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.

Hempstead School Oversight Bill Compromise Reached

The Hempstead School District's troubles run deep.

New York State lawmakers have proposed a revised version of the Hempstead School District oversight bill that appears to be a compromise easing administrator’s concerns that the original plan was too strict.

The most significant change is that the revised version of the bill removes the proposed monitor’s veto power over the board of education’s spending measures and nixes the watchdog’s ability to appoint superintendents. A revised version of a similar bill enacting oversight of the Wyandanch School District was also proposed Thursday. The governor is expected to sign the bills into law when they pass the state Assembly and Senate, which may vote on the measures as early as next week.

“Our number one priority throughout this process was to find a responsible path forward that will help students receive the best possible education in our public schools,” said Jason Conwall, a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “After discussions with the legislature, we’ve reached an agreement that will help us achieve this goal by ensuring the communities have input into the monitor process through extensive public hearings, that the Monitor and the Board will work collaboratively to reach consensus on academic and fiscal plans, and that ultimate accountability and responsibility lies where it belongs, with the Commissioner of Education.”

Also among the key provisions in the negotiated amendments are requiring public input, requiring the board and the monitor to work collaboratively and come up with consensus academic and fiscal plans and annual budgets, and if they fail to reach consensus, placing responsibility on the Commissioner of Education. It also provides fiscal relief for Wyandanch and reduces the oversight panel from three monitors to one.

Related Story: Hempstead School Crisis Persists While Garden City Flourishes

“We seem to be in a three-way agreement with the Senate, the executive’s office and the Assembly so, so far, so good,” Assemblywoman Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead), who proposed the initial oversight bill, told Politico.

Hempstead school leaders are still not thrilled about the oversight, but were more willing to accept the revisions than the original monitor bill.

“It’s not what I would’ve desired, but it’s better than nothing,” Hempstead School Board President David Gates told News12 Long Island.

NUMC Gets New Chairman, Interim CEO

Nassau University Medical Center

Nassau University Medical Center underwent another change in leadership Thursday amid its continuing search for a permanent leader.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran appointed health executive Robert Detor as the new chairman of NuHealth, the public benefit corporation that operates NUMC. In addition to confirming the appointment, NuHealth’s board of directors also appointed the hospital’s chief medical officer, Anthony Boutin, as interim president and CEO. The move comes upon the resignation of NuHealth board chairman and interim CEO George Tsunis.

“Thanks to George Tsunis’ leadership, we’ve turned the page on the era of corruption and waste at NUMC,” Curran said. “George was the right leader for the right time, and I thank him for his deft navigation of a ship in stormy waters. With Bob Detor at the helm of NUMC, we will have an expert with more than 40 years of experience in the operation and administration of health care services. I look forward to working alongside Bob to build on the progress we’ve made and ensure continued access to quality medical services.”

The 530-bed NUMC, founded in 1935, is the region’s lone public hospital. It serves as a safety net for uninsured patients and neediest populations. Leaders hope a new permanent CEO will give NUMC stability after its gone through four leaders in two years.

Related Story: Will New Leadership Stabilize NUMC?

Detor has more than 40 years of experience in the operation and administration of health care services, including serving as CEO of Advanced Health Network, an Independent Practice Association of 35 Behavioral Health Providers, since 2017. He previously served President and CEO of The Long Island Home, a member of the Northwell Health System, which operates South Oaks Hospital, a 193-bed comprehensive behavioral health facility and Broadlawn Manor Nursing & Rehab Center, a 320-bed skilled nursing facility. 

“I thank County Executive Curran for entrusting me in this role, and I look forward to working together to continue the progress that’s been made at NUMC,” Detor said. “As chairman, I will work to chart a course for the hospital that ensures quality patient services and care for our most needy residents.” 

Suffolk Police Release New Gilgo Beach Murder Evidence

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart holds up a photo of initials on a belt found at a Gilgo Beach crime scene. (Long Island Press photo)

Suffolk County police shared a previously undisclosed piece of evidence in the unsolved Gilgo Beach murder investigation Thursday, nine years after the evidence was found and shortly before a movie about the case debuts.

The evidence was a black leather belt embossed with the half-inch initials “HM” or “WH” in light blue lettering found at an unspecified victim’s dump site, police said. Investigators believe the belt was handled by the killer and didn’t belong to any of the victims, but they declined to release the belt size.

“We are hopeful this photo will bring someone forward with information about its origin,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart told reporters during a news conference at police headquarters in Yaphank. 

In addition, Hart said police are launching a new website dedicated to the case, gilgonews.com, where the public can read up on the investigation, submit tips, and police may release new details down the line.

And Hart announced that the New York State Department of Health has approved investigators’ request to provide DNA samples from the unidentified victims to the FBI, which will conduct genetic genealogy in an attempt to identify them.

”The process includes uploading DNA to public genealogy databases in an effort to identify possible relatives of each unidentified victim,” Hart said. “It is not clear how long the process will take.”

The announcement comes before the upcoming 10th anniversary of the first discovery in the case this December and shortly before Lost Girls, a Netflix movie about the probe that is set to premier Jan. 28 at the Sundance Film Festival. Shortly before the news conference, Netflix released the trailer and announced the movie will debut March 13 on the streaming service.

Police were searching for Shannan Gilbert, a New Jersey woman reported missing in May 2010 from Oak Beach, when they discovered 10 sets of human remains—half of whom were also identified as escorts—along Ocean Parkway between December 2010 and April 2011. Gilbert was later found dead, but police and medical examiners have suggested she may have drown in a marsh—although her family insists she was murdered.

John Ray, Miller Place-based attorney for Gilbert’s family, repeated his demand Thursday that Suffolk police release to the public the four 911 tapes made when Gilbert disappeared.

“I have fought alone, in court for nearly four years to compel SCPD to release the 911 tapes,” Ray said. “SCPD has relentlessly stonewalled against me and the public, and refused to release them … They should release the 911 tapes.”

Next week, the New York State Appellate Division Court is scheduled to decide the police department’s appeal of a court order requiring it to release the 911 tapes. Hart said the department will be “guided by the verdict” in that case and declined to speculate on whether she believes Gilbert was killed or died accidentally. 

Among those discovered were Megan Waterman, Maureen Brainard-Barnes, Amber Lynn Costello, Melissa Barthelemy—who had all advertised themselves as escorts on Craigslist and been found wrapped in burlap—the head, hands and forearm of Jessica Taylor, whose mutilated body was found in Manorville in 2003; an unidentified woman dubbed Fire Island Jane Doe, whose legs washed up on Blue Point Beach in 1996 and whose skull was discovered on Ocean Parkway; another unidentified woman dubbed Jane Doe No. 6, whose head, hands and right foot were matched with another torso in Manorville; a young Asian male; and the remains of another unidentified woman nicknamed Jane Doe No. 3 until recently, who was matched through DNA to a young infant, known as Baby Doe, also disposed of there.

Authorities have previously said they suspect three or more killers used the desolate stretch of road as a dumping ground. Hart would not specify which theory the believes, maintaining that she will let the evidence dictate the outcome of the case.

“We keep our minds open as investigators and go where the facts take us,” she said.

Related Story: Did Police Name A Suspect in The Long Island Serial Killer Case?

Related Story: Who is The Girl With The Peach Tattoo?

Related Story: Questions Remain in Long Island Serial Killer Case

Related Story: Red Herrings Among Tips in Long Island Serial Killer Case

Lost Girls, Movie About Gilgo Murders, Debuts on Netflix in March

Lost Girls, a movie based on the nonfiction book of the same name chronicling the unsolved Long Island Serial Killer case, is set to be released on Netflix on March 13, the company announced Thursday.

Actress Amy Ryan will play Mari Gilbert, the mother of Shannan Gilbert, the missing woman Suffolk County police were searching for when they uncovered 10 sets of human remains in and around Gilgo Beach on Ocean Parkway.

The real-life Marie was murdered by Shannan’s sister, but a lawsuit seeking the release of 911 tapes Shannan made the night she went missing is still pending.

Director Liz Garbus, an Oscar-nominated documentarian, is making her narrative feature debut with the film. Producers Anne Carey and Kevin McCormick are collaborating on the project along with executive producers along with Amy Nauiokas, Rory Koslow.

Screenwriter Michael Werwie based the film on Robert Kolker’s book about the case, which is considered the largest unsolved homicide investigation in Suffolk history.

The Netflix release date comes after the film debuts Jan. 28 at the Sundance Film Festival. It will also be screened in select theaters, Netflix said. The announcement comes on the same day that Suffolk County police are revealing a previously undisclosed piece of evidence in the case for the first time since the remains were found a decade ago.

View the trailer, which was released Thursday and is set to the tune of ”Beautiful Dreamer,” below:

 

9/11 Fund Extension Gives Chance For New Victims To File Claims

A firefighter surveys the remaining shell and tons of debris of the World Trade Center on Sept. 25, 2001. (Photo by Michael Rieger)

Recent policy changes to the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund are not only better helping ailing first responders, but also downtown Manhattan workers, students, residents, and families of those who died of related illnesses.

The change extended the deadline to file VCF claims to July 31, 2021 for all families who lost loved ones to 9/11-related illnesses as well as people who worked, lived, or went to school in lower Manhattan and were exposed to airborne toxins on or after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks — but few people know about the extension.

“We have many clients that missed this deadline because they did not know that a cancer … was 9/11 related, did not know that the VCF applies to non-first responders … or were wholly unaware of the VCF program until the recent news — when it was too late,” said attorney Daniel Hansen of Turley Hansen & Rosasco, LLP, a law firm specializing in 9/11 fund claims.

About 410,000 people were exposed to 9/11-related toxic dust released into the air in the area surrounding the World Trade Center site and of those, an estimated 67,000 have died since 2001, according to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office. Of the 67,000, only 1,173 families — 2 percent — have filed VCF wrongful death claims, which compensates families for funeral and burial expenses, according to a recently released report by the VCF Special Master.

Previously, the VCF required that the families of people who died from a 9/11-related illness register their claim within two years from the date of death, which caused the denial of many VCF wrongful death claims. Similarly, before the change, those suffering from 911-related cancers had to file a VCF claim within two years of being diagnosed in order to be considered for compensation.

“It’s amazing that after so many years and so much news coverage that these families, many who struggle due to the loss, still don’t know their absolute right to receive financial support from the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund,” said Hansen, who counts Long Islanders among his clients.

Mental Illness Eyed as Root Cause of Opioid Epidemic

opioid epidemic

Providing better mental health treatment to stressed-out Long Islanders who are self medicating with illicit drugs is key to combating the deadly opioid epidemic that continues to grip the region, experts say.

That was among lead findings of the Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel’s recently released 127-page 2019 report detailing the latest efforts to stem the scourge that has claimed more than 3,000 lives on LI in the past decade.

“Not only do we have to address the addiction issue, we also need to address mental health,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who chairs the 30-member panel, told reporters during a Jan. 2 news conference. “You can’t have one without the other.”

The issue is a local manifestation of a national opioid epidemic that ranks among the deadliest health crisis in U.S. history, claiming more than 70,000 lives nationwide in 2018 alone — killing more Americans annually than car crashes and guns. 

It’s long been settled that police can’t arrest their way out of the problem. Increased awareness and improved access to treatment have also been priorities. But it turns out it’s not just more drug busts, anti-drug campaigns, and rehab programs that are needed — it’s more access to mental health treatment to address the root causes of addiction, such as depression, trauma, and grief.

“We have to go further in order to take a preventative role,” said Legislator Dr. William Spencer (D-Centerport), who chairs the legislature’s health committee. “And that is getting into people’s lives and understanding what the genetic predispositions may be, what the environmental stressors may be, so that we can do a better job of preventing and treating addiction.”

Steve Chassman, executive director of the Long Island Coalition on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, is among those pressing for answers as to why heroin and prescription opioid-based painkillers continue to entice new users despite the widely publicized death toll.

“The trillion-dollar question is: Why are so many adolescents and adults, so many people in Suffolk County, across New York State, and across the country, turning to the most powerful narcotics for self medication?” he asked rhetorically. “Could it be stress? Could it be anxiety? Could it be not adequate coping skills to deal with this beautiful thing called life?”

And most importantly: can it be stopped?

Ex-Hempstead Village Trustee Sentenced For Taking Bribes

Left to right: Perry Pettus and William Mendez

A former Hempstead Village Trustee has been sentenced to 2 1/3 to 7 years in prison for extorting business owners, ticket fixing, and submitting false pay stubs to obtain a mortgage.

Nassau County Judge Teresa Corrigan sentenced Perry Pettus on Tuesday after the ex-lawmaker pleaded guilty in June to bribe receiving, grand larceny, tampering with public records, falsifying business records, conspiracy, official misconduct, and tampering with a witness.

“Perry Pettus’s corrupting influence infected virtually every aspect of government in the Village of Hempstead,” Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “He abused his position to shake down businesses and solicit bribes and exploited his authority over the Hempstead Police Department to obtain favorable treatment for friends and to punish enemies.”

Prosecutors said Pettus, who is also the owner of Hubs Auto Care, solicited bribes from local restauranteurs by threatening to have summonses issued that would jeopardize the restaurants’ business, cabaret and liquor licenses, thereby forcing the restaurants out of business.

He also tried to obtain a mortgage from TD Bank by lying on the application about the amount of money he earned annually and submitting forged pay stubs as proof of income, tried to use his authority to fix tickets for associate William Mendez, and took a cash bribe in exchange for his vote.

Former Hempstead Police Department Lieutenant Richard Holland allegedly bribed Pettus in exchange for voting to promote Holland to deputy chief of the department. Mendez, Holland, and two other village police officials are still facing charges.

The Irishman, Filmed on Long Island, In 3-Way Tie For Second-most 2020 Oscar Nominations

The Irishman

Director Martin Scorsese’s epic organized crime saga The Irishman, which was partly filmed on Long Island, is in a three-way tie for second-most 2020 Academy Award nominations with World War I drama 1917 and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood.

Joker received the most nominations with 11. The Irishman was nominated in 10 categories, including for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design. Scorsese was nominated for Best Director and sharing nominations for Best Supporting Actor are Al Pacino and Joe Pesci.

“We put all of ourselves into this picture, a true labor of love, and to be recognized in this way means a great deal to all of us,” Scorsese told Variety.

Related Story: 23 Movies Shot on Long Island That Won Oscars

The Netflix film starring Robert De Niro chronicles the unsolved mystery of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance. Told through the eyes of World War II veteran, hustler, and hit man Frank Sheeran, it is billed as a journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime: its inner workings, rivalries, and connections to mainstream politics.

Scenes in The Irishman were filmed at the Rodeway Inn in Huntington Station, Biscuits & Barbeque in Mineola, Hildebrandt’s ice cream shop in Williston Park, Brookhaven Calabro Airport in Shirley, Hempstead Town Hall, Harry Tappen Marina in Glenwood Landing, Leonard’s Palazzo in Great Neck, and several private homes.

This would be the second Oscar for Scorsese, Pacino, and Pesci. Scorsese was nominated for Best Director 10 times but only won in 2007 for The Departed. Pacino was nominated eight times before for best lead or supporting actor but only won for Best Actor in a Lead Role in 1993 for Scent of A Woman. And Pesci was nominated twice before and won in 1991 for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Goodfellas.

The 92 annual Academy Awards air at 5 p.m. Feb. 9 on ABC. The full list of nominees can be found here.

Lindsay Lohan’s Mom, Dina Lohan, Arrested for DWI Again

dina lohan

Dina Lohan, mother of actress Lindsay Lohan, was arrested this weekend for allegedly driving while intoxicated near her Merrick home, Nassau County police confirmed.

Dina Lohan was arrested following an incident near the Outback Steakhouse at the corner of Merrick Avenue and Grand Avenue shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday, police confirmed. She was released without bail Sunday at First District Court in Hempstead on charges of DWI as a felony, leaving the scene of an accident, driving without a license, driving without insurance, driving an unregistered vehicle, and driving an uninspected vehicle, court records show.

TMZ reported that Dina Lohan was arrested after she struck a car, fled the scene, and the second driver followed her, but police did not confirm those details.

The incident comes after Dina Lohan pleaded guilty in 2014 to DWI and speeding on the Northern State Parkway. She was fined and sentenced to community service in that case. She is due back in court Wednesday on the latest case.

Long Islanders Push Back Against Hate Amid Anti-Semitism Crisis

Protesters march across the Brooklyn Bridge on Jan. 5 for the No Hate. No Fear. Solidarity March against Anti-Semitism. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

At age 15, Yetta Zimmer repeatedly snuck through the barbed wire of a concentration camp in Poland during World War II. She begged for food, then snuck back in to help feed her captive parents and three sisters.

Seventy-five years after being freed at the war’s end in 1945, the 92-year-old Holocaust survivor, Romanian immigrant, and widowed grandmother now living in Commack shares her harrowing story with a reporter for the first time. But she remains reluctant to have her photo published out of fear that anti-Semites might target her for speaking out.

“The picture of that day I never forget,” she says through tears while recalling soldiers forcing her family to leave their home in Romania after her mother refused her father’s calls to escape before the Nazis arrived in 1940. “We went through walking hell … I was lucky they didn’t kill me.”

Turns out her fears of anti-Semitism persisting nearly a century after the Nazis killed 6 million European Jews in the Holocaust are not unfounded. The FBI found a 40 percent increase in anti-Jewish hate crime reports nationwide — from 609 to 835 — between 2014 and 2018, the most recent year that national data is available.

More recent local high-profile hate crimes have many on edge. Incidents include a spate of anti-Semitic assaults in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, a suspect allegedly stabbing five people at a rabbi’s house during a Hanukkah party in surburban Rockland County, and racist graffiti and swastikas found at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove — weeks before the museum hosts an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event on Jan. 26.

“As a historical institution charged with the responsibility of educating about the hatred that led to the Holocaust, we are deeply aware of the fear these incidents create in the Jewish community, particularly among Holocaust survivors and their families, and the dangers that these acts of anti-Semitism pose to the broader society,” the Holocaust center said in a statement. “We ask all Long Islanders to stand together in a collective call for safety, unity, and tolerance.”

The incidents prompted Nassau and Suffolk county leaders to join with the center in December to form an anti-bigotry coalition dubbed the Islandwide Task Force Against Anti-Semitism and Symbols of Hate. And a week after thousands of people packed the streets of Manhattan for the No Hate. No Fear. Solidarity March against Anti-Semitism on Jan. 5, Long Islanders are holding a follow-up march in Mineola on Jan. 12.

“We will be neither silent nor complacent in the face of this horrifying rise in anti-Semitic attacks,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “Together, Long Islanders of all faiths and backgrounds will march in solidarity with our Jewish community to make clear that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.”

The march is expected to draw Long Islanders from across the region.

“The ugliness of anti-Semitism and bigotry have no safe haven on Long Island,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We will continue to stand united, marching side by side, rejecting anti-Semitism whenever it rears its ugly head and sending the message loud and clear that we are a hate-free community which embraces and promotes diversity.”

Jewish leaders say enough is enough.

“We will not be intimidated,” says Rabbi Anchelle Perl, director of Chabad of Mineola. “We will not be defined by anti-Semitism. The arc of history will ultimately bend towards tolerance and understanding between people.”

Of course, for those who’ve seen the worst of history’s anti-Semitism, that may be harder to believe.

“It’s terrible that picture, I never forget,” says Zimmer, the Holocaust survivor. “I been through hell.”