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.

Calverton Food Business Incubator Cooks Up Creativity

The founders of PeKANT Tea Company at the Calverton business incubator.

After brewing up a refreshing, one-of-a-kind spicy organic iced tea company, entrepreneurs Michael Circosta and Michael Romano turned to Stony Brook University’s Business Incubator at Calverton for help percolating into the market.

From humble beginnings working the Long Island farmers market circuit in 2017, PeKANT Tea Company — a play on picante, Spanish for spicy — is finalizing a distribution deal that will increase their reach 10-fold this year, making the company one of the latest success stories to come out of the incubator.

“The incubator is really helping us operate in this scale that we’re in,” says Circosta, noting that the lessened start-up costs are priceless. “It allows us to grow and to really experiment.”

PeKANT is one of 38 companies in various stages of growth at the Calverton incubator, one of a handful of industrial-grade kitchens on LI dedicated to nurturing culinary innovators, such as the Amagansett Food Institute in Southampton. Since its founding in 2005, the incubator has grown from 8,400 to 11,000 square feet.

Fresh dishes cooked up in Calverton range from new takes on traditional favorites such as baked clams and quiche to creative ideas like garlic jam and a snail farm that delivers fresh escargot.

“A lot of people that come in don’t understand all it entails … to bring a product to market,” says Yvonne Schultz, a food-industry veteran who’s the incubator’s new building manager. “I just enjoy helping companies getting to the next level.”

The incubator has four certified kitchens and gives start-ups the tools needed to run a business, from getting licensed and insured, to teaching packaging and labeling. It also has storage space for inventor and dedicated rooms for companies in the final phase before graduating. Its leaders are now developing incentives for companies to mature and leave the incubator.

‘“Here’s a kitchen, come use it,’ is how it started,” says Matthew Stadler, director of incubation at SBU. “Now, it’s, ‘how can we deliver what these companies need at these different stages of growth so they can be sustainable companies out on their own?’

For habanero-infused beverage originators PeKANT, concocting the most unique drink since the region first mixed the Long Island Iced Tea certainly helps.

New Bike Path Opens at Jones Beach

A new 4.5-mile pedestrian path extending the full length of Jones Beach State Park from Field 6 to the West End 2 has been completed ahead of beach season, officials announced Friday.

The new $3.5 million Jones Beach Shared Use Path leisure trail open to walkers, skaters, runners, and cyclists links to the 5-mile Ellen Ferrant Memorial Bikeway along Wantagh State Parkway from Cedar Creek County Park that connects to mainland Long Island and the 3.6-mile Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway Shared Use Path to Tobay Beach.

“The project was completed ahead of schedule with no additional cost and links to existing paths on Long Island, giving people access to hundreds of miles of trails, increasing tourism and growing the economy,” Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters at the news conference.

Jones Beach is one of the most popular parks in New York State, often placing second only to Niagara Falls for most visitors to a state park. Officials also noted that it’s considered the largest public bathing facility in the world.

Officials also announced the creation of the  218.5-acre West End Preservation Area — one of 16 statewide — and building of a new Jones Beach Energy and Nature Center at West End 2 that will feature a variety of hands-on exhibits and programs when it opens next year. And later this year, the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway Shared Use Path will be extended 10 miles from Tobay to Captree State Park.

In addition, the state will demolish an abandoned toll plaza on Meadowbrook State Parkway and build a monumental gateway sign to welcome visitors to Jones Beach State Park. Use of the eight-lane toll plaza and brick office building, built in 1953, was discontinued in 2017. 

Adult Case of Measles Confirmed in Suffolk

3d illustration Measles virus

An adult who recently arrived from outside the U.S. was recently confirmed as having the first case of the measles on Long Island since outbreaks elsewhere in New York have been reported, officials said.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services said that the case does not appear to be related to any current measles cases in New York State, but it is jointly investigating the case with the New York State Department of Health and will take appropriate action based on the findings. 

“Similar to other cases across the nation, Suffolk County has seen firsthand what can occur when someone does not receive a measles vaccination,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, noting that he supports a state bill that would create a state-backed awareness campaign for vaccines. “Since this public health issue that cannot be contained by municipal borders, it is critical that New York State make every concerted effort to dispel the notion that vaccines are unsafe.”

Suffolk health officials warned that anyone who visited the BNB bank at 48 East Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays on Saturday April 20 from 12:15 p.m. until the bank closed at 1 p.m. may have been exposed to measles.

Those who were in the bank at that time are urged to contact the Suffolk DHS’ Public Health staff at 631-854-0333 during business hours. After hours and on the weekend, call 631-852-4820.

Individuals are considered protected or immune to measles if they were born before 1957, have received two doses of measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine, have had measles disease, or have a lab test confirming immunity. To prevent the spread of illness, the health department is advising individuals who may have been exposed and who have symptoms consistent with measles to contact their health care provider, a local clinic, or a local emergency department before going for care. This will help to prevent others at these facilities from being exposed to the illness.

Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus that is spread by direct contact with nasal or throat secretions of infected people. People first develop a fever, then may have a cough, runny nose and watery eyes, followed by appearance of a rash. People are considered infectious from four days before to four days after the appearance of the rash. Symptoms usually appear 10-12 days after exposure but may appear as early as 7 days and as late as 21 days after exposure. The best way to prevent measles is to be vaccinated. 

Following the biggest outbreak in New York City since 1990, municipal virus investigators are on the prowl for unvaccinated Williamsburg residents amid a growing measles outbreak affecting Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, and the city sickness sleuths have already slapped parents with summonses for allegedly failing to get their kids inoculated, according to the Department of Health.

-With Brooklyn Paper

ACLU Threatens To Sue Peter King Over Blocked Facebook Users

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

The New York Civil Liberties Union warned U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) that if he doesn’t unblock an estimated 70 people from commenting on his Facebook page, the group will sue.

The NYCLU issued the warning Wednesday in a letter to Long Island’s most senior congressman, who has responded to previous criticisms of blocking users by saying that the Facebook page is his campaign account and not his official government account. But the NYCLU says that since King uses the page to make announcements, weigh in on policy issues, and correspond with constituents, it should be considered a public forum.

“You have wrapped the page in the trappings of your office, using it as a tool of governance and benefiting from it as an elected official,” NYCLU attorneys Christopher Dunn, Antony Gemmell, and Melissa Pettit wrote in the letter. “Having reaped the benefits of the page’s official status, you cannot now ignore those benefits to avoid your obligations under the Constitution. Silencing constituents for criticizing you is, to borrow language from the Supreme Court, ‘censorship in its purest form’ that ‘threatens the continued vitality of free speech.'”

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.

Among the Facebook users blocked are a Great River resident who was banned minutes after posting on King’s page to call the congressman out about deleting critical comments.

“Why are so many posts disappearing?” the user asked, according to the NYCLU. “Last night it seemed like over half the people did not agree with what Congressman King had to say, now they are all gone . . . . Aren’t Congressmen supposed to represent and listen to all his constituents even those that don’t agree with him?”

King’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but we will update this post if and when we hear back. The NYCLU gave the congressman a deadline of May 3 to respond or they will file suit.

Nassau Pols OK Marijuana Sales Opt-out Bill

Nassau County legislators approved a measure Monday that would ban the sale of recreational marijuana in anticipation of New York State lawmakers passing a proposal to legalize it.

County lawmakers unanimously passed the ban that follows the recommendation of a Task Force on Marijuana Legalization and Regulation, which found that related health and safety issues would outweigh the potential tax revenue generated from marijuana sales.

“Based on the evidence and input I’ve received from the task force, our key stakeholders and what I’ve heard from residents, I have decided that now is not the time for the legalized sale of marijuana in Nassau County,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who is expected to sign the ban into law. “What I heard from our law enforcement, our school and education professionals, health officials, and our towns and villages was clear  this isn’t something we’re ready to implement.”

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 during this legislative session, which ends in June.

Suffolk County lawmakers are also considering legislation that would similarly ban the sale of recreational marijuana. A vote has yet to be taken on the issue, but it may be taken up at the panel’s next meeting on May 14.

Nassau’s marijuana task force was co-chaired by Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and Nassau Legis. Joshua Lafazan, an independent from Syosset who caucuses with the Democratic legislative minority.

“At the height of a public health crisis, in which more than 160,000 Americans are losing their lives annually to drug and alcohol use, now is not the time for Nassau County to allow for legalized cultivation, sale, distribution or marketing of recreational cannabis products,” Lafazan said.

Kozy Shack: A Proven Pudding

Kozy Shack Pudding is made on LI and sold nationwide, in Europe, and South America.

Vincent Gruppuso found the best thing since the sliced bread he was delivering was rice pudding at Cozy Shack deli on his route in Brooklyn, so he bought the recipe and launched a dessert empire in 1967.

After changing the name’s “C” to a “K,” the U.S. Navy veteran opened a factory in Queens, moved facilities to Mineola a decade later, and then to Hicksville in 1994, where its headquarters remain today — but the recipe remains the same.

“Kozy Shack Pudding is real, wholesome pudding made one kettle at a time, just like grandma used to make,” said Andy Braunshausen, the company’s marketing director.

Over the years, the company grew from a one-man operation to having second and third plants in California and Ireland, plus its own logistics arm, Freshway Distributors. Customers voted with their spoons, as Kozy Shack is billed as America’s best-selling brand of rice and tapioca pudding with its four-ounce pudding cups on store shelves nationwide. The company also sells chocolate, flan, cinnamon raisin rice pudding, and French vanilla rice pudding.

“We grow in double-digit fashion every year,” Gruppuso reportedly told a 2003 Long Island food industry conference.

In 2006, the proverbial proof in the pudding came when The New York Times put Kozy Shack rice pudding on a list of its “Grocery Gems” and wrote that it “makes up in flavor what it lacks in glamour.”

A year later, Gruppuso died at age 67 in his East Hampton home from complications of diabetes. His company had about 400 employees and did around $140 million in annual sales at the time.

His three daughters who inherited the company grew sales to about $200 million by 2011, a year before Minnesota-based food giant Land O’Lakes, Inc. gobbled up Kozy Shack for an undisclosed sum.

Five years ago, Kozy Shack hired its first “spokes-grandma” to represent the company in a national media campaign to drive the point home that it’s “still made the right way, slow-simmered in small-kettle batches using simple ingredients like rice, milk, sugar and eggs.”

‘Stranger Things’ Plagiarism Allegations Get Trail Date

The creators of the Long Island-inspired Netflix hit series Stranger Things have been accused of ripping off the plot in a lawsuit that a judge set a trial date for next month.

L.A. Superior Court Judge Michael Stern scheduled ruled this week that plaintiff Charlie Kessler’s lawsuit against Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer will go to trial on May 6.

“The credibility of the parties is an issue of material fact to be decided by the trier of fact,” wrote the judge, who rejected the brothers’ motion to dismiss the case.

Kessler accused the Duffer brothers of stealing his idea for the show, which involves a military base that kidnaps and performs experiments on children, unleashing a series of supernatural phenomena. 

Related Story: 5 Real-Life ‘Stranger Things’-Montauk, Long Island Parallels

“We look forward to proving Mr. Kessler’s case at trial,” Kessler’s attorney, S. Michael Keman, said in a statement.

The brothers maintain that they came up with the idea independently before Kessler mentioned it to them. Both Kessler and the Duffers plots were set in Montauk, which was the original title of Stranger Things before it was changed to Indiana.

“The Duffer Brothers have our full support,” Netflix said in statement. “This case has no merit.”

Season three of Stranger Things returns July 4.

 

Customs Agent From Long Island Stole Cash From Passengers, Feds Say

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer from East Meadow was arrested Thursday for allegedly stealing at least $10,000 from passengers’ bags he searched at John F. Kennedy International Airport over the past year, federal prosecutors said.

Joseph Cialone, 39, was charged with the theft at Brooklyn federal court. Judge Vera Scanlon released him on $50,000 bond.

Cialone, who was was assigned to the Smuggling Interdiction Unit, told investigators “that he has stolen [$100] bills from passengers’ handbags on at least 100 occasions,” according to court documents.

One alleged victim was a passenger who arrived on a Jet Blue flight from Trinidad and Tobago and found $100 missing from her belongings after Cialone searched her on March 26, according to investigators. The next day, another passenger made a similar complaint, authorities said.

Cialone was allegedly caught in the act on video surveilance camera footage. He is believed to have stolen from 11 women between March 17 and April 16, prosecutors said. When questioned, the officer waived his Miranda rights and admitted to dozens more thefts over the past year, officials added.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Nassau Debuts in Uniondale

Patients can expect state-of-the-art care at Memorial Sloan Kettering Nassau.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Nassau opened its new Uniondale location Monday, greatly expanding the highly regarded Manhattan-based cancer center’s Long Island presence that aims to make treatment more easily accessible to local patients.

Officials marked the new outpatient facility’s debut with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday before spending the weekend moving equipment from MSK’s first LI outpost at Mercy Medical Center in Rockville Centre.

“Today the majority of cancer treatments that patients receive are delivered in an outpatient setting, and that’s why we need a new facility like we’re delivering here,” Dr. Craig Thompson, president and CEO of MSK, told reporters during a news conference.

The new 114,000-square-foot facility is located on Hempstead Turnpike, adjacent to NYCB Live, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Advanced, personalized care delivered by nearly 200 MSK medical and professional staffers at the site include services such as a state-of-the-art radiology and radiation therapy suite, private infusion rooms for chemotherapy and other treatments, a rehabilitation gymnasium, and an on-site café.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a top-ranked hospital according to US News & World Report, first opened its Mercy facility in 1998.

“Our physicians here are completely integrated into our disease-management teams and our patients and their families will be able to receive and participate in the full spectrum of clinical trials as well as receiving all of the current, state-of-the-art standard care,” said Dr. Lisa DeAngelis, MSK acting physician-in-chief.

Stacy Miranda, a Middle School teacher and MSK patient from Long Beach, recalled how physically taxing the trip to Manhattan for breast cancer treatment was compared to Rockville Centre.

“During the six months of chemo, I was too sick to drive myself the 20 minutes to Rockville Centre, so I was dependent on my parents,” she recalled. “Traveling to the city would have taken everything out of me that I had left to enjoy life, and since I couldn’t do much on my own, it also would have turned the lives of my support network upside down.”

2 Nassau Police Precincts Reopening

The Sixth Precinct in Manhasset is reopening.

Two Nassau County police precinct station houses that were downgraded to community centers under a controversial consolidation plan seven years ago are being reopened, officials announced Thursday.

The two precincts being reopened are the Sixth Precinct in Manhasset and the Eighth Precinct in Levittown, which will once again be fully operational on April 9 and 10, respectively.

“Our precincts are a vital part of Nassau’s unique police-community connection,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “These newly-renovated and properly-staffed precincts are a key part of our comprehensive effort to strengthen community policing in Nassau.”

The police department, with legislative approval, planned to cut the number of precincts from eight to four in 2012, but police put the brakes on the plan before consolidating the last two — the First Precinct in Baldwin and the Seventh Precinct in Seaford — after Superstorm Sandy.

The Fifth Precinct in Elmont reopened in 2015. The opening of the Sixth and Eighth precincts marks a return to all eight precincts and full reversal of the consolidation.

Curran and police officials said the goal of reopening the precincts is to enhance the county’s community policing initiative to prevent crime and address quality-of-life issues.

“This brings back the community policing model to the local communities,” said Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder. “We have heard many times over the years that our residents repeatedly wanted their precincts back open and this is now a reality.”

In addition to restoring staff and services to the two restored station houses, the proactive Problem-Oriented Policing officers — cops that focus on quality-of-life issues in addition to typical patrol duties — will once again report to the precincts.

The Manhasset station house is also slated for an estimated $800,000 renovation to the HVAC system, lobby upgrades, and other improvements throughout the building. Commanders and officers will work from a mobile unit next to the building until repairs are completed in October, officials said.