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Timothy Bolger

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.

California Added To NY COVID-19 Travel Advisory, Massachusetts Trips Discouraged

Passengers on a train from Florida stop and register with officials at Penn Station during an effort to screen out-of-state travellers and enforce the state's 14-day coronavirus disease (COVID-19) quarantine in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

California was added to the list of places from where travelers to New York State must self quarantine for 14 days to curb the spread of coronavirus and officials are discouraging trips to and from Massachusetts due to a spike in cases there.

No states were removed this week from the list, which which includes areas with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or an area with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.

“We cannot let our guard down and risk going backwards in New York,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “It’s going to take the work of all of us to remain vigilant … Wear a mask, socially distance, and follow the public health guidance. It’s there to save lives.”

The list now includes 39 states, plus Guam and Puerto Rico. Besides Massachusetts, last week Cuomo also discouraged travel to and from New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, but stopped short of requiring quarantines. New York City has set up checkpoints at bridges and tunnels to ensure travelers from other states fill out the required contact tracing paperwork or face fines.

 The full, updated travel advisory list is as follows:

  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Guam
  • Iowa
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • Nevada
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Related Story: Tristate Governors Discourage Travel Between NY, NJ, and CT To Curb COVID-19

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Cell Tower Planned for Old Brookville Police Headquarters Draws Ire

The Old Brookville Police Department serves Brookville, Old Brookville, Upper Brookville, Mill Neck, Cove Neck, and Matinecock. Photo by Ed Shin

Five Gold Coast villages are sounding the alarm that a proposal to build a cell phone tower at Old Brookville Police Department headquarters could handcuff cops’ ability to quickly respond to emergencies.

The Village of Upper Brookville, which owns the land where the OBPD station house is located, swatted away the critics when the board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution paving the way for the construction. Now the other five surrounding villages in a six-way OBPD protection partnership say Upper Brookville has run afoul of their agreement by putting their neighbors’ lives at risk — an allegation cell tower proponents deny.

“It is a detriment to — besides your residents — to your five other partners,” Old Brookville Village Trustee Matt Schamroth, a member of OBPD’s board of commissioners that oversees the department’s operations, told the Upper Brookville village board before the vote at its Oct. 6 meeting. “It would be criminal if the lack of response time because something has now been slowed down results in something that you can’t undo.”

OBPD also serves the villages of Brookville, Mill Neck, Cove Neck, and Matinecock, the mayors of which joined Old Brookville in charging that Upper Brookville should find another place for the tower that won’t potentially slow police response times.

“We do not believe you can reasonably take the position that the construction of the cell tower will not interfere with police department operations if … contractors and vendors need access to the parking lot in order to construct and/or maintain the cell tower,” Mill Neck Mayor Peter Quick wrote to Upper Brookville in a letter obtained by the Press.

None of the critics disagree that cell service in the communities dotting northwestern Nassau County need improvement. But the five village leaders opposing Upper Brookville are worried that work crews taking over the OBPD parking lot will impede police officers from responding as quickly as possible to 911 calls.

“My job, which is an efficient and effective operation of this police department for everybody … should not be interfered with,” said OBPD Chief Christopher Walsh.

Critics add that after construction is done, maintenance crews — one for each of the handful of service providers that often share cell towers —  will need to visit the tower at least monthly, if not more, potentially blocking traffic in the small OBPD parking lot for years to come.

Upper Brookville Mayor Elliot Conway, whose village stands to earn $30,000 annually from each cell phone company that shares the tower, shot back that the need to improve cell service outweighs other concerns.

“While the installation of a mobile antennae may have some negative impacts in regard to aesthetics, this impact is more than offset by the improved level of service for the public, including health and safety benefits, and the additional revenue to the village,” Conway said while reading a study the village had commissioned to examine the issue. “The amount of traffic to and from the site will be minimal with only a visit or two a month at most.”

Conway cited Federal Communications Commission statistics showing 60 percent of homes have no landline telephones and an estimated 80 percent of 911 calls are made from cell phones. 

“The police can’t come if they never get the call,” added Upper Brookville Trustee Carl A. Friedrich. “There’s no delay greater than when police are not able to get the call on the first, second, or third attempt due to inferior cell service in the area.”

Matinecock Village Deputy Mayor Albert Kalimian countered that the OBPD serves more people than the proposed cell tower.

“The tower that you’re proposing putting on the police headquarters only satisfies 200 or 250 of your residents, whereas the tower impacting the police impacts 10,000 residents,” he said. “There is a magnitude here of importance …  and police coverage trumps cell coverage for 250 residents.”

Like Schamroth of Old Brookville, Kalimian also serves on the OBPD board of commissioners along with Conway of Upper Brookville and officials from the other three villages.

Asked to comment on concerns that the tower might delay OBPD police response times, AT&T, which is in talks with Upper Brookville to build the 140-foot tower, dodged the question.

A company spokeswoman said, “We continually work to improve our network and we will coordinate with the Village of Upper Brookville as we build the critical infrastructure that will enhance coverage for Long Island residents, guests, and first responders.”

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3 More Long Island Businesses Face Liquor License Suspensions For Pandemic Violations

Getty Images

Two catering halls and a bar are among the latest establishments on Long Island to have their liquor licenses suspended for allegedly violating social distancing orders meant to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Those cited include Leonard’s of Great Neck, the Pine Grove Inn in East Patchogue, and D’Ambiance Bar & Lounge in Baldwin.

“As we continue to fight clusters across the state, bar and restaurant owners should know that the State’s task force will keep enforcing the law, and if they do not follow the rules they will lose their right to serve alcohol,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The three were among 21 establishments that had liquor licenses suspended after New York State Liquor Authority investigators found alleged violations in the past month. Two hundred eight restaurants had their licenses suspended since the pandemic began. The SLA has suspended the licenses of more than a dozen LI restaurants in recent months, including Dox in Island Park, Secrets Gentlemen’s Club in Deer Park, 75 Main and Blu Mar in Southampton, Off Key Tikki in Patchogue, Toku Modern Asian in Manhasset, among others.

Following complaints of a large gathering and excessive noise on Sept. 25 at Leonard’s of Great Neck, the Nassau County Fire Marshall met with the manager, who said the venue was hosting a wedding with more than 100 guests, which is double the state-mandated limit of 50, officials said. The venue had been warned about social distancing violations two weeks prior, according to investigators.

At Pine Grove Inn, Suffolk County police officers responded to 911 calls of social distancing violations, reckless driving, and vehicles blocking driveways and upon arrival at the venue, found more than 200 mostly maskless patrons attending an event whole not social distancing at an unlicensed outdoor area of the premises, authorities said.

And at D’Ambiance, Nassau authorities found six patrons standing and drinking at the bar without facial coverings, with no evidence of food being served, the SLA said. That came a few days after a woman was shot outside the bar following an altercation that started inside while the lounge was over capacity, authorities added.

None of the three establishments responded to requests for comment.

For more coronavirus coverage, visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus

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Early Voting Starts Saturday on Long Island

A voter casts her ballot in Nassau County.

Voters can begin casting their ballots in the 2020 elections Saturday when polling sites open on Long Island as the nine-day early voting period begins in New York State ahead of Election Day.

Voters can cast their ballots at any one of the 12 early voting sites in Suffolk or 15 early voting sites in Nassau between Oct. 24 and Nov. 1. Polls close on Nov. 2 and then reopen on Nov. 3.

“Please, let your voice be heard,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters during a news conference Friday in Mineola.

Voters have three ways to cast their ballots: Absentee ballot, early voting, and heading to the polls on Election Day.

Absentee ballot request forms must be emailed, faxed, or postmarked by Oct. 27. Nov. 2 is the last day to apply for an absentee ballot in person from the board of elections offices. To apply, download the absentee ballot request form at absenteeballot.elections.ny.gov, email BOEInfo@suffolkcountyny.gov for a copy, and mail the completed form to the Nassau or Suffolk board of elections.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Nassau Board of Elections officials said that the agency has received more than 150,000 requests for absentee ballots, more than triple the amount from the 2016 presidential election. The agency purchased two high-speed scanners to speed up the process of counting ballots, but can’t start counting until seven days after Election Day. That is expected to slow results.

Officials also noted that police and elections officials will be patrolling polling sites to watch for possible electioneering or voter intimidation.

Suffolk’s early voting locations and times can be found at suffolkcountyny.gov Nassau early voting locations and times can be found at nassaucountyny.gov Polls are open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Election Day.

Related Story: Key Dates To Watch For 2020 Election Voters

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Spencer Resigns As Democratic Leader After Sex-for-drugs Bust

Suffolk County Legislator William Spencer.

Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) has stepped down from his post as leader of the legislature’s Democratic majority a day after he was accused of trading pills for sex.

Spencer, a physician, was also removed from his post was chairman of the county legislature’s health committee and his assignment on the panel’s heroin and opiate epidemic advisory panel. 

“There is nothing in the law that requires a legislator to resign while charges are pending, and while the allegations against Legislator Spencer are serious, he is entitled to his day in court,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Pathchogue). “My colleagues and I remain focused on continuing the business of the people. The Democratic caucus will convene in the future to select a new majority leader, and a new health committee chair will be chosen in due time.”

Authorities arrested Spencer on Tuesday after he allegedly agreed to trade two prescription painkillers for sex from an undercover investigator posing as a sex worker, prosecutors said. He pleaded not guilty to two felony drug charges. The investigation is continuing.

Suffolk GOP Chairman Jesse Garcia has called for Spencer to step down, although Democratic leaders stopped short of demanding the lawmaker resign.

He is not the only sitting legislator with a a case pending trial in criminal court. Suffolk Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) was arrested in 2019 on perjury charges. He has pleaded not guilty and is due back in court next month. In that case, Garcia defended the fellow Republican and said the lawmaker should not step down.

Related Story: Suffolk Lawmaker William Spencer Arrested in Sex-for-drugs Sting

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Tristate Governors Discourage Travel Between NY, NJ, and CT To Curb COVID-19

Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. (Getty Images)

The governors of New York State, New Jersey, and Connecticut issued a travel advisory Tuesday discouraging residents from visiting neighboring states to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

Citing economic concerns, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont stopped short of requiring anyone who needs to cross tristate borders to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“We’re urging all of our residents to avoid unnecessary or non-essential travel between states at this time, but will not subject residents of our states to a quarantine if coming from a neighboring state,” Cuomo, Murphy, and Lamont said in a joint statement. “The travel advisory was designed to keep our respective states safe, with the understanding that we are a connected region, dependent on each other when it comes to commerce, education, and health care.”

The travel advisory comes as New Jersey and Connecticut have seen a spike in cases. New Jersey had a 2.89 percent infection rate and Connecticut’s rate was 1.85 percent as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data. New York, which is currently working to tamp down several hot spots, was 1.17 percent. Cuomo also declined to quarantine travelers from Pennsylvania, which had a 9.16 percent positivity rate, for the same reason as the tristate area.

Meanwhile, New York State requires travelers from 38 states, plus Puerto Rico and Guam, to self-quarantine for two weeks to curb the spread of COVID-19. The list includes areas with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or an area with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average.

“There is no practical way to quarantine New York from New Jersey and Connecticut,” Cuomo told reporters during a news conference Tuesday. “There are just too many interchanges. There are too many interconnections. There are too many people who live in one place and work in the other. It would have a disastrous effect on the economy and remember what we’re fighting, this public health pandemic, we’re also fighting to open up the economy.”

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Suffolk Lawmaker William Spencer Arrested in Sex-for-drugs Sting

Suffolk Count Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) at a 2019 news conference.

Suffolk County Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport) was arrested Tuesday for allegedly trying to trade drugs for sexual favors from an undercover police officer posing as a sex worker, authorities said.

Spencer, 53, pleaded not guilty Wednesday at First District Court in Central Islip to felony counts of criminal possession of a narcotic drug with intent to distribute and criminal possession of a controlled substance.

“The allegations being made against Legislator William Spencer are extremely serious,” Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said. “We have very little information, and at this time, I will not be making any further statement. Our thoughts are with his wife and children during this difficult time.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said prosecutors will “hold criminals accountable no matter who they are or what their walk of life is.” The arrest was made following a joint investigation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. 

WNBC-TV, which broke the story, reported Dr. Spencer drove his county-issued vehicle to meet an undercover investigator posing as a sex worker with whom he thought he could swap two oxycodone pills for sex, but it was a sting operation set up by a task force that was tipped off to Spencer’s alleged behavior after a previous drug investigation. 

Spencer is the second Suffolk legislator to be arrested in about a year. Suffolk Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) was arrested in 2019 on perjury charges resulting from a county ethics law investigation, Suffolk prosecutors have said. Sunderman has pleaded not guilty and remains a sitting lawmaker while that case is pending.

Spencer, a five-term legislator first elected in 2011, is also a minister, Democratic majority leader, chairman of the legislature’s health committee, the first medical doctor currently serving on the legislature, member of the county’s Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, and is a pediatric ear, nose, and throat doctor with a private practice in Huntington. He was reportedly suspended as chief of otolaryngology at Huntington Hospital.

“This alleged act was an attempt to abuse his position of power and trust, prey on women, and take advantage of those he believed were prisoners of addiction,” Suffolk GOP Chairman Jesse Garcia said. “I hope Dr. Spencer receives the help he needs. Our prayers are with his family during this difficult time, and anyone that may have been a victim not discovered before last night’s arrest.”

Suffolk County Court Judge Pierce Cohalan ordered Spencer free without bail and required the doctor to surrender his passport and any firearms in his possession. He faces up to nine years in prison, if convicted. He is due back in court on Feb. 26.

Sini said the investigation is continuing. 

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2 More States Added to NY COVID-19 Travel Advisory List

Passengers on a train from Florida stop and register with officials at Penn Station during an effort to screen out-of-state travellers and enforce the state's 14-day coronavirus disease (COVID-19) quarantine in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., August 6, 2020. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Two more states have been added to the list of places from where travelers to New York State are required to self-quarantine for 14 days to curb the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

Arizona and Maryland have been added to the list, which includes areas with a positive test rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day rolling average or an area with a 10 percent or higher positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average. Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania also now meet the criteria, but the governor is not including surrounding states in the quarantine order.

“There is no practical way to quarantine New York from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut,” Cuomo said. “There are just too many interchanges, interconnections, and people who live in one place and work in the other. It would have a disastrous effect on the economy, and remember while we’re fighting this public health pandemic we’re also fighting to open up the economy. However, to the extent travel between the states is not essential, it should be avoided.” 

The list now includes 38 states, plus Guam and Puerto Rico, not including New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. No states were removed from the list this week. New York City has set up checkpoints at bridges and tunnels to ensure travelers from other states fill out the required contact tracing paperwork or face fines.

 The full, updated travel advisory list is as follows:

  • Alaska 
  • Alabama 
  • Arkansas 
  • Arizona 
  • Colorado 
  • Delaware 
  • Florida 
  • Georgia 
  • Guam 
  • Iowa 
  • Idaho 
  • Illinois 
  • Indiana 
  • Kansas 
  • Kentucky 
  • Louisiana 
  • Maryland 
  • Michigan 
  • Minnesota 
  • Missouri 
  • Mississippi 
  • Montana 
  • North Carolina 
  • North Dakota 
  • Nebraska 
  • New Mexico 
  • Nevada 
  • Ohio 
  • Oklahoma 
  • Puerto Rico 
  • Rhode Island 
  • South Carolina 
  • South Dakota 
  • Tennessee 
  • Texas 
  • Utah 
  • Virginia 
  • Wisconsin 
  • West Virginia 
  • Wyoming 

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Five Towns COVID-19 Hot Spot Infection Rates Decline

Blood sample tube positive with COVID-19 or novel coronavirus 2019 found in Wuhan, China

Progress has been made in tamping down a spike in coronavirus cases in the Five Towns area, Nassau County officials said Tuesday while opening a new drive-through COVID-19 rapid test site in the community.

The infection rate in Lawrence and Inwood has dropped from up to seven times to four times higher than the county-wide average of about 1 percent, although there has been a slight uptick in cases in Woodmere, officials said.

“This is a little bit of a troubling spot,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters during while announcing the debut of the new drive-through test site at the Five Towns Community Center in a partnership with Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside.

Parts of the Five Towns have been included in the New York State Cluster Action Initiative aimed at containing COVID-19 hot spots in Brooklyn, Rockland, and Orange counties, which face the strictest rules and have been marked as red zones by health officials.

Buffer zones around the targeted communities bleed across the New York City line into southwestern Nassau, with less stringent orders in orange zones such as parts of Lawrence and Inwood, and yellow zones like Cedarhurst. The zones are subject to change as the hot spot infection rates are updated.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” said Nassau Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, noting that rates have reached a plateau. “We want to get the transmission rate here below what it is now.”

Related Story: NY Limits Activity in Lawrence, Inwood Amid COVID-19 Hot Spot Response

Related Story: COVID-19 Hospitalization Uptick Eyed on Long Island

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COVID-19 Hospitalization Uptick Eyed on Long Island

FILE PHOTO: Scientists work in a lab testing COVID-19 samples at New York City's health department, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, New York U.S., April 23, 2020. Picture taken April 23, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/

Long Island officials are closely watching a slight increase in patients being treated for coronavirus at hospitals across the region in recent weeks.

As of Monday, 64 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Nassau and 35 hospital patients have been diagnosed with the virus in Suffolk, officials said. While nowhere near the April peak of about 2,500 in Nassau and 1,658 in Suffolk, virus hospitalizations are up from a low of 24 for each county in recent months.

“That can largely be attributed to infections in our community primarily originating in high school- and college-aged people,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Monday during a news conference in Mineola. “While the numbers are slightly higher, it’s nowhere near where we were at the worst days of the pandemic.”

As for the most serious COVID-19 hospitalizations, Nassau reported 16 patients in intensive care units and Suffolk had five in ICUs as of Monday. That’s compared to the peak of 592 in Nassau and 562 in Suffolk in April. Overall, there were nearly 1,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across New York State, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday. 

“They don’t do a lot of discharges over the weekend,” Cuomo said. “The good news in the 934 is the admissions were down over the weekend … Fewer people went into the hospitals.”

Officials are watching hospitalizations closely as health experts have warned of the possibility of a second wave this fall. LI’s coronavirus infection rate has hovered around 1 percent since the summer, although parts of the Five Towns area have seen spikes that prompted New York State to include some of Lawrence, Inwood, and Cedarhurst in a recent crackdown aimed at curbing the spread.

Suffolk officials noted that some hospital patients were admitted for other ailments or injuries and tested positive for coronavirus during their treatments.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone had cautioned last week that officials were “watching very closely” a trend of increasing hospitalizations in the county. Virus hospitalizations had hovered around 20 over the summer, but had been closer to 40 for a couple weeks. But there was good news this week.

“That trend has not continued,” he said on Monday.

Related Story: NY Limits Activity in Lawrence, Inwood Amid COVID-19 Hot Spot Response

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