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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.

ACDS Touts Group Home Heroics Amid Pandemic

L. to R.: Residential nurses Theresa Entler, her daughter Allison, and ACDS CEO Michael Smith.

When residents of Long Island group homes for the developmentally disabled were hospitalized for treatment of coronavirus, a Plainview-based nonprofit’s staff stayed with patients in 12-hour shifts so they wouldn’t be alone.

The heroic feats were but some of the notable efforts that nurses and direct service providers from ACDS performed when the COVID-19 pandemic recently peaked on LI, resulting in some serious cases among the 55 residents of the agency’s eight group homes in Nassau County.

“You have got to be pretty special to say, ‘I’ll take a 12-hour shift in a COVID unit in a hospital so that the resident says they have somebody they know who’s there with them,’” Michael Smith, who’s been executive director of ACDS for the past 15 years, told the Press. “We had several weeks of having to do that.”

Founded in 1966 as The Association for Special Children and later changing its name to the Association for Children With Down Syndrome, the agency now known as ACDS provides much-needed services to children and adults with Down syndrome and other developmental disabilities. The pandemic easily ranks as the biggest challenge it’s faced in its half century of existence. 

The agency’s about 500 employees provide lifetime services to more than 1,000 people with developmental disabilities and their families. It has an early childhood education center on Long Island encompassing day care, center-based early intervention and preschool special education; a special needs preschool in Westchester; eight group homes and one transitional apartment; two locations for its “Opportunities” day habilitation program without walls; a five-plus program for recreation and respite that meets in various sites throughout the community; a sleepaway summer camp in upstate Garrison; and brokerage/fiscal intermediary services for families on LI. 

Many of those services have been disrupted by the crisis. Schools shifted to remote learning. Summer camp was canceled. Some of the group home staffers had to quarantine in the group homes for two weeks to ensure isolation. More than two dozen staff members — two of whom lost husbands — had to self-isolate after being exposed to the virus. Personal protective equipment proved challenging to acquire.

“Nobody prepared any of us for these changes to our lives,” Smith says, noting that no residents were lost to COVID-19. “We were able to hold it together.”

While stagnant reimbursement rates and ever-rising costs challenged in good times the agency’s ability to maintain sufficient resources to recruit and retain quality staff and invest in innovative programs, it is now issuing a special fundraising appeal to defray the cost of hazard pay issued to its staff.

The added expense to its $27 million annual budget comes as ACDS is in the process of finalizing the purchase of the 47,043-square-foot headquarters on Fern Place it has leased from the Plainview-Old Bethpage School District for the past two decades. 

“Neither the state nor federal government is reimbursing us for hazard pay, for these extra costs, which by now are reaching hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Stern says. “We do have an appeal underway to try to help us raise some money to recognize the efforts and help us with those unexpected costs.”

For more information or to donate, visit acds.org

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Suffolk Police Release Name of Newly Identified Long Island Serial Killer Victim

Valerie Mack

Suffolk County police released Thursday the name of a woman whose remains were found 20 years ago in Manorville and nine years ago 50 miles away near Gilgo Beach.

The woman was identified as Valerie Mack, aka Melissa Taylor, 24, who was working as an escort in Philadelphia at the time of her disappearance in 2000. She had until now been known as Manorville Jane Doe, or Jane Doe No. 6.

“For two decades, Valerie Mack’s family and friends were left searching for answers and while this is not the outcome they wanted, we hope this brings some sense of peace and closure,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said.

Hart thanked the FBI for its partnership in the Gilgo Beach homicide investigation and for the agency’s assistance utilizing a scientific technique known as genetic genealogy that aided in identifying Mack. This is believed to be the first time a law enforcement agency in New York State has used genetic genealogy to identify an individual as part of a police investigation, police said.

Mack’s family members last saw her in the spring or summer of 2000 in the area of Port Republic, New Jersey. According to Suffolk County police reports, Mack was discovered nude on November 19, 2000 at 11 a.m. by hunters in the woods. She is believed to have been left there in September of 2000. 

The body had been cut into pieces and left in multiple plastic bags. The woman’s head, hands and leg were also reportedly in a plastic bag when police found them on April 4, 2011 on Ocean Parkway. Police released a sketch of her in September of 2011.

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. Only five of those had been identified before the latest update in the case.

One of those five, Jessica Taylor, was also found dead in Manorville in 2003 with partial remains off Ocean Parkway in 2011. 

Mack’s identification is one of the first two major updates in the case police have announced this year. In January, police released a photo of a belt they found near one of the dump sites.

“We will continue to use every investigative tool available to aggressively investigate these murders,” Hart said.

Additional details and photos can be found at gilgonews.com

Related Story: Suffolk Police Release New Gilgo Beach Murder Evidence 

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Pandemic Fuels Zoom Dating Boom, Experts Say

Dating during a pandemic poses unique challenges. (Getty Images)

Love has gone viral.

The solitude of stay-at-home orders combined with widespread reports of people being more open with their feelings amid the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a dating boom in recent months.

That’s the word from local relationship experts, who report a flood of people seeking out significant others, despite a host of new dating rules required to maintain social distancing to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

“The whole industry in dating has blown up,” says Maureen Tara Nelson, a relationship coach, professional matchmaker with more than two decades of experience, and CEO of Melville-based MTN Matchmaking. “People were lonely and they are realizing now that they want love and they need love. Especially when they’re isolated and home alone.”

Psychotherapists have similarly reported that patients have proven more open in telehealth sessions during the pandemic, and even Gov. Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly touted the lockdown for fostering more in-depth conversations in his own home.

As it so happens, the governor was recently ranked as the most desirable bachelor in New York in MTN’s annual survey of what women are looking for in a man. His brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, a happily married coronavirus survivor who had to self-quarantine, tied at the top of the most-wanted list.

“Women in quarantine are setting their standards very high, but I think under these stressful circumstances, women want a strong take-charge kind of guy, like the governor and someone who can live in a basement for three weeks and still look buff,” Nelson says.

While demand is increasing, so are the rules for dating. Nelson, who says her matchmaking service has resulted in more than 1,000 marriages, has been coaching would-be couples on how to make Zoom videoconferencing dates romantic. Men and women who want to see more of each other can later meet in person.

Some rules never changed, such as passing the agency’s background check, financial check, and compatibility and chemistry tests. But as studies have shown that love boosts the immune system, it seems MTN has found a cure for coronavirus.

“We were not meant to be alone,” Nelson says. “People get sick less when they’re in love. Children are happier when they see their parents happy in love.” 

Related Story: 9 More Fun Things To Do While In Quarantine

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“Long Island Will Open Tomorrow,” Cuomo Says

Beach patrol drives by as people sit on Long Beach on the first day that New York beaches were opened ahead of the Memorial Day weekend following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Long Island, New York, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Nassau and Suffolk counties are slated to begin phase one of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown on Wednesday, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The state is helping with the final benchmark Long Island is required to meet: Hiring the required amount of contact tracers mandated to monitor future COVID-19 cases.

“Long Island will open tomorrow,” the governor told reporters Tuesday during his daily news briefing.

Phase one includes construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and retailers using curbside pickup.

Phase two will be professional services, finance, retail, administrative support, and real estate. The third phase includes restaurants and hotels. The fourth and final phase includes education, recreation, and arts and entertainment. 

The governor has said it would be about two weeks between phases to make sure each phase doesn’t cause an overwhelming spike in cases.

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Long Island Could Start Reopening By Wednesday

Special Police Officers patrol the boardwalk at Long Beach on the first day that New York beaches were opened ahead of the Memorial Day weekend following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on Long Island, New York, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Long Island could begin phase one of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown as early as Wednesday if the region continues on its current rate of progress, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

The revelation was the most specific speculation to date of when exactly Nassau and Suffolk counties could start reopening for the first phase, which includes construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and retailers using curbside pickup.

“We could open by Wednesday if the number of deaths continue to decline and we get the [contact] tracing up,” the governor told reporters during his daily COVID-19 news briefing.

Nassau and Suffolk counties as a region have reached five of the seven state and federal criteria required to reopen and are expected to hit the sixth metric, hiring enough contact tracers to investigate new infections, but the death rate is the final hurdle to clear.

The region has to have a 14-day decline in hospitalized coronavirus deaths or under five new deaths on a three-day rolling average. The state reports that the region is expected to meet the criteria of having 30 contact tracers — disease detectives tasked with investigating the transmission of cases — per 100,000 residents.

Once LI hits phase one, phase two will be professional services, finance, retail, administrative support, and real estate. The third phase includes restaurants and hotels. The fourth and final phase includes education, recreation, and arts and entertainment. Cuomo said it would be about two weeks between phases to make sure each phase doesn’t cause an overwhelming spike in cases.

LI is on the same trajectory as the Mid-Hudson Valley for reopening. Most of upstate has already hit phase one. New York City, the national epicenter of the crisis, is poised to be the last region to reopen.

In another sign of progress statewide, the governor also issued an executive order Friday allowing gatherings of up to 10 people.

Related Story: Long Island Could Hit Phase One of Reopening By Next Week

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Suffolk Police ID Another Long Island Serial Killer Victim

Detectives investigating the Gilgo Beach murders have identified another woman whose remains were found scattered along Ocean Parkway and in nearly 50 miles away in Manorville, Suffolk County police said Friday.

Police and the FBI have positively identified the woman known as Manorville Jane Doe, also referred to as Jane Doe No. 6. Her mutilated torso was found in Manorville in 2000 and her skull was found off Ocean Parkway in 2011.

“The department announced the utilization of DNA techniques earlier this year in our ongoing effort to advance the investigation,” the department said in a statement. “Using this technology, the department has successfully identified Manorville Jane Doe.”

The department said it will release the identity on its new website, gilgonews.com in the near future. 

According to Suffolk County police reports, Jane Doe No. 6 was discovered nude on November 19, 2000 at 11 a.m. by hunters in the woods. She is believed to have been left there in September of 2000. She is described as 18 to 35 years old, 5’2”, caucasian, possibly with brown hair.

The body had been cut into pieces and left in multiple plastic bags. The woman’s head, hands and leg were also reportedly in a plastic bag when police found them on April 4, 2011 on Ocean Parkway. Police released a sketch of her in September of 2011.

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. Only five of those had been identified before Friday’s update in the case.

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; 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.

Related Story: Suffolk Police Release New Gilgo Beach Murder Evidence 

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

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Coopers Beach in Southampton Named 3rd Best Beach in US

Coopers Beach in Southampton

One of the most popular beaches in the Hamptons ranks as the third best oceanfront park in America, according to Dr. Beach’s annual list ranking the nation’s top 10 beaches released Friday.

Coopers Beach in the Village of Southampton moved up a spot on the list after coming in at No. 4 two years in a row. The beach, which came in No. 1 in 2010, has slowly been inching back toward the top spot on the list, ranking No. 8 in 2016 and No. 5 in 2017.

“As the first ‘Gold Coast’ in the country, Coopers Beach is hundreds of yards wide, made of grainy white quartz sand,” Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a coastal expert and professor at Florida International University who has produced the list for the past 30 years, wrote in his review. “The beach is backed by large sand dunes covered by American beach grass interspersed with large and extravagant mansions.”

Coming in at No. 1 was Grayton Beach State Park in the Florida Panhandle, followed by Ocracoke Lifeguard Beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The full list can be found at drbeach.org

Dr. Beach also touted Coopers Beach as having “the best beach access in the Hamptons” and noted its “snack bar serving lunch and drinks.” Of course, due to the coronavirus pandemic, that’s not so true anymore.

Southampton village officials said while Coopers Beach is open to non-residents — unlike many town- and county-run beaches on Long Island restricting access to residents only — no daily passes are being sold for this highly ranked village beach.

Non-residents must mail village hall to get a non-resident beach pass, as the passes are not being sold on site, Southampton officials said. In addition, the concession stand is closed, picnic tables have been removed, certain bathrooms are closed, and the beach chair and umbrella rentals are closed.

And, of course, like every other beach in New York State, people must stay 6 feet apart and wear masks when in crowded areas.

Related Story: The South Fork: Not Just A Playground For The Rich

Related Story: Long Island Beaches Will Have Social Distancing Rules This Summer

Related Story: More Long Island Beaches Limited To Local Residents

For more guides to Long Island beaches, visit longislandpress.com/category/everything-long-island

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Long Island Could Hit Phase One of Reopening By Next Week

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released this chart on Friday, May 22, 2020.

Long Island may reach the benchmarks for phase one of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown as early as next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

Nassau and Suffolk counties as a region have reached five of the seven state and federal criteria required to reopen and are expected to hit the sixth metric, hiring enough contact tracers to investigate new infections, but the death rate is the final hurdle to clear. But now LI and the Mid-Hudson Valley appear poised to reopen.

“If deaths continue to decrease and tracing is online, both regions could reopen next week,” the governor told reporters during his daily coronavirus news briefing.

If that were the case, the last region statewide to reopen would be New York City, as most of upstate New York has already reached phase one. 

The first phase of reopening will be construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and retailers using curbside pickup. Phase two will be professional services, finance, retail, administrative support, and real estate. The third phase includes restaurants and hotels. The fourth and final phase includes education, recreation, and arts and entertainment.

When the metrics were revealed, LI initially ranked last out of the 10 regions statewide in meeting the goals to reopen. It then made progress, but in recent days has gone back and forth on whether it was maintaining 30 percent of hospital beds open for a potential spike in cases. As of Friday, the remaining metric to meet was a 14-day decline in hospitalized coronavirus deaths or under five new deaths on a three-day rolling average.

The state reports that the region is expected to meet the criteria of having 30 contact tracers — disease detectives tasked with investigating the transmission of cases — per 100,000 residents.

If the governor’s prediction comes true, LI will be faring better than Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s recent rough estimate that LI is reopening “probably by the end of June.”

Related Story: Long Island Making Progress In Meeting NY Criteria To Reopen From Coronavirus Shutdown

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NYPD Cop Charged With Farmingdale Murder

A New York City police officer was arrested Thursday for allegedly killing a 25-year-old man last week in Farmingdale, according to the New York State Attorney General’s office.

Errick Allen, 26, of North Massapequa, was off-duty when he allegedly shot his lifelong friend, Christopher Curro, of West Babylon, during a struggle in the street in front of a Langdon Road home shortly after 8 p.m. May 12, authorities said. Allen was charged with second-degree murder.

“We trust our police officers to protect the safety of New Yorkers, but instead, this individual allegedly betrayed that duty to end another man’s life,” said Attorney General Letitia James, whose office serves as a special prosecutor in police-involved fatalities of unarmed civilians. “My office is committed to ensuring justice is served and that no individual is above the law.”

Allen is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at Nassau County court. The rookie officer who recently graduated from the police academy was assigned to the 109th Precinct in Queens. The NYPD said Allen is suspended without pay.

“It started over a conversation that they were having,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder told WCBS. “They grew up together, somehow got into a disagreement … and that’s when the weapon was produced.”

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More Long Island Beaches Limited To Local Residents

A Long Beach police beach patrol officer watches the beaches on a recent sunny afternoon (Photo by Joe Abate)

Long Island municipalities are increasingly enacting measures restricting access to local beaches to residents only after New York City decided not to reopen its beaches in time for Memorial Day weekend.

The Town of Brookhaven issued a residents-only rule for its four beaches: Davis Park on Fire Island, Cedar Beach in Mt. Sinai, Corey Beach in Blue Point, and West Meadow in Stony Brook. The City of Long Beach also reopened its boardwalk to the public but limited its oceanfront park to city residents only.

“Out of an abundance of caution and to safeguard the wellbeing of City of Long Beach residents, we are implementing these protective, temporary measures that we will re-evaluate as we head into the summer months,” said Long Beach City Council President John Bendo.“We look forward to welcoming the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Long Beach from the neighboring communities in the future. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will enact these restrictive but lifesaving measures until further notice.”

New York State beaches on LI, such as Jones Beach State Park, remain open to all New Yorkers, although all beaches will be capped at 50 percent capacity to maintain social distancing and prevent the spread of coronavirus. Beaches on LI run by the 13 towns and 95 villages will each set their own rules before opening, pending state approval. 

The moves in Long Beach and Brookhaven come after Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Smith Point County Park and Cupsogue Beach County Park will be limited to Suffolk residents only. Nassau County followed suit and restricted access to Nickerson Beach Park to Nassau residents. And the Town of Hempstead, which borders the city, also restricted access to its beaches — Lido Beach Town Park and Point Lookout Beach — to Nassau residents.

The Town of Huntington issued similar restrictions Wednesday opening its beaches to town residents only. Huntington beaches will also open on a staggered schedule, with Centerport Beach, Crab Meadow Beach in Northport, Hobart Beach in Eaton’s Neck, and Quentin Sammis West Neck Beach in Lloyd Harbor opening for Memorial Day weekend. Opening on May 30 will be Fleets Cove Beach in Centerport and Gold Star Battalion Beach in Huntington. And opening on June 6 will be Asharoken Beach and Crescent Beach in Huntington Bay.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said LI beaches should welcome city residents.

“This should not be about any ill feeling towards people depending on where they come from,” he told WPIX.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Nickerson Beach, which has 2,000 parking spaces, will be capped at 1,000 vehicles to enforce the 50 percent capacity rule. Drivers will be asked to show identification to prove they are Nassau residents. And public safety officers will be enforcing social distancing and mask rules.

Nassau County Legislator Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), presiding officer of the county legislature, which passed the measure Wednesday banning non-Nassau residents at Nickerson, said the move is only temporary.

“Once the mayor of the city opens the beaches, this legislation will sunset,” he said.

Related Story: De Blasio Says Long Island Beaches Shouldn’t Bar City Residents

Related Story: With NYC Beaches Staying Closed, Long Island Braces For Influx

Related Story: Long Island Beaches Will Have Social Distancing Rules This Summer

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