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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.

Flashes of Intolerance Amid Long Island George Floyd Protests

L. to R.: An ex-Nassau County police employee spits at a black man in Merrick, a truck nearly runs over a Black Lives Matter protester in West Babylon, and protesters leave watermelons at Tutto Pazzo in Huntington after the restaurant owner said he was going to throw water melons at George Floyd protesters in Huntington.

Some Long Islanders have responded with intolerance to the dozens of peaceful anti-police brutality protests that have swept Nassau and Suffolk counties in the past week.

Merrick residents infamously tried to block Black Lives Matter demonstrators from marching through their mostly white community this week and told them to “go west” toward more diverse neighboring Freeport. The owner of Huntington-based restaurant Tutto Pazzo apologized after calling marchers “savages” and saying he was going to throw watermelons at the protesters. The CEO of Dominican Village, a nonprofit assisted living facility in Amityville, was put on leave after commenting on a Facebook photo of a rally that someone should “run the dirt down.” Someone tried to run over protesters in West Babylon while yelling “white lives matter!” And an ex-Nassau County police employee was caught on video using a racial slur and spitting at a black man on Merrick Avenue in Merrick.

“The Nassau County Police Department has been made aware of a video circulating on social media which captured an unfortunate incident in which a former employee was disrespectful and antagonistic using a racial slur towards a protester,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said Friday in a joint statement. “This person has not been employed by the police department in two years. In no way does his behavior reflect the commitment that the Nassau County Police Department has to protect and serve all people.”

Thousands of people have been marching locally in support of nationwide protests sparked by a shocking video of a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly killing an unarmed black man by placing a knee on his neck and ignoring the victim’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Four cops were fired and charged in the death of George Floyd.

Despite many Long Islanders falling for false social media claims that the protests were going to turn into riots as they had elsewhere, such as New York City, which is under a week-long curfew to curb looting, the biggest disruption on LI to date has been marchers blocking traffic and kneeling in roadways in non-violent civil disobedience. 

The reaction is unsurprising, given LI’s long history of segregation. Hempstead residents won a federal lawsuit after a judge ruled Garden City’s zoning unfairly discriminated against minorities, well-heeled Dix Hills sits atop mostly black Wyandanch  which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dubbed “one of the most economically distressed communities on Long Island” — and a report released in 2014 by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA branded LI “one of the most segregated and fragmented suburban rings in the country.”

With more protests expected through the weekend and people already on edge due to the coronavirus pandemic, tensions are sure to remain high in the days ahead.

Related Story: Thousands of George Floyd Protesters Again Take Over Long Island Roads

Related Story: Internet Rumors of Long Island Protest Violence Untrue, Cops Say

Related Story: Merrick Residents Try To Block Anti-Police Brutality Protesters

Related Story: Police Brutality Protests Across Long Island Spark Riot Fears

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Thousands of George Floyd Protesters Again Take Over Long Island Roads

The Black Lives Matter and George Floyd memorial march closed down part of Sunrise Highway. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

Anti-police brutality protesters again blocked traffic on local roadways Thursday as the latest in a week of demonstrations across Long Island ended peacefully with neither arrests nor injuries.

The biggest of several rallies Thursday came when a crowd estimated at more than 6,000 marched in Merrick in a show of force meant to rebuke a group of homeowners that had tried to block a smaller march earlier this week.

“No justice no peace!” the Black Lives Matters picketers chanted as the march stepped off from the Long Island Rail Road station in Merrick.

The march was the latest in dozens of recent rallies in Nassau and Suffolk counties in support of nationwide protests sparked by a shocking video of a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly killing an unarmed black man by placing a knee on his neck and ignoring the victim’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Four cops were fired and charged in the death of George Floyd.

The latest Merrick protest marched from the LIRR station southbound on Merrick Avenue, westbound on Merrick Road into Bellmore, northbound on Bedford Avenue, and westbound on Sunrise Highway back to the Merrick LIRR station.

Video of the march showed Nassau County police formed a line at the corner of Merrick Road and Newbridge Road on the west side of Bellmore. But the protesters were ultimately allowed to pass and demonstrate through downtown Bellmore.

Protestors kneel on Merrick Avenue in Merrick. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

Later, about 500 marchers blocked the Southern State Parkway for about two hours.

“The Southern State Parkway was closed from the Meadowbrook State Parkway to the Wantagh State Parkway in both directions during the protest,” New York State Police said. 

Nassau County police, Suffolk County police, and state police all report there were neither injuries nor arrests during the latest peaceful protests, despite yet another string of false internet rumors that agitators would use the demonstrations as a chance to riot and loot, as has happened elsewhere, triggering a week of curfews and clashes in New York City. Authorities have reminded Long Islanders not to be so easily duped by such baseless claims on social media.

Roadways that previous protests on LI have taken over include William Floyd Parkway and Sunrise Highway in Shirley, New York Avenue in Huntington, and Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton, among others.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said the only incident was a small fire reported in a vehicle parked at the Merrick LIRR station late Thursday, but she said it was unclear if it was related to the protests and police are continuing the investigation into the cause of the fire. Police said the vehicle belonged to a protester.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the most dramatic thing he saw besides the march itself was a brief moment of tension.

“I walked every inch of that with every one of those protesters,” he said. “We had one woman down on Merrick Avenue who decided to challenge the tail end of the group. She got surrounded by a group of protesters at that point. I actually stepped in between. And then several protesters stepped between me and them and said, ‘no, we’re not gonna do that. We’re not doing that here’ and they pushed them back out. Antagonized by the woman that was behind them. Not by the protesters.”

Protestors briefly gathered outside of Merrick train station after walking to Bellmore. (Photo by Mira Lerner)

Related Story: Internet Rumors of Long Island Protest Violence Untrue, Cops Say

Related Story: Merrick Residents Try To Block Anti-Police Brutality Protesters

Related Story: Police Brutality Protests Across Long Island Spark Riot Fears

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A Rookie Guide to Long Island Kayak, Paddle Board Destinations

Taken at Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge in Shirley NY. (Getty Images)

Summer is more than just beach season. For kayakers, paddle boarders, and other human-powered boaters, it’s also high time to explore the intricate maze of waterways off the coast of Long Island.

While the ocean draws most of the crowds, the back bays and connecting small waterways surrounding Nassau and Suffolk counties are overflowing with vistas of the region’s bountiful natural beauty and wildlife sightings.

“Paddling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and exercise at the same time,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.

Of course, canoes, rowboats, and beachable sailboats are also welcome to wander through the shallow waterfront. So check the tide tables, make a float plan, and shove off at these coastal destinations. 

CAPTREE STATE PARK
This boating and fishing oasis of a park has more to offer than just party and charter boats. Paddlers can launch from the overlook parking field directly into the Great South Bay and cruise the coast of fabulous Fire Island. 3500 East Ocean Pkwy., Bay Shore, 631-669-0449, parks.ny.gov/parks/captree

HECKSCHER STATE PARK
Conveniently located at the eastern end of the Southern State Parkway, this waterfront park allows paddlers to launch from Field 7 into the north side of the Great South Bay and lower Connetquot River. 1 Heckscher State Pkwy., East Islip, 631-581-2100, parks.ny.gov/parks/heckscher

HITHER HILLS STATE PARK
Paddlers at this South Fork park located in the heart of the Hamptons can launch into Napeague Harbor, which opens into stunning Gardiners Bay. 164 Old Montauk Hwy., Montauk, 631-668-2554, parks.ny.gov/parks/hitherhills

JK KAYAK & SUP
Serving Nassau and Suffolk counties is this kayak and stand-up paddle board guided tour company. Their certified guides offer tours of Cold Spring Harbor, the Connetquot River, and more. 130 Harbor Rd., Cold Spring Harbor, 800-489-0398, jkkayak.com

NISSEQUOGUE RIVER STATE PARK
This North Shore river launch is less than a mile upstream from the mouth of Smithtown Bay, which opens into the Long Island Sound. But timing is key, as launching and landing are impossible during low tide due to mud flats. Reservations required. 799 Saint Johnland Rd., Kings Park, 631-269-4927, parks.ny.gov/parks/110

PAUMANOK TOURS
The company’s North Shore water tour guides supply the kayaks and bring the equipment to you. Its certified guides are there to assist everyone from beginners to experienced paddlers looking to experience new destinations. Guides offer tours of a half-dozen waterways: Flanders Bay, Port Jefferson Harbor, Carmans River, Peconic River, Mt. Sinai Harbor, and Setauket Harbor. 8 Three Village Ln., Setauket-East Setauket, 631-404-6447, Paumanoktours.com

SHELTER ISLAND KAYAK TOURS
Although temporarily closed due to the pandemic, nobody knows the secluded shores of majestic Shelter Island better. 71 Cartwright Rd., Shelter Island, 631-749-1990, Kayaksi.com

SMITH POINT MARINA
This Suffolk County-run park off William Floyd Parkway in Shirley has a self-launch ramp where Bellport Bay meets Narrow Bay, where the distance between Fire Island and mainland Long Island is the smallest. 1 William Floyd Pkwy., Shirley, 631-852-1313, suffolkcountyny.gov

THE SOUTH SHORE BLUEWAY TRAIL
This watery trail spans the four western bays south of Nassau County, from the West Bay in the Five Towns, Middle Bay south of Baldwin and Freeport, the East Bay off Bellmore and Merrick, and South Oyster Bay north of Jones Beach. It comprises hundreds of acres of tidal wetlands, creeks, channels, mudflats, and salt marshes that are home to a wide variety of fish and migratory shorebirds. The route steers users by scenic, historic, and environmentally significant points of interest, allowing the nonmotorized boating public to rediscover the coastal resources up close without harming the ecosystem. The Blueway features more than a dozen routes across 21,100 acres of waterways accessible from nine boat ramps along 18 miles of coast. Paddlers are advised to check permitting requirements for launching watercraft from town, village, county, and New York State-run facilities. Multiple locations, southshoreblueway.com

SUNKEN MEADOW STATE PARK
It’s not all about the South Shore. Check out the Long Island Sound and Nissequogue River from launch sites at the east end of Field 3. Sunken Meadow Pkwy., Kings Park, 631-269-4333, parks.ny.gov/parks/37

WHERE TO RENT

Bridge Marine, 40 Ludlam Ave., Bayville, 516-628-8688, bridgemarinesales.com

Dinghy Shop, 334 South Bayview Ave., Amityville, 631-264-0005, dinghyshop.com

Great Bay Marine, 1110 Flanders Rd., Flanders, 631-204-0034, greatbayboats.com

Rent-a-Boat, 320 South Country Rd., Brookhaven, 631-286-7816, rentaboat.com

Lighthouse Marina, 2229 Meetinghouse Creek Rd., Aquebogue, 631-722-3400, lighthousemarina.com

Long Island Boat Rentals, 403 Main St., Port Washington, 516-761-0840, liboatrentals.com

Puff ‘N’ Putt Family Fun Center, 659 Montauk Hwy., Montauk, 631-668-4473, puffnputt.com

Silly Lilly Fishing Station, 99 Adelaide Ave., East Moriches, 631-878-0247, sillylilly.com

Strong’s Marine, 2400 Camp Mineola Rd., Mattituck, 631-298-4770, strongsmarine.com

Ted’s Fishing Station, 143 Bayside Dr., Point Lookout, 516-431-4193, tedsfishingstation.com

The Waterfront Center, 1 West End Ave., Oyster Bay, 516-922-7245, thewaterfrontcenter.org

Uihlein’s Marina, Boat Rental, and Motel, 444 West Lake Dr., Montauk, 631-668-3799, uihleinsmarina.com

SAFETY TIPS
Wear a life jacket, sunscreen
Keep track of the weather, tides, and currents
Pack a waterproof VHF marine radio
Leave a float plan on your dashboard stating where you’re paddling and when you’ll return
Avoid swimming areas
Pack bottled water, snacks, and a first aid kit
Use common sense

Internet Rumors of Long Island Protest Violence Untrue, Cops Say

About 100 peaceful protesters knelt in front of Islip Town Hall on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

Rumors that agitators at anti-police brutality protests on Long Island were throwing bricks into traffic and secretly placing bricks along march routes to start looting stores this week are untrue, Nassau and Suffolk county police said.

Unconfirmed reports that bricks were being thrown from bridges onto cars below Tuesday in Suffolk were later discredited. And Nassau police said that internet rumors of little yellow crosses on local road signs being part of a coordinated effort also amounted to little more than baseless fear mongering.

“We’ve received reports re: yellow crosses being painted on different objects throughout Nassau County,” Nassau police tweeted. “The message on social media is that they’re being used to I.D. locations where protesters should leave bricks and other items to commit acts of criminal mischief during protests. Current investigations have found that the yellow crosses and the words ‘Jesus Christ Is God’ have been observed for over a month and have NOTHING to do with the current protests.”

Thousands of people have been rallying in Nassau and Suffolk counties in support of nationwide protests sparked by a shocking video of a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly killing an unarmed black man by placing a knee on his neck and ignoring the victim’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Four cops were fired and charged with murder in the death of George Floyd.

In Suffolk, the rumors went a step further and falsely claimed that bricks had actually been thrown. 

“The Suffolk County Police Department is aware of posts circulating on social media reporting quantities of bricks and similar materials being left in various locations to be used by individuals to commit criminal acts,” the department said. “The SCPD has not received credible information about bricks being placed in Suffolk County for criminal acts.”

While protests sweeping the nation have in some places been hijacked by violent agitators that start riots and looting, like those that sparked a week of clashes and curfews in New York City, a week of rallies on LI have remained peaceful. The biggest local disruption to date has been demonstrators temporarily blocking traffic.

Officials suggested people think before they share false information on social media.

“What I’m concerned about…is outside influencers,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “People on social media changing flyers, putting frightening things up that turn out not to be true. People who don’t live in Nassau County, people who don’t care about Nassau County, but are perfectly happy to sprinkle bits of chaos here and there and then sit back and watch and see what happens. Don’t let them play you. Be skeptical. Just because it’s on social media does not mean that it’s true.”

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder agreed.

“People are stirring it up,” he said. “‘There’s bricks everywhere in Nassau County and ever town was looted,’ if you paid attention to all these social media. None of it happened.”

Ryder noted that social media rumors that bricks were left along Merrick Road in Merrick to incite riots were actually left there from a recent construction project. He noted shopkeepers had started hiding the bricks so the bricks wouldn’t be used as projectiles.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also expressed concern about how easily social media users are duped into believing misinformation that fuels chaos.

“It is right now incredibly easy for somebody to create chaos on social media on the internet from their basement with a computer and a keyboard,” he said, noting that police are investigating social media posts falsely claiming looting occurred in Suffolk. “We cannot go on like this where it is so easy to create havoc, to create chaos … by just posting things on social media that are not true.”

Related Story: Merrick Residents Try To Block Anti-Police Brutality Protesters

Related Story: Police Brutality Protests Across Long Island Spark Riot Fears

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Long Island “On Track” For Phase 2 of Reopening Next Week, Will Include Outdoor Dining

A worker hangs an "opening soon" sign in fron of Verace, an Italian restaurant in Islip, on May 13, 2020. Long Island Press photo.

Long Island is expected to hit phase two of reopening from the coronavirus shutdown next week, which will mean the return of professional services, finance, retail, administrative support, real estate — and now, outdoor dining. 

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said there will be two weeks between each of the four phases. Since LI hit phase one on May 27, Nassau and Suffolk counties are believed to reach the phase two milestone on June 10. Barber shops and hair salons are included in the professional services, but nail salons are not. And on Wednesday, the governor moved outdoor dining up from phase three to phase two — meaning patrons can once again enjoy outdoor dining next week, too.

“We are on track for next week phase two and we couldn’t be more ready for it,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Wednesday during a news conference outside of her office in Mineola.

Most of New York State has begun reopening, except for New York City, an epicenter of the pandemic, which is expected to start phase one on June 8. Parts of upstate New York are already in phase two. All but essential services have been closed or required to telecommute statewide since mid-March.

The third phase of reopening includes hotels. If there is no spike in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations between the phases, LI may reach phase three on June 24. The fourth and final phase includes education, recreation, and arts and entertainment, which may be on July 8. 

Officials have begun planning to temporarily close Main Streets in local downtowns on certain days to make room for outdoor dining with tables and chairs six feet apart to ensure those dining al fresco are able to stay far enough apart to avoid the spread of the virus.

“We are very happy to see this progress on outdoor dining moving forward,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told reporters Wednesday during his daily coronavirus conference call news briefing.

Related Story: Long Island Summer Camps Get OK To Open June 29

Related Story: Long Island Street Closures To Allow For Outdoor Dining

Related Story: How An Army of Contact Tracers Are Key To Long Island’s Reopening

For more coronavirus coverage, visit longislandpress.com/coronavirus

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Long Island Primary Preview: Local Races To Watch

Workers prepare ballots from a drop box for the mail sorting machine during the presidential primary at King County Elections ballot processing center in Renton, Washington, U.S. March 10, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

Voters will decide this month between more than a dozen candidates on primary ballots in a half dozen races spanning all five congressional districts that comprise Long Island’s federal delegation. 

As usual, the most crowded field of contenders on the federal level is the four-way Democratic primary in which candidates are running for a chance in November to unseat U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) in the first congressional district on LI’s East End. 

“He looks forward to building upon his work for Long Island and our nation in his third term,” Zeldin’s campaign said in a statement in response to the Democratic primary.

The primaries will decide who’s on ballots during the pivotal presidential election in which Republican President Donald Trump seeks a second term against Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden.

Vying for the Democratic line in the first congressional district race to face Zeldin are businessman Perry Gershon of East Setauket, Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Southampton), Stony Brook University professor Nancy Goroff, and business strategist Gregory-John Fischer of Calverton.

In the second congressional district on the South Shore of Nassau County and southwestern Suffolk County, the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), there are primaries on both sides of the aisle. Former Babylon Town Councilwoman Jackie Gordon of Copiague is facing lawyer Patricia Maher, while Republican nominee New York State Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) has a challenge from state Assemblyman Mike LiPetri (R-Massapequa).

In the third congressional district on the North Shore of Nassau, western Suffolk, and eastern Queens, U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) has two primary challengers: Former Brooklyn prosecutor Michael Weinstock of Great Neck and wellness coach Melanie D’Arrigo of Port Washington.

In the fourth congressional district representing south central Nassau from Mineola and Hicksville to Long Beach, Woodmere activist Cindy Grosz is running against Hempstead Town Commissioner of Engineering Douglas Tuman in the Republican primary. The winner will face U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City).

And in the fifth congressional district, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), who represents parts of southwestern Nassau, has a challenge in Shaniyat Chowdhury, a lawyer from Queens.

A handful of state legislative seats also have primaries on tap. The departure of longtime state Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) in the first state Senate District on the East End has prompted a five-way Democratic primary between Parents For Megan’s Law Executive Director Laura Ahearn of Port Jefferson, Southampton Town Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni (D-North Haven), Suffolk County Community College political science student Skyler Johnson of Mt. Sinai, Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), and Nora Higgins, a Public Employees Federation regional coordinator from Ridge.

Running on the Republican line in that race is state Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk). Republican Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio is running to replace him in the second state Assembly District on the North Fork. Democratic primary voters will decide in that race between businessman William Schleisner of Sound Beach and former Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. 

And in the sixth state Senate District in central Nassau, Hempstead Town Councilman Dennis Dunne (R-Levittown) and minor-party candidate Jonathan Gunther are both on primary ballots for the Libertarian Party line to challenge freshman state Sen. Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown).

The primaries will be held on June 23. Early voting will be held June 13 through June 21. Contact the Nassau or Suffolk board of elections for a list of local polling places for in-person voting.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that all registered voters in New York State receive absentee ballots so they can mail in their vote to avoid potentially catching the virus at crowded polling stations. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by June 22. Return postage is paid.

“We’ve made great progress to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but we still don’t know when this pandemic will end and we don’t want to undo all the work we’ve already done to flatten the curve,” the governor said. “We don’t want to put New Yorkers in a situation where they are possibly putting their health at risk.”

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Merrick Residents Try To Block Anti-Police Brutality Protesters

Nassau County police negotiate with George Floyd protesters in Merrick on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, after residents tried to block the march.

Tensions were high during anti-police brutality protests Tuesday across Long Island amid fears that the demonstrations would turn riotous as they have in cities nationwide, but local rallies remained peaceful, authorities say.

A face-off occurred when residents gathered on Merrick Road in Merrick to block a group of protesters from marching down Route 27A on Tuesday, prompting Nassau County police officers to broker negotiations between the more than 100 Black Lives Matter picketers and residents refusing to let demonstrators through.

“Go west!” residents are heard yelling at the protesters gathered outside of the Wendy’s restaurant on Merrick Road, suggesting that the marchers should head to the neighboring more diverse Village of Freeport instead of through Merrick, which is mostly white. “Get them the hell out of here!”

Thousands of people have been rallying in Nassau and Suffolk counties in support of nationwide protests sparked by a shocking video of a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly killing an unarmed black man by placing a knee on his neck and ignoring the victim’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Four cops were fired and one was charged with murder in the death of George Floyd.

“As someone who lives in Merrick, it’s disgusting to see people in our supposed family community be actively against an anti-racism protest,” Clare Hunter of Merrick told the Merrick Herald-Life.

Nassau police had issued a statement Tuesday that they were monitoring online rumors that agitators were planning to hijack the peaceful protests to incite riots and looting. A Nassau County police spokeswoman said that the Merrick standoff was resolved and the protesters were allowed to march without incident.

“Cooler heads prevailed,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said.

Among the social media posts fueling fears of protests potentially turning into rioting in Merrick were images of bricks left along Merrick Road. Some residents suspected the bricks were left by agitators who were going to thrown them into store windows. A Nassau police spokesman said authorities investigated the placement of the bricks and found no criminality. Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said the bricks were left there from recent construction work.

“A lot of them turned out to be fake,” Curran said of the social media posts that threatened riots and looting on LI. “Many are meant to agitate people, to make people afraid when people are already anxious because of the pandemic.”

Ryder agreed social media users need to do their due diligence on posts to avoid feeding the hysteria. 

“People are stirring it up,” he said. “‘There’s bricks everywhere in Nassau County and ever town was looted,’ if you paid attention to all these social media. None of it happened.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also expressed concern about how easily social media users are duped into believing misinformation that fuels chaos.

“It is right now incredibly easy for somebody to create chaos on social media on the internet from their basement with a computer and a keyboard,” he said, noting that police are investigating social media posts falsely claiming looting occurred in Suffolk. “We cannot go on like this where it is so easy to create havoc, to create chaos … by just posting things on social media that are not true.”

Police reported there were no arrests Tuesday during protests in Merrick, Freeport, Valley Stream, or Long Beach, which was the largest of all with more than 2,000 marchers. Suffolk County police also said there were no arrests during demonstrations Tuesday in Shirley, Smithtown, or elsewhere, although marchers did block traffic on William Floyd Parkway for the second day in a row, as well as Sunrise Highway and the Long Island Expressway. Stringer News reported Sunrise was closed for 45 minutes due to protests at one point.

Commissioner Ryder also said outside agitators are suspected of trying to exploit the peaceful protests.

“People have to pay attention here because your kids are out there,” Ryder said. “They’re going into these protests, they’re peaceful. Then you got an anarchist group coming behind, an Antifa kid coming behind, and white supremacist kid coming behind. They’re pushing your kid forward into those acts, and then they’re doing the acts and your kid gets pulled in.”

Another protest is expected in Merrick on Saturday.

Related Story: Police Brutality Protests Across Long Island Spark Riot Fears

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Long Island Summer Camps Get OK To Open June 29

Day camps in New York State were given approval to operate this summer under strict safety guidelines, although there is no decision made on sleep-away camps, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.

The state Department of Health issued camps strict guidelines that campers will be required to follow this summer. The camp season will be different than usual but it will offer a semblance of structure and educational and social interaction, officials said.

“I know when parents are looking to get back to work, summer camp can be a very important part of that strategy,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Tuesday.

The governor had delayed his decision on whether summer camps were going to be allowed to open this summer after schools were canceled statewide in March amid the pandemic’s peak. Cuomo has also declined to say whether school will remain remote learning or return to in-classroom instruction come September, as questions linger about a second wave this fall.

Individual camps are each making their own plans for the summer to come. Some have canceled, while others are making accommodations for a season of fun while social distancing. Parents are advised to contact their child’s preferred summer camp to learn details on a case-by-case basis.

Related Story: Long Island Summer Camps Guide

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Police Brutality Protests Across Long Island Spark Riot Fears

Protesters rally against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, at Foley Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., June 2, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Anti-police brutality protesters have been peacefully picketing and marching on Long Island, but authorities are closely monitoring the rallies to ensure rioters don’t hijack the demonstrations and start looting.

The thousands of people rallying in Nassau and Suffolk counties are local supporters of nationwide protests sparked by a shocking video of a white Minneapolis police officer allegedly killing an unarmed black man by placing a knee on his neck and ignoring the victim’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. 

“Although demonstrations on Long Island have remained peaceful, we continue to see concerning rumors circulate online threatening violence or looting in Nassau County,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said Tuesday in a joint statement. “We take these threats very seriously. We want to assure residents that Nassau County PD is taking every precaution necessary to keep residents safe including those peacefully demonstrating tonight.”

Suffolk County police also urged calm.

“I, like other members of law enforcement and people throughout the county, am horrified by the unnecessary and tragic death of George Floyd caused by officers from the Minneapolis Police Department,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a statement. “We are closely monitoring the unrest in Minneapolis and across the country. We urge anyone who wants to express their feelings to do so peacefully.”

Floyd’s death — which resulted in four Minneapolis officers being fired and one being charged with murder — triggered days of protests in cities nationwide. While many of the protests were peaceful, others turned violent, including the days of rioting and looting in New York City. The NYPD’s anti-terrorism chief has said that outside agitators are suspected of turning peaceful protests into nightly riots.

The Nassau Inter-County Express/NICE Bus announced that it was temporarily suspending portions of routes that connect with Queens for several hours a day beginning Tuesday evening and continuing through Sunday due to an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. city curfew in effect this week.

The AMC movie theater at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City boarded up its windows following internet rumors that rioters would loot the shopping center.

Protests have been ongoing from Manhasset to the Hamptons. Several Target stores on LI reportedly closed over the weekend following rumors that they were being targeted for looting. Stores at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City boarded up their windows. The Village of Freeport called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to send in the National Guard to assist with monitoring a protest following internet rumors that Black Lives Matters protesters were going to start looting. And Village of Hempstead officials are planning a news conference Wednesday to discuss anti-looting measures.

“Local ministers will join together with merchants and community leaders to say a prayer for peace for local and national healing ahead of a large protest planned for later this week in Hempstead,” the village said.

“Approximately 500 local residents attended a peaceful demonstration in the Village of Freeport,” Freeport Mayor Mayor Robert T. Kennedy said. “With the cooperation of state, county, and local law enforcement all in attendance, we were proud to see no violence, no arrests, and no unrest, as residents voices were heard loud and clear. I was proud to address the crowd and speak with leaders on racial injustice, and will always do our part in the village to progress racial equality and justice for all.” 

Long Beach City Police said they are also monitoring marches on the barrier island.

“These are not city-supported or sanctioned, but we are proactively monitoring current events and are committed to ensuring the public safety and welfare of all the city’s residents,” the department said in a statement. “Long Beach is a diverse and tightly-knit community. We are confident in our resident’s ability to peacefully assemble and express their views.”

Among the most high-profile rallies on LI, marchers walking northbound on William Floyd Parkway in Shirley blocked traffic Monday night, causing delays. But the march ended without incident.

“In contrast to what we have seen in communities across the country and in New York City, the protests, the demonstrations that occurred here yesterday and in the days before that have been peaceful,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Tuesday. “You have not seen the kind of violence or property damage, looting, that we have seen in other places around our country. And that is a credit to the people who have come out to express their anger and frustration and their pain.”

The rallies come as the region is still working to emerge from the coronavirus shutdown prompted by the global pandemic. Experts who were worried that recent protests calling for reopening the economy — including one in which President Donald Trump tweeted support for protesters who called a News12 Long Island reporter “fake news” — may cause a spike in new cases have renewed their concerns of a COVID-19 spike following the latest protests.

It’s not the first time the nation saw nationwide riots amid a deadly health crisis. During the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 5 percent of the world population, civil unrest in America enduring included the May Day riots, the Red Summer race riots, and the Boston Police Strike, which sparked nationwide fears of similar lawlessness. 

Like then, the Floyd protests also continue regardless of the virus. At a march in Mineola over the weekend, picketers chanted “take a knee,” calling for police officers to join them in their protest. Commissioner Ryder joined them and knelt in solidarity. 

Related Story: Cuomo Appoints AG to Prosecute Certain Police-Involved Slayings

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How An Army of Contact Tracers Are Key To Long Island’s Reopening

Contact tracers are tasked with ensuring COVID-19 patients don’t spread the virus. (Getty Images)

Midway through the Super Bowl LIV pregame show the phone rang with an urgent message: A plane with passengers from China possibly exposed to coronavirus was about to land at John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Answering the Feb. 2 call was Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein, the Nassau County health commissioner, who quickly dispatched his team of contact tracers — disease detectives who track down who may have been exposed to someone with an infectious disease — to meet the passengers at the airport and put them in precautionary quarantine before they traveled to Long Island. Four months later, after the virus peaked in New York, hiring thousands more such investigators across Nassau and Suffolk counties to handle the increased caseload was a crucial benchmark that had to be met before the region could begin reopening from the coronavirus shutdown. But the work itself is not new.

“People keep referring to this all starting back in March,” Dr. Eisenstein tells the Press, recalling the first confirmed case in New York State on March 1. “Not for us it didn’t.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in April a partnership with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic organization and Johns Hopkins University to hire about 17,000 contact tracers statewide. Besides ensuring hospital bed space and lowering the COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates, one of the key seven metrics for regions to reopen was hiring 30 contact tracers per 100,000 residents. 

Nassau officials said they had about 750 contact tracers as of May 26, the day before the region hit phase one of reopening, meaning the resumption of construction, manufacturing, agriculture, wholesaling, and curbside retail. Suffolk hired nearly 1,400. 

“Typically before COVID … we have seven nurses that investigate diseases,” says Lauren Culver Barlow, bureau chief of Epidemiology and Disease Control of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. “Certain diseases are important to investigate rather quickly.”

THE COVID BEAT

From AIDS to Zika, there are nearly 100 diseases that the state Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control mandate contact tracers probe on LI and statewide.

CommCare, the new software that the state has deployed for the coronavirus army of contact tracers, was operational in late May, officials said. While tech giants Google and Apple have drawn headlines for creating coronavirus tracking apps, the work of local contact tracers is largely old-school gumshoe work, albeit often over the phone while the investigators telecommute.

“Generally. we don’t go knocking on doors,” Barlow says. “Mostly we work by phone and computer.”

Once a contact tracer receives a report of a person testing positive for coronavirus, the first thing to do is check the date the patient first reported feeling symptoms. Then they’ll reach out to the patient to find out who the person has been around two days prior to that date, which is the period when patients are believed to be contagious. Disease detectives usually need to speak with patients’ household members, work contacts, friends, and anyone else the patient may have crossed paths with.

“We track down anyone in touch with that person two days prior [to symptom onset] and put them in 14-day precautionary quarantine,” Barlow says. “Then we check in daily to see how they’re doing. If they have no symptoms in 14 days, the quarantine period is lifted.”

Contact tracing can require the bedside manner of a good doctor and the sharp mind of a police detective.

“It’s a good idea to have some good communication skills so the people feel comfortable giving you the information,” Barlow says.

Some people, such as undocumented immigrants who fear being deported, are afraid to speak to a contact tracer. That can prove a difficult hurdle to overcome in places such as Brentwood, for example. The largely Hispanic community is the hardest hit on LI and home to 10 percent of Suffolk’s cases.

“Our people are very clear that we’re not passing judgement,” Dr. Eisenstein says. “We’re not the police, we’re simply trying to prevent the spread of disease.” 

But he notes that sometimes, tracking people down requires a little extra legwork. For example, not everyone has a current address listed on the driver’s license, or the phone number may have recently changed. 

And although the number of cases made containment impossible, prompting the New York on Pause mitigation measures intended to flatten the curve and lessen how overwhelmed the healthcare system got, disease detectives pressed on. Contact tracers have continued reaching out to each person diagnosed, which was nearly 80,000 people on LI as of press time.

Some question whether more should have been done sooner. A recent Columbia University study found that if the shutdown and social distancing mandates had been enacted a week earlier, up to 36,000 lives could have been saved nationwide. Cuomo has cautioned against Monday morning quarterbacking at halftime.

“We’re able to tell you how many cases occurred and unfortunately how many deaths occurred, but we’re never able to quantify for you how many cases did not happen because of the work that we do,” Dr. Eisenstein told reporters during a recent news conference.

WHAT’S NEXT

With the ramped-up contact tracing program in place, the goal is now to ensure there are enough disease detectives to reach out to patients more quickly and ensure those diagnosed are isolating to avoid further spreading the disease.

Those who don’t have space in their own home to isolate from their families are quarantined in local hotels. Monitoring the COVID-19 hospitalization and death rates are so-called regional control rooms, which will alter reopening plans if there’s a spike in cases that again swamps the Island’s nearly two dozen hospitals.

“We do not anticipate anything happening in a negative nature with respect to the metrics,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who is on the control room panel, recently told reporters during one of his daily coronavirus news briefings. “I don’t think with these phase one activities we will see a significant uptick.”

His counterpart, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, has signaled similar optimism as the county leaders each have been eager to safely reopen the economy. The control room’s chairman, New York State Economic Development Corp. Executive Chairman Eric Gertler, says the contact tracers will keep cases in check.

“The army of tracers we are assembling enables New York State to swiftly pinpoint sources of the virus, detect its possible path, and ultimately control the rate of new infections,” Gertler said in a statement. “Our ability to reopen the regional economy is directly related to our capacity to contain the virus.”

It seems the one certainty is that the response — what is known about the virus, and the virus itself — is sure to change.

“We are smart enough to know that we don’t know it all,” Dr. Eisenstein say. “So we’re gonna take the steps that we think are best. And as we get new info, we change the way that we respond.”

And if efforts to contain the pandemic — including any potential second or third waves — are successful, perhaps Dr. Eisenstin will actually get to watch the Super Bow next February.

Related Story: Long Island Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 4,000

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