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.
There were no new coronavirus deaths Thursday among Suffolk County residents for the first time since the county’s first recorded COVID-19 fatality on March 16, officials said.
The milestone came a week after Nassau County reported its first day with no coronavirus deaths and a little more than a week after New York City did the same.
“I’m very happy to be able to say I can report zero deaths from COVID-19 over the last 24 hours,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told reporters Friday. “I’ve been waiting day after day after day to be able to get to that position.”
Suffolk still has the ninth most coronavirus fatalities of any county nationwide, behind Brooklyn, Queens, Chicago, and Los Angeles, according to Johns Hopkins University. Nassau ranks eighth.
Long Island broke 4,000 COVID-19 fatalities earlier this month. As of Friday, there were 4,108 coronavirus deaths on LI, with 2,163 in Nassau and 1,945 in Suffolk. There were 24,495 across New York State, 114,357 nationwide, 423,545 worldwide.
As for overall coronavirus cases, LI had 81,673 as of Friday, with 41,114 in Nassau and 40,559 in Suffolk. There were 381,714 statewide, 2 million nationwide, and 7.5 million worldwide.
“This is an important day for Suffolk County,” Bellone said. “We still have a ways to go. We still have much to do. This is certainly not over. But the numbers continue to move in a positive direction.”
The Mastic Beach man accused of bringing three explosive devices to Stony Brook University Hospital suggested that local police should be more worried about recent riots in New York City than him, court records show.
Robert Roden, 33, was incredulous when Stony Brook University police officers questioned him after a Stony Brook University Hospital security guard alerted authorities to a suspicious man in the emergency room waiting area on Tuesday night.
“There’s people burning police cars, breaking all your windows,” Roden told Stony Brook police a week after the George Floyd riots in the city ended, documents show. “You really going to lock me up for a knife?”
Roden pleaded not guilty Thursday at Suffolk County court to criminal possession of a weapon, unlawful possession of a weapon on school grounds, criminal possession of a controlled substance, and criminal contempt. Additional charges are possible after the FBI completes an analysis of the explosive devices.
Judge Pierce Cohalan set bail for Roden at $500,000 or $1 million bond. Roden is represented by Legal Aide Society, which has a policy of not commenting on pending cases.
“It was in fact a device that could have been detonated, if it was built correctly,” Suffolk County Police Chief of Detectives Gerard Gigante said. “They appear to be about the size of a grenade with a fuse.”
Police said Roden was wearing a camouflage tactical vest with two patches: One with the symbol for comic book vigilante The Punisher and the other that says “Black Guns” above an image of an assault rifle. It appears to be a “Black Guns Matter” patch, but police did not confirm that is the third word on the patch.
In the vest were magazines full of 9mm ammunition and in his belt, Roden had a BB gun that was loaded with 9mm bullets, authorities added. A judge had issued an order prohibiting Roden from owning a gun after he was arrested for menacing last year, according to investigators and court records. He also had a tomahawk knife and handcuffs in his bomb-laden backpack, police said.
Two floors of the hospital and the emergency room were evacuated for several hours as a precaution after the devices were found. There were no reported injuries.
He was also found to have more than an eighth of an ounce of methamphetamine “in excess of personal use and possess multiple cellphones all consistent with the modus operandi of a street-level dealer,” court records show.
Roden appears to be unemployed, lives with a male partner who was in the emergency room for an undisclosed reason at the time of Roden’s arrest, and was dropped off by a third party, police said. The two other people are also being questioned, police said. Investigators seized computers and additional explosive devices upon executing a search warrant at his Wavecrest Drive home.
Authorities said it is unclear is the hospital was a target or if Roden is affiliated with any criminal groups. Arson Section detectives, the Bomb Squad, Canine Unit officers, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and university police were involved in the arrest. The investigation is continuing.
“Although this is an extremely troubling incident that came to a successful outcome, senior leadership remains committed to improving security within the University Hospital,” Stony Brook hospital officials said in a statement. “We will continue to explore additional opportunities to maintain a safe and secure environment for our employees, for our patients and for the community.”
The Tribeca Film Festival is hitting the road and will be screened at Nickerson Beach in Lido, where it will be held as a drive-in movie series over four weekends next month.
Two-time Oscar winning actor Robert DeNiro, who co-founded the festival in 2003, shared details of the new format Wednesday in an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
“It seems like the safest thing you can do with a bunch of people in their own cars,” DeNiro told Fallon.
The usual festival lineup was canceled in April due to the coronavirus pandemic. It event is normally held in lower Manhattan. But in its place, screenings will be held at drive-in theaters in California, Texas, and New York to start, with additional venues to be added.
“It’s in our DNA to bring people together through the arts, showing strength and resiliency when the world needs it the most,” said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “At a time when people are eager to connect and convene again after months-long social distancing, we’re taking the spirit of Tribeca around the country by creating a safe environment where audiences can come together and enjoy the sense of connection found by going to the movies.”
“There will be free tickets for healthcare workers and for first responders as a thank you for what they’ve done,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “I want to thank Robert DeNiro and his whole crew for making that happen.”
A 33-year-old Mastic Beach man was arrested Wednesday for bringing three explosive devices into Stony Brook University Hospital, Suffolk County police said.
A hospital security guard called State University Police at Stony Brook to report a suspicious man in the emergency room and upon arrival, police took Robert Roden into custody after finding three suspicious devices in his backpack shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, police said. University police then called Suffolk police for backup.
Two floors of the hospital were evacuated as a precaution and the emergency room reopened at 1:30 a.m. There were no reported injuries.
Arson Section detectives and Bomb Section technicians investigated and determined the device to be dangerous, police said.
Detectives, the Bomb Squad and Canine Unit officers, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and university police executed a search warrant at the suspect’s Wavecrest Drive home, where they found multiple explosive devices that are being evaluated by federal investigators, police said.
Roden was charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon, Criminal Contempt, and two counts of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance. Additional charges are pending.
He will be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Central Islip.
Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters here. Sign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partnerhere.
Long Island malls should reopen Wednesday as the region hits phase two of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown and not wait until phase four next month, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.
Curran said she is pressing Gov. Andrew Cuomo to allow malls to reopen a month earlier than New York State’s phased pandemic reopening plan currently allows. Under the current plan, malls are included in phase four, which LI is expected to reach on July 8.
“Our local malls … they are an anchor of our economy and they are ready to come back,” Curran told reporters Tuesday at a news conference outside her Mineola office. “We have seen a lot of people out of work. We know that malls employ thousands upon thousands of people.”
Enclosed shopping malls have been closed statewide since March 19 to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But since phase two allows for the resumption of full retail, Curran argues that malls should open sooner rather than later.
She said the governor’s aides are reviewing her request. A Cuomo spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Malls had long been getting creative in how to maintain foot traffic amid the rise in online shopping. Coronavirus only made matters worse.
“I am concerned that some of our malls might not make to the other side of this pandemic,” Curran said.
As COVID-19 hospitalizations and fatalities continue to decline in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Long Island is preparing to hit phase two of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown on Wednesday.
Industries included in phase two are professional services, finance, retail, administrative support, real estate, and outdoor dining. Social distancing and wearing masks in crowded places will remain a priority.
“Phase two will jump start even more of our economy,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Monday. “We need to get our businesses moving again.”
Much of upstate New York, which was less impacted by COVID-19 than the downstate regions, has already entered phase two, except for New York City, which entered phase one on Monday. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said there will be two weeks between each of the four phases.
The third phase of reopening includes personal care, such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, massage therapists, and spas. If there is no spike in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations between the phases, LI may reach phase three on June 24. The fourth and final phase includes education, recreation, and arts and entertainment, which the Island appears on track to reach on July 8.
Reopening will include new rules. Stores are allowed to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask. Barber shops and hair salons are included in phase two, but nail salons are not. Outdoor dining is allowed, but indoor dining will not resume until phase 3 and restaurants will be required to maintain 50-percent capacity.
In other reopening news, summer camps were given the OK to resume on June 29, in-person special education instruction will be allowed to continue this summer ahead of schools fully reopening in phase four, and graduation ceremonies of up to 150 people will be allowed starting on June 26.
Tensions boiled over at two of the many racial justice protests this weekend on Long Island, which have been largely peaceful for the past week.
Eleven protesters were arrested Saturday in Merrick and two Nassau County police officers were injured while making those arrests. And two protesters were injured Sunday at another march in Smithtown, authorities said.
“A few people were pushing the envelope,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said of the arrests, noting that most of the protesters were peaceful.
The protests were some of dozens held locally this week in support of nationwide protests sparked by a shocking video of a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly killing an unarmed black man by placing a knee on his neck and ignoring the victim’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Four cops were fired and charged in the death of George Floyd.
Marchers have descended upon Merrick daily after a group of homeowners tried to block Black Lives Matter protesters Tuesday. On Thursday, a group of 500 protesters marched onto the Southern State Parkway, forcing police to divert traffic. But when a group tried to march onto the Meadowbrook State Parkway on Saturday, Nassau police blocked the protesters, citing dangerous wet road conditions following rain that day.
Nassau officials said the 11 people arrested were urging a subset of 250 protesters that broke off from the larger peaceful group to march onto the parkway. Authorities neither released their names of those arrested nor the charges they are facing. They were only identified as 10 Nassau residents and one Suffolk resident, including 10 adults and one juvenile.
None of the Merrick protesters were injured, authorities said. Two Nassau officers were injured while making the arrests, including a sergeant who required surgery after suffering a broken ankle and an officer who has a bruised nose and scratched cornea from being punched in the face, officials said.
“Violence against police will not be tolerated,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, adding that she spoke with both officers and reported that they are in good spirits.
Protests this weekend included rallies in Farmingdale, Westbury, Manhasset, Mineola, Garden City, East Meadow, Great Neck, Port Washington, Freeport, Uniondale, Levittown, Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Glen Cove, Hicksville, Rockville Centre, Massapequa, Stony Brook, Selden, Huntington, East Hampton, and Hauppauge.
Despite internet rumors that outside agitators planned to use bricks to hijack the protests to spark riots and looting, as has happened elsewhere, the biggest disruption to date on LI has been road closures caused by mostly peaceful marches.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said a protester was injured in Smithtown when he was punched during a rally in Smithtown, where a number of counter protesters gathered to oppose the march. A police spokesman said two people reported injuries in Smithtown. Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the incident.
“We take hate crimes very seriously,” he said, although Bellone and police declined to discuss the case further, citing the ongoing investigation.
When Molloy College President Drew Bogner retires in June, he’ll have more than doubled its student population and opened its first dormitories despite having led it through some of America’s biggest challenges.
Appointed a year before the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, he increased academic offerings through the Great Recession, rallied community spirit after Superstorm Sandy, and is handing over the reins to an expanded campus immediately after presiding over the Rockville Centre college’s coronavirus pandemic response.
“I really thought I would be easing out, but I’m working as hard, if not harder, than any time in my presidency,” Bogner told the Press.
His 20 years at the helm of the small private college that Catholic nuns founded in 1955 is unusually long for someone in his position. The average tenure of a college president is five years and getting shorter with time.
He recalls having to make a major decision about college operations every few hours when the coronavirus crisis first arrived on Long Island. Molloy announced on March 10 that it was suspending in-person classes and campus events for 18 days out of an abundance of caution, making it one of the first colleges in the region to take such measures — a week before Gov. Andrew Cuomo closed schools across New York State to stop the spread of the virus.
“Faculty will offer classes via alternate delivery methods,” the college said in a statement at the time. “Staff and administrators who can work from home may be required to do so until further notice.”
Fueling concerns for some was the fact that the college is right down the road from Mercy Medical Center, which employs the man who on March 5 became the first confirmed coronavirus case on LI.
Before the crisis forced classes and graduations to be held online for the foreseeable future — Cuomo, fearing the likelihood of a second wave of the virus this fall, had not said as of press time whether school will be back in September — there was much progress at Molloy.
While he boosted enrollment from 2,200 to nearly 5,000, what Bogner’s most proud of is growing Molloy from a commuter college where students spent little time outside class to planting the seeds of a robust campus life revolving around residence halls that opened in 2011.
“We’re just a very different kind of place than when I came,” Bogner says.
Previously known for its nursing and education programs, new marquee programs include one of the region’s top accounting programs, a competitive speech language pathology program, and one of the top 20 music theatre programs in the nation, centered around its Madison Theatre.
After he retires to his 18-acre Massachusetts home to write and tend to his new orchard, his successor will be James Lentini, the former senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. Bogner says, though, that he’ll be back to teach leadership remotely part time after an 18-month sabbatical.
Among his biggest legacies will be the formation of the Energeia Partnership, a nondegree program that has sharpened the community stewardship of 500 local leaders who’ve graduated with certificates through 12 sessions. Its goal is to help address some of the pressing issues that persist on the Island, such as segregation.
“I think it’s been making a real impact on Long Island,” he says. “We have a strong sense of community and we rally together in ways that I think are not very common.”
There were no new coronavirus deaths Friday among Nassau County residents for the first time since the county’s first recorded COVID-19 fatality on St. Patrick’s Day, officials said.
The milestone comes after New York City reported its first day with zero virus deaths this week. Neighboring Suffolk County hit a low of one new death one day this week, but saw five new fatalities on Friday.
“For the first time in 81 days, we do not have a COVID fatality here in Nassau County,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Saturday during her latest news briefing on the pandemic. “That’s very, very good news.”
Nassau still has the eighth most coronavirus fatalities of any county nationwide, behind Brooklyn, Queens, Chicago, and Los Angeles, according to Johns Hopkins University. Suffolk County ranks ninth.
Long Island broke 4,000 COVID-19 fatalities last weekend. As of Saturday, there were 4,067 coronavirus deaths on LI, with 2,135 in Nassau and 1,932 in Suffolk. There were 24,212 across New York State, 109,443 nationwide, and 396,591 worldwide.
As for overall coronavirus cases, LI had 81,131 as of Saturday, with 40,853 in Nassau and 40,278 in Suffolk. There were 377,316, 1.9 million nationwide, and 6.8 million worldwide.
A driver was arrested after being caught on video nearly running over a 16-year-old girl who was part of a George Floyd protest in West Babylon on Tuesday evening, Suffolk County police said.
The victim reported that she was standing near the driveway of the 7-Eleven on Little East Neck Road when a man driving a truck veered the vehicle towards her, forcing her to move out of the way to avoid being hit, according to First Precinct Crime Section officers investigating the incident.
The video shows the victim jumping out of the way as the white Chevrolet SUV veers over a curb and onto the sidewalk toward her. WABC reported that the girl said as the driver drove off, he shouted, “white lives matter.”
The man was arrested Friday for Reckless Endangerment and Endangering the Welfare of a Child. Police did not immediately release the suspect’s name.
The protest that the girl was participating in was one of dozens locally this week in support of nationwide protests sparked by a shocking video of a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly killing an unarmed black man by placing a knee on his neck and ignoring the victim’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Four cops were fired and charged in the death of George Floyd.