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.
With national attention focused on the 2020 presidential race, local political candidates are campaigning hard in the final weeks before Election Day to counter the oft-lower voter turnout in such off-year elections.
In the most high-profile race on Long Island this year, Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone is seeking a third term to finish the work he’s started and Republican Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy is touting his fiscal background as what the county needs. In the most pivotal race across the county line, Democratic Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas is running for re-election for the first time against Republican attorney Frank McQuade. That’s in addition to dozens of seats on ballots in both county legislatures, towns, and the judiciary — elected offices that often hold more sway over daily life on LI than the presidency.
The races come amid the first general election since New York State election reforms — most notably, enacting early voting that allows voters to cast ballots over nine days starting Oct. 26 — went into effect. The goal of early voting is to improve the state’s ranking as 41st in the nation in voter turnout, according to a 2018 report by the New York State Senate Democratic Policy Group.
“For too long, people have been disenfranchised by limiting voting to one day per year,” said Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville). “The more opportunity people have to participate, the more they will. Allowing early voting and extending the number of days and times to vote will address low voter turnout and bring more people into the process.”
Among the races to watch in Suffolk, Republican former Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabor, whose 2009 re-election bid was undone after she was arrested for driving while intoxicated — a charge of which she was cleared — is challenging Legis. Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac). Additionally closely watched in Suffolk is Anthony Piccirillo, who’s running a rematch against Legis. William Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) and won a Conservative primary against Lindsay as a write-in.
Democrats have an 11-7 majority in the Suffolk legislature, meaning the GOP would have to flip at least three seats to regain control for the first time in 14 years. In Nassau, Democrats have to unseat two Republicans to regain the majority of that GOP-run chamber first the first time since 2009.
Races to watch in Nassau include the contest between Legis. C. William Gaylor III (R-Lynbrook) and Democratic challenger Laura Burns of Rockville Centre. Also eyed in Nassau are two town supervisor races. GOP Oyster Bay Town Clerk James Altadonna switched to the Democratic side in a bid to unseat Republican Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino. And freshman Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen — the first Democrat to hold the post in more than a century — is facing off against Republican Hempstead Town Tax Receiver Don Clavin.
Seven Libertarian candidates are also running on the minor-party line for various county offices — three in Nassau, four in Suffolk — including Gregory Fischer for Suffolk executive, and anti-red-light camera activist Stephen Ruth, who’s running against Legis. Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) and his Democratic challenger David Bligh. Fellow Libertarian photo traffic enforcement opponent Lynda Frego is running against Legis. Rudolph Sunderman (R-Mastic), who pleaded not guilty to felony perjury and misdemeanor ethics charges in July, and his Democratic challenger Daryl Edelstein. By comparison, the only other county-level candidates running on a sole minor-party line are the Conservatives, who have three in Suffolk.
Election Day falls on Nov. 5 this year. To find your local polling place, contact the Nassau or Suffolk county board of elections.
Pomodorino Trattoria Italiano in Huntington is spicing up its family style old world culinary offerings with a new side of entertainment inspired by the restaurant’s history as a former storied comedy club.
The casual, affordable restaurant known for its spot-on brick oven thin crust pizza, hearty Italian classics, and mouthwatering culinary creations may also be remembered as the former location of East Side Comedy Club, where Eddie Murphy, Ray Romano, Kevin James, Jerry Seinfeld, Rosie O’Donnell, and other big name comics got their start in the 1980s and ’90s.
“We’re bringing comedy back, entertainment, stepping up the staff,” says former advertising executive Phil Adamo, one of the new owners who recently took over the restaurant, which has been in business for 23 years. “We will make it even better.”
Adamo said the restaurant kept the great chef and staff, some of whom have been working here for many years.
On a recent visit, this reporter started with appetizers including the crispy, tender fried calamari with a side of Pomodorino’s tomato and basil sauce, the impressive homemade meatballs, and the tasty antipasto with grilled asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, soppressata, salami, Parmigiano, and Gaeta olives.
For the main course, we had the linguine oreganata — shrimp sautéed in white wine, garlic, oregano and seasoned bread crumbs served over linguini — and ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta cheese in a walnut cream sauce, which tastes as good as it sounds. We capped off the meal with the never-disappointing tartufo gelato, a heavenly slice of cheesecake, and a picture-perfect cappuccino.
As for the entertainment, Adamo has been in touch with the club’s old owner, comic Richie Minervini, as the restaurant beefs up its lineup, including East Side Comedy Night on Sept. 26, psychic nights, part owner and saxophonist Tom Juliano playing with his band every Monday, and recurring Wednesday night appearances with actor and chef Joseph Gannascoli, who played Vito Spatafore on the HBO series The Sopranos, and will be cooking up his homemade carbonara on Sept. 18, Oct. 2, and Nov. 13.
“We are billing this as Murderously Delicious Wednesdays,” Adamo says, joking that it’s “a really fun time, but nobody is getting whacked.”
Pomodorino is located at 326 West Jericho Tpke. in Huntington. For reservations call 631- 425-1196. Information is on the events page at pomodorino.com
A Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory-affiliated plant biologist who’s investigating ways to breed higher-yielding crops with the goal of safeguarding food security was named Wednesday one of 26 MacArthur Fellowship so-called genius grant recipients.
Zachary Lippman, 41, who received his Ph.D. from the Watson School of Biological Sciences at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 2004, leads a team that’s studying how best to edit the genes of plants so they flower more, increasing fruit production, to mitigate the growing threat of climate change on the food supply.
“There’s a big challenge facing agriculture in the 21st century,” Lippman said of his work. “The population is growing, we have less usable land for agriculture, the climate is shifting in ways that are still very unpredictable, and crops are at the front line of having to deal with this climate change. Gene editing will allow us to hopefully adapt crops to these new climate conditions to increase productivity.”
The MarArthur Foundation issues the $625,000 grants to fellows from a broad array of professions from scientists to artists who demonstrate exceptional creativity and need support to make their game-changing ideas reality. Lippman is one of seven New Yorkers to earn the honor this year.
“From addressing the consequences of climate change to furthering our understanding of human behavior to fusing forms of artistic expression, this year’s 26 extraordinary MacArthur Fellows demonstrate the power of individual creativity to reframe old problems, spur reflection, create new knowledge, and better the world for everyone,” said MacArthur Foundation President John Palfrey. “They give us reason for hope, and they inspire us all to follow our own creative instincts.”
It’s hardly the first honor for Cold Spring Harbor Lab researchers. Since being founded in 1890, the lab has won eight Nobel Prizes for its breakthroughs in molecular biology and genetics, most notably for James Watson’s and Francis Crick’s discovery of the double helix structure of DNA.
Nassau Educators Federal Credit Union (NEFCU) changed its name to Jovia Financial Credit Union this week in an effort to re-brand as it continues to grow its reach beyond just one county.
The Westbury-based credit union made the change effective Monday. The move comes 13 years after it changed its name to NEFCU from Valley Stream Teachers Federal Credit Union, as it was originally known when it was founded 81 years ago.
“We needed a new name, one that connects us to all of Long Island and Long Islanders,” said John Deieso, Jovia’s president and CEO. “Given our growth and the dramatic changes we’ve undertaken recently, it was time for a name that represents who we are, where we’re headed and what best captures the spirit and energy of this dynamic and fast-growing credit union.”
Jovia has more than $3 billion in assets, nearly 200,000 members, and branches with a soon-to-be 20 shared branch network throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties. Membership requires living, working, going to school, or regularly doing business anywhere on Long Island, except the South Fork or Shelter Island.
It recently launched new Interactive Teller Machine (ITM) technology, extended hours in its branches and call center, and is bill as one of the most committed supporters of the communities it serves.
Last year, Jovia was rated the top credit union in New York State by the independent research firm Callahan & Associates, and this past month it was ranked in the top three in Forbes magazine’s Top Credit Unions in Each State survey.
Deieso said the name Jovia — pronounced JO-vee-ah — is derived from the word jovial, is intended to connote optimism, trust, and “banking on the bright side.” The newly named credit union will be most visible when the 2020 Jovia Long Island Marathon takes place next spring.
Despite the change, the credit union will remain involved in supporting and promoting education, from scholarships, to teacher grants, to financial literacy programs.
Officials held a ground-breaking ceremony Monday to celebrate construction starting on the Islanders’ new arena at Belmont Park in Elmont — the project that’s bringing the NHL team home to Long Island.
Fans cheered the development, which includes a new Long Island Rail Road station that will make it easier for the public to take mass transit to games and concerts at the $1.3 billion arena. But the project is not without its critics. The ceremony came days after opponents filed a second lawsuit that aims to block the project.
“This is going to be a transformative project that I think is gonna energize all of Long Island,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. Of the economic benefits, new LIRR station, and Isles’ homecoming, the governor said: “The technical economic development term is that is a hat-trick, my friends.”
The new 19,000-seat arena being built on 43 acres of vacant land next to the racetrack that’s home to the Belmont Stakes is slated to open in time for the team’s 2021-2022 season. Officials say it will bring 10,000 construction jobs, 3,200 permanent jobs, shops, restaurants, a hotel and billions of dollars in economic activity to the area. The long-awaited project comes after several attempts to rebuild the Isles’ original home at Nassau Coliseum failed, prompting the team to moved to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The celebration comes after several Elmont civic groups jointly filed a lawsuit Saturday in state court in Mineola challenging the legality of the environmental review that state officials used to approve the project. The suit echoes similar claims that the Village of Floral Park made in a separate case that was recently filed.
Despite the pending litigation, the ground-breaking ceremony was a formality held a month after construction actually began. Work crews could be seen laying the groundwork for the project in the distance behind the podium where the ceremony was held. If opponents will succeed in convincing a judge to halt the work remains to be seen.
In the meantime, officials also announced that the NHL approved a request to have the Islanders play an additional seven regular season games — for a total of 28 — at the newly renovated NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, where the team won their record four consecutive Stanley Cups four decades ago.
John Keenan, the retired New York City Police chief of detectives from Rockville Centre who led the investigation of Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz in 1977, died Thursday. He was 99.
Keenan was remembered as a hero for his service in the U.S. Army during World War II and in the NYPD after that. The devoted family man was three months shy of his 100th birthday at the time of his passing.
“My grandfather was an accomplished, brilliant man,” said his 34-year-old grandson, Kevin Brennan, an NYC school administrator also from Rockville Centre. “He was exceedingly humble, honest and kind. He was the finest man I’ll ever know and we all miss him dearly.”
Before serving 37 years in the NYPD, Keenan was a member of the Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II, participated in the D-Day Invasion, the Battle of the Bulge, and the liberation of Paris. He finished his service in the U.S. Army as a 1st lieutenant.
“The NYPD mourns the passing of retired Chief of @NYPDDetectives John Keenan, who took the confession of ‘.44-cal killer’ David Berkowitz,” Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill tweeted.
Keenan was appointed to the NYPD on June 9, 1941 and retired on July 25, 1978. After the NYPD, he served as vice president for operations of the New York Racing Association.
“Truly saddened to learn that former Chief of Detectives John Keenan has passed,” tweeted Chief of Detectives Dermot F. Shea. “A life of epic heroism … We salute you, sir.”
Keenan and his 97-year-old wife Sara were married 73 years. He was a father of three: Joan Keenan Brennan (Kevin), the late Mary Ellen Keenan Carey (James), and the late Sara Keenan. He is also survived by five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
“He was really kind of the center of our family,” Brennan said. “He really provided for me and my siblings and my cousins an example of how a man should treat his wife, his children, and his grandchildren, and other people in general.”
Reposing is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at Macken Mortuary, Rockville Centre, Chapel 52, Clinton Avenue. His funeral mass is set for 11 a.m. Monday at St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre followed by interment at Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.
Long Island’s top businesses were honored Thursday for their leadership during the Hauppauge Industrial Association’s 25th annual Business Achievement Awards at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
SUNation Solar Systems, Inc. won in the large business category, defense contractor EastWest Industries won for small business, assisted living facility Dominican Village took home the not-for-profit prize, and named rookie of the year was Pure Mammography, a two-year-old startup that offers women’s health screenings in the convenience of a spa-like storefront at Smith Haven Mall. Northwell Health hospital group, New York State’s largest private employer, earned a special leadership award.
“This is not just an event,” HIA-LI President and CEO Terri Alessi-Miceli said as she looked out over the crowd of hundreds of business leaders in the audience. “This is about bringing businesses together. This is about people who are making things happen.”
The Hauppauge Industrial Association Long Island (HIA-LI) is the trade group representing the 1,300 businesses that employ more than 55,000 workers at the Hauppauge Industrial Park, the nation’s second largest industrial park after Silicon Valley.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail,” Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling said while quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson during his acceptance speech.
Finalists in the large business category were American Diagnostic Corporation, Custom Computer Specialists, Inc., JLL, and Northwell Heath. Runners up in the small business category were Accu Data Workforce Solutions, Contemporary Computer Services, Inc., National Business Capital & Services, and Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.
The finalists for rookie of the year were Naka Technologies, LLC, SynchroPET, and Senior Health Plan Specialists Inc. The not-for-profit runners up were ACLD, CN Guidance & Counseling Services, EPIC Long Island, Independent Group Home Living Program, Inc., and Splashes of Hope.
“It’s a prestigious honor to be recognized by the HIA,” said Theresa Ferraro, president of Ronkonkoma-based East-West Industries. “What we were were being recognized for really truly is the founding principals of East/West … saving air crew lives.”
Raising awareness of charitable causes while championing young organizers as they bring awareness to the causes they care about is a new nonprofit online platform called LightEmUp that will both amplify advocates’ voices and create scholarships for them.
The initiative is the brainchild of Christina Ahern, a former marketer and mother of four from Manhasset, who has spent the past two years developing the site, which is expected to launch next month — creating a new forum for a community of do-gooders to boost one another’s efforts.
“The point of it is to provide financial support so a rising generation can keep the fire lit in their hearts so they can go on to continue to make an impact and turn their compassion into careers.” she says. “These kids are doing tremendous things, from doing lemonade stands to innovating ways to handle waste in the community … they deserve recognition for what they’re doing.”
The social media portion of the website will launch first and will initially have a local focus before building a national audience. Users will be able to post administrator-approved video, photo, and text posts — sparks, in the parlance of the platform — about their campaigns and events. Once it gains steam, users will be able to compete for scholarships by having the online community vote for the best initiative, to be on par with the typical scholarships that reward athletics and academics.
Using the tag line “this is your moment in history,” Ahern says the name is a nod to her grandfather, who was a U.S. Army paratrooper during the Normandy invasion and lit the runway for American military aircraft to land during World War II.
Channeling the spirit of the greatest generation, LightEmUp aims to boost those that restore faith in humanity by making a positive impact on the world through their community service and charitable efforts. And if all goes as planned, the forum will be the launchpad that propel 1,000 community organizers and charity drives.
“We need to put incentives behind what we need most,” Ahern says. “We need more great people doing more great things. That is what we will do. We will catapult and reward individuals, in effect LightEmUp, so they go on to make our world a better place.”
LightEmUp is looking for content to support the launch. Share what you are doing to make your communities and our world a better place.
The Suffolk County bike-sharing program that recently launched in Babylon, Patchogue, and Southampton will soon debut in Riverhead, officials announced Wednesday.
The program operated by bike share company Zagster through a partnership with Suffolk County and sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union is designed to link public transportation with downtown areas and parks while reducing traffic.
“Bike share programs are a popular and easy form of transportation that I am excited to bring to Riverhead,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. “These programs are an important part in the last-mile connection for public transportation, connecting people with Riverhead’s businesses, as well as making it easier for people to enjoy the recently completed Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bike Trail at EPCAL. This bike share program will be an incredible asset for our town, and for our residents.”
Users will be able to rent, locate, and unlock bikes using an app called Pace on their smartphones, then paying a fee based on their use of the bike, or they can sign up for a monthly membership. Riders can pause their trip to stop at a local business, park, or other location.
Six bike racks will be placed in Riverhead with 25 bikes total. Five of the racks will be in downtown Riverhead and a sixth will be at the EPCAL bike trail. This initial launch is part of a two-year pilot program with opportunities in the future for additional sponsors and expansion.
It was the best of schools, it was the worst of schools.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Garden City High School among the nation’s top 300 high schools and its football team, the Trojans, is grabbing headlines for its two-year winning streak. Three miles away at neighboring Hempstead High School, the graduation rate was until recently among the lowest in the nation, 37 percent, which made it the subject of a CBS 2 News documentary about the school administration’s long-festering corruption. Now, as New York State lawmakers await word on whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo will sign or veto a bill creating an oversight panel to help fix the Hempstead School District’s troubled finances, a convicted pedophile regularly roams its school grounds while class is in session, documents obtained by the Press show.
“We can’t turn a blind eye to these children,” says Melissa Figueroa, a former Hempstead School District board member pushing for reforms in the district that the state has termed “persistently struggling.”
Hempstead is not the only troubled school district on Long Island. The Wyandanch School District suspended its superintendent this summer and its athletics program was saved just before the school year by donors. And a handful of other districts have come under state scrutiny for their fiscal practices. But what sets Hempstead apart are the deep-seated issues that have been entrenched for decades and the routine infighting that stifles reforms.
Backing the current Hempstead School District board majority is a group called Hempstead for Hempstead, whose self-proclaimed founder is Thomas Parsley, a former Hempstead school board member who was removed from the post in 2004 after being convicted of stealing a principal’s debit card and withdrawing $500. In 2010, records show, he was convicted of sexual misconduct against a 15-year-old boy, sentenced to a year in jail, and ordered to register as a level-three sex offender — the classification given to those at the highest risk of recidivism.
Sex offenders can be barred from being on school grounds as a condition of their release, but law enforcement sources confirm that Parsley is no longer on parole. Video surveillance footage obtained by the Press shows Parsley freely walking the halls of the school, chatting with campus security and school officials. Although he’s allowed to be there, the district terminated its use of Arrow Security after ABC 7 News reported that one of the company’s guards was also a level-three sex offender not on parole working evenings at Hempstead Middle School while waiting for his license to be approved.
Parsley could not be reached for comment. The current school board did not respond to a request for comment.
SEMESTER OF DESPAIR
Parsley isn’t the only convict with ties to the administration. Randy Stith is a disgraced ex-village cop who pleaded guilty this spring to criminal possession of a forged instrument and petit larceny in a plea deal that allows him to keep his elected school board membership. But the district’s issues don’t end at school grounds, either.
Nassau County prosecutors have also recently arrested three Hempstead village police commanders and a village trustee in an alleged bribery scheme. And Hempstead, the state’s largest village, has seen such an uptick in gang violence that state police were called in this summer to help patrol the streets. The same streets on which students are required to walk to school because the district doesn’t offer buses.
Of the District’s 7,600 students, some 70 percent come from families who receive public assistance; 40 percent are not proficient in English; and 10 percent are students with disabilities. Over the last decade, the school district’s enrollment has shifted to 70 percent Hispanic or Latino, 31 percent black or African American, and 2 percent white.
By comparison, the neighboring well-to-do, mostly white Village of Garden City — where the average household income is $137,788 annually, versus $94,158 in Hempstead — and its high-achieving schools seem like Shangri-La.
“Growing up in Hempstead, I immediately became very aware of various social, educational, and economic inequities,” says freshman Assemblywoman Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead), who was a lead sponsor of the bill that passed in June to create a three-member panel of Hempstead School District fiscal oversight monitors. “I could not understand how the largest village in the country had one of the worst-performing school districts. I could not understand how I received a phenomenal education a few miles away in the Uniondale School District.
“I could not understand how I could walk to Garden City from my home and immediately be transferred to nirvana — a place with beautiful green space, smooth roads, economic development, and a high-performing school district,” she continues. “Why was Hempstead struggling to survive while the surrounding areas were thriving?”
Asked if the governor intends to sign or veto the bill, a spokesman for Cuomo says, “The bill is under review.” The spokesman added that the 10-day clock for the governor has not yet started because his office has not received the bill. Darling says that’s because the governor’s office has not yet requested the bill be formally sent to his office.
All bills passed during the legislative session have to be acted on by the governor before the end of the calendar year. If the governor does not act within 10 days after requesting and receiving a bill, the bill automatically becomes law.
Among those who sent letters of support urging the governor to sign the bill are Long Island Association Vice President of Government Affairs & Communication Matthew Cohen, U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), and Rockville Centre School District Superintendent William Johnson.
“Corruption, mediocracy, irresponsibility, lack of leadership, and the failure by the state of not doing the right thing for supporting the rights for the thousands of children ‘without a voice’ has occurred for years,” Gil Bernardino, executive director of the nonprofit Circulo de la Hispanidad, also wrote in support of the bill. “This situation would not happen in other school districts like those surrounding this district: Garden City and Rockville Centre.”
The Hempstead School District board has been on record opposing the measure, which would give the oversight panel veto power over spending.
WHAT’S BEFORE THEM?
The push for more oversight in Hempstead schools comes amid changes in leadership locally and at the state level.
State Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia resigned last month to take a new job and her replacement was not named as of press time. And the Hempstead school board elevated Regina Armstrong from the title of acting superintendent to interim superintendent following the board’s controversial firing of reform-minded superintendent Shimon Waronker last year.
Waronker maintains that his firing was retribution for trying to clean up what he referred to as a “cesspool” of corruption he uncovered during his brief tenure — findings he referred to law enforcement. He sued to get his job back but lost and the district filed administrative charges against him, but has yet to schedule a hearing on the issue.
A state-appointed monitor, Jack Bierwirth, credited the district with making some progress, but noted that it could take five to 10 years for a true turnaround to occur. The district says it increased its graduation rate to 61 percent, which is still below the national average of 84 percent and Long Island average of 90 percent.
Will the Hempstead School District’s board graduate to a functioning entity before it’s too late? Stay tuned.