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.

NY Pols OK Driver’s Licenses for Undocumented Immigrants

New York State lawmakers approved the hotly debated Green Light NY bill that allows undocumented immigrants to acquire driver’s licenses, although all nine of Long Island’s state senators voted against the measure.

After the bill cleared the final hurdle of passage in the Democrat-controlled state Senate on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law — a move that proponents say will boost the economy and critics argue enables immigrants that illegally enter the country.

“We value the important contributions made by immigrants to our local economy and our communities, which is why we have given this piece of legislation careful consideration,” LI’s six Democratic state senators said in a statement after voting against the bill. “Following countless meetings with stakeholders, residents, and advocates on the implications of this bill, our vote is based on the continued existence of serious concerns raised by stakeholders and law enforcement. We will continue to stand together in the best interest of Long Islanders.”

New York joins 12 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia that have already enacted laws allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. The move further positions the Empire State in opposition to President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration stance.

“By passing this needed legislation, we are growing our economy while at the same time making our roads safer,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester). “This is the right step forward for New York State as we continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform on the federal level.”

The bill, which passed the state Senate by a vote of 33 to 29 and goes into effect immediately, reverses a ban enacted in 2001. Estimates on how many undocumented immigrants will benefit from the law range from 250,000 to 750,000. It will result in $83.9 million in government revenues over the first three years and $6.4 million in recurring revenue thereafter, the Fiscal Policy Institute estimates.

In effect, it allows anyone applying for a non-commercial driver’s license or learner’s permit to submit additional proofs of identity for applicants that sign an affidavit indicating that they haven’t been issued a social security number. The state will also keep that documentation private. 

Feat that the federal government will use the driver’s license application paperwork to deport undocumented immigrants was a sticking point among Democrats in the debate. Cuomo had indicated he would veto the bill if he didn’t get assurances from the Solicitor General that the federal government won’t be able to access the paperwork. But he ultimately signed the bill into law Monday night after the state Attorney General said “that she believes there are ‘safeguards’ in the bill, and it can be defended; in other words, it cannot be weaponized to be used against undocumented individuals,” Cuomo’s office said in a statement.

State Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) blasted Democrats over this and other recent legislation.

“If you’ve been convicted of a serious crime or are in this country illegally, Democrats will give you everything you want and more,” he said. “But if you’re a hardworking, law-abiding, middle-class New Yorker who just wants a better life for yourself and for your family, there’s nothing for you.”

A Comprehensive Guide To Jones Beach Island

Jones Beach State Park is the biggest draw, but not only thing to see on Jones Beach Island. (WikiMedia)

Widely considered the most popular oceanfront summer destination on Long Island, Jones Beach is internationally famous for its sprawling white sand shoreline — but it is a lot more than just a park.

Besides the many attractions at Jones Beach State Park, which is full of hidden surprises, the other two-thirds of Jones Beach Island has a variety of waterfront bars and restaurants, a half-dozen smaller parks, three residential communities, and vast stretches of untouched nature.

“It’s an extraordinary public asset for all of us who live within reach of it,” says Malcolm MacKay, head of the Jones Beach Rescue Organization, a nonprofit group that fundraises to help preserve the park. “Jones Beach is just a wonderful resource. It’s wild and beautiful.”

At 17 miles long, Jones Beach Island is the second lengthiest of the four narrow barrier islands that protect the South Shore of Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean. With about 350 homes, it’s also the least populated of LI’s barrier beaches. Ocean Parkway runs nearly the full length of the island and connects to causeways at either end linking it to mainland LI.

The barrier beach straddles the Nassau-Suffolk county line and three town jurisdictions. On the Nassau side is its namesake state park in the Town of Hempstead. As the name suggests, neighboring Tobay Beach is in the Town of Oyster Bay. And the eastern half on the Suffolk side of the island is in the Town of Babylon.

The barrier island is named for Major Thomas Jones, an Irish privateer who settled on LI in 1688 and was appointed Ranger General of the area by the British, giving him control over much of the local resources. But it was Robert Moses, the late master builder, who transformed the island into one of the biggest public beaches of its kind in 1929.

With the return of beach season, what follows is an eight-point guide to Jones Beach Island.

The boardwalk is the hub of activity at Jones Beach State Park. (Getty Images)

JONES BEACH STATE PARK

With more than 8.5 million visitors in 2018, Jones Beach State Park is consistently in a horse race with Niagara Falls for the title of most-visited in the New York State parks system.

And for good reason. In addition to swimming, surfing, sunbathing, playgrounds, and picnic areas, this 2,413-acre oasis also has a 59-slip marina, two-mile boardwalk, swimming pool, nature center, bandshell, fishing pier, mini-golf, snack bars, and a 14,500-seat bayside amphitheater that hosts big-name acts throughout summer. Much of the park has had a $65 million recent facelift that includes the debut of a new adventure park coming this summer.

“Jones Beach visitors have a real romanticism with this park,” former State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey said, noting that it “was built with the idea of bringing families together.”

The 6.5-mile-long park is the largest on Jones Beach Island and is considered the largest and most-visited public recreational swimming facility in the world, peaking at 13 million annual visitors in the 1970s. To build the park, Moses had sand dredged from the bay to raise Jones Beach Island up from 2 feet to 14 feet above sea level.

Moses designed the beach to give visitors the feeling of being on an oceanliner. That’s why there are anchors at the entrance, garbage cans shaped like ship air vents, and games like shuffleboard. Besides the sand, its best-known feature is the brick-encased water tower, dubbed by locals as “the pencil” or “the needle,” at the center of the traffic circle where Wantagh State Parkway meets Ocean Parkway.

Click Here for a Map of Jones Beach State Park 

By far the most popular section is field six, home of the East Bath House at the easternmost section of the park, where the parking lot fills up first because it has the shortest walk to ocean. Parking Field 5, which is used to access Zach’s Bay on the north side of the parkway, has pedestrian tunnels under Ocean Parkway to access the ocean, as do Parking Fields 4 and 3. Fields 4 and 5 abut the Central Mall, the hub of activity at the park and home to the new Boardwalk Cafe, while Field 3 has the recently renovated West Bath House, which has a pool and is home to Gatsby on the Ocean, a new restaurant and event space.

Parking Field 5A is for the Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater, where the likes of Dave Matthews Band and Jimmy Buffet play each summer along with several music festivals. To the west are parking fields 1 and 2, which are both on the ocean side. Field 2 is home to the park’s softball fields.

On the bay side west of Wantagh State Parkway and north of Bay Parkway is Field 10, a fishing station with a network of piers for anglers.

The western tip of the island overlooks Jones Inlet. On the bay side is the boat basin, U.S. Coast Guard Station and state parks police station. On the ocean side is West End 1, aka Short Beach, and West End 2, which is home to the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, a hands-on educational facility. The West End area has a shorter boardwalk of its own and is where the Holiday Light Spectacular is held.

Drivers destined for Jones Beach can take Wantagh or Meadowbrook parkways south to the junction with Ocean Parkway and follow the signs to the field of their choice. Parking fees are $10 during peak times or $8 during non-peak times. Bicyclists, skaters, and pedestrians can also take the Ellen Farrant Memorial Bikeway from Cedar Creek County Park in Seaford 5 miles to Jones Beach, where a new 4.5-mile path running the full length of the park debuted this spring.

Or the N88 bus runs nonstop from the Freeport Long Island Rail Road station to Jones Beach for $2.75 per trip for Memorial Day weekend and beginning daily June 23. The schedule can be found at nicebus.com 

The fishing pier at Field 10 is a hidden gem within Jones Beach State Park. (Getty Images)

TOBAY BEACH

One mile east of Jones Beach State Park is the popular Tobay Beach, a sliver of beach on Ocean Parkway named for the municipality that runs it: the Town of Oyster Bay.

Besides its oceanfront, Tobay’s amenities include a 150-slip transient boat basin on the bay side, spray park, playgrounds, nautical-themed miniature golf course, the John F. Kennedy Memorial Wildlife Sanctuary, plus three restaurants. It’s also home to the town’s 9/11 memorial.

“Everyone should be very excited to enjoy vacation days, weekends or building any memorable day at the latest and greatest we are creating at Tobay Beach,” says Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joe Saladino.

Tobay is one of five town-run parks on Ocean Parkway, but the only one run by Oyster Bay.

Lifeguards are on duty 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends only from Memorial Day through mid-June, when they’re also on duty 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays through Labor Day. Parking fees are $20 daily or $60 per season for town residents or $50 per day for non-town residents, who are only allowed access on weekdays, excluding holidays.

The way around that is the new 3.6-mile Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway, which allows pedestrians, skaters and bikers to take the path to Tobay from Cedar Creek and Jones Beach — no parking fee required — or simply driving there after the fee-collection times.

Besides the oceanfront Main Concession that’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tobay is also home to two bayside restaurants that host live music. On the bay side is The Surf Shack, a flip-flop coastal kitchen for casual dining with a tiki bar under real palm trees, and The Boat Yard waterfront bar and grill featuring a variety of dining options. They are open to 11 p.m. every night.

There is no public transportation to points east of Jones Beach State Park.

Tobay Beach

WEST GILGO AND GILGO BEACH

Immediately east of Tobay and just over the Suffolk line are two of three residential communities that dot Jones Beach Island. The first is the strictly residential West Gilgo Beach, a gated community where only residents and their guests are allowed.

Slightly east of that is Gilgo Beach, an area that encompasses a residential community of 72 homes and a Town of Babylon park offering visitors the oceanfront, Gilgo Beach Inn (GBI) surf bar, a town-resident-only boat basin, kayak launch, playground, picnic area, and surfer’s paradise that’s popular with kite boarders. Bunger Surf also runs a small shop and surf school there.

“We just have a series of sand bars … where, when you have a swell, it creates surfable waves,”  says Paul McDuffie, a 42-year Gilgo resident who became the 86-year-old GBI’s fourth owner four summers ago. “We’re lucky to have them.”

Gilgo Beach is one of four Town of Babylon-run parks on the barrier island. Daily entrance fees for vehicles without a recreation permit are $40 Friday through Sunday and on holidays or $20 the rest of the week. Like Tobay, entrance is free after hours as well as before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. Non-resident entrance fees are $10 after 4 p.m. weekdays.

West Gilgo Beach has a notable history. It is partly made up of homes barged there from the community of High Hill Beach, which was condemned to make way for Jones Beach State Park.

“Although remote, High Hill Beach was hopping, especially during Prohibition,” author John Hanc wrote in Jones Beach: An Illustrated History. “Weekends were notorious for enthusiastic partying.”

Moses famously said the area was a “swampy sandbar…inhabited by fishermen and loners, surf-casters and assorted oddballs.”

Of 98 buildings in High Hill at its peak before World War II, 60 were shipped to West Gilgo Beach, making uprooted High Hills homes the majority of the about 80 houses there.

For residents and visitors alike, the draw is the same.

“It’s one of the oldest destinations out here,” McDuffie says of Gilgo Beach. “We’ve gotten more and more people who come here from Westchester. They’ve made the trip and they get to Jones Beach and … not everyone wants that Coney Island-scale feel and they go a little bit further and they stumble upon Gilgo.”

Gilgo Beach is a hot spot for surfing. (WikiMedia)

CEDAR BEACH

Six miles east of Gilgo is Cedar Beach, which is home to the extremely popular Salt Shack bar and restaurant.

It also features a marina, campground, Babylon town’s 9/11 memorial, and one of LI’s few oceanfront 18-hole golf courses.

“Cedar Beach is an incredible place,” says Tony Martinez, the deputy Babylon town supervisor who chairs the town’s parks. “The beach is really long so we have a trolley that takes people from the pavilion to the beach … This is just a really good place to have a good time by the water.”

He’s not mincing words. The 99-slip marina and 41-site campground make for a unique bayside hot spot surrounded by nature. A pedestrian tunnel under Ocean Parkway connects it the oceanfront portion of the park. Aside from the usual amenities such as beach mats, basketball, handball, and picnic areas, the dominant sport is volleyball, played on its 70 courts.

But what makes this park stand out from the rest is the lively scene at the Salt Shack. This new popular seaside grill with a rooftop deck boasts nightly live music, frozen drinks aplenty, and a menu featuring healthy eats as well as pub fare. Bonus for parents: this is one of the few, if only, outdoor bars around  with a playground on site.

Like Gilgo, daily entrance fees for vehicles without a recreation permit are $40 Friday through Sunday and on holidays or $20 the rest of the week. Like Tobay, entrance is free after hours as well as before Memorial Day and after Labor Day. Nonresident entrance fees are $10 after 4 p.m. weekdays.

Cedar Beach is just east of Hemlock Cove, a popular bayside destination for boaters to drop anchor, swim to shore, walk across Ocean Parkway — which officials note is illegal, but has been done for generations — and go surfing on the oceanside.

OVERLOOK BEACH

A short walk down the beach east of Cedar Beach is Overlook Beach, which offers a quieter atmosphere.

The park has a playground, picnic area, and the Overlook Beach Club restaurant, and is within walking distance of Cedar Beach, with the golf course lying between the two.

Overlook is open to Babylon town residents only, but is free to enter after 5 p.m.

GILGO STATE PARK

A quarter mile east of Gilgo Beach is Gilgo State Park, a popular fishing and offroading destination. And a mile east of that, it has a separate entrance for the area known as Sore Thumb — named for its aerial resemblance — overlooking the Fire Island Inlet.

Access to Gilgo State Park is open to permitted 4-wheel-drive visitors only who must observe a carry in, carry out policy. The passive, undeveloped park is renowned for its tranquility and stellar views.

Anglers enjoy surf fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, catching striped bass, blue fish, and a variety of other species.

Remnants of an old U.S. Coast Guard station that used to be located there can still be found in the sand.

Because of its name, Gilgo State Park is sometimes confused with Gilgo Beach, the town park to the west.

OAK BEACH

East of Gilgo State Park is the mostly residential area of Oak Beach, which also features the free, publicly accessible Richard L. Brooks Memorial Park.

Visitors can stroll out onto a pier and take in the views or launch a kayak. Because of its location overlooking the Fire Island Inlet, the pier offers some of the best fishing on LI, according to the Town of Babylon, which runs the passive park that has become a weekend hotspot for car enthusiasts and motorcycle clubs.

The park area used to be home to the Oak Beach Inn, a famous nightclub that shuttered two decades ago. With about 200 houses, Oak Beach is the third residential community on Jones Beach Island. The area’s founder, Henry Livingston, built the first house there in 1879.

On the north side of Ocean Parkway across from the entrance to Oak Beach is a parking lot for residents of nearby Oak Island, a small resort community that is accessible only by boat.

Captree State Park is home to the Captree Fleet of public fishing boats. (WikiMedia)

CAPTREE STATE PARK

At the eastern tip of Jones Beach Island is the confusingly named Captree State Park, which is actually south of the residential Captree Island to the north, not on it.

It’s at the end of Ocean Parkway, just east of the Robert Moses Causeway, and offers picture-perfect views of the Fire Island Lighthouse.

It has a boat basin that is port of the famous Captree Fleet of charter fishing, sightseeing, scuba diving, and party boats that make up the largest public fishing fleet on LI. There are also a few transient slips available at the marina.

“The second people step on a fishing boat, their day is done,” Katherine Heinlein, president of the Captree Fleet, told the Press. “They calm down. It’s a wonderful environment and it’s not about catching fish, it’s about camaraderie.”

The park also offers two large fishing piers, a bait-and-tackle shop, the newly opened Tiki Joe’s Captain’s Table bar and restaurant, picnic areas, boat launches, and playgrounds. Parking fees are $8.

“To me, it’s paradise,” Babylon’s Martinez says of Jones Beach Island.

NY Pols Pass Brianna’s Law Requiring Boater Safety Courses

New York State lawmakers have passed a bill dubbed Brianna’s Law — named for a Long Island girl killed in a boating crash — that requires boaters to take boater safety classes.

The measure passed the New York State Senate last month and the state Assembly this week. The bill now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to sign it into law.

“Accidents happen whether on land or on water, but having knowledge of boating safety and navigation laws will help keep those from turning deadly,” said Assemb. Kim Jean-Pierre (D-Wheatley Heights), a lead sponsor of the bill.

Current law only requires boating classes to be taken by boaters younger than 22 years old. The majority of boat owners are middle-aged adults who are not required to take any classes relating to boating. This legislation will require all individuals propelled vessels to take a state-approved boating safety course.

There are approximately 450,000 registered powerboats statewide. Under current law, new boat owners are exempt from the requirement to complete a safety course for up to 120 days after the purchase of a vessel, and the requirement only applies for operators born after May 1, 1996. 

The course provides training on boat handling, use of navigation instruments and floatation devices, as well as relevant state laws concerning boating operation and safety. There is a five-year phase-in to allow boat operators adequate time to comply with this new requirement.

The bill is named for Brianna Lieneck, an 11-year-old girl who was killed when a boat crashed into the family craft on the Great South Bay in 2005. The crash also cause serious injuries to her entire family. Since then, Brianna’s mother, Gina Lieneck, of Deer Park, has lobbied state lawmakers to pass the boater safety course bill.

“Gina Lieneck has made it her mission to turn tragedy into triumph so that other families can be spared the heartbreak that her family has endured,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford), who sponsored the bill in the senate, said the bill is a lifesaver.

“The safety of our waterways in New York is every bit as important as the safety of our roadways,” he said. “Brianna Lieneck and her family paid the ultimate price from inadequate regulation. Knowing the laws of the waterways is crucial and it is simply a matter of common sense that informed vessel-operators will result in safer waters. I am confident that it will save lives.”

When Love Hurts: How Parents Can Teach Kids To Avoid Teen Dating Violence

Google “parenting advice” and the results will likely include a million websites offering tips on managing the terrible twos, modeling good behavior, and how to get kids to eat their vegetables.

Harder to find is guidance on what parents can do to teach their children how to cultivate healthy friendships so kids are prepared to recognize and avoid controlling, manipulative, and abusive behavior in romantic relationships when they start dating and grow up.

“I bet he likes you,” adults often tell girls when a boy has been mean to them, not realizing that this trope is victim blaming and equates flirting with hurting in a child’s mind.

Such parental cues have consequences. Nearly one in 11 female and approximately one in 15 male high school students reported experiencing dating violence in the last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The agency found that 26% of women and 15% of men who survived sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner were first victimized before age 18.

“Parents have so much to worry about, I understand why the topic of healthy relationships is overlooked,” writes Colleen Merlo, executive director of L.I. Against Domestic Violence. “If we don’t provide guidance about healthy relationships, we risk setting them up for lifelong trauma.”

Merlo, who says one in three adolescents experience abuse in a relationship, suggests that parents start by reinforcing that children should not be afraid to talk about issues without judgment.

“Let your child know that you care about their health and safety, and that they should stand up for themselves in situations that seem controlling, abusive, unsafe, or against their values,” she writes. “Let them know that if they can’t come to you, they should reach out another trusted – adult. Learn the warning signs, give your teen examples of healthy and unhealthy behaviors in a dating relationship and assure your teen that you are there for them, no matter what.”

To learn the warning signs or if you suspect that your teen is involved in an abusive relationship, call L.I. Against Domestic Violence’s 24-hour hotline at 631-666-8833 or visit liadv.org

In The Cockpit With David Windmiller, Hometown Hero of The Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach

Stunt pilot David Windmiller and Long Island Press Editor Timothy Bolger fly over Robert Moses State Park on Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

 

David Windmiller grabbed the control wheel of his single-engine airplane as the horizon spun over the Atlantic Ocean this week — but for this daredevil pilot, it’s all just fun and games.

The Melville resident is one of the few local aerobatic experts — the other being the Geico Skytypers — performing in the 16th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach this weekend. For him, the wild ride featuring flips and loops was just a practice one — and a mild one at that, since he had this reporter in the cockpit.

His signature move? Call it The Windmiller.

“I’m going to open with a tumble I’ve been working on for eight years that really no one else can do,” he said while flying his high-performance Zivko Edge 540 about 2,500 feet over Robert Moses State Park on Fire Island, the practice area for the air show. “It’s basically a forward somersault and the airplane continuously tumbles. I can get it to go as many as seven times rotating at a very high rate.”

Windmiller’s flown in all but one of the Jones Beach air shows, which features a cast of nationally touring flight groups. This year’s headliners are the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Related Story: Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach Takes Flight Memorial Day Weekend

He’s also performed in other air shows in the Northeast and competed professionally. He was selected as a “Top 5 in the USA for the Unlimited Team” when Windmiller represented the U.S. in the World Aerobatic Championship in France in 1999.

Having started flying at age 14, his need for speed blossomed early on. At one point he also raced speedboats.

When he’s not flipping, looping, and tumbling planes with enough G-forces to kill someone whose body is unaccustomed to the phenomenon, the married father of five is a realtor, flight school teacher, and helicopter pilot for TV and movie productions.

While most days he’s flying the friendly skies without issue, he once made local headlines when the plane he was piloting had engine failure and he had to make an emergency landing on Route 231 in Babylon.

Of course, this weekend, all the dramatic maneuvers are part of the show. 

David Windmiller with his plane at Republic Airport (Long Island Press photo)

Hamptons Beach Ranked Among Nation’s Top 10

Cooper's Beach in Southampton. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Beach)

The coming Memorial Day weekend not only brings with it the return of beach season on Long Island, but also the results of Dr. Beach’s annual list ranking the nation’s top 10 beaches — with one Long Island oceanfront park again making the cut.

Cooper’s Beach in Southampton came in No. 4 for the second year in a row thanks to its pristine white sand, easy access, and beautiful vistas. 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.

“New York has world-class beaches, but I don’t think a lot of people in the United States know about them,” Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, a coastal expert and professor at Florida International University who has produced the list for the past 29 years, told The Associated Press in 2010. “When most people think of a beach vacation destination, they go south. I kind of think the East End of Long Island is a well-kept secret for most Americans.”

Earning the title of America’s Best Beach for 2019 is Kailua Beach Park in Hawaii. Placing second was Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and third place went to Grayton Beach State Park in the Florida panhandle.

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

Among the criteria used to evaluate beaches are water and sand quality as well
as safety and management. 

Rounding out the 2019 list was Duke Kahanamoku Beach in Oahu, Hawaii at No. 5,  Coast Guard Beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts at No. 6, Caladesi Island State Park in Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida at No. 7, Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island of Hawaii at No. 8, Coronado Beach in San Diego, California at No. 9, and Beachwalker Park on Kiawah Island in South Carolina at No. 10.

Main Beach in East Hampton has also placed in Dr. Beach’s Top 10. That beach ranked No. 1 in 2013, No. 3 in 2012, No. 4 in 2011, No. 5 in 2010, and No. 6 in 2009.

Residents of the Village of Southampton can access Cooper’s Beach via a beach parking permit, but those without permits face a $250 fine. Non-residents can also visit by paying a $50 fee, but alcohol is banned, as are tents, bonfires, and overnight camping.

Peter King Launches New Facebook Page After Lawsuit Threat

Rep. Peter King. (Christopher Twarowski/Long Island Press)

A month after the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) threatened to sue U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) if he didn’t unblock at least 70 people on his Facebook page, the congressman launched a new page.

Long Island’s most tenured congressman argued that since his Facebook page was his campaign account and not his official government account, he was allowed to block critics. But the NYCLU countered that since he used that account to make announcements, weigh in on issues, and interact with constituents, it should be considered a public forum. On April 24, the group sent King a letter warning that if he doesn’t unblock users on that account, they’d take him to court — but on Tuesday, King launched a new government account instead.

“I am pleased to announce the launch of my government Facebook page – Congressman Pete King,” he posted on his original page while linking to the new one. “There, you can stay informed of my government activities and let me know your views on the important issues that face our nation and our community.”

The NYCLU declared victory and said King’s new official Facebook page will not block users based on their opinions and will use his original page only for campaign purposes.

“While we are pleased with Rep. King’s decision to create an official Facebook page that does not block anyone, we know that this is not an issue specific to the Congressman,” Executive Director Donna Lieberman said. “Many elected officials have followed in the footsteps of President Trump in blocking dissenting views expressed on Twitter and other social media platforms.”

Fellow Republican President Donald Trump has also been sued for his practice of blocking Twitter users that are critical of him. A federal judge ruled that Trump cannot block Twitter critics since the president’s account is used in an official government capacity. An appeals court is expected to rule on that issue soon.

“The Supreme Court recognizes that social media platforms are perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to private citizens in making their voice heard,” Lieberman added. “Regardless of their views, constituents have a right to engage in public discourse, and all official government social media pages serve as public forums.”

She noted that blocking constituents on social media infringes upon their First Amendment protections.

“All government officials must allow people to share their views uncensored on government social media platforms without being silenced,” she said.

“The main points of the agreement are entirely satisfactory to me,” King said. “I maintain my Campaign Facebook Page and have started a government Facebook Page to accompany the government Twitter account which I have had for a number of years. This is a win-win.”

Nassau Pols Pass Styrofoam Container Ban

Nassau County lawmakers approved a measure banning businesses from using styrofoam containers that are commonly used to pack food in take-out restaurants.

Legislators unanimously voted Monday in favor of the ban, which gives local businesses until January 2020 to use up their reserve of styrofoam containers and stock up on alternatives. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is expected to sign the bill into law.

“We’ve heard about the dangers of polystyrene foam for years now, and it’s time we take action,” said Legis. Laura Schaefer (R-Westbury), who co-sponsored the bill. “These containers pollute our environment and clog our waterways. Enough is enough.”

The bill’s passage comes after Suffolk County and New York City also banned styrofoam and New York State banned plastic bags. Some fast food chains, such as Dunkin’, have voluntarily begun transitioning away from using styrofoam containers.

Polystyrene Foam, better known by the brand name styrofoam, has been classified as a possible carcinogen, and the non-biodegradable containers made from it create tons of hazardous waste and environmental pollutants, lawmakers said. There is no practical method for recycling polystyrene foam, and when it’s incinerated, toxic fumes are released into the environment, officials noted.

“Enough alternative biodegradable food service items are readily available for use, making polystyrene no longer necessary,” said Legis. Denise Ford (D-Long Beach). “This law will reduce the waste stream in Nassau County and provide commensurate reductions in waste disposal costs. Further, it will stop clogging our waterways and better protect our natural environment.”

Businesses that violate the ban will face fines from the Office of Consumer Affairs. The money from those funds will provide for environmental investigation and cleanup of Nassau properties, officials said.

“Like disposable paper and plastic bags, single-use styrofoam products and packing materials pose a grave environmental threat,” said Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport). “Styrofoam does not break down naturally, cannot be recycled effectively and creates toxic fumes when incinerated. Fortunately, there are proven solutions and sensible alternatives.”

Great White Shark Reported in Long Island Sound

Cabot the Great White started tweeting in October 2018 off the coast of Nova Scotia. (Photo courtesy of Ocearch)

A great white shark being tracked by oceanographers was recorded swimming Monday in the Long Island Sound — the first such instance of the apex predator in that body of water.

Ocearch, a nonprofit marine research organization that tags sharks with GPS tracking devices that ping satellites whenever the shark’s fins are above water, reported a shark that the group dubbed Cabot pinged off the coast of Greenwhich, Connecticut.

“I heard sending a ping from the Long Island Sound had never been done before by a white shark … so naturally I had to visit and send one off,” Ocearch tweeted from a Twitter account set up for the shark.

Although it’s a first for the Sound, it isn’t the first time a shark has been recorded off the coast of Long Island.

Another shark named Mary Lee has pinged several times off the Atlantic coast, the group led an expedition that revealed a shark nursery in deeper ocean waters off LI, and last summer a small shark bit a child in the surf on Fire Island — the first recorded shark bite for the area in nearly a century. Dead sharks also occasionally wash up on LI shores.

A dying basking shark washed up in 2009, several harmless basking sharks forced a brief swimming ban in Westhampton Beach in 2011, another shark was spotted off Atlantic Beach in 2013, and two sharks spotted off Tobay sparked a scare in 2015

Ocearch tracks dozens of sharks besides Cabot and Mary Lee in an effort to better understand the protected species, as well as improve public awareness of the predators made infamous by Jaws, in which the character Captain Quint was based on Frank Mundus, the legendary Montauk shark fisherman-turned-conservationist.

Ocearch, which operates a tracker device on its website for the public to see sharks are in real time, said its tracker tool crashed with the increased interest from the unprecedented shark sighting in the Sound.

Related Story: Does Long Island Need a Shark Alert System?

Liz Claiborne: Fashion’s Sea Change Maker

Liz Claiborne

After founding her pioneering, eponymous company that made her a breakout fashion star in 1976, style icon Liz Claiborne, seeking to draw inspiration from the beach, bought a home in Saltaire on Fire Island.

Her need for the ocean’s recharging benefits was apparent, given her meteoric rise. Five years after she founded the company with her textile titan husband, Arthur Ortenberg, it went public. A year after she bought her beach house in 1985, Liz Claiborne became the first Fortune 500 company founded by a woman to have a female CEO make the list. It was also one of the youngest companies to ever make the cut — a testament to her business acumen.

“I wanted to dress busy and active women like myself —  women who dress in a rush and who weren’t perfect,” Claiborne told Women’s Wear Daily. “The concept was to dress the American working woman because I, as a working woman with a child, didn’t want to spend hours shopping. Things should be easy.”

At the time, the approach to “bring good taste to a mass level” was groundbreaking not only because the brand made affordable business attire at a time when women were increasingly entering the workforce. But the company also broke the mold from fashion industry norms, rolling out new designs every two months instead of four times annually with the change of the seasons, as is customary.

As a successful, trailblazing female CEO, Claiborne, known for her short-cropped hair and oversized eyeglasses, personified the working women that she had in mind in her designs. She was known to sometimes travel to three cities in a day to promote a new line and would go undercover as a salesperson to learn firsthand how customers felt about her clothes.

By the time she retired in 1990, she had grown the company into the nation’s largest women’s apparel maker, with $1.4 billion in sales. After spending her retirement dedicated to environmental philanthropy, she died of cancer in 2007.

Longtime Saltaire resident Hugh O’Brien wrote that although she and her husband’s primary residence was in Manhattan, “it was here that they felt most at home, the place where they came to recover their spirits and peace of mind, away from the pressures of the world.”