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.

Ex-NYPD Cop Pleads Guilty to Helping Long Island Heroin Traffickers

A retired New York City narcotics detective has admitted to having a role in a large-scale heroin ring that operated in Nassau, Queens and Brooklyn, Nassau County prosecutors said.

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

“This retired narcotics detective knew the deadly impact of heroin yet she helped her boyfriend profit from dealing poison in our communities,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “Anyone who enables the drug traffickers who fuel this epidemic should expect to be met with aggressive prosecution.”

Prosecutors 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.

Young is expected to be sentenced to probation when she is due back in court Aug. 27. Jackson was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted operating as a major trafficker last year.

New Restaurants: Dining Scene Additions

EAT, GRAPE LEAVES

The latest addition to the popular local chain of Grecian eateries of the same name, you feta believe Greek Xpress is cooking up simply delicious and proven healthy Mediterranean meals.

The eatery touts their commitment to using organic vegetables and meats, while importing their yogurt, figs, feta and olives directly from the homeland, making for a mouthwatering Tzatziki that’s tough to beat.

In addition to standard Greek fare, they also offer Souvlaki sticks ($3.95), Greek burgers ($7.95-$9.75) and smoothies.

Their other locations are in Brooklyn and at 59 Main St. in East Rockaway.

Greek Xpress, 7 Great Neck Rd., Great Neck Plaza, 516-570-6814, greekxpress.com.

LET THE DOOR HIT YOU

Serving up a fresh take on the farm-to-table trend is Barndoor 49, one of several new spots recently joining the burgeoning bar and restaurant scene in downtown Bay Shore.

The owners of Milk & Sugar closed the café after two decades and reinvented the locale as a rustic hideaway replete with reclaimed barnwood, a centrally located fireplace and retro details aplenty.

Stars of the menu include the Crispy Pork Belly with blackberry and raspberry jalepeño chutney and robiola bosnia cheese ($16), Pastrami Salmon with grilled red onion, tomato and horseradish creme ($15), and Buttermilk Pork Medallions with cauliflower puree, local potatoes and apple cider reduction ($25).

Barndoor 49, 49 West Main St., Bay Shore, 631-969-3655, barndoor49.com.

THE ROYAL TREATMENT

Celebrity Chef David Burke is rebooting The Garden City Hotel’s fine dining spaces, with King Bar and Red Salt Room making their debut this month as well as relaunching the Patio Bar.

Burke, of Top Chef Masters fame, is transforming the Polo Steakhouse into The Red Salt Room, which showcases his whimsical approach to regional and seasonal dishes. King Bar will feature New American with delightful shareable plates in an upscale lounge setting. The Patio Bar will have Burke’s unique spin on Tapas and craft libations.

His signature dishes include Angry Lobster, Burke’s Dumplings, Clothesline Candied Bacon, Cheesecake Lollypops and more.

The Garden City Hotel, 45 Seventh St., 516-747-3000, gardencityhotel.com.

First-time Candidates Win 2 Long Island Congressional Primaries

Liuba Grechen Shirley and Perry Gershon

First-time candidates beat current and former elected officials Tuesday in two of three Democratic congressional primaries on Long Island.

Liuba Grechen Shirley defeated Suffolk County Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) in the race to challenge U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) on Election Day. And Perry Gershon won a five-way primary that included two former lawmakers in his bid to face U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) this fall. U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), whose district includes part of Nassau County, fended off two primary challengers.

“I’m here today — we are all here today — to ensure that everyone in the 2nd District and all across America has the opportunity to succeed,” Shirley said in her victory speech. “For too long millionaires, corporations, and special interests have had a stranglehold on politics in this country. Today we say enough.”

Gregory, who was seeking a rematch against King, conceded.

“Tonight’s result is not what we wanted, but our mission remains the same: We must defeat Peter King in November,” he said. “It was a spirited race, and I hope to see this kind of enthusiasm from the Democratic Party ahead of the General Election.”

Shirley, a community organizer and economic expert from Amityville, made national headlines when she successfully lobbied the Federal Election Commission to become the first woman to use campaign funds for child care while on the trail.

In Zeldin’s East End district, Gershon declared victory.

“Tonight’s victory shows Suffolk County is energized and #NY01 is ready for change,” he wrote on Facebook. “I decided to run for Congress because I knew we needed a change in Washington. Suffolk County needs a strong voice.”

Zeldin’s re-election campaign issued a statement saying, in part, the congressman “looks forward to building upon his work for Long Island and our nation in his third term.”

Women Eye More Gains in Long Island’s Congressional Primaries

l. to r.: Kate Browning, Elaine DiMasi, Liuba Grechen Shirley and Vivian Viloria-Fisher.

Three women trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) have already made history as they outnumber men — a local first — in a five-way Democratic primary that voters will decide this month.

In Long Island’s two other June 26 congressional primaries, two men are challenging U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens) and a man and woman are vying to run against U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). But females are trying to make Zeldin’s East End district the next upset after women made historic wins in last year’s elections, most notably new Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

“Women are getting more active in electoral politics,” says Suffolk Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer. “We have a number of women county legislators and women who serve in various town positions, so we’re glad to see them taking the next step for the congressional.”

Twenty percent of Congress is female — 23 in the U.S. Senate and 84 in the U.S. House of Representatives. Carolyn McCarthy became LI’s first congresswoman in 1997 and her successor, U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), is the only member of the fairer sex in the Island’s five-member congressional contingent.

The female trio lining up against Zeldin includes former Brookhaven National Lab physicist Elaine DiMasi of Ronkonkoma, plus two term-limited ex-Suffolk County legislators: Vivian Viloria-Fisher of East Setauket and Kate Browning of Shirley, who’s considered one of two favorites in the race.

The other favorite is businessman Perry Gershon of East Hampton. Rounding out the ballot is David Pechefsky of Port Jefferson, who comes from a career government and nonprofit work.

“Our campaign continues to build a broad coalition of grassroots supporters, unions and elected officials who believe my blue-collar background and experience winning tough elections in a highly Republican district makes me the best candidate to beat Lee Zeldin,” said Browning, an Irish immigrant and longtime Working Families Party member who switched her registration to Democrat last year.

Viloria-Fisher, who was born in the Dominican Republic, touted herself as the first Latina ever elected in Suffolk, which gives her a unique perspective on the hot-button immigration issue.

“I will bring a fresh new face to the representation of [the district] in Washington, DC.,” she said during a candidate forum, according to Riverhead Local.

DiMasi’s main issue is defending the environment and science from President Donald Trump’s loosening of environmental regulations.

“Voters know that science is a powerful force,” says DiMasi. “We’re in the fight of our lives against those who treat it as a farce.”

In the primary to challenge King, Suffolk Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) is facing a challenger of his own while looking for a rematch against LI’s senior congressman, who’s district straddles the Nassau-Suffolk line. Liuba Grechen Shirley, a community organizer and economic expert from Amityville, made national headlines when she successfully lobbied the Federal Election Commission to become the first woman to use campaign funds for child care while on the trail.

“It’s time to take down the institutional barriers blocking mothers from running for office,” Grechen Shirley wrote in a Washington Post editorial. “And if I’m going to win, then I need a babysitter.”

King, like Zeldin, is predictably confident in his chances of re-election despite punditry espousing a coming so-called blue wave of Democratic voters turning the mid-term elections into a referendum on Trump’s Republican policies and his allies in the GOP congressional majority.

Also confident is Meeks, the only congressional incumbent facing challengers on Long Island in the lone all-male primary on local ballots. While Meeks’ district is mostly in Queens, he also represents parts of southwestern Nassau. His challengers include Mizan Choudhury, a businessman from Bellrose, and Carl Achille, an Elmont civic activist.

That race aside, it appears this primary will be a test of whether women will surf the blue wave to more possible Election Day upsets.

Feds Charge MS-13 Members in 3 More Murders

ms-13

Reputed MS-13 gang members were charged with killing three people, trying to kill several others, drug dealing and racketeering in a new indictment unsealed Thursday at Central Islip federal court, prosecutors said.

Members of the gang were indicted for the 2016 slayings of 19-year-old Oscar Acosta in Brentwood, 15-year-old Javier Castillo in Freeport and 34-year-old Dewann Stacks, also in Brentwood.

“Today’s indictment is our next step toward taking this despicable gang off the streets for good,” U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions said.

Prosecutors said the 73 charges stemmed from the fifth superseding indictment against the gang and added eight new defendants to the case, which includes 15 murders overall. It comes two weeks after President Trump visited Long Island to tout his administration’s crackdown on the gang.

Among the new defendants are 22-year-old Kevin “Quieto” Torres of Freeport, the leader of MS-13’s Sailor clique, who ordered Acosta’s murder. Another new defendant, 21-year-old Nelson “Mendigo” Argueta-Quintanilla, was accused of carrying out the murder by beating and slashing the victim to death on April 29, 2016. The victim’s skeletal remains were found later that fall.

Two more new defendants, 22-year-old Wilber Adalberto Fernandez-Vasquez of Roosevelt and 19-year-old Frank Alexander Ventura-Ramirez of Freeport, were charged with the Oct. 10, 2016 murder of Castillo. Days later, Ever “Grone” Flores, 22, of Roosevelt—also a new defendant in the case—was charged with the Oct. 13, 2016 murder of Stacks.

Several previously charged MS-13 members were implicated in all three killings. Authorities said the victims were all killed because the suspects believed they were members of rival gangs.

MS-13 members were also accused of slashing and shooting victims that survived various attacks in 2016 as a part of the latest charges, which also included marijuana and cocaine dealing offenses.  

The announcement comes a week after Nassau County police found 19-year-old Josue Amaya Leonor dead in a wooded area of his hometown of Roosevelt. His death is reportedly suspected of having MS-13 ties.

That discovery came shortly after Nassau authorities charged 18-year-old Josue Figueroa-Velasquez of Freeport with second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Angel Soler, who was also found dead last year in Roosevelt Preserve, the same woodlands where Leonor was found. Figueroa-Velasquez was the third reputed MS-13 member charged in that case.

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