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.

Long Island Press Publishers Acquire Community Newspapers Throughout NYC

Long Island Press
From left: Victoria Schneps and her son, Joshua Schneps, are the new co-publishers of the Long Island Press. (Photo by Michael P Damm Jr.)

Schneps Communications purchased Community News Group and NYC Community Media, making Schneps one of the largest local news chains in New York State with more than 70 newspapers and websites, the company announced.

Schneps, a family run, Bayside-based business that published about two dozen periodicals — including the Long Island Press — before the sale, more than tripled in size as a result of the deal, which closed last week for an undisclosed sum. Titles it acquired include TimesLedger in Queens, The Brooklyn Paper, The Bronx Times and New York Parenting Media, among many others. The merged companies will now be called Schneps Community News Group (SCNG).

“Our brands are as grassroots as it gets and produce award-winning content that both our readers and advertisers trust,” says SCNG Publisher and President Victoria Schneps-Yunis, who founded the Queens Courier in her home in 1985 before growing the company into dozens of newspapers, websites and events. “This acquisition will allow us to reach a scale that will create unique opportunities for clients that want to target their marketing and work with proven brands.”

The merger will bring under one roof a total printed weekly circulation of more than 350,000 copies, a digital reach of over 2.5 million monthly pageviews and 40-plus events annually. As a result, Schneps will grow from about 75 employees to 170. The deal also grows the Schneps’ group into Manhattan and the Bronx, giving it a presence in all five boros, and its first move into the Westchester market.

In addition to community newspapers and niche publications such as Aspire college magazine, SCNG also runs the annual Bethpage Best of Long Island contest, which the company has replicated in Brooklyn and Queens. It also hosts events such as the World’s Fare, a massive food festival at Citi Field, plus the Kings, Power Women, Power List and Stars business events hosted throughout the New York Metro area.

“We will clearly have the largest reach of any local media company in New York City across print, digital and events,” says SCNG CEO Joshua Schneps. “We can now offer companies, large and small, seeking to reach an individual neighborhood or the entire City of New York and surrounding region, the most cost effective and efficient means of marketing.”

Nassau Legis. Carrié Solages Pleads Guilty To Disorderly Conduct

Carrié Solages
Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages 9-Elmont)

Nassau County Legis. Carrié Solages (D-Elmont) pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of disorderly conduct following his arrest last year on domestic violence charges.

Judge Joy Watson sentenced the lawmaker to 26 weeks in a batterer’s program, drug testing, and issued two orders of protection for two years.

“Those in elected office should be held to a high standard, and today’s admissions by Legislator Carrié Solages evidence clear violations of the trust placed in him by the public,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said in a statement.

“Nobody should be victimized by the kind of misconduct to which Legislator Solages acknowledged when he pled guilty today,” she continued. “This disposition ensures that he will be barred from contact with the victims, and requires him to participate in a comprehensive batterer intervention program and ongoing drug testing. Any violations of the terms of this plea agreement will expose Mr. Solages to a period of incarceration.”

Solages, who was re-elected to his fourth term last fall despite the arrest, was originally charged with assault and child endangerment after authorities said he grabbed his then-girlfriend by the arm and neck, then threw her against a wall while her daughter jumped on his back to get him to stop, according to court documents.

He rebuffed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that demanded he step down.

The 39-year-old lawmaker, a partner in his law firm, Solages & Solages, is a former Bronx prosecutor who originally won his seat in a 2011 upset when he unseated his predecessor, the late Legis. John Ciotti (R-Valley Stream), who had served 16 years on the legislature since its formation in 1996. Solages’ sister is New York State Assemb. Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont).

Solages represents the county’s third legislative district, which is made up of communities in southwestern Nassau, including Elmont, Valley Stream, South Floral Park Inwood as well as parts of Lawrence and North Woodmere. 

During his tenure, Solages helped broker a deal to re-staff the Nassau police Fifth Precinct station house—where his arrest was processed—that had been downgraded in a consolidation initiative. He also fought plans to build a mini-casino and soccer stadium at Belmont Park and most recently had led rallies opposing tax breaks for Green Acres Mall.

Solages is not the first sitting Nassau legislator to be arrested in the past two decades since the panel was formed. Former Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) served three months in federal prison in 2015 after pleading guilty to bilking $2 million from a client of his law firm. And ex-Nassau Legis. Roger Corbin (D-Westbury), who was released from federal prison in 2011 after being sentenced to 18 months behind bars for tax evasion, is appealing his 2014 conviction for taking more than $200,000 in bribes.

Solages issued a statement about the case on his Facebook page.

“Today’s favorable resolution of this personal matter verifies what I said from the beginning: I did not commit any crime,” he wrote. “Moreover, this matter was a personal matter that had absolutely nothing to do with my public office. I have never violated the public trust. Now that the judicial system has ruled that no crime was committed by me, I can continue to serve my community with honor and dignity. Thank you to all of my supporters.”

Primary Preview: Long Island Races To Watch

Taylor Raynor held a news conference outside the office of Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) calling on the lawmaker to stop collecting a pension while also earning her salary.(Long Island Press photo)

Political newcomer Taylor Raynor’s Democratic primary challenge to Deputy Assembly Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Hempstead) became Long Island’s hottest race as Raynor appeared to have a shot at unseating the 30-year incumbent.

That’s because Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs made the unusual move of backing Raynor over the Assembly’s fourth in command after Hooper was widely quoted making racially charged comments during a candidate forum. The race was seen as pivotal since the gubernatorial and New York State Attorney General races atop ballots could boost typically low primary voter turnout and sway results in that and a half dozen other races across the Island, including a high-stakes Surrogate Court Judge contest that’s sparked intrigue in Suffolk County. The primaries are Sept. 13.

“White man fooled us out of Africa,” Hooper was quoted as saying, suggesting Raynor is a tool of white power brokers such as Jacobs. Both women are black, as are many of the district’s residents. “Don’t let him fool you out of a seat where you have power.”

Raynor, a psychologist and community activist, responded by continuing to push her message that Hempstead’s Assembly district needs a fresh start. She says Hooper has failed to use her considerable power to help the district, instead using it to collect her $82,435 pension on top of her $79,000 legislative salary — a practice known as double dipping — in addition to her $25,000 leadership stipend.

“If and when elected, I will fight for legislation to close this loophole,” Raynor told reporters during a Sept. 4 news conference outside Hooper’s district office. “It is time we stop Earlene from having her cake and eating it too on the taxpayer’s dime.”

Also in Nassau County primaries, Democratic voters in Long Beach’s 20th Assembly District will decide between the party nominee, insurance attorney Jack Vobis, and business owner Juan Vides, who are each vying for a chance to unseat freshman Assemb. Melissa Miller (R-Atlantic Beach).

And in Nassau’s lone GOP primary, retired NYPD detective James Coll is challenging freshman Assemb. John Mikulin (R-Bethpage) in the 17th district, which covers the central portion of the county.

Across the county line, Suffolk also only has one GOP primary. Accountant Mike Yacubich is challenging Assemb. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). And Assemb. Philip Ramos (D-Bay Shore), the deputy majority leader, is facing a Democratic primary challenge from Maxima Castro, who is also an accountant.

But the biggest primary in Suffolk is for the Democratic line for Surrogate Court Judge. Since the job involves overseeing wills and handling the estates of those who die without one — cases that can involve appointing administrators to liquidate or disperse millions of dollars worth of assets — it is among the most coveted posts in the local judiciary.

Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Richard Shaffer tapped Family Court Judge Theresa Whelan, reportedly in a cross-endorsement deal with the Suffolk Conservative Party. Challenging her for the Democratic line is attorney Tara Scully, a Republican whose father is a deputy county executive. The race has been described by political observers as a proxy power battle between Shaffer and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

If Whelan loses, she will still be on the ballot on the Independence Party line. But in that scenario, it would be virtually impossible to beat Scully, who would have the Democratic, Republican, Green and Reform party lines.

All of that depends upon how the anticipated spike in turnout from the big-ticket primaries sways races further down the ballots.

Political activist and Fordham University associate professor of law Zephyr Teachout, New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, attorney Leecia Eve and U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) are vying for the Democratic nod in their bid to replace disgraced New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned this spring following sexual misconduct allegations.

City Councilman Jumaane Williams is challenging Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. And at the top of the ticket is Sex and The City actress Cynthia Nixon’s Democratic bid against Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s seeking a third term. The tenor of that race was best summed up at their Aug. 29 debate at Hofstra University.

“My opponent lives in a world of fiction,” Cuomo said. Nixon told the governor, “You stand up to Trump about as well as he stands up to Putin.”

Polls are open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 13. To find your polling place, visit suffolkvotes.com or nassaucountyny.gov

Ex-NYPD Cop Gets Probation For Helping Drug Ring

A retired New York City narcotics detective was sentenced to five years probation after admitting to her role in a large-scale heroin ring that operated in Nassau, Queens and Brooklyn.

Karan Young, 50, of Laurelton, Queens, had pleaded guilty last month before Judge Robert Schwartz to a felony count of fourth-degree conspiracy.

Nassau County prosecutors had said Young was implicated during the investigation of a Hempstead-based heroin dealer in 2016. That dealer was supplied by Leigh Jackson, who authorities described as Young’s longtime romantic partner. Young assisted Jackson in his narcotics distribution business by collecting money for him, according to investigators.

During her plea, she admitted to providing Jackson with a mini-NYPD shield and PBA card to help him avoid detection by law enforcement while he transported narcotics, the district attorney said.

Young was one of 14 defendants rounded up as a result of the 15-month investigation dubbed Operation Tri-County Traffic. Authorities said the dealers sold more than 23,000 doses of heroin a week.

Jackson was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted operating as a major trafficker last year.

Remains Scattered on LI Linked, ID’d As Actor’s Son

Ali A. Fakhri, left, was found dead on Long Island. His father, Jamil Fakhri, was a popular Pakistani television actor.

Investigators determined a human skull found in Ronkonkoma two years ago Monday belongs to a man whose torso was discovered at a Melville landfill seven years prior, Suffolk County police told the Press.

Authorities identified the 36-year-old victim as Ali A. Fakhri. He is the son of popular Pakistani television actor Jamil Fakhri, who died in 2011. A bicyclist happened upon the victim’s skull in the woods north of Express Drive North in Ronkonkoma on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) matched the skull to remains found Monday, May 11, 2009 at 110 Sand Company on Spagnoli Road in Melville, authorities said.

“We believe that it’s an isolated case,” Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer, commander of the Homicide Squad, told the Press.
 
Police had neither announced they determined the victim’s name after the 2009 discovery nor publicly confirmed the link to 2016 find until the Press followed up. 

“Although we now have a name, it’s just a shame its up to journalists and concerned citizens to flesh out the whole story, rather than this being open communication between the police department and the public,” said Joshua Zeman, the filmmaker behind The Killing Season, a docu-series about the Long Island Serial Killer case.

Pakastani media outlets had reported that the victim’s father had made public calls for help finding his son, who was reported missing three months before his torso was found. But American media had not been alerted to the news.

“My son had no personal enmity with anyone,” Jamil told reporters in 2010 after publicly appealing to Pakistani diplomats for help getting his son’s body returned, according to The Express Tribune. The newspaper reported that the victim, the oldest of the actor’s four sons, was a divorced taxi driver with a masters in business who had lived in the United States for a decade before his murder.

Landfill employees moving debris made the initial discovery nine years ago, authorities have said. 

“Somebody dismembered him and disposed of him there,” former Suffolk Homicide Det. Sgt. Edward Fandry told Newsday in 2009, adding that the torso had been there for a day or two before being found.

A bicyclist made the 2016 discovery. The skull was believed to have been in the woods for an extended period.

Homicide Squad detectives are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information on the case to call them at 631-852-6392 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will remain confidential.

Henry Schein Makes Fortune ‘Change The World’ List

Fortune magazine named Melville-based Henry Schein, Inc., to the publication’s ‘Change The World’ list thanks to the company’s efforts to expand access to oral health care to underserved populations worldwide.

The prestigious list ranks companies that do good. Henry Schein, the world’s largest dental and medical supplies distributor, which had $12.5 billion in sales last year, is also Long Island’s lone Fortune 500 company. The company ranked No. 29 out of 57 that made the cut on the 2018 Change The World list, which is now in its fourth year.

“Since our earliest days, we at Henry Schein have worked to align our strengths as a business with the needs of society, so it is greatly rewarding to be named to Fortune’s ‘Change the World’ list,” said Stanley Bergman, chairman and chief executive officer of Henry Schein. “This recognition only serves to reinforce our commitment to improving the health of people in need, and we look forward to ‘helping health happen’ for years to come.”

Top three on the list were telecommunications giant Reliance Jio, pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck and Bank of America.

Related Story: Stanley Bergman: Leadership Lessons From Apartheid Era

The magazine heaped praise upon Henry Schein for its efforts.

“This dental supply company partners with dental schools to help patients in underserved communities worldwide, from a refugee camp in Kenya to a Jamaican beachside village,” Fortune wrote. “A related program, Give Kids a Smile, has provided care for more than 5.5 million children since 2003. The kindness gets rewarded: The company has seen a 10 percent sales bump from dentists who join the outreach.”

Besides Give Kids A Smile, Henry Schein noted that the recognition was the result of two other initiatives. One is The Alpha Omega-Henry Schein Cares Holocaust Survivors Oral Health Program, which provides free oral health care to Holocaust survivors living in poverty across North America.

The other is The Global Student Outreach Program, in which Henry Schein partners with dental schools to improve the oral health in remote and underserved communities around the world while enhancing educational opportunities for the next generation of oral health practitioners.

To see the full list, visit Fortune.com.

Cuomo, Nixon To Debate at Hofstra University

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The primaries are scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 13.

Holbrook Woman Takes Breast Cancer Fight On The Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Troubled Hempstead School Board Accuses Ex-Superintendent of Misconduct

Ex-Hempstead Superintendent Shimon Waronker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Short-Term Rental Rules On The Rise Across Long Island

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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