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.

4 Long Island-based Airmen Killed in Iraq

Aircraft from the 106th Rescue Wing depart F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in preparation of Hurricane Sandy. The aircraft are repositioned out of the storm track and are prepare to return for recovery response operations. The 106th Rescue Wing’s mission is to provide worldwide Personnel Recovery, Combat Search and Rescue Capability, Expeditionary Combat Support, and Civil Search and Rescue support to Federal and State authorities. The unit provides Personnel Recovery to the state of New York and deployed operations that we are tasked to support. (Official U.S. Air Force Photo by TSgt Eric Miller/Released) 121026-Z-QU230

Four members of the New York Air National Guard’s Westhampton Beach-based 106th Rescue Wing were among seven US service members killed Thursday in a helicopter crash in Iraq, officials confirmed Saturday.

They included Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe, 37, of Center Moriches, 30-year-old Staff Sgt. Dashan Briggs of Port Jefferson Station, 39-year-old Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso of Commack and Capt. Christopher Zanetis, 37, of Long Island City.

“This loss reminds us of the tremendous risks we take in serving our nation every day,” said Major General Anthony German, the Adjutant General of New York. “We honor their service, their professionalism, and their sacrifice as we mourn their loss.”

The airmen died when the HH-60 Pave Hawk—a search and rescue helicopter that is a modified version of the Army’s UH-60 Blackhawk—they were flying crashed near the city of Al-Qa’im, officials said. There is no evidence of enemy action involved in the crash and the incident is under investigation, according to the Department of Defense. The 106th Rescue Wing is based at the F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base.

The New York City fire department said Raguso was a 13-year FDNY veteran of Division 13 in Queens and Zanetis was an FDNY fire marshal in Bureau of Fire Investigation’s Citywide South in Brooklyn with a decade on the job. Raguso was also a volunteer with the Commack Fire Department.

“They are truly two of New York City’s bravest – running into danger to protect and defend others, both in New York City and in combat overseas,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.

All four had previsously served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and were assigned to the 106th Rescue Wing’s 101st Rescue Squadron, which had helped rescue survivors of hurricane Harvey and Irma last year. They were operating in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the American-led coalition operation to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

“The service members in this unit selflessly deploy around the world to provide combat search and rescue coverage for United States and allied forces,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said. “This tragedy serves as a stark reminder of the sacrifices our heroes in uniform face every day. My sincere condolences are with the family members and I ask that all New Yorkers keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Also killed were Master Sergeant William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, Staff Sergeant Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida, both of whom were assigned to the 308th Rescue Squadron, Air Force Reserve, at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, as well as Captain Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.

Long Island Open Records Report Card Sparks Policy Changes

Long Island FOIL Requests

A year ago this week, the Long Island Press and the Press Club of Long Island co-published an unprecedented report card grading nearly 200 localities responsiveness to identical public records requests.

The cumulative grade was a C. Since then, some municipalities and agencies that scored poorly made improvements in how they handle Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, while others did not.

“Suffolk County has reviewed software and is developing a FOIL request/response process for all county departments to access and use,” said a spokesman for the county, which scored a C+. “In addition, the county implemented a search query on the home page of its website in an effort to allow for easier navigation of the site and easier access to FOIL forms.”

The report was released in time for Sunshine Week, an annual, national initiative highlighting the importance of access to public records.

In Nassau, which got a D+, the former Presiding Officer of the county legislature, Norma Gonsalvez, led a review of the report card’s findings. The panel made one change as a result.

“We added the link to the FOIL request to the sidebar on the county website to make it easier to find/access,” said Matthew Fernando, a legislative aide.

Besides changes in policy, there has also been changes in administration since last year. Republican Ex-Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who got an F in the report and is currently on trial for alleged corruption, was replaced by Democrat Laura Curran, who promised to do better than her predecessor.

“The Curran administration promises transparency, including the FOIL process,” said Curran’s spokesman. “The system is already being reviewed and improved by the county attorney’s office.”

On the village level, Roslyn Harbor passed new FOIL rules shortly after it got an F. Island Park publicly vowed to improve its complete lack of responsiveness. Some, such as Baxter Estates, which did not have a FOIL policy last year, produced one in a sampling this winter. LI’s 97 villages got a cumulative grade of C in the report.

But not all heeded the findings. The Village of Cedarhurst, which also got an F, now prominently placed FOIL rules on its website indicating that requests must be made in person at village hall—the type of prohibitive policies that make it more difficult for the public to access records and decreases government transparency.

READ THE REPORT: Long Island Gets a ‘C’ in First-Ever Local Government Open Records Report Card

Dix Hills Man Convicted of Killing Girlfriend

Left: The Bay Shore crime scene. Right: Eric Bermudez.

A man was convicted Friday of gunning down his 37-year-old girlfriend following a dispute near their Dix Hills home last year.

A Suffolk County jury found Eric Bermudez guilty of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon following a three-week-long trial.

“While nothing can ease the suffering caused by the defendant, we hope this conviction provides some solace to the victim’s family in knowing that their loved one’s murderer will be held accountable for his actions,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said.

Authorities said the 37-year-old gunman shot Regina Flecha eight times on Burroughs Avenue after she walked away from their residence on Black Pine Court on April 13. He then pulled her into his car and drove away.

Twenty minutes later, Third Precinct detectives stopped his speeding vehicle on Fifth Avenue in Bay Shore and found the victim in the front passenger seat, prosecutors said.

They also found the murder weapon, two additional guns—one of which was stolen—and a silencer in the trunk, according to investigators. Flecha was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where she died shortly later.

Bermudez faces up to 25 years to life in prison when he is scheduled to be sentenced April 19 by Judge John B. Collins.

Long Island Students Join in National Walkout

Suffolk police look on as Bay Shore High School students rally on the football field during a national walkout to protest gun violence March 14, 2018.

Hundreds of Long Island high school and college students walked out of class Wednesday in solidarity with a nationwide protest against gun violence in response to the Parkland, Florida high school massacre.

Students gathered on snow-covered football fields for a 17-minute-long rally—one minute for each victim killed—at 10 a.m., the time the Parkland shooter opened fire a month ago to the day.

“We want change,” Bay Shore High School students chanted while school officials and Suffolk County police officers milled around. They also chanted “no more guns,” “17 lives,” and “let us live!”

A counter protester with a mega phone yelled: “You guys are wasting your time!” The students continued rallying undeterred.

Nikolas Cruz, 19, was charged with allegedly using an AR-15 rifle to kill students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day. The massacre reignited the national debate over gun control. President Donald Trump proposed arming teachers in response.

Students also walked out of class at Hofstra University, John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore, Suffolk County Community College, Great Neck South High School, Commack High School and Herricks High School, among others. Additional March For Our Lives rallies were planned throughout the day in Patchogue, Long Beach, Stony Brook, Port Jefferson, Huntington, Farmingdale, Old Westbury, Glen Cove and Port Washington.

“The victims who died that day were just like the students and staff at Great Neck South,” said Bonnie Charles, a senior at the school. “They had plans for college, they had dreams, and they had futures…. By participating in the #Enough National Walkout, we are calling out our nation’s lawmakers to let them know that unless they adopt stricter gun legislation, we will vote them out.”

Joseph VanderWaag, an SCCC student who helped organize a walkout on the Ammerman campus, echoed the sentiment.

“This isn’t just an issue that is affecting Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, or Columbine High School in Colorado,” he said. “This is an issue that affects everyone!”

Commack High School students participated in the walkout Wednesday.

Westbury Woman’s Murder Sparks Manhunt

Haley Anderson

An international manhunt is underway for the man that authorities suspect killed a 22-year-old Westbury woman last week in her home near Binghamton University, where she was a nursing student, police said.

Binghamton police officers responded to Haley Anderson’s off-campus home on Oak Street, where she was found dead shortly before 1 p.m. Friday, authorities said. She was taken to Lourdes Hospital, where an autopsy found she was a victim of a homicide.

“This incident and the circumstances of the death was not a random act or involving the conduct of a stranger,” Binghamton police said in a statement.

Investigators identified her ex-boyfriend, 22-year-old Orlando Tercero, as a person of interest in the case. Tercero flew to Nicaragua before police found the victim’s body, authorities said. Tercero is a US citizen, they noted. Nicaraguan authorities reportedly detained him.

A GoFundMe page collecting money for her funeral raised more than $36,000 as of Tuesday.

Detectives are continuing the investigation with the assistance of New York State University Police at Binghamton, the Broome County District Attorney’s Office, the FBI, the Port Authority Police Department and Nassau County police.

Anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Binghamton Police Detective Division at 607-772- 7080 or 607-772-7082.

Nor’easter Dumps Up to 18 Inches of Snow on Long Island

The third nor’easter to hit Long Island in two weeks brought between one and 18 inches of snow to parts of the region, meteorologists said.

Topping out at 18 inches of snow WAS Southampton, while on the low end, Massapequa got 1.6 inches. About 5,000 PSEG Long Island customers lost power during the storm.

“It’s for some areas a lot less snow than the last one and a lot less wind,” said Melissa DiSpigno, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Upton office.

The snow tapered off Tuesday afternoon before going out to sea.

The storm comes after nor’easters on March 2 and March 6 caused flooding, beach erosion and downed trees and power lines, leaving thousands without power. Some PSEG Long Island customers just got their power back Saturday after nearly nine inches of snow fell on parts of LI in the last storm.

There is still a chance rain and snow Wednesday. After that, partly to mostly sunny skies with temperatures are on tap for LI through the weekend.

Nassau Cop Fatally Shoots Suspect in Great Neck

Nassau County Police Body North Bellmore

A Nassau County police officer shot and killed a man who authorities said was brandishing a baseball bat following a road rage incident in Great Neck on Monday morning, officials said.

When someone honked at him for being stopped at a stop sign at the corner of Maple Street and East Shore Road, the suspect got out of his vehicle and used the bat to smash the window a a van behind him at 10:30 a.m., police said. The suspect then walked up to a second vehicle behind the van and when the driver got out of that vehicle, the suspect hit the driver in the head with a bat, police said. Shortly later, an officer on patrol happened upon the confrontation.

“The suspect moves aggressively toward the police officer with the bat,” said Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun, a police spokesman. “He deploys his Taser, the Taser fails to neutralize him. At this point he has to deploy his service weapon and strikes the individual in the torso area.”

The suspect, whose name was not immediately available, was taken to a local hospital, where he died an hour later. The officer, who was on the job a month, was not injured.

Treated for their injuries were the driver who was hit in the head and a second person that the suspect struck when the victim tried to help the officer.

Police said no further details were available, citing the early stage of the investigation.

Nor’easter Brings 9 Inches of Snow to Long Island

Icy roads in Westbury followed the latest storm (Photo via Noticia)

The second nor’easter to hit Long Island in less than a week dumped nearly nine inches of heavy, wet snow on parts of the region Wednesday and also caused strong winds, power outages and flooding.

The National Weather Service reported that the highest snowfall accumulation on LI was in Oakdale, which got 8.9 inches. Amounts varied widely from town to town, with nearby Sayville getting 2.2 inches. In Nassau County, snowfall ranged from 6 inches in Roslyn to 2.5 inches in Oyster Bay. PSEG Long Island reported nearly 20,000 customers without power as of 9 a.m. Thursday.

“Due to the recent heavy snowfall across parts of the region, many secondary roadways remain snow covered,” Up-based NWS forecasters said in a statement. “Motorists are advised to allow extra travel for the morning commute. In addition, the heavy
weight of the snow may bring down tree limbs and power lines.”

The highest snowfall amounts in the tri-state area were in Connecticut and the Lower Hudson Valley, which got 26 inches. 

Peak wind gusts on LI were recorded at 53 mph on Great  Gull Island and 46 mph in Bayville. Widespread reports of flooding in coastal communities occurred throughout the storm. Besides traffic delays, the storm also caused Long Island Rail Road issues when downed utility wires and trees blocked the tracks.

Now that the storm has passed, mostly sunny skies with temperatures in the 40s are forecast through the weekend, although there’s a 40-percent chance of more rain and snow Monday.

 

LIU President Kimberly Cline: Caring Creates Opportunities

LIU President Kimberly Cline was No. 16 on the most recent Long Island Press Power List ranking the most influential Long Islanders. (Photo by Bob Giglione)

As president of Long Island University, Kimberly Cline, the first woman to hold the title in its 92-year history, oversees 1,460 faculty members teaching nearly 16,079 students on the Brooklyn and Brookville campuses. We recently caught up with Cline, who discussed the university’s goals to become a research institution, how she, a North Carolina transplant, views LI, and the importance of an entrepreneurial spirit.

Long Island Press: What do you tell students about the importance of pursuing a higher education?

Kimberly Cline: It’s not an option. They’re not only earning their degree, but they’re also picking up liberal arts and science skills that will help them throughout their lives with critical thinking skills, the ability to write and to think. Employers call them soft skills, but they say that they’re much in demand today. It really opens the door to opportunity and I believe it’s the great equalizer.

LIP: LIU recently announced its biggest expansion of the Brooklyn campus since it was founded in 1926. Why?

KC: The timing and the stars all lined up. It gave us the ability to provide additional resources to our students and our faculty. It gives us the ability to not only secure our campus strength but also to be able to bring more of our programs to the community. It’s a win-win.

LIP: The Tilles Center for the Performing Arts and the Global Institute have attracted some big names to the Brookville campus. Who’s on your wish list?

KC: We are bringing in Joe Biden and President Bush this year. Those were on my wish list and we just secured them. People will continue to see more world leaders.

LIP: You’ve been a pioneer in promoting entrepreneurship and student-run businesses. How is that important?

KC: It’s really important for everyone to have an entrepreneurial spirit. You can have an entrepreneurial spirit and not be an entrepreneur. On the student- run businesses, they’re able to get experience early on, even before they have that internship, so it makes them a stronger applicant. We want to have our students prepared past the classroom, past a normal degree and have the ability to walk into opportunities in their
career.

LIP: What is your long-term vision for the university?

KC: We want to be recognized as a national teaching and research institution. We feel that that’s within our reach. We have a very strong pharmacy school. We’re looking forward to having a [Science, Engineering and Technology] school at Post in the near future. And we just hired a gentleman named Randy Bird, who was an executive at the University of Arizona, and he’s going to be leading our research initiative.

LIP: Can you explain LIU’s impact on the region?

KC: We’re one of the largest employers in the region. Think about the impact of a large scale research institution. First, students have the ability to learn and grow and be more prepared for graduate and doctoral programs, but it also creates a lot of jobs.

LIP: What sets LIU apart from other universities?

KC: We’re really focused on our students. I call it a student-first mentality. And that means making sure that they have the right opportunities in the classroom, that the classroom not only has lectures, but it has engaged learning so they get to practice what they learn. We have a unique arm of our institution, called LIU Global, where students can study for seven semesters around the world. There’s no other program like it in the world.

LIP: Many Long Islanders are moving to North Carolina, but you did the opposite. How have you found the transition?

KC: I moved here many years ago. I came to New York after college, married my husband and stayed for nearly 30 years. I love the area, I would not live anywhere else. It gives you the opportunity to be near the city, beautiful beaches out east, see a Broadway play. It’s a lovely place to live.

LIP: Do you have any sayings?

KC: Charlotte Frank, who was a longtime senior leader at McGraw-Hill, used to say, “You can do anything you want as long as you care enough.” And I believe that. If we’re really focused on our students and we care about them and we care about our future, I think we can make this institution one of the greatest in the country.

Suffolk Cops Find 2 Dead Bodies in 1 Day

police
Morguefile photo

Two sets of human remains were found about 20 miles apart on eastern Long Island on Saturday, Suffolk County police said.

In the first case, officers responded to a 911 call that a body washed up on Scotts Beach in Sound Beach at 8:17 a.m., but the caller said the body washed back into the water before police arrived, authorities said.

After Marine Bureau and Aviation Section officers joined the search, the body of a man was found on the beach near Hilltop Drive in Sound Beach at 3:20 p.m., police said.

And at 2 p.m. Saturday, police said they began investigating the discovery of skeletal remains in the yard of a Frank Street home in Brentwood.

Both sets of remains were taken to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office, where autopsies will be conducted to determine the identity and cause of death in each case.

Homicide Squad detectives are investigating both discoveries.

Investigators ask anyone with information to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392 or contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.