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.

Cuomo, Nixon To Debate at Hofstra University

From left to right: Gubanatorial Democratic challenger Cynthia Nixon and New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will debate his Democratic primary opponent, Cynthia Nixon, at Hofstra University in Hempstead on Wednesday, Aug. 29, two weeks before voters hit the polls.

WCBS-TV will host and broadcast New York’s lone 2018 gubernatorial debate. The planned debate will be a face-off between the two-term governor, who last debated third-party challengers at Hofstra in 2010, and Nixon, a first-time candidate best known for her role on Sex And The City.

“With the New York State Democratic Primary drawing near, CBS2 and Hofstra University have invited both Democratic candidates for Governor to participate in an hourlong, commercial-free debate on August 29 at Hofstra University,” the university said in a statement. “We look forward to providing New Yorkers with the opportunity to hear both candidates explain their positions on the important issues facing our state.”

Cuomo held a nearly 36-point lead over Cuomo as of the most recent survey, a Quinnipiac University poll of 415 registered Democrats released in July.

Nixon slammed the process and timing of the debate, but agreed to it nonetheless.

“Cuomo has agreed to participate in a debate hosted by WCBS, with the format and all of the details negotiated in advance, then presented to our campaign on a take-it-or-leave-it basis,” Nixon said in a statement. “The result: a debate at Andrew Cuomo’s chosen location and TV station, in his preferred format, with a favorable audience, and on a date in the last week of August when a minimum of New Yorkers will be watching.

“CBS management has acknowledged that the only way to get Governor Cuomo to show up is by giving him everything he wants,” the statement continued. “We weren’t even given a seat at the table.

“We understand this isn’t a level playing field,” she added. “It hasn’t been since the very beginning. Nothing is easy when you’re an outsider, and it’s even harder when you’re a woman.

“Cynthia will debate Governor Cuomo backwards and in high heels if she has to,” she concluded.

WCBS-TV said it issued debate invitations to the Cuomo and Nixon campaigns a week ago.

“Ultimately, it is up to the campaigns to agree on the format and other details,” the station said in a statement.

The governor’s re-election campaign called Nixon paranoid, then reiterated calls that she release her taxes.

“Tricky Nixon is trying to change the topic,” the campaign said in a statement. “It’s time for Nixon — who filed as a corporation—to release 5 years of her taxes. Even Jumaane Williams will. What is she hiding?” 

The primaries are scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 13.

Holbrook Woman Takes Breast Cancer Fight On The Road

A breast cancer survivor participates in Susan Komen 3-Day walk in 2015. © 2016 Susan G. Komen.

Jane Altman of Holbrook vowed 12 years ago to participate in an annual two-day walk to help raise money for breast cancer research — and she won’t let the event being canceled stop her.

Instead of giving up after the Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer was nixed last year, Altman has now set her sights on an even more challenging charitable event: The 60-mile Susan G. Komen 3-Day.

“I couldn’t not do something,” Altman wrote in her fundraising appeal. “There is still a fight to fight. While the Avon39 will always be in my heart, I have refocused my efforts.”

Altman plans to join the Philadelphia leg of the walk, which runs Sept. 28-30. Six other three-day, 60-mile walks are scheduled for cities nationwide between August and November. It is organized by the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, the largest nonprofit in the nation dedicated to the cause.

Altman was inspired to walk after her close friend, Patty Spitzler, was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer. Shortly after she began fundraising for that walk, Altman’s mother, Judy Willens, was also diagnosed. Altman now walks in honor of these survivors and in the memory of Lori Schlussel. 

“Too many other friends and family members have been diagnosed, are still fighting for their lives, or have tragically passed away,” said Altman’s husband, Adam. “Jane wears a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon inscribed with each of their names, and the names of all those she has encountered on the way, fighters all, some survivors, some still fighting, and some sadly having lost their fight. She wears one ribbon for each of them, in tribute to their courage, and as a reminder that we still have a long way to go before putting an end to this terrible disease.”

Those that participate in the walk generally aim to raise $2,300 each to further the group’s goal of cutting the number of annual breast cancer deaths in half by 2026. 

“That’s why I’m walking, and raising money,” Jane said. “To make that goal a reality.”

Altman had already nearly reached her goal of raising $3,700 more than a month before the walk.

To donate, visit Jane Altman’s online fundraiser here.

 

Troubled Hempstead School Board Accuses Ex-Superintendent of Misconduct

Ex-Hempstead Superintendent Shimon Waronker

The Hempstead Public Schools Board of Education voted this week to bring charges against its suspended Superintendent Shimon Waronker, who has alleged uncovering corruption in the long-struggling district.

Waronker’s attorney, Frederick Brewington, confirmed to the Press on Thursday that the board has accused Waronker of bid-rigging, conflict of interest, misconduct and dozens of other charges. Brewington said the board is trying to attack the credibility of his client, who filed a lawsuit against the board in Central Islip federal court in an attempt to be reinstated after he was suspended earlier this year.

“They are all false and contrived to mask the real issues that Dr. Waronker was in the process of helping the District solve,” Brewington said in a statement. “What is [a shame] is that this Board of Education has chosen to follow a path of denial of the real concerns facing the District and the children of Hempstead.”

He noted that the development comes days after CBS2 News released a documentary about the school district’s decades of failures dubbed 37%, with the title referring to the school district’s graduation rate that ranks among the lowest in the nation.

The board’s allegations largely hinge on its former contract with the New American Initiative (NAI), a nonprofit that Waronker founded before becoming superintendent. Waronker maintains that he stepped down from his role at the group before taking the Hempstead job and that his contract stated he would use it as a resource to reform the district.

“You misled the District and expressly misrepresented the facts, pretending that you no longer had a professional or financial relationship with the NAI, implying falsely that your interests in the NAI had been severed, and deceptively presenting your relationship and interests in the NAI in the past tense,” the charges state.

Waronker had been hired by the school board following a national search with the goal of reforming the district. Later, school board members aligned with Hempstead for Hempstead, a group led by a convicted sex offender, were voted into the majority, which includes a Hempstead village police officer who was arrested in April on more than a dozen charges of theft and fraud. 

Waronker, who previously turned around struggling New York City schools, had launched an investigation into the district and referred findings of what he alleged was corruption to authorities. The new school board in turn launched an investigation into Waronker that led to this week’s charges. A New York State comptroller audit and state Education Department review are ongoing.

The embattled superintendent now has the choice to have the hearing on his charges in public or private. 

 

Short-Term Rental Rules On The Rise Across Long Island

Using Airbnb and sites like it is getting harder on Long Island.

Renting a home on Long Island for a few days this summer vacation season is not as easy as it used to be, thanks to municipalities increasingly cracking down on short-term rentals.

From western Nassau County to the East End, many towns and villages have passed rules tightening regulations on homeowners who rent residences to transients. The new rules are in response to the rise in online rental markets such as Airbnb and Vacation Rentals By Owner. But one community is fighting back.

“Shelter Island residents have historically been welcoming of short-term visitors, and have a long history of engaging in short-term vacation rentals of their homes, with a typical duration of two to three days,” Julia Weisenberg says in a federal lawsuit she and other renters filed against the Town of Shelter Island, which passed a 14-night minimum rental law last summer. As the lead plaintiff in the case, who uses the rental money to pay her bills as well as care for her three children and her disabled husband, she claims the “law has caused, and will continue to cause, a substantial decrease in … income, which will have devastating effects on her and her family.”

The passage of local laws comes amid a wave of similar legislation in cities nationwide as the hotel industry has ramped up its Share Better campaign, pushing back against short term home rentals that compete with hotels and motels. The laws often ban advertising short-term rentals, require owners to register their rentals, and fine violators.

Opponents of the Shelter Island law insist that motivation for its passage is more insidious than protecting renters from getting hurt in old homes that aren’t up to code, as proponents say.

“The quality of people vacationing on the island is deteriorating,” Shelter Island officials said while debating passage of the law, according to court documents. “[Fourteen] days weeds out the unwanted…Airbnb will change the complexion of the island.”

Last month, New York City passed a law requiring Airbnb and other home-sharing companies to provide the names and addresses of its hosts so the city can crackdown on illegal rentals, such as those that violate a state law against renting apartments for less than 30 days. The law is expected to halve the $3 billion company’s listings in the city when it goes into effect in January.

“We have expressed willingness to work with lawmakers to safeguard the safety and privacy of these regular New Yorkers,” Airbnb said in a statement. “But until there is an honest attempt by lawmakers to delineate the tens of thousands of hosts who are responsibly sharing their space and the few bad actors who take advantage of the system, we remain committed to pushing back against any legislation that solely aims to frighten hardworking New Yorkers.”

On LI, the laws typically involve destination communities with beach homes that draw tourists to the region during summer. The Village of Ocean Beach on Fire Island has long had a rule barring rentals of less than a week, a rule aimed at inhibiting groups of young partiers from disrupting the resort community. But in 2016, the much quieter, more exclusive Village of Saltaire on FI also tightened its rental code in response to Airbnb.

Last fall, even the Village of New Hyde Park, a commuter community not exactly on the short list of must-visit places on LI, restricted rentals of less than 28 days. The Town of Hempstead had done the same months earlier.

Last month also saw the Village of Kensington ban renting homes for less than six months. Earlier this year, the Village of The Branch added restrictions on rentals of less than 30 days, prohibiting rentals of more than two bedrooms or parties after 10 p.m. in such rentals. And in 2015, the Town of East Hampton limited landlords to renting homes to 15 days at a time and only twice annually.

Renters and tourists will have to work all the harder to get past the virtual “no vacancy” sign in summers to come.

Hempstead Village Trustee Accused of Taking Bribes

Left to right: Perry Pettus and William Mendez

Hempstead Village Trustee Perry Pettus and a second man were arrested Tuesday for allegedly conspiring to threaten restaurant owners to pay him $25,000 in bribes this year or be hit with fines, Nassau County prosecutors said.

Pettus, 62, and William Mendez, 47, pleaded not guilty to charges of bribe receiving, grand larceny, conspiracy and official misconduct. Judge Patricia Harrington released Pettus without bail and set bail for Mendez at $10,000.

“Pettus, a former Hempstead Deputy Mayor, threatened Hispanic-owned local businesses with summons, fines, and operating restrictions that would could drive them out of business – unless they paid him tens of thousands in bribes, though his associate and intermediary, William Mendez,” said Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, who called the allegations “truly despicable.”

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 and Mendez, a local restaurant and bar owner in the village, targeted Hispanic-owned businesses as part of their extortion scheme, authorities said. Mendez, who speaks Spanish, allegedly helped Pettus by meeting with victims and making the demands, according to investigators.

In turn, Pettus fast-tracked permits for Mendez, used village employees to increase the occupancy of one his restaurants, and had village employees assist Mendez with architectural plans for a new business, authorities said. Pettus also repeatedly disclosed information from a confidential police investigation to Mendez, prosecutors said.

Pettus and Mendez allegedly discussed payments in coded language and specifically used the word “cookies” to refer to money, according to investigators.

Pettus ceased to be deputy mayor of the Village of Hempstead on April 2, but remains a trustee. The duo is due back in court Sept. 5. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top charge.

The investigation is continuing. Prosecutors ask anyone with information on the case to contact the Public Corruption Bureau at 516-571-2100.

 

Home Stagers Help Brokers Seal The Deal

Staged homes sell faster than empty or cluttered homes, experts say.

Using computer programs that add furniture to photos of interiors of homes for sale is increasingly popular, but Long Island’s home-staging professionals say such digitally manipulated images are no replacement for the real deal.

Professional home stagers are a niche of interior designers that specialize in residences that are for sale. But since they typically don’t meet the soon-to-be buyer of the home, their job is to use the home as a blank canvas for what they think a potential buyer will like.

“One of the golden rules is to depersonalize and declutter,” says Tammy Torres of Superior Staging of her tips for occupied homes for sale. “They need to look like staged homes. They need to be pared down of personal things. They need appropriate-sized furniture. It needs to be neutral.”

Torres, who started out flipping homes with her husband, was so good at staging homes that she now leads one of several companies that perform such work on Long Island. Since starting a decade ago, she now stages about 45 homes annually.

“When I do consultations with people I tell them, ‘please don’t be upset,'” she says. “‘You can come over my house and you’ll feel better. I have three children, but I’m not selling my house. And when it’s time to sell my house it will be pristine. And there won’t be doorknobs that don’t work and light bulbs that don’t work…. or a house that has no curb appeal, because you’re not going to get the buyers in there.’”

Often the furniture, curtains and other items that she decorates a home with are sold with the property, especially on high-end properties. Staging a home for sale allows potential buyers to see what a previously empty home looks like furnished in person during an open house. The results are more tangible than virtually staged homes.

“There seems to be varying degrees of stagers,” Torres says. “You have somebody who can basically walk in to occupied homes and say, ‘This is what you need to do. Depersonalize, declutter, you’re moving anyway. Prospective buyers need to see the space not your things.’ And they just charge a consultation fee.

“A lot of real estate agents are very savvy and do it themselves because they, of course, want the best product they can put out there when they get these listings,” she continues. “And then there’s someone who does what I do, where I have my own inventory and I can stage 15,000 square feet in five business days. We start on Monday, we finish on Friday and the brokers have open houses that weekend.”

Torres maintains that neutral designs are best when staging. She’s careful not to use anything too bold.

“Vanilla sells,”” she says. “It’s just vanilla with a cherry on top.”

LONG ISLAND HOME STAGERS

Abella Home Staging & Redesign
Port Jefferson Station, 631-846-7724, carmela@abellahomestaging.com, abellahomestaging.com

Fresh Style by June
Smithtown, 631-366-4318, jconsalvo@gmail.com, freshstylebyjune.com

Home Staging by SPC
Manorville, 631-878-6143, stagingbyspc.com

Staged 2 Sell
Northport, 516-982-2671, info@staged2sellny.com, staged2sellny.com

Superior Staging
Nassau County, 917-838-3192, tammy@superiorstage.com, superiorstage.com

NY’s Biggest Dumping Bust Nabs 24 on Long Island

www.houstondwiattorney.net
Photo by www.houstondwiattorney.net

Two dozen suspects have been arrested on Long Island in what New York State officials billed as the largest bust of its kind cracking down on illegal dumping of construction and demolition waste.

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) officers led the joint investigation dubbed Operation TrashNet in which undercover officers conducted truck surveillance to catch suspects in the act.

“Illegal dumping poses a serious threat to our environment, and New York will not allow any unscrupulous businesses to continue to harm this state,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “As we continue to work to stop this alleged criminal behavior, we are sending a clear message to potential polluters that their time is up.”

The ongoing multi-agency crackdown was also conducted in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Of the 81 new dumping sites uncovered in both regions, 52 are currently under investigation,
21 are under administrative enforcement action requiring responsible parties to conduct cleanups and eight have been mitigated or clean-ups are underway, officials said.

More than 550 total tickets were issued for various misdemeanors, more than 170 tickets were issued for alleged unlawful disposal of solid waste, and more than 40 trucking companies were allegedly identified. In addition, 26 trucks were seized and impounded and 53 search warrants executed.

As part of that related investigation, dubbed Operation Pay Dirt, DEC officers and Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini’s office arrested two dozen suspects, some of whom face felony charges, including those involved with the soccer fields at Brentwood North Middle School, officials said. In that bust, 12 corporations were charged with crimes, 12 trucks used for alleged illegal dumping were seized and dozens of new alleged illegal dump sites were uncovered.

“The individuals and companies arrested in connection with this alleged illegal dumping scheme put the health of Suffolk County residents at risk out of pure greed,” Sini said. “These defendants are alleged to have knowingly dumped solid waste and potentially hazardous materials into our residents’ backyards and parks just to line their pockets.”

 

2 Possibly Bitten by Sharks on Fire Island

The oceanfront beach on Fire Island.

Two children were bitten by what authorities suspect is a small shark or large fish while swimming in the Atlantic Ocean off Fire Island on Wednesday morning.

Suffolk County police confirmed that officers responded to reports of two people suffering bite wounds at Atlantique Beach and Sailor’s Haven, two beaches about four miles apart on the barrier island. Police said they were investigating what caused the bites.

Town of Islip officials said a 13-year-old boy was boogie boarding in Atlantique when he was wiped out on a wave, got out of the water and a lifeguard found he appeared to have a bite mark from small shark at around noon. Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) officials said a tooth was found “consistent with a large fish.” The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Marinue Bureau has not confirmed the incident as a shark bite, officials said.

“We figured it was a shark bite right away,” said Islip lifeguard Craig Amarando, who was among the first responders at Atlantique.

FINS said it closed the federal seashore’s beaches to swimming as a result. Islip closed the ocean beaches to swimming, too. Newsday reports Robert Moses State Park banned swimming as well.

Sailor’s Haven is operated by FINS, which reported that a 12-year-old girl was bitten shortly before noon.

“She was able to walk to shore with assistance from her caregiver,” FINS said in a statement. “There were bite marks on the victim consistent with a large fish. However, there was not a sighting of a shark in the area and the incident has not been confirmed as a shark bite.”

Both victims were treated at local hospitals for non-life threatening injuries.

“Both of these kids, thank God, are OK,” said Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter. “We’re seeing this as an opportunity to remind everyone, the water is beautiful…but the water can be treacherous. You need to be careful at all times.”

The last shark attack on LI was reportedly in 1948, one of seven in New York State since 1670, none of them fatal. 
 
The worst case in Tri-state history involved five shark attacks that claimed four lives over 12 days along the Jersey Shore during a 1916 heat wave. 
 

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

Smithtown Drug Rehab Clinic Beats The Odds

Group therapy, one-on-one counseling and medication proved to be the winning combo for one drug rehab clinic

Despite his office being in Suffolk County, which has the highest fatal opiate overdose rate in New York State, Dr. Simon Zysman and his outpatient clinic has achieved a high rate of success treating heroin and opioid addicted patients compared to other facilities statewide.

His secret? His clinic, Smithtown-based Employee Assistance Resources Services, Inc. (EARS), offers offers a multidisciplinary treatment approach for patients suffering with mild to moderate heroin and opioid withdrawal symptoms. Treatment services consist of outpatient services, outpatient detoxification, an intensive outpatient program, medication assisted treatment, as well as individual, group, and family therapy.

“The EARS program is unique because our interdisciplinary team consists of physicians who specialize in heroin and opioid addiction medicine, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and substance abuse counselors,” says Dr. Zysman. “The EARS clinicians have a deep understanding of the dynamics of heroin and opioid addiction as well as the dynamics of the medications needed to help the opiate addict achieve recovery.

“Behavioral intervention alone with heroin and opioid addicts yield very poor outcomes with more than 80 percent of addicts relapsing,” he continues. “But when utilizing the EARS treatment approach for opiate addiction, the results are much better. The results of treatment at EARS have varied from 60 percent to 90 percent successful outcomes with the heroin and opioid addicted patients.”

Dr. Simon Zysman penned
Successful Heroin and Opioid
Treatment, which will be released
July 18.

Zysman is detailing his method in his new book, Successful Heroin and Opioid Addition Treatment, which is being published this month. He hopes it will inspire other treatment providers to learn from his successes and help turn the tide of the national opioid epidemic. The doctor draws on decades of experience, honing his focus on heroin and prescription painkiller abuse 10 years ago, just as the epidemic began to take hold.

Zysman notes that many inpatient detoxification programs, inpatient substance abuse rehab programs, and outpatient clinics could benefit from utilizing the EARS treatment approach to improve their treatment outcomes with their heroin and opioid addicted patients.

He said he was unaware of how successful his method was until the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) alerted him to his retention rate compared to the state average. OASAS verified the data, but said that since it was from 2015, they could not comment on it.

A typical patient is with his clinic for three to six months, depending upon the severity of their dependence. He notes that those dependent on drugs will often omit their illicit drug use when asking their doctor for help treating issues such as depression. But anti-depressants don’t work properly when mixed with opioids and other drugs.

“The EARS program also has a high rate of success with heroin and opioid addicted patients who suffer from co-occurring disorders,” the doctor says. “These are opiate addicts who have psychiatric problems and/or mild to moderate physical pain. The EARS staff sets short and long-term goals for opiate addicted patients and encourages family involvement in the treatment process.”

His patients can testify to that.

“I was using 10-20 bags of heroin per day,” says one 22-year-old man in recovery. “Before getting sober my life was miserable and unmanageable. I was a slave to drugs. My life became dangerously unmanageable in every way imaginable. Since getting sober and coming to EARS my life has improved drastically. I am living a good sober happy life.”

Successful Heroin and Opioid Addition Treatment is on sale beginning July 18.

Ex-Sen. Dean Skelos Convicted Again in Corruption Retrial

Dean Skelos
Ex-New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre)

Disgraced ex-New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam, were convicted again Tuesday at their federal corruption retrial.

A jury found father and son guilty of extortion, wire fraud and other counts following their second trial at Manhattan federal court. Their defense attorneys had their 2015 convictions overturned on the grounds that the U.S. Supreme Court had limited the scope what defines corruption by elected officials.

Prosecutors said Dean pressured Roslyn-based medical malpractice firm Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers (PRI), New Hyde Park-based developer Glenwood Management and Arizona-based storm water filter manufacturer AbTech Industries for no-show jobs and payments for his son in exchange for favorable legislative treatment. All three companies had business before the state at the time.

The former senator was once the top-elected Republican in the state, the most powerful lawmaker on Long Island and one of the so-called three men in a room — the other being Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Assembly Speaker — that shape the state’s legislative and budget agenda.

The second conviction comes shortly after former Cuomo aides were convicted in a separate corruption case and Skelos’ former counterpart, ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), was also convicted again at his recent retrial. Skelos and Silver were originally on trial at the same time. 

In 2016, Judge Kimba Wood had sentenced Dean to five years in prison and Adam to 6 1/2 years in prison. But execution of their sentence was stayed pending the appeal. They face up to 20 years in prison on each charge.

The biggest difference between the two trials was the fact that the former senator opted to testify in his own defense this time around. Adam once again declined to exercise that right. The defense is expected to appeal the conviction a second time.

Related Story: An Inside Look At How Skelos Trial Exposed Slimy Side Of NY Politics