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.

Mangano Case Ends in Mistrial

Mangano
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, left, speaks to reporters outside Central Islip federal court with his attorney, Kevein Keating, right (Long Island Press photo)

A federal judge has declared a mistrial in the corruption trial of former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife, Linda, after nine days of jury deliberations ended in a deadlock.

U.S. Judge Joan Azrack issued the ruling Thursday afternoon following the 12-week-long trial at Central Islip federal court.

The ruling came a week after the jury acquitted their co-defendant, former Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, of charges in the same case.

Prosecutors had alleged that Mangano and Venditto award government contracts and loan guarantees, respectively, to Mangano’s former restaurateur friend, Harendra Singh, the star witness in the case. Linda was accused of lying to investigators.

Venditto is still facing criminal charges in Nassau County court. A new trial date will be set for the Manganos.

Nassau Raises Age To Buy Tobacco To 21

Teenagers will no longer be able to buy cigarettes anywhere on Long Island next week, once Nassau County follows its neighbors’ lead and raises the tobacco-purchasing age from 19 to 21.

The Republican-controlled Nassau legislature unanimously passed Wednesday a bill increasing the minimum age to buy cigarettes and other tobacco products. Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran plans to sign the bill into law Tuesday, according to her spokesman, who said the law will take effect immediately.

“I am extremely heartened and gratified that the majority has finally recognized the urgency of enacting this legislation,” Legis. Arnie Drucker (D-Plainview), the bill’s sponsor, said before the vote at the panel’s general meeting.

“All of our surrounding neighbors … had no trouble recognizing the need to make it more difficult for teenagers to pick up this nasty habit, which only guarantees one thing: A lifetime of debilitating health and illness and an abbreviated life, quite a few of which could have already been spared this addiction had this law been passed years ago,” he added.

Suffolk and New York City enacted similar laws years ago. The Town of Hempstead and North Hempstead did the same, so the Nassau law will only impact tobacco retailers the Town of Oyster Bay. The New York State Legislature is considering raising the age from 18 to 21 statewide. 

Drucker’s predecessor, the late Legis. Judy Jacobs of Woodbury, had proposed similar legislation years ago, but could not get the bill passed by the GOP majority.

Members of the audience cheered upon passage of the bill. During the public comment period before the vote, speakers who expressed support for the change included health professionals and people who lost relatives to cancer caused by smoking. The change comes amid rising concern over the increasing popularity of e-cigarettes.

Those that violate the new law will face up to $1,500 fines.

Christine Riordan: Setting Adelphi Apart

Dr. Christine M. Riordan, 10th President and the first woman to lead Adelphi University in its 118-year history, addresses the campus community in the Performing Arts Center Concert Hall (Photo by Claudio Papapietro).

Dr. Christine Riordan made history in 2014 when she was named the first female president of Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university, Adelphi University in Garden City. She recently caught up with us to share her thoughts on Adelphi’s impact on the community, how giving back is part of the mission and why personalized education is their hallmark. Our conversation was edited and condensed.

Long Island Press: What is your vision for the university?

Christine Riordan: Two years ago, we went through a comprehensive process and laid out the mission and our vision. In a nutshell, we’re striving to personalize higher education in a way that’s meaningful and purposeful for each student.

LIP: What sets Adelphi apart from other colleges and universities?

CR: The quality of the programs, hands-on learning, small classes, and our personalized approach toward education are really hallmarks for us.

LIP: The Bridges to Adelphi Program has been praised as a national model for helping students with autism continue their higher education. Are there plans to expand it to meet growing demand?

CR: I’m really proud of all of our pathway programs. I think it speaks to our core strength, which is helping all our students succeed regardless of learning differences. We do pay attention to the demand for that program as well as another program that we have called The Learning Resource Program, for students with any kind of learning need. We try to scale as much as we can. I’m really excited about The Bridges program because we start it in high school, so students can come the summer before college starts to help with that transition. And then we take them through the college experience with mentoring and tutoring and social support. We also now have a partnership with a nonprofit that’s helping place our students in employment situations.

LIP: Adelphi recently got a $1 million pledge to fund its new Faculty Leadership Fellows initiative that prepares faculty for careers as college administrators. Why is this important?

CR: The Viret Family Faculty Leadership Fellows Program was implemented to help faculty members who are interested in going into leadership at university really start to understand how a university operates. We began this program two years ago and the faculty members go through pretty extensive professional development for a semester. They meet with every single one of the executives in all the different functional units to learn about everything from the budget to alumni relations to fundraising to academic operations to how facilities operate. It has gone exceedingly well.

LIP: Is there anything I should have asked but didn’t?

CR: One of the things that’s pretty important to understand is the impact that Adelphi has on our community. There are four big areas where we’re going to continue to emphasize. One is giving back. We have the Carnegie Foundation classification for community engagement, which means our students are extraordinarily involved in the  broader community through volunteer activities. One of our trustees also gave a gift to begin what we call the Jaggaer Community Fellows program that places about 150 students in nonprofits every summer for internships. The second thing is we have over 500 strategic partnerships with various organizations throughout the state focusing on education, research and employment opportunities, and that’s going to be a major initiative for us going forward. The third thing that a lot of people don’t know is we provide a lot of services to the community. We provide an audiology clinic, as an example, that will help people with their hearing aids or do hearing assessments. We have a lot of community services. And then the last thing is we generate over half a billion dollars of economic activity in the community. All told, our economic impact on the community is pretty great and Adelphi is really focused a lot on developing strong relationships as we move forward.

Adelphi at A Glance
Student population: 7,978
Faculty: 349
Student to Faculty ratio: 10:1
Undergraduate tuition: $37,170
Graduate tuition: $36,370 – $45,940
Undergraduates receiving institutional scholarship award: 86%
Percent receiving financial aid: 92.9%

John Venditto Acquitted of Corruption Charges

John Venditto
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, left, leaving federal court in Central Islip with his attorney on Thursday, Oct. 20.

Ex-Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto was acquitted of federal corruption charges, although the jury has yet to reach a verdict on his two co-defendants, former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and his wife, Linda.

A federal jury found Venditto not guilty Thursday of honest services fraud, federal program bribery and other charges following an 11-week-long trial at Central Islip federal court. The jury has been deliberating for a week.

Prosecutors had alleged the Republican conspired between 2010 and 2015 to use their power to back loans for and award contracts to a businessman, who in turn gave them kickbacks and a $450,000 no-show job for the county executive’s wife.

The defense had argued that the business man and key witness in the case, Harendra Singh, a former restaurateur who authorities alleged had gotten favors in exchange for kickbacks, could not be trusted because he struck a plea deal. Singh is Mangano’s former close friend. The Town of Oyster Bay had backed $20 million in loans for Singh, which has drawn the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Three months after his arrest, Venditto resigned in January 2017 so he could focus on his defense. He was later replaced by Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joe Saladino. Mangano, a fellow Republican, continued to serve out his last term and was replaced in January by Democratic Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

Venditto is still facing criminal charges filed by Nassau County prosecutors in a separate case. He has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Trump Touts MS-13 Crackdown on Long Island

From left to right: Evelyn Rodriguez, parent of an MS-13 murder victim from Brentwood, President Donald Trump and U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) attend a roundtable discussion on the gang in Bethpage on Wednesday, May 23, 2018,

President Donald Trump touted his administration’s crack down on MS-13 during his second trip to Long Island in less than a year to discuss the street gang at a round table with local officials.

Authorities they have arrested more than 300 MS-13 members on LI since last year, most of them children who crossed the border without their parents, administration officials said during the televised meeting at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage.

“They exploited the loopholes in our laws to enter our country as unaccompanied alien minors,” said Trump. “They look innocent. They’re not innocent.”

At one point, he erroneously stated that MS-13 “killed a cop.” The gang reportedly sought to kill a police officer on LI, but the gang has not in fact slain any members of local law enforcement.

During his visit to Brentwood last July, the president sparked controversy when he suggested that Suffolk County police officers shouldn’t protect prisoners from hitting their heads while being placed in the back of patrol cars. Suffolk cops said afterward that they would not be taking Trump’s advice.

The administration deemed MS-13 a top priority of federal investigators last year. U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions also visited LI last year to emphasize that point after members of the ultraviolent transnational gang allegedly committed a quadruple murder in Central Islip.

Attendees of Wednesday’s forum included the parents of Brentwood teenagers Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, who were both killed by the gang in 2016 — two of at least 25 suspected of being slain by MS-13 locally in the past two years. Trump had also invited Mickens’ parents, Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens, and Cuevas’ parents, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, as his guests to his first State of the Union address in January.

U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder also attended. 

“We need to get a little bit better at our intelligence sharing,” Ryder told the president during the round table. He said he’d like his investigators to get information more quickly from federal border patrol agents.

The White House estimated that there were 2,000 MS-13 members on LI. Ryder noted that his investigators have identified 500 MS-13 members in the county, half of whom he said were active. Suffolk did not immediately provide statistics for how many reputed members its police have identified.

Hart thanked the president for a recent $500,000 law enforcement grant, but noted that Suffolk is also the recipient of the most unaccompanied immigrant minors out of any jurisdiction in the nation. 

The forum came on the same day that Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election to a third term during the party’s convention at Hofstra University. It also came on the eve of Nassau GOP Chairman Joe Mondello stepping down after 35 years to become Trump’s ambassador to the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos. And it came as ex-Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano — who, during a 2016 campaign rally in Bethpage, endorsed then-candidate Trump — awaited a jury’s verdict in his federal corruption trial.

Like Trump’s last visits, protesters opposed to the president’s immigration policies rallied outside. They counter that the administration is unfairly painting all undocumented immigrants as criminals and that the immigrant community is most vulnerable to MS-13.

“No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” protesters chanted outside the building.

“We’re here today to let Donald Trump know he can’t criminalize youth and his tactics are dangerous,” said Susan Gottehrer, director of the Nassau chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “He can’t come into Nassau County and co-opt our officials and co-opt our people and create division and criminalize very vulnerable young people.”

Mickens’ father said the protesters need to consider the perspective of being a parent of a victim murdered by the gang.

“This is a fight that, in my opinion, should have been happening a long time ago,” he said. “These children really need to stop hurting each other. Because if they don’t, we won’t have a future.”

-With additional reporting by Mia DiMeo

$50M Upgrades for Long Island State Parks

The Boardwalk Cafe is coming Fourth of July weekend to Jones Beach State Park.

More than $50 million in enhancements being made to at a half dozen New York State parks on Long Island are expected to be completed in time for beach season, officials said.

Improvements include new cottages at Wildwood and Heckscher State Parks, the new Boardwalk Café at Jones Beach State Park, boaters being able to stay overnight for the first time at the Robert Moses State Park marina, a new entranceway and rehabilitated bathhouse at Sunken Meadow State Park, and new trail access for the first time in 40 years at Napeague State Park.

“These new improvements and opportunities will encourage more people to visit and discover this wonderful park system for themselves,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The first seven cottages at a state park on LI is slated to open Memorial Day weekend at Wildwood in Wading River, with another three one-and-two-bedroom units to follow by Independence Day. Five similar cottages at Heckscher in East Islip are now available to book online and will be open in time for the Fourth of July weekend, with 10 more to come by 2019.

At the most-visited state park on the Island, the $20 million Jones Beach Boardwalk Café is expected to debut by July 4 weekend, bringing back a popular dining option to the Central Mall. The café will be operated by Centerplate, a concessionaire offering hospitality services at the park. A new spray ground is slated to open nearby the same weekend.

In addition, a 2.5-mile extension of the Ocean Parkway pedestrian path is currently under construction from the current end of the Boardwalk to the West End 2 Building, which will permit users of the path to travel the full length of the park.

At Robert Moses, the $3.4 million, 45-slip marina is now open and for the first time will welcome overnight boating on a first-come first-serve basis through Columbus Day weekend. Slips can accommodate vessels up to 42 feet and are now equipped with plumbing and electrical service. For additional information, call 631-669-0449.

In addition, the bathhouse/concession facility at the park’s popular Field 5 beach was renovated with new windows and doors, painted ceilings, tile walls and floors, and new restroom fixtures including the addition of family restroom facilities.

At Sunken Meadow, visitors will find a $2.5 million automated and renovated entrance plaza, revitalized event space at the West Pavilion run by Lessing’s Hospitality Group, renovated bathhouse, and improved golf course. The Main Bathhouse now includes an improved Park Visitor information office with an environmental education center.

And the $3 million golf course upgrade includes a renovated entranceway, professional shop in the clubhouse and restrooms. Throughout 27-hole golf course, greens, fairways and bunkers were improved and a new irrigation system was installed on the Blue and Red Courses and a golf cart path on the Red Course was installed. A new $2.5 million marshland reconstruction and environmentally friendly renovation of Parking Field 2 is also expected this fall.

And at Napeague, two miles of new trails, a parking area and interpretive signage about the region’s historic fishing industry were unveiled at the largely undeveloped 1,364-acre park. The new “Promised Land” trail network provides access to a pristine South Fork bay beach that has not been available to the public in 40 years. The trail network includes a short loop, 1.5-mile main loop, a beach loop, and a short spur to an overlook and interpretive kiosk.

Duck Donuts Opening First Long Island Location

Duck Donuts, billed as the nation’s fastest-growing doughnut chain, is making a nest in Hauppauge — its first to land on Long Island and in New York State.

The North Carolina-based company’s new coup is expected to take flight 9 a.m. Saturday, May 19 at 586 veterans Memorial Highway, in the Hauppauge Plaza shopping center between Routes 111 and 347.

“We couldn’t be more excited with how the space is coming along,” Duck Donuts quacked on Facebook. “We’ll be making amazing donut creations before you know it!”

Duck Donuts — named for the Outer Banks town of Duck, N.C. — currently has 64 franchise locations in 12 states and more than 130 additional contracts in 23 states, according to a company representative.

It’s the first national donut chain to enter the LI market — dominated by Massachusetts-based Dunkin’ Donuts — since Krispy Kreme, also headquartered in North Carolina, briefly had a location in East Meadow and Canadian donut shop Tim Hortons sold their goodies at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Like other similar chains, Duck Donuts also offers coffee, sandwiches and ice cream. What gets customers flocking to Duck Donuts is that their fried bread is made to order, with customer’s choosing their topping, icing and drizzle on the spot. That’s in addition to classic options, such as powdered sugar, chocolate iced and some trendier options such as maple icing with chopped bacon.

Their grand opening weekend hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, then 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday and Monday. They will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. the rest of the week.

For more information, visit them on the web.

Nassau Evicts Gnomes from Mill Pond Park

Some of the gnome and fairy homes spotted in Mill Pond Park recently. (Photos by Blythe Worster)

Nassau County officials recently evicted the fairy and gnome homes from Mill Pond Park about three months after the village of miniature figurines magically moved into the woods on the Bellmore-Wantagh border.

Andy Kuzma, the Levittown man who built and placed most of the tiny toy houses in the park, was disappointed in the development, as were families that enjoyed seeing them while strolling along the path that circles the pond. But county officials said the gnomes and their homes were against the rules.

“There is a county ordinance that forbids putting structures up in our county parks,” said Michael Martino, spokesman for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “However, we did reach out to discuss with this gentleman.”

Kuzma confirmed that the county called him, informed him of a complaint against the gnomes and asked if he could relocate the village to Eisenhower Park in East Meadow — a request Kuzma denied.

“I don’t think I will pressure the county,” Kuzma said. “But I do hope that they will at least allow me again since so many of the community are very disappointed in [the gnomes’] removal.”

The displays, which were carefully placed at the base of several trees in the park, were made to look as though the mythological creatures have taken up residence beside the pond. They also included figurines of dinosaurs, owls and frogs.

Others who had followed Kuzma’s lead and placed homemade tiny houses for figurines in the park also have removed their structures. Despite the development, Kuzma said he will continue his volunteer efforts to clean up the park, something he has done for years.

Blythe Worster, a 40-year-old mother of two from Bellmore who regularly took her daughters to see the gnomes and fairies, was saddened at the news.

“The whole thing is just so disappointing,” she said. “The gnome displays were really bringing so many people together. It was creative and artistic. 

“It taught the kids so much about community and pride and even recycling and reusing materials,” she continued. “Although I understand that it is a preserve, nothing was being permanently altered. No trees were being cut down and nothing was being nailed into the trees. It was something both kids and adults loved and worked on. It gave the community something to be excited about during a time when it seems like there’s just so much evil and negative in the world.”

Trump Visiting Long Island To Discuss MS-13, Again

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump spoke at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood on Friday, July 28, 2017.

President Donald Trump is expected to visit Long Island on Wednesday to discuss the street gang MS-13 — the president’s second visit to LI in less than a year for the same reason.

U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said Trump invited the congressman to attend a forum on the ultraviolent transnational gang. It will be held at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center in Bethpage, a White House official confirmed.

“The Congressman has had multiple conversations with the White House about the problems of MS-13 on Long Island,” said King’s spokesman, Kevin Fogarty. “The White House is the one who initiated the forum for next week.”

The White House did not immediately have further details on the planned visit. Trump visited the Island in July to discuss a crackdown on the gang, which authorities have blamed for dozens of murders in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The case that prompted Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to visit Suffolk last year was a quadruple murder in Central Islip. Members of the MS-13 have been arrested in that case.

The president also referenced Long Island’s gang problem during his first State of the Union speech in January. He congratulated Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Celestino Martinez for leading an operation to track down the gang’s members on LI and called attention to four of his guests, the parents of Brentwood teenagers Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, who were both killed by the gang in 2016.

Trump has said MS-13 is an example of why Congress should approve more funding for federal immigration agents and pass his four-part immigration plan. The proposal would end the visa lottery, complete the wall along the US-Mexico border, end chain migration and create a path to citizenship for 1.8 undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them to America as minors.

During his last visit, Trump likened the gang members to animals who “transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into blood-stained killing fields.”

Netflix Making Lost Girls Movie About Long Island Serial Killer Case

Lost Girls, a movie based on the nonfiction book of the same name chronicling the unsolved Long Island Serial Killer case, is set to be turned into a movie, Netflix announced Wednesday.

Actress Amy Ryan will play Mari Gilbert, the mother of Shannan Gilbert, the missing woman Suffolk County police were searching for when they uncovered 10 sets of human remains in and around Gilgo Beach on Ocean Parkway.

“The story, both a true crime story and a strong character piece, follows Mari Gilbert as she relentlessly drives law enforcement agents to search for her missing daughter and in the process sheds light on a wave of unsolved murders of young female sex workers on the South Shore barrier islands of Long Island,” Netflix said in the announcement.

The real-life Marie was murdered by Shannan’s sister, but a lawsuit seeking the release of 911 tapes Shannan made the night she went missing is still pending.

Director Liz Garbus, an Oscar-nominated documentarian, is making her narrative feature debut with the film. Producers Anne Carey and Kevin McCormick are collaborating on the project along with executive producers along with Amy Nauiokas, Rory Koslow.

Screenwriter Michael Werwie based the film on Robert Kolker’s book about the case, which is considered the largest unsolved homicide investigation in Suffolk history.

Ryan has previously starred in Gone Baby Gone. She will also appear in the upcoming Beautiful Boy and Late Night. Garbus is known for What Happened Miss Simone?

The film is expected to be a departure from A&E’s 2016 docu-series The Killing Season, by Joshua Zeman and Rachel Mills, that was the most recent major production on the case.

Netflix has not yet said when exactly Lost Girls was set to be released. Stay tuned.

Related Story: How Websleuths & Filmmakers Sparked A Revelation In Gilgo Beach Murders Case