Timothy Bolger

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.

NYPD Detective from Long Island Killed in Robbery

Brian P. Simonsen

A 42-year-old New York City police detective from Calverton was fatally struck by friendly fire at the scene of a robbery in Queens on Tuesday night, officials said.

NYPD officers responding to the robbery shot plainclothes Det. Brian Simonsen and Sgt. Matthew Gorman, at a T-Mobile store on Atlantic Avenue in Richmond Hill at 6:24 p.m., police said. Simonsen, a 19-year veteran of the force, sustained a gunshot wound to the chest that proved fatal. The sergeant was hit in the leg and is in stable condition at Jamaica Hospital.

“Make no mistake about it, friendly fire aside, it is because the actions of the suspect that Detective Simonsen is dead,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill told reporters.

The suspect — whom O’Neill described as a 27-year-old man and a “career criminal” — was shot multiple times and is now hospitalized in stable condition. The weapon he held turned out to be an imitation firearm that police recovered at the scene.

Based on preliminary investigation, O’Neill said, the NYPD received multiple 911 calls about the reported robbery. One caller claimed that an armed man had been holding several people inside the store at gunpoint.

Simonsen and the sergeant, who were in the area on an unrelated matter, responded to the 911 calls along with other 102nd Precinct officers. O’Neill said that they went into the store to get a closer look, after being unable to see anything from the street.
Upon walking into the store, O’Neill said, Simonsen and the sergeant spotted the suspect, who fit the reported perpetrator’s description, holding what appeared to be a handgun. The officers discharged their weapons as the suspect advanced toward them, the commissioner said, and they retreated from the shop.
Additional officers that also responded to the scene then reportedly shot the detective and sergeant by mistake.
When the gunfire ended, officers discovered that Simonsen had been shot in the chest. Several cops took Simonsen in a patrol car to Jamaica Hospital, where he died a short time later. With the help of a civilian, the sergeant was also taken to Jamaica Hospital for treatment

O’Neill and Mayor Bill de Blasio met with Simonsen’s wife and mother at Jamaica Hospital. Condolences poured in in response to the news.

“Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the NYPD,” said President James McDermott, Nassau County Police Benevolent Association. “The men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line each and every day for the safety and security of our community and others. This serves as a reminder of the bravery, courage, and everyday heroism of the men and women in blue.”

with QNS

Holtsville Hal, Malverne Mel Predict Early Spring on Groundhog Day

Greg Drossel, Holtsville Hal's handler for two decades, held Holtsville Hal up for all to see in 2018. (Photo by Christa Ganz).

Long Island’s groundhogs agree!

For the first time since 2016, Holtsville Hal and Malverne Mel both did not see their shadows on Groundhog Day. That means there will be an early spring, according to groundhog lore. 

Their prognostications are in line with America’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, who also did not see his shadow. New York City’s Staten Island Chuck, Connecticut’s Chuckles, and upstate New York’s Dunkirk Dave also predicted an early spring on Saturday morning.

The only groundhog in the tri-state area that saw its shadow, predicting six more weeks of winter, is Milltown Mel in New Jersey.

Regardless of what the woodchucks say, the spring equinox is six weeks away: March 20.

Oscar-nominated ‘First Reformed’ Partly Shot on Long Island

Among the films nominated for 2019 Academy Awards is First Reformed a movie partly shot on Long Island in which Ethan Hawke plays a Protestant minister facing a crisis of faith.

The film’s director, Paul Schrader, was nominated for best original screenplay for the dramatic thriller, which was set in upstate New York. Several street scenes in the movie were filmed in Hicksville, according to IMDB and local officials. Schrader was simultaneously appreciative and flippant upon learning he was nominated Jan. 22.

“I have never really respected the Academy for their choices,” Schrader told The Los Angeles Times. “On the other hand, I’m enormously gratified that they have selected me. So you live in a kind of conflicted world. Where on one hand you say it truly doesn’t matter. And on the other hand you say, ‘Well, I guess it does matter.’

This is the first Oscar nomination for Schrader, 72, who co-wrote four screenplays with Martin Scorsese: Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ, and Bringing Out The Dead. He’s also directed more than a dozen other movies, including American Gigolo, Cat People, and Mishma: A Life in Four Chapters.

In the best original screenplay category, Schrader is up against the writers of The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, and Vice.

The credits for First Reformed included a special thanks to Nassau County police spokesmen Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, Det. Vincent Garcia, Det. Mike Bitsko, and Officer Maureen Roach, who helped secure the scene for the film crew while they were on LI for a scene in which Hawke’s character drove through the streets of Hicksville, police said.

“We closely monitored and provide intermittent traffic control to keep the crew as well as residents of our roadways safe and free from obstructions during these driving scenes,” LeBrun told the Press. He added that the department’s Public Information Office “has assisted with thousands of productions in Nassau County and we thank the production company for the acknowledgement that has been given and congratulate them for their nomination.”

The Academy Awards ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 24. The full list of nominees can be found here.

The last full-length feature film shot on LI to win an Oscar was 2014’s Still Alice, for which Julianne Moore won for best actress. That movie was partly shot in Lido.

RELATED STORY: 23 Movies Shot on Long Island That Won Oscars 

Paul Schrader, who wrote and directed First Reformed, at the Montclair Film Festival. (Photo by Frank Schramm)

Long Island Braces for NY To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Long Island lawmakers are preparing for the likelihood that New York State legislators will pass a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana sometime in the near future.

Officials launched the Nassau County Task Force on Marijuana Legalization & Regulation to understand key local needs in advance of potential legalization. The North Hempstead Town Board passed a law prohibiting the retail sale of recreational marijuana in the town. And Republican state legislators from Long Island are urging Democrats spend future legal marijuana tax revenue on cutting taxes instead of increasing government spending.

“Legalization of recreational marijuana will mean a big change to our local laws, procedures, and regulations,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “I have directed the formation of this task force to pre-emptively ensure that our law enforcement, health officials, and residents are equipped with the tools and resources they need to be prepared.”

If the proposal passes the state legislature, New York would become the 10th state nationwide, including Washington, D.C., to legalize smoking recreational marijuana for adults over the age of 21. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing the legislature to pass the measure this legislative session, which ends in June.

The task force will bring together leaders from across the county to understand local needs, including new regulatory and licensing procedures, tax and business development implications, public health protocols, and training requirements for police officers. 

“Officers will require additional training and new equipment will need to be purchased to identify drivers driving under the influence of marijuana to keep our roadways safe,” Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said.

Curran said Nassau should seamlessly incorporate harm-reduction strategies, while implementing a regulated marijuana program that will properly absorb the regulatory mechanisms required to ensure public safety, protect public health, and provide consumer protection.

Meanwhile, the North Hempstead town board unanimously approved a local law that will prohibit the retail sale of recreational marijuana in the town.

“While we certainly understand and support the need for medical marijuana dispensaries and their place in alleviating pain and discomfort in patients, we feel that this law prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana addresses the concerns brought to us by many residents,” said North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth.

The law amends the town’s zoning code and states that “no building, structure or premises within any use district in the Town of North Hempstead may be used for the sale, distribution or offer for consumption of marijuana or marijuana products in a retail setting or environment for non-medical use.”

As far as potential marijuana tax revenue is concerned, state Senate Republicans who are in the minority for the first time in a decade said that they will propose that all tax revenues from marijuana sales go to tax relief, not to fuel more spending.

In the state’s lower chamber, Assemb. Michael Montesano (R-Glen Head) also cautioned against banking on weed tax money in this year’s budget.

“[Cuomo] is counting on getting $300 million in sales taxes from marijuana, which hasn’t even been legalized yet and sales will be competitive considering the black market,” Montesano said. 

Jay Jacobs Tapped To Lead NY Democratic Committee

Jay Jacobs
Nassau Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs was inducted in the Long Island Press Power List Hall of Fame in 2011.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs is slated to begin his second stint as leader of the New York State Democratic Committee, officials announced Monday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended that the party make their next leader Jacobs, who helped unseat three Republicans in the state Senate in the November elections, flipping the chamber to Democratic control.

“Jay Jacobs is an outstanding champion for Long Island with an unparalleled record of bringing Democrats together to win historic victories,” Cuomo said. “I am excited to work with him to further strengthen our party and elect even more Democrats up and down the ballot.”

Jacobs would replace outgoing state Dem chair Byron Brown. Jacobs, who became county chair in 2001, last held the state leadership post from 2009 to 2012.

President Barack Obama also recommended he serve as an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee. Jacobs, who runs a half dozen camps as his day job, is married with two daughters, two grandchildren, and lives in Laurel Hollow.

The governor credited Jacobs with helping make history in getting Laura Curran elected as the first female Nassau County executive in 2017, among other local firsts.

“In this consequential time for our party, our state and our country I am honored to have been asked by Governor Cuomo to once again serve as New York State Democratic Chair,” Jacobs said. “After so many progressive achievements I am appreciative and excited for the opportunity to work with him and our state party once again as we continue to fight for a progressive agenda and marshal our resources for the upcoming challenges ahead.”

Nomorobo: The App That Fries Spam Calls

Unknown number calling in the middle of the night.

Like the majority of the telephone-using public, Aaron Foss of Port Jefferson has long been beyond fed up with the nonstop robocalls that bombard Americans’ phones daily — but he’s fighting back.

The software developer beat nearly 800 competitors in 2013 to win a $25,000 grant from the Federal Trade Commission that funded the launch of Nomorobo, an app he created that intercepts and filters out illegal prerecorded calls using technology to “blacklist” robocaller phone numbers and “whitelist” acceptable numbers.

“Our privacy is more at risk than ever before,” says Foss, the CEO of Telephone Science Corporation who is also a professor at Molloy College. “Our goal is to protect our users from all types of scams and invasions of privacy.”

The cloud-based solution uses “simultaneous ringing,” which allows incoming calls to be routed to a second telephone line that identifies and hangs up on illegal robocalls before they have a chance to harass the callee. Nomorobo determines which numbers are legit by comparing incoming calls to its ever-growing list of blacklisted callers.

The company was closing in on nixing a billion robocalls as of December, about two years after the tool made the leap from landlines to mobile devices. Nomorobo touts more than a million fried spam calls per day.

It reportedly has a 97 percent accuracy rate, with just three percent of spam calls getting through and a fraction of a percent of legit calls getting hung up on.

After a quick download and signing up for a fee of $1.99 per month, it also terminates spam texts. But hold the phone. Most recently, nomorobo also began offering web protections in direct response to Cambridge Analytica, a now-defunct political consulting firm, which exploited Facebook user data to manipulate voters in the 2016 elections.

That pits Foss against another Long Islander: Robert Mercer, the infamously reclusive billionaire and former part-owner of Cambridge Analytica who’s credited with helping Donald Trump get elected president.

And with privacy more and more at risk as robocallers and internet hucksters increasingly get craftier by the day, it’s good to have Foss and Nomorobo standing guard.

Snowier Than Normal Winter May Hit Long Island


Dust off the ice scraper, snow shovel, and heavy boots, because Long Island is likely to see more snow than usual this winter, forecasters say.

There is a 33 percent chance that the western half of LI will see above normal precipitation between January and March, according to a three-month outlook published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. But that precipitation may not all be snow.

“We’re in a very weak El Niño pattern, so you typically would have a little more active Southern jet stream with that, so that’s why they’re keying in on above-normal precipitation,” said Adrienne Leptich, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Upton office.

NOAA projections indicate the temperatures have an equal chance of being above or below normal for the same three-month period. The average normal temperature for that time frame is 33 degrees, Leptich said. Last winter, LI saw 55.2 inches of snow, data shows.

Of course, as the surprise snow storm in November proved, forecasting the weather can be tricky. Experts say the best thing to do is prepare for the worst before the forecast calls for a winter storm. That means drivers should make sure the tires on their vehicles are fully inflated, fluids are topped off, and keep a shovel and blanket in the trunk, just in case.

“You never know,” said Steven Prigal, president of All Roads Fleets Service and Supply, a snow plow parts supplier. “You could get, through no fault of your own, left on the road for a period of time and you need to take care of yourself.”

Prigal, who doesn’t take much stock in the forecast, quotes a snow plow salesman on what to expect.

“If last year was a busy year, this year is just gonna be like last year,” he said. “And if last year was quite, then we’re due.”

“Strange things happen,” he added. “Be prepared.”

Theatre Three: Show Goes On Despite Flood

Much drama has graced the historic Theatre Three stage over the past half century, but the venue was the scene of an unexpected feat when a flash flood inundated its lower level.

The community theatre in downtown Port Jefferson was swamped with four feet of water during a freak storm Sept. 25, destroying its second stage, cafe, costume shop, workshop, and dressing rooms. But the nonprofit group decided that the show must go on — even before the storm was over.

“We just kept auditioning because it was the safest place for the kids to be, upstairs,” Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director at Theatre Three, told Port Jeff Pulse. “We got cleaned up and we opened that Friday night with The Addams Family.

The theatre typically presents a wide range of performances through its Mainstage, Second Stage, Cabaret and Children’s Theatre productions. It also hosts Friday Night Face Off, Long Island’s longest-running improv troupe, as well as its Dramatic Academy, offering three instructional semesters each year, plus a diverse summer concert series.

Established in the 1960s, Theatre Three is among LI’s longest-running community theatres. It’s housed in Athena Hall, a 144-year-old former vaudeville house.

Despite the flood, the theatre is continuing on with its holiday tradition, performing A Christmas Carol for the 35th straight season, Barnaby Saves Christmas for the kids, and its comedy series.

And the outpouring of support including dozens of volunteers who turned up to rebuild and a GoFundMe page that raised nearly $2,000 helped them get back to the business of show biz.

“Theatre Three is a landmark venue here on Long Island,” said comedian Paul Anthony, whose production company, Long Island Comedy, produced a stand-up fundraiser series to help the theatre. “It provides so much cultural value to the community.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main St. in  Port Jefferson. It can be reached at 631-928-9100 or theatrethree.com.

5 Drivers Who Hate Long Island Traffic So Much They Used Dummies in The LIE HOV Lane

For those who drive on the Long Island Expressway during rush hour, it’s not uncommon to watch with envy as vehicles in the HOV lane wiz by bumper-to-bumper traffic in the other three lanes.

Here are five Long Islanders that didn’t have anyone to carpool with, but were determined not to sit in the LIE’s infamously awful traffic, even if it meant getting a traffic ticket and paying a fine.


Putting in the least amount of effort into creating a fake passenger was Candace Breen-Warren, of Miller Place. Suffolk County police said she had piled clothing, topped by a baseball hat, and a briefcase in the passenger seat in an attempt to resemble a person. A highway patrolman spotted the phony passenger while she was driving her Subaru Outback in the HOV lane near Exit 51 in Dix Hills at 8:15 a.m. July 21, 2016, police said.


Getting crafty with his fake passenger was James Campbell, of Brentwood, who Suffolk police said had a wooden figure wearing a hooded sweatshirt in the passenger seat of his pickup truck in the HOV lane near Exit 51 at 6:30 a.m. Feb.27, 2015. The driver told the officer that he was driving to a new job and did not want to be late, police said.


While more believable than other fakes, K.A. Frascinella, of Mount Sinai, was pulled over while trying to pass off a life-size mannequin as her passenger in order to use the HOV lane on Feb. 2, 2010, the Suffolk Sheriff’s office said. A deputy sheriff became suspicious after viewing the passenger wearing sunglasses and using the visor on a cloudy morning. Closer inspection revealed a female mannequin fully dressed with a long dark wig, blazer, shirt and scarf.  


Suffolk County Highway Patrol officer monitoring traffic on the LIE noticed a vehicle traveling in the HOV lane with an odd-looking front seat passenger whose head appeared to be tilted in an unnatural position at 8:36 a.m. Feb. 23, 2007, police said. Upon stopping the vehicle, the officer found the passenger was actually a CPR practice mannequin with black hair, mustache and wearing a brown jacket. The driver, Timothy Tietjen, of Middle Island, said that he was just trying to get to work and he had gotten away with it for five months. Tietjen also had a baseball cap and sunglasses that he sometimes put on the mannequin, police said.


Not long after the first stretch of the LIE’s HOV lane opened in 1994, Amelian Wolff, of Selden, was stopped after Suffolk police caught her driving with a doll with a pacifier in its mouth in a car seat while she was driving in the HOV lane in Dix Hills at 5 p.m. May 25, 1994, Newsday reported at the time. The woman reportedly “said she just wanted to get home.” A photo of the doll was not available.

Long Island Upsets Usher In State Senate Firsts

State Sen.-elect Kevin Thomas, at podium, speaks at a news conference after Election Day. L to R are James Gaughran, Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, state Sen. John Brooks (D-Massapequa) and Anna Kaplan. (Long Island Press photo)

When Democrats surfed a blue wave to wash Republicans from New York State Senate control for the first time a decade — and about a century before that — the sea change brought some unprecedented developments.

New York State Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) will be the first woman to lead a state legislative conference when she takes the gavel from Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who will lead the chamber’s GOP minority come January. Also, among four stunning upsets on Long Island, Nassau County voters elected New York’s first Indian-American state senator and first Iranian-American state lawmaker while Suffolk County voters elected their first female state senator.

“This is years in the making,” says Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs, crediting increased voter turnout to “the political environment, the anger, the upset over Donald Trump and what’s going on in Washington.”

The state Senate power change came as Democrats also flipped the U.S. House of Representatives by the biggest midterm election margin in 44 years, although LI’s five congressional representatives were all re-elected.

Twenty-nine-year-incumbent state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) was unseated by Democratic challenger Kevin Thomas, an Indian-American attorney, in the Sixth Senate District. Democratic Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, a Jewish refugee from Iran, ousted freshman state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) in the Seventh Senate District. And in a rematch of a razor-thin 2016 race, Democratic Suffolk County Water Authority Chairman James Gaughran unseated 23-year incumbent state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) in the Fifth Senate District, which straddles the county line.

To the east, Suffolk Legis. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) beat state Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) in the race to replace retired state Sen. Tom Croci (R-Bohemia) in the Third Senate District.

All nine LI state Senate seats were solidly Republican not long ago. They were dubbed The Long Island Nine. Now, the GOP holds just three of those seats. Jacobs dubbed the new Democratic group “The Long Island Six.”

It’s the first time in recent memory that more than two Democrats were among the nine state Senators representing the Island. The Republican-led state Senate has long been the lone check on Democratic power in state government. For the past nine years, senators from LI have led the Senate. Disgraced ex-state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), recently re-sentenced for a repeat federal corruption conviction he’s appealing for a second time, preceded Flanagan as senate leader.

Flanagan had warned that if the Democrats were successful in taking over, they would raise taxes, worsening the already high cost of living in New York State. Democrats insist they learned their lesson from their passage of the unpopular MTA Payroll Tax that ended their short tenure in control 10 years ago.

“Last thing we want a year or two years from now is for voters to have buyers’ remorse,” Jacobs says.

Despite the warning, Flanagan was complimentary of Stewart-Cousins as she prepared to take his job, calling her a “class and and truly an extraordinary person.”

“It is my sincere hope that she and I can work together to ease the burden on hardworking taxpayers, partner with job seekers and job creators to grow our economy, ensure every region of the state gets it fair share and adopt bold reforms,” Flanagan said in a statement.

Hot-button issues likely to be debated in next year’s legislative session include proposals to legalize recreational marijuana, create single-payer health care, and codify abortion rights — especially given Democratic fears that Trump’s recent appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court could help conservatives overturn Roe v. Wade.

“Change is coming to New York,” says Gaughran.

As for the state Assembly, which remains solidly in a Democratic majority, the blue wave also swept away that chamber’s third-most powerful leader when Democrat Taylor Raynor, a community activist, unseated Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead), a 30-year incumbent.

The rest of LI’s 22-member Assembly delegation remained effectively unchanged despite two upsets. Republicans retained two seats being vacated by GOP lawmakers. And while Democrat Judy Griffin unseated eight-year state Assemb. Brian Curran (R-Lynbrook, Republican Mike LiPetri unseated state Assemb. Christine Pellegrino (D-West Islip), leaving the local party breakdown unchanged.

The state legislature reconvenes for the 2019 session on Jan. 9.