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 Publisher John Kominicki Dies at 62

John Kominicki
John Kominicki was the publisher of the Long Island Press.

Long Island Press Publisher John Kominicki, whose career in journalism took him around the world before he made his mark on Long Island, died Tuesday night following a brief battle with stomach cancer. He was 62.

Kominicki was previously the publisher of Long Island Business News for 15 years and the head of national editorial operations for LIBN’s then-corporate parent, the 60-paper Dolan Media chain. After he left LIBN, he founded Innovate Long Island, a digital and events platform focused on the region’s entrepreneur and research sectors. He was hired in July to lead the recently relaunched print edition of the Press.

“His passing was peaceful, smooth, and – true to form – full of humor till the end,” his wife, Marie, and daughter, Anya, wrote on his Facebook page. “Thanks to all for the kind words and remembrances we’ve been receiving. There will be a memorial celebration after the holidays.”

Kominicki was a veteran journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at a variety of weeklies, dailies and niche publications, including Europe-based Stars & Stripes, USA Today, The New York Times and the Dallas Morning News. He was inducted into the Press Club of Long Island’s Hall of Fame in 2014.

“My company, myself and my partner, Joshua Schneps, will be eternally grateful for working with John to create the new Long Island Press,” said Victoria Schneps-Yunis, whose company, Schneps Communications, acquired the Press in April. “He was a brilliant writer, thinker and creator. And he will be dearly missed.”

Joshua added: “He was an electric personality that lit up the room and was well known and respected by all.”

His loss was felt across Long Island.

“John Kominicki was a friend and mentor to me and so many others,” said LIBN Publisher Scott Schoen. “Journalism and the entire Long Island community have suffered a huge loss. He will be sorely missed.”

 

 

Activists Sue to Block Planned Fire Island Deer Hunt

The deer on Fire Island are not afraid to come right up to people.

Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) managers allegedly broke federal law when they authorized a planned culling of white tail deer, two environmental groups claimed in a lawsuit seeking to block the hunt.

The Animal Welfare Institute and Wildlife Preserves jointly filed the suit Wednesday at Central Islip federal court, alleging that FINS Superintendent Chris Soller and the National Park Service (NPS), which oversees the park, also violated property rights when it approved last year its deer management plan that calls for a controlled hunt to lessen the herd.

“The National Park Service’s decision to allow the slaughter of hundreds of deer blatantly violates the deed restrictions for this land, which require that it be kept as a wildlife sanctuary,” said Tara Zuardo, wildlife attorney with the Animal Welfare Institute. “The agency’s haphazard culling of deer is an outright breach of the law and a waste of tax dollars.”

The suit is the second one advocates filed seeking to block the proposed hunt. Last year, nonprofit Friends of Animals sued Soller and NPS, alleging they broke the law by failing to consider a non-lethal alternative when it concocted the idea — an accusation that the defendants deny.

It wouldn’t be the first time hunters have been deployed to cull an overpopulation of deer on Long Island. In 2013, federal sharpshooters killed 192 on the East End of LI, although that was far fewer than 3,000 originally in crosshairs. Other LI municipalities have also considered approving deer hunts to control their population in recent years.

FINS previously held two hunts in the 1980s that bagged a total of about 64 deer, according to reports in The New York Times at the time. A deer birth control program hatched in the ‘90s was discontinued in 2009. Now, an estimated 300 deer reportedly live on the 32-mile-long barrier island.

Representatives for the seashore didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the latest suit, but government lawyers defended the plan as justified in court papers in the prior case, which is still pending.

FINS has said that the hunt was needed because the abundance of deer — which lack local predators to naturally control their population — are destroying the habitat, such as the Sunken Forrest, an extremely rare maritime holly forest. Besides hunting, the plan also called for the use of fencing and dosing deer with birth control.

Zuardo said she suspects FINS was unaware when the plan was drafted that the Sunken Forrest deed prohibits FINS from allowing hunting in it, since it’s a wildlife sanctuary.

During the Fire Island Association’s summer meeting, Soller told residents that FINS is “still on track with culling the herd,” adding that the earliest the agency would have the funding to move forward is 2019 and that hired guns would be barred under the law from hunting within 500 feet of houses.

“There are no plans to do that at this time,” he said, although advocates fear it could happen this winter or spring.

“You have to be really wary of any kind of verbal assurances like that,” Zuardo said. “As far as we know, it starts in spring of 2018.”

Osteria Leana Chef Draws From Roots to Grow Locally Inspired Oyster Bay Hideaway

Peter Van der Mije, chef-owner of Osteria Leana in Oyster Bay, runs one of only two Green Certified Restaurants on Long Island.

Like many chefs, Peter Van der Mije learned to cook from his grandmother, or “nonna.” But he’s one of the few to repay the favor by naming his first restaurant after her.

After his culinary aspirations drew him from Colorado to New York, Van der Mije followed his dream to downtown Oyster Bay, where he opened Osteria Leana, a chic casual Italian spot serving sophisticated, modern cuisine made with only local — and therefore the freshest, most flavorful — ingredients.

“What grows together goes together,” he says, quoting Phil Howard, one of the internationally acclaimed chefs that trained him. As opposed to serving northern or southern Italian-style cuisine, he says, “I think of it as Oyster Bay Italian.”

The Culinary Institute of America graduate’s commitment to that approach comes across in everything about Osteria Leana, one of only two Certified Green Restaurants on Long Island. That strict certification requires using sustainably sourced food, mitigating environmental impact and other factors.

“We’re aware of our impact on the community,” he says.

The chef-owner gets his shellfishnfrom local baymen plying the waters just beyond commercial strip, while he’s careful to use water efficiently and avoid harmful chemicals. He regularly visits local farms to acquire produce in person, epitomizing farm-to-table ideals.

“I think the trend is not as accurate as people who are really farm-to-table,” he says of the term, which can sometimes be used loosely, like the phrase all natural. “When you go there every day, it’s rewarding to know somebody cares as much about what you’re serving…as you do.”

And it’s not just the food menu. North Fork vineyards grace the pages of his wine list, he stocks the bar with New York-made spirits and there’s no shortage of LI-brewed beers on tap. Of course, that includes suds from Oyster Bay Brewing Co., which was the prior tenant in the location Osteria Leana took over in May 2016 after the brewer outgrew the space.

But the intimate ambiance of his 42-seat locale with crisp service isn’t only romantic. The open kitchen shows Van der Mije’s commitment to culinary transparency. And besides being an homage to Grandma Leana, the name also captures the essence of Van der Mije’s style.

An osteria is a type of tavern found in Italy that serves simple food and wine. They’re usually off the beaten path. Much like Osteria Leana’s hidden gem location just off the main drag.

Dishes that let the seasonally available ingredients shine at the moment include the seared black bass with marinated zucchini and squash in a parsley veloute ($31), the mushroom salad with julienned endive and shaved parmesean in a truffle dressing ($13) or the Fall Strozzapreti ($15/$20) with oregano pesto, mushrooms, grilled radicchio, garlic pumpkin seeds and parmigiano.

That’s in addition to hosting wine specials on Mondays and Wednesdays, charitable events and a regular five-course pasta-tasting dinner event that’s billed as the only one of its kind on the Island.

Surely, he’s made Grandma Leana proud.

Osteria Leana is located at 76 South St. in Oyster Bay. They can be reached at 516-584-6995 or osterialeana.com

 

Center Moriches Man Fatally Stabbed Mother, Cops Say

police
Morguefile photo
Christopher Storm Harrison

A man was arrested for allegedly stabbing his 53-year-old mother to death in their Center Moriches home on Friday night, Suffolk County police said. 

Christopher Storm Harrison, 26, stabbed Joyce Skarka during a domestic dispute at their Union Avenue home at 9:41 p.m., police said.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Homicide Squad detectives charged Harrison with second-degree murder.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Sunday at First District Court in Central Islip.

Suffolk Cop Arrested for Pointing Gun at Women While Off-duty

A 32-year-old Suffolk County police officer was arrested Tuesday for allegedly pointing a handgun at three women while he was off-duty in Patchogue last week, authorities said.

Gregory Hanrahan

Gregory Hanrahan is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday on a charge of second-degree menacing at First District Court in Central Islip.

Police said Hanrahan was involved in “an interaction” with the victims “during which he pointed a handgun in their direction” on West Main Street in Patchogue at 1:44 a.m. Nov. 5.

Hanrahan, a two-year member of the department assigned to the Seventh Precinct, was immediately suspended without pay and his handguns were seized, police said. He is also subject of an internal investigation, authorities added.

The officer faces up to one year in jail, three years of probation and a $1,000 fine, if convicted.

The arrest comes after another Suffolk cop was arrested in July for allegedly sexually abused a woman in a police station house, the former police chief was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison last year for beating a suspect and the former district attorney was indicted last month for allegedly helping covering up that beating.

2 Long Island Mobsters Charged With Cocaine Trafficking

www.houstondwiattorney.net
Photo by www.houstondwiattorney.net

Two reputed mobsters from Long Island were arrested Wednesday for allegedly smuggling cocaine across the US-Canada border following a two-year investigation that netted an audio recording of a mafia induction ceremony, federal authorities said.

Damiano Zummo, a 44-year-old acting captain in the Bonanno crime family from Roslyn Heights, and Salvatore Russo, a 45-year-old associate of the family from Bellmore, were charged with narcotics trafficking in Brooklyn federal court.

“The recording of a secret induction ceremony is an extraordinary achievement for law enforcement and deals a significant blow to La Cosa Nostra,” said Bridget Rohde, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Prosecutors said the duo was among nine members of the mafia arrested after authorities acted on evidence provided by confidential informant who became full-fledged member of the Bonanno family. Two Gambino crime family members from Brooklyn were also arrested in the probe.

In one transaction, Zummo and Russo sold more than a kilogram of cocaine inside a Manhattan gelato store on Sept. 14, authorities said. Zummo is also charged with laundering more than $250,000 in cash by providing business checks issued to a fictitious consulting company that purported to bill the company for its services, according to investigators. Zummo took a fee of about 10 percent for each transaction.

Zummo and Russo each face up to life in prison, if convicted.

Long Island Advocates Bridle Over Trump Plan to Euthanize Mustangs

Advocates are worried about a federal plan to euthanize wild horses.

Mustang. The word conjures images of muscle cars, but local activist Manda Kalimian reminds the public that its definition, wild horses, may soon be killed by the tens of thousands out West.

As founder of the CANA Foundation, a Locust Valley-based nonprofit horse advocacy group, she is one of few on Long Island trying to raise awareness of the complex environmental and animal rights issue playing out on public land more than 2,000 miles away. She and her fellow horse justice warriors say the plight of the mustang grows increasingly dire with each passing day that the Trump administration prioritizes business interests over natural concerns.

“This country was built on the back of the horse,” Kalimian says, invoking the species’ role throughout history. “We all want to be wild and free. If we lose our wild horses, who will be as a people?”

More than 43,000 rounded-up wild horses and burros are being penned at government holding facilities, costing taxpayers a reported $50 million annually. Over 70,000 more still roam rangelands in 10 Western states, including California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Oregon, according to the latest federal data.

For nearly a half century, the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act has mostly protected mustangs sold to slaughterhouses for use as horse meat in other countries. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which oversees 177 herd management areas, has been herding wild horses with helicopters, storing them in pens and putting them up for adoption for the past two decades, although the adoption demand hasn’t kept up with the horse supply.

Newly appointed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose agency controls the BLM, backs plans to roll back the ban on euthanizing wild horses or selling them to slaughterhouses. Also in doubt is the future of contraceptive programs aimed at humanely controlling wild horse populations. Kalimian is among those lobbying against legislation currently pending in Congress that would pave the way for those changes.

“Clearly, the present policy is a disaster,” Zinke told Congress during his January confirmation hearing before making a show of riding a horse to his first day of work upon taking the reins of the Interior. “It’s enormously expensive. Kicking them out and then spending millions of dollars every year on a program that’s not working? Let’s work together to figure out how to fix it.”

This spring, President Donald Trump pitched his solution in BLM’s wild horse program portion of the proposed 2018 federal budget: “humane euthanasia and unrestricted sale of certain excess animals.” Under Zinke, who compared himself to a pirate ship captain during remarks at the National Petroleum Council in September, the BLM issued a statement backing the president’s proposal.

“With an expanded suite of management tools, the BLM can strengthen its efforts” to address the crisis, the agency said of the proposed resumption of euthanizing and slaughtering wild horses. 

Mustangs live freely on public land out West.

HOME ON THE RANGE

The issue isn’t unlike the debate over how to address the white tail deer population on the East End and Fire Island, where deer are symbolic, like wild horses symbolize the West.

Local deer and Western horses are often blamed for destroying public resources, but proposals to cull herds spark outrage among activists that argue it’s human encroachment on natural habitats causing the problem. What horses have that deer don’t is the law prohibiting the federal government from allowing wild horses to be killed—at least for the moment.

“It’s offensive to me, the idea of slaughtering these beautiful animals,” U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) told reporters during a news conference in September outside CANA’s stable of 12 rescued horses before riding off on one. He’s working to block the plan in the GOP-controlled Congress, but faces an uphill battle as part of the Democratic minority.

BLM maintains that the horses are degrading the rangelands since the contraceptive program has proven ineffective at keeping the wild horse population in check. Horse advocates and others argue that BLM manufactured the mustang crisis by failing to properly implement the contraceptives and low balling the number of horses and burros that it says can be sustained by the 27 million acres of range land the agency manages.

The agency says the land can sustain 26,715 wild horses and burros—a third of what the government says is out there—although advocates say the animals aren’t overpopulated and starving, as Zinke and BLM claim. The National Research Council (NRC) questioned the validity of that number in a 2013 study examining BLM’s wild horse management program.

“Horse and burro populations are seldom limited by density because they are kept below food-limited carrying capacity through removals and to some extent with the contraceptive porcine zona pellucida (PZP),” the study found.

It also found that BLM’s cure for the horses may be worse than what ails them.

“Removals are likely to keep the population at a size that maximizes population growth rate, which in turn maximizes the number of animal that must be removed,” the report found.

Compounding the problem is the fact that only 2,440 wild horses were adopted out last year, when 2,899 more were removed. With removals consistently outpacing adoptions, the problem and its cost grows annually.

To Kalimian and others fighting for the horses, the issue is about more than animal rights, the environment or wasting taxpayer money. Advocates argue that millions of cattle graze the same land, suggesting that BLM is only interested in freeing up the range from competition for farming and drilling.

“It’s not right,” she says of the exploitation of the public’s natural resources for private gain. “The land belongs to the people, but only rich profiting off the land.” 

Manda Kalimian, founder of the CANA Foundation, is working to rescue wild horses.

MUSTANG SALLY

Kalimian isn’t the only local advocate sounding the alarm of the issue. Others are also working to rescue wild horses—in addition to unwanted show, racing and other horses—before they’re destroyed.

Baiting Hollow Farm Horse Rescue has been urging people to contact their Congressional representatives to urge lawmakers to block passage of the horse slaughtering legislation. The North Shore Horse Rescue & Sanctuary in Baiting Hollow, which has about 30 horses, rescued their first horse, Phoenix, a five-year-old mustang mare, in 2003. And The Kaeli Kramer Foundation in Huntington has rescued two wild horses.

“All these horses are being held needlessly at the taxpayers’ expense,” wrote Brandon Woelkers of The Kaeli Kramer Foundation. “The round-ups are both cruel and unnecessary. There are humane ways to manage them on the ranges at half the cost to the American taxpayers.”

Such rescues are among 600 of their kind nationwide. Locally, they’re home to a fraction of the estimated 38,000 horses on LI. Kalimian expects to have her first rescued mustang join her stable of a dozen other horses she spared from the slaughterhouse.

Her group, founded in 2006 under the name Seraphim12 Foundation, was originally dedicated to rescuing abused and neglected horses, but a few years ago changed its name to the CANA Foundation and focused attention on the wild horse issue. Since then, CANA partnered with Native American tribes to facilitation their adoption of 60 wind horses on reservations. She also launched an organic, GMO-free skin care line called Naturally Considerate, with proceeds benefitting the nonprofit.

She says her mission is “rewilding” the horses, people and the land. That is, helping people reconnect with nature through horses. She even stopped mowing the lawn on the farm surrounding her stables and let it revert back to nature.

“We need to come together as one people…and remember who we are,” she says while reflecting on the therapeutic effect of horseback riding. “We need to remember what matters. The horses always show us what matters.” 

wild horses
Wild horses roaming in Wyoming.

LONG ISLAND HORSE NONPROFITS

Amaryllis Farm Equine Rescue
864 Lumber Ln, Bridgehampton amaryllisfarm.com

Baiting Hollow Farm Horse Rescue
2114 Sound Ave., Baiting Hollow bhfhorserescue.org

CANA Foundation
Locust Valley. Canafoundation.org

The Kaeli Kramer Foundation
160 Sweet Hollow Rd., Huntington. kaelikramerfoundation.org

MJZ Horse Rescue Inc.
Manorville mjzhorserescue.com

New York Horse Rescue
PO Box 435, Manorville nyhr.org

North Shore Horse Rescue & Sanctuary
2330 Sound Ave., Baiting Hollow, northshorehorserescue.org

Spirit’s Promise Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation
2746 Sound Ave., Riverhead spiritspromiserescue.org

Laura Curran First Woman Elected Nassau Executive

Laura Curran
Nassau County Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) is the Democratic nominee for Nassau County Executive in the November 2017 elections.

Laura Curran became the first woman to be elected Nassau County executive and the third Democrat ever to hold the post since the title was created in 1938.

With a nearly 8,000-vote edge in early returns, she claimed victory in the Nassau County executive race over Republican Jack Martins, who conceded the race Wednesday afternoon. Green Party candidate Cassandra Lems got one percent of the vote.

“Tonight, Nassau voted to end the culture of corruption and to give our county the fresh start it desperately deserves,” Curran told supporters. “I am humbled and grateful for the great responsibility you have entrusted to be your county executive.”

She will replace outgoing Republican Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who did not seek a third term after pleading not guilty to federal corruption charges last year.

“Thank you to all those who supported us and went out and stood for a brighter future for Nassau — looking forward instead of looking back,” Martins said in a statement. “I have called to congratulate my opponent, Laura Curran, on her win. I encourage everyone to work together to put partisanship aside to restore trust in government and get Nassau back on the right track.”

In other countywide seats, Democrat Jack Schnirman beat Republican Steven Labriola by a margin of 50-48 percent to be the next county comptroller, replacing George Maragos. And Republican County Clerk Maureen O’Connell was re-elected when she fended off Democratic challenger Dean Bennett 54-to-45 percent.

In the county legislature, Democrats picked up one seat but the GOP maintained its majority when most incumbents were re-elected and two vacant seats didn’t change hands.

Democrat Josh Lafazan unseated Legis. Donald MacKenzie (R-Oyster Bay) by a margin of 55-to-44 percent.

In the race to fill the seat Curran vacated, Democrat Debra Mule beat Republican Kathleen Spatz 67-to-32 percent.

In the race to replace retiring Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow), Republican Thomas McKevitt beat Democrat Eileen Napolitano 53-to-46 percent.

And in the campaign to fill the seat held by former Legis. Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown), who is now a Hempstead councilman, Republican John Ferretti beat Democrat Michael Sheridan 60-39 percent.

As for the three questions on ballots statewide, voters rejected the proposal to hold a constitutional convention, approved a referendum allowing judges to strip pensions from lawmakers convicted of felonies and the proposed Adirondack land bank appears to have passed with a slim margin, although results are still trickling in.

Tim Sini Elected Suffolk DA, Sheriff Race Too Close to Call

Tim Sini
Suffolk County lawmaker confirmed Timothy Sini as the new Suffolk County police commissioner on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 (Rashed Mian/Long Island Press).

Timothy Sini won the race to become the next Suffolk County District Attorney on Tuesday, but the county sheriff’s race appears to be too close to call and heading for a recount.

Sini, the Democratic nominee and current police commissioner, beat Republican rival Ray Perini 62-36 percent with the majority of results in, according to unofficial early returns tallied by the county board of elections. Libertarian candidate Christopher Garvey got one percent of the vote. Sini replaces outgoing Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, who recently pleaded not guilty to federal charges of helping the former police chief cover up the beating of a suspect.

In the race for Suffolk Sheriff, Democratic nominee Errol Toulon has a 1,354-vote lead over Republican candidate Lawrence Zacarese, who has not conceded, according to the unofficial returns. Libertarian candidate Peter Krauss earned one percent of the vote in that race. The winner, once the results are certified, will replace outgoing Suffolk Sheriff Vincent DeMarco, who opted against running for re-election after he had his Conservative Party leader convicted of payroll theft, triggering a backlash.

In the Suffolk legislative races, the incumbents were all re-elected and Democrats retained their majority, but they lost their super majority when the Republican minority picked up one seat out of four that were left open by retiring legislators. 

Republican Rudolph Sunderman beat Democrat Josh Slaughter 52-to-47 percent in the race to replace term-limited Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley).

Republican Steve Flotteron beat Joseph McDermott 55-44 percent to win the seat held by term-limited Legis. Tom Barraga (R-West Islip).

Democrat Susan Berland beat Republican Hector Gavilla 54-45 percent to replace term-limited Legis. Steve Stern (D-Huntington).

And Democrat Thomas Donnelly beat Republican Michael Troetti 61-37 percent to replace term-limited Legis. Lou D’Amaro (D-Deer Park).

As for the three questions on ballots statewide, voters rejected the proposal to hold a constitutional convention, approved a referendum allowing judges to strip pensions from lawmakers convicted of felonies and the proposed Adirondack land bank appears to have passed with a slim margin, although results are still trickling in.

FBI IDs 2 Found Dead in Freeport Gang Probe

Sirens Blue Caravan Red Lights Police Cars Car

The FBI confirmed the identities of two teenagers who were among three found dead in a nine-day span in Freeport and Roosevelt, authorities said. 

Javier Castillo, who was 15 when reported missing Oct. 13, 2016, was identified as the person found dead at Cow Meadow Park in Freeport on Oct. 24, an FBI spokeswoman said. Kerin Pineda, who was 19 when reported missing May 23, 2016, was identified as the person found dead in a wooded area of Freeport near the Long Island Rail Road tracks on Oct. 27, the spokeswoman added.

The agency did not release their cause of death or any other details. They did not say if the cases were related.

The two were found days after Nassau police, acting a federal law enforcement tip, found the remains of 16-year-old Angel Soler buried in a wooded preserve in his hometown of Roosevelt, police have said. The teen’s family reportedly suspects he was a victim of gang violence.

Nassau police also searched Massapequa Preserve last month, but did not find anything. Several members of the MS-13 street gang have been arrested for killing a 19-year-old victim who was found dead in that preserve in March.

The FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force is continuing the investigation.