish leaders across the county. Trump’s presidential campaign was accused of trafficking in anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric that helped embolden radical right-wing groups. As president, he’s been criticized for being to slow to react to the wave of incidents, including vandalism at two Jewish cemeteries.

The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report this month documenting the rise of hate groups in the US, with more than 900 spread around the country. The same report blamed Trump’s campaign for emboldening hate groups.

Among those also expressing fear since the Nov. 8 election are Muslim Americans who’ve testified to an increase in Islamophobia, and various other immigrant populations worried about the prospect of being deported.

Last week in Kansas a gunman shot two Indian men at a bar after allegedly yelling, “Get out of my country.” The suspect was also said to have admitted to a bartender that he shot the two men, whom he falsely identified as Iranian.

Severe Thunderstorms, Light Snow Possible This Week

Forecasters at the National Weather Service’s Upton office are warning of hazardous weather coming this way in the form of thunderstorms and gusty winds.

The hazardous weather outlook calls for a possibility of severe thunderstorms Wednesday “with the main threat being from damaging wind gusts.”

The storm is expected to begin in the afternoon and continue through the evening. A total of a half an inch of rain is possible during the duration of the storm, forecasters said.

The upcoming forecast comes as Long Island has enjoyed unusually high temperatures in February, including several days pushing or exceeding 60 degrees.

Wednesday is expected to continue the string of unseasonably warm days, with forecasters calling for a high of 62. Thursday will be sunny and breezy with a high of 49, but temperatures are predicted to drop Friday and Saturday to 39 and 36 degrees, respectively.

What’s more, forecasters are also calling for a chance of light snow Friday. Winter may not be through with us after all.

Flood-Prone Nassau Expressway to Get $130M Overhaul, Cuomo Says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that a flood-prone section of Nassau Expressway in the Five Towns will be rehabilitated sooner than expected and that the state would pour $130 million into the project.

Nassau Expressway, also known as Route 878, runs from western Nassau County into Queens, carries 56,000 vehicles daily, and is a designated evacuation route for more than 400,000 people.

The plan, which was borne out of post-Superstorm Sandy NY Rising discussions, calls for the beleaguered one-mile stretch to be elevated to mitigate flooding while improving upon existing drainage. Cuomo said the project would be fast-tracked to begin in 2019 as opposed to its original starting date of 2025.

The governor was critical of past repairs, which he said were done “piecemeal,” and noted that the previous timeline was inadequate.

“The problem is that I may be dead by 2025,” Cuomo said during an appearance at the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence on Sunday. “That’s a long time from now, and who wants to wait and put up with it until 2025?”

Cuomo, who is fond of recalling his own experiences while highlighting the need for new projects, painted a nightmarish portrait of past trips along the parkway.

“I lived in Hollis, Queens. I had a good friend for many years who lived in Inwood, so I would come down the Cross Island Parkway, come across Brookville Boulevard, which was an undertaking in and of itself,” Cuomo said. “That is like going over the mountains, when you go over Brookville Boulevard. You dodge the potholes and you’re going through a whole marsh area, you wait for a boat to float past as you go through Brookville Boulevard, and then you’d run the floods. It was like a road test for a vehicle, that’s what it was.”

“Did you have the shocks to handle Brookville Boulevard, and then did you have the ground clearance to make it through the water on Burnside?” he continued. “So this is a situation that has gone on for way too long.”

State Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) in a statement said the infusion of cash will “protect a vital piece of infrastructure—and the New Yorkers who rely on it—for decades to come.”

Cuomo’s appearance also put him in the same room with indicted Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who in October pleaded not guilty to federal bribery charges.

The governor made light of the fact that the pair were in the same room together.

“Normally when I’m with the County Executive, we’re in some kind of snowstorm, hurricane, Mother Nature wrath, never-happened-before-but-now-it’s-going-to-happen-to-us situation,” he said. “So to be with Ed when the sun is shining and it’s not raining is really nice and unusual. We are talking about flooding so it’s basically where we’ve been, but let’s give the County Executive a round of applause.”

(Photo credit: New York Governor’s Office)

Cuomo Calls for Probe Into Latest Wave of JCC Threats

JCC threats

 

 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday directed state authorities to investigate bomb threats made to a handful of New York’s Jewish Community Centers, including one on Long Island that was targeted Monday morning.

The governor is ordering State police to collaborate with local and federal agencies to investigate the threats and arrest those responsible. The rash of threats, which began nationwide in January, has unnerved Jewish communities—a religious group that is consistently the target of the most hate crimes, according to FBI statistics.

“I share the pain and the outrage of so many New Yorkers who are affected directly and those who are sickened by watching these attacks unfold,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We will not allow anyone to intimidate or strike fear in the state of New York. The full force of government will be brought to bear in these efforts, and these perpetrators will be punished.”

On Monday the Mid Island Y JCC in Plainview was one of four Jewish Community Centers in New York to receive a threatening message during this current spate of hateful provocations. Earlier that day more than a hundred tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were reportedly discovered vandalized. About a week before, more than a 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis were desecrated.

Rick Lewis, chief executive officer of the Jewish center, said about 400 people were taking part in a range of activities Monday when the center received a phone call at 11 a.m. saying a threat had been made to the building.

In response, emergency protocols were immediately put in place and the building was evacuated, Lewis said. Nothing dangerous was found during a subsequent sweep of the building, and the center was reopened at 12:15 p.m., he said.

At the time of the threat, several hundred people inside the JCC were partaking in a host of activities, including swimming and exercising. The center’s nursery school was also open.

“It’s upsetting that there’s somebody out there targeting the Jewish communities,” Lewis said. Last Thursday night, this JCC had hosted a town hall meeting by Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), which was attended by hundreds of people without any incidents reported.

Nassau County police confirmed that its units did respond to the threat, and the incident is under investigation.

While Suffolk County JCC’s were not threatened, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said the department is “closely monitoring the situation.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), one of only two Jewish Republicans in the House of Representatives, called for those responsible to be prosecuted.

“There must be zero tolerance of any kind for this rising tide of anti-Semitism in the United States and abroad,” Zeldin said in a statement.

The latest round of JCC threats comes a week after President Donald Trump finally condemned anti-Semitic attacks, which had become increasingly prevalent during the presidential election. Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center, said that Trump did not go far enough. “The President’s sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration,” said Goldstein in a statement.

Anti-hate organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center attribute Trump’s anti-immigrant comments for emboldening radical right-wing groups. SPLC in a report released last week said the number of hate groups in the US has increased for the second consecutive year.

In a telephone conference call with constituents last week, Zeldin said he was critical of the Trump administration for omitting the plight of Jews when the White House issued a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“It’s important that our statements reflect and honor and never forget the loss of millions of other people who weren’t Jewish,” Zeldin said.

According to 2015 FBI statistics released in January, anti-Jew attacks accounted for the highest number of hate crimes and for half the 1,354 religious bias offenses reported to the agency. That year also saw a significant spike in hate crimes—67 percent—against American Muslims.

Minority groups nationwide have expressed concern about such crimes, citing election year xenophobia. An attack on two men from India inside a Kansas bar last week has garnered nationwide attention after witnesses recalled the suspected gunman yelling, “Get out of my country.”

On Monday Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas announced the creation of a new Hate Crimes Unit charged with investigating these crimes.

“The diversity of Nassau’s communities is one of our greatest assets, and nobody should be a victim because of the color of their skin, the faith they practice, their gender, or the person they love,” Singas said in a statement. “Crimes motivated by hate and intolerance are especially despicable, and the creation of this unit underscores our commitment to aggressively prosecute these offenses.”

‘Early Spring-Like Pattern’ Brings Above Normal Temps to Long Island

The winter thaw that has taken hold of Long Island over the last month is expected to continue thanks to an “early spring-like pattern” that has Long Islanders dreaming of long walks in the sand amid crashing waves.

The unusually warm weather has produced a half-dozen 50-plus temperature days on the Island, including 16 such days greater than 40 degrees, according to the National Weather Service’s Upton office. Readings taken in New York City indicate that there’s been 15 days with above normal temperatures there, three of which that were greater or equal to 60 degrees, NWS said.

Of the last six days on the Island, five have been above 50, and one day even reached the mid-60s—and it’s not even spring, let alone March.

Forecasters are attributing the unusual February warm-up to “an early spring-like weather pattern.”

And there’s good news for those who can’t wait to put winter behind them: the trend will continue into next week.

Temperatures over the next five days will range from 44 degrees to 55, forecasters said.

Friday’s forecast calls for a high near 58 with areas of fog in the evening, plus a very manageable low of 49. A high of 56 is expected for Saturday, but there’s also a chance of thunderstorms heading into Sunday and wind gusts of 30 mph. Strong gusts could hang around for most of the day Sunday, which will feature a high of 44.

Next week is also looking up as well, with forecasters calling for sunny skies Monday and temperatures in the low-50s Tuesday and Wednesday.

And it’s hard to think that just three weeks ago Long Islanders were clearing away more than a foot of snow courtesy of the first blizzard of 2017.

For those counting down the days, spring begins March 20.

Cops: 1 Dead in Multi-Car LIE Crash, Driver Arrested

Nassau police charged Jonathan Santos in the crash that killed one of his passengers late Thursday. (NCPD)

A 20-year-old Manhasset man has been charged in a crash on the Long Island Expressway late Thursday that killed his passenger, Nassau County police said.

Homicide Squad detectives arrested Johnathan Santos Friday and charged him with second-degree vehicular manslaughter and driving while impaired. Santos was scheduled to be arraigned Friday at First District Court in Hempstead.

Police said at least two cars were involved and detectives are investigating the possibility of a third.

The crash occurred near Route 135 around midnight. A police spokeswoman said Santos was behind the wheel of the car that crashed into a guardrail. The force of the collision caused a passenger in the car to be ejected. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. Investigators are still waiting on a toxicology report to determine what was in Santos’ system at the time of the crash, the spokeswoman said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. Police are withholding the victim’s name pending notification of next of kin.

Police had shut down all eastbound lanes of the LIE for several hours overnight before reopening it at 6 a.m.

Former Tech Company CEO Who Fled Country Sentenced in Fraud Scheme

fraud

The former chief of an Israeli technology firm who had eluded U.S. authorities for more than a decade before his extradition last year was sentenced Thursday to nearly three years in prison for his role in a lucrative fraud scheme.

In what authorities said was the heaviest penalty ever handed down for a stock option backdating scheme, Jacob “Kobi” Alexander was ordered to serve 30 months in prison during his sentencing at U.S. District Court in Central Islip Thursday.

Alexander’s punishment follows his guilty plea in September for a securities fraud scheme dating back nearly two decades. He was indicted more than 10 years ago but had fled to Namibia, a country in southwest Africa, with his family, to evade prosecution, authorities said.

Federal prosecutors said Alexander, the former CEO of Comverse, which was traded on the NASDAQ 100, operated a fraudulent backdating scheme and subsequently lied to investors in public filings. Comverse had offices in Woodbury.

The scheme went on from 1998 to 2006, authorities said. By backdating stock options, Alexander and his alleged co-conspirators made tens of millions in profits by selecting issuance dates when Comverse stock was trading lower. This allowed Comverse to inflate the amount of its profits and also violated the company’s shareholder-approved stock option plans, authorities said.

Alexander’s plan to escape legal scrutiny included an attempt to bribe a witness into making false statements and abruptly fleeing the country, authorities said. Alexander was extradited from Namibia last year.

“I deeply regret having participated in this conduct,” Alexander reportedly said back in September.

In a statement, Robert Capers, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said Alexander’s conviction and sentence “should send a powerful message to high-ranking executives that corporate rank is no shield to criminal liability.”

Trump’s Rollback of Transgender Rights Condemned by Parents & Advocates

transgender

Long Island transgender advocates condemned as “deplorable” President Trump’s decision to rollback federal guidelines protecting the rights of transgender students in the nation’s public schools.

The Trump administration’s new order rescinds a directive laid out last year by the Obama administration, which warned that preventing students from using restrooms that correspond with their gender identity could potentially make schools vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits under Title IX, a federal anti-discrimination law.

Parents and supporters of transgender youth on Thursday expressed dismay at the rollback of the Obama-era guidelines, which they characterized as a dangerous assault on human rights.

“All students deserve the dignity and right of being free from harassment and discrimination, including use of the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity,” David Kilmnick, CEO of The LGBT Network, said during a press conference Thursday with transgender Long Islanders and parents. “Refusing to protect our most vulnerable youth is both deplorable and dangerous.”

The Departments of Justice and Education on Wednesday published a joint “Dear Colleague Letter” to the nation’s public schools revoking Obama’s guidance measures from a year ago. The administration argued that the previous administration’s directive created confusion, led to a rise in litigation and was ill-advised because it lacked “extensive legal analysis.” The letter also makes clear that the new administration believes that decisions regarding education policy should fall on individual states and local school districts—a notion long championed by Republicans.

Transgender advocates bristled at the suggestion that protection for trans youth fall under education policy instead of more broad federal anti-discrimination laws.

“They covertly use the words like safety, privacy, state rights and choice to justify their actions when in fact they are working against the values Americans hold most dear: freedom, equality, and justice,” Kilmnick said.

LGBT advocates acknowledged that students in New York State are protected under a similar guidance directive issued by the state Department of Education in 2015 and more broadly, under the Dignity for All Students Act, which was signed into law in 2010.

Regardless of state law, Kilmnick said falling complacent is dangerous because the protection groups currently enjoy at the state level could eventually be eroded depending on the ever-changing political winds.

“We have to be vigilant, we have to resist, we have to stand together and not let this administration keep stripping away civil rights and liberties from all these different groups,” Kilmnick said.

Those most affected expressed consternation at the president’s latest decision.

“Yesterday really hit home because I am a parent of a transgender youth,” said Lauren Bocketti of Massapequa.

Turning to her son Zach Mahmud, she said, “He is my hero, he is the greatest person that I know.”

Mahmud, who is 10, transitioned at the age of 4. He was only 2 when he went to his mother and said: “Why did God make me a girl?”

Despite the challenges, Mahmud has been “treated fairly” at his elementary school, Bocketti said, adding that her son’s principal often reaches out to report on how he’s doing.

“This cannot be allowed to go on,” she said of the attacks on transgender people.

Madeline Bruni, 18, began her transition in middle school, she said. She owed her ability to persevere to her family, who supported her through the process.

“If you’re going to take away something it has to be a privilege, using the bathroom of your choice is not a privilege, it’s a human right,” Bruni said.

Bruni said she’s been mocked, had the police called on her at a local restaurant after entering a bathroom, and was told to use the nurse’s bathroom at school following complaints from other parents.

“It almost made me feel like I was some kind of deviant,” she said.

Ethan Diaz of Hempstead said he personally had never been confronted but has heard troubling stories from friends about their bathroom odysseys.

“Just knowing my friends, my community, had problems and can’t even bring themselves to use the bathroom they feel they’re assigned to—not even assigned—deserve to use,” he said. “They can’t feel comfortable enough, so they go to the restroom that makes them uncomfortable, gives them anxiety, makes them feel scared even more.”

New York State in 2015 issued its own guidance to school districts stipulating that students should be allowed to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

On Thursday, state officials reminded schools of their responsibility and said they’d stand up for students’ rights.

“In New York, whether you are gay, straight or transgender, Muslim, Jewish or Christian, rich or poor, black or white or brown, we respect all people–and we will continue to enforce our laws and stand united against those who seek to drive us apart,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

“Transgender youth are valued members of our schools and communities across New York State, yet statistics show that more than half of them will attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday,” said state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “So we must do everything in our power to create learning environments that are safe and welcoming for all. The guidance we have developed with Attorney General [Eric] Schneiderman and our partners underscores the value we place on respecting all students and indeed all people.”

Schniederman, one of Trump’s most staunch critics, said schools are mandated to protect the rights of all students, including transgender youth.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to rescind this guidance sends a dangerous and divisive message and threatens some of our most vulnerable young people,” he said. “But in New York State, the law remains the law—and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school.”

What’s most egregious, Klimnick of LGBT Network said, is how fear among transgender kids has become normalized in society.

“That is not something that we should accept,” he said.

Long Island Reps Plan to Phone-In Their Town Hall Meetings

Congressional Town Halls
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) visits Make the Road New York in February 2014. (Photo credit: Long Island Civic Engagement Table/Facebook)

Long Island’s Congressional representatives are planning to host town hall events in the coming days for their constituents but the two Republican incumbents are avoiding meeting the public face to face.

As the local lawmakers leave Washington D.C. for their first recess at home after the new Trump administration’s chaotic start, Reps. Peter King and Lee Zeldin have scheduled “tele” town halls that require participants to “opt-in” via a web address.

Only freshman Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) has committed to holding a traditional face-to-face town hall, which the former Nassau County executive will host Thursday night at the Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainview. A spokesman for Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) said her office is organizing a large “town hall-type” event in response to her constituents’ wishes.

At other town hall events in recent days, lawmakers across the country have been peppered with questions since they’ve returned home to their districts. They’ve encountered large crowds decrying a number of President Trump’s policies, including his desire to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), and the administration’s now-frozen anti-Muslim travel ban. Some Republicans have been booed and publicly admonished.

Videos from this current round of town halls recall similar scenes that played out after the emergence of the Tea Party in 2009, which was funded in part by Charles and David Koch, the billionaire oil business brothers.

In 2009, former six-term Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop encountered a large crowd at a town hall in Setauket, with people waving signs and mocking him as Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) lapdog. At that meeting, Bishop was reportedly grilled about former President Obama’s bailout of Detroit’s auto industry and his health care reform, among other hot-button issues. Afterward, he temporarily suspended hosting town hall events.

“I had felt they would be pointless,” Politico quoted Bishop for an article titled, Town Halls Gone Wild. “There is no point in meeting with my constituents and [to] listen to them and have them listen to you if what is basically an unruly mob prevents you from having an intelligent discussion.” Bishop lost his seat to Zeldin in 2014, one of the most expensive Congressional elections in the country.

Facing pressure from those adamantly opposed to Trump—whose popularity is at record lows for a newly elected president—Republicans are now using similar explanations to avoid meeting their constituents in public venues.

“Way too many of the people at the moment requesting Town Halls across the country are doing so with the purpose of disrupting the Town Hall without any interest at all in decorum,” said Jennifer DiSiena, a spokeswoman for Zeldin, in an email to the Press. “It’s impossible to take a request like that seriously.”

DiSiena noted that Zeldin has addressed constituent concerns through telephone town halls going back to his days as a state Senator, which he typically holds quarterly.

DiSiena claimed that forums held over the phone are more efficient because they allow the Congressman to establish a dialogue with a greater number of people “interested in constructive dialogue.”

“Constituents will be asking questions to the Congressman and participating in interactive poll questions throughout the call. It’s a modern way to bring a town hall directly to the constituents’ home,” she said, adding that Zeldin also holds district-wide “mobile office hours.”

Public town hall events are the preference of Eileen Duffy, founder of Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin, a 2,000-member Facebook group dedicated to securing a forum to ensure that Zeldin and his constituents “have equal opportunities to tell their stories without disruption.”

Duffy thought that Zeldin was keeping the public at bay.

“One-on-one meetings in his offices and tele-town halls allow the Congressman to vet who can ask a question, or indeed who can participate,” Duffy told the Press. “Even the mobile office visits only allow for a few constituents at a time.”

Duffy’s group has kept up the pressure on Zeldin since Trump’s election. On Jan. 3, they rallied outside his Riverhead district office. Since then they’ve had face-to-face meetings with Zeldin’s district director, including one in the Riverhead public library that attracted upwards of 90 people. Duffy herself met with Zeldin this Wednesday morning and discussed a variety of topics, including town halls.

“The Congressman cannot say that very few people have contacted his office or even want a town hall,” Duffy said.

Visit Lee Zeldin is among a number of groups borne out of Trump’s victory in November. Further west, New York’s 2nd District Democrats are also eager to have King host a town hall.

List of upcoming opportunities to speak with Long Island Reps:

Rep. Tom Suozzi town hall Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. at Mid-Island Y JCC in Plainvew.

Rep. Lee Zeldin “tele” town hall Thursday, Feb. 23 from 7-8 p.m. Constituents must opt-in here to receive a phone call from Zeldin’s office and be able to participate in the event. Zeldin’s office said it will be calling approximately 100,000 homes. The district has a total of 470,000 active voters.

So far, Rep. Peter King, Rep. Kathleen Rice and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have yet to release any details about town halls.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) held a town hall on immigration and health care last week.