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.

Suffolk Corrections Officer Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Child

Robert Weis

An ex-Suffolk County correction officer has admitted to sexually abusing a child over a nine-year span, as well as theft and weapons charges.

Robert Weis pleaded guilty Monday at Suffolk County court to felony counts of sexual conduct against a child, criminal sex act, criminal possession of a firearm, and criminal possession of stolen property.

“This is an individual who routinely abused his position of power, in both his official capacity as a correction officer and as an adult who was an authority figure for children,” Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini has said. 

Prosecutors said the investigation into the 55-year-old Hampton Bays man began after a man reported to the Southampton Town Police Department that Weis had sexually abused the victim from from the ages of seven to 16.

Weis, who is the adoptive parent of five males and has been a foster parent for approximately 15 years, has been employed as a Suffolk County correction officer since 1995. He has been jailed since his arrested in April, when bail was set at $5 million cash or $15 million bond. He has since been terminated by the sheriff’s office.

When authorities executed a search warrant at his home, they said they seized three illegal handguns, 32 rifles, and more than 50,000 rounds of ammunition. Police also said investigators recovered stolen property belonging to the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, including bulletproof vests and EMT equipment.

Weis was placed on modified duty working as a quartermaster for the Sheriff’s Office and had access to the office’s uniforms, gear, and other official property after he was arrested in South Carolina in 2016 for allegedly sexually abusing a minor. 

He faces up to 25 years in prison when is is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 8.

Arrest Video Spurs Call For Investigation Into Freeport Police

A Freeport village police officer repeatedly punches a suspect in the face while trying to handcuff him on Dec. 3, 2019.

Officials are calling for an investigation after a video surfaced of Freeport village police officers beating and using a stun gun on a fugitive who allegedly resisted arrest this week.

When police tried to arrest Akbar Rogers at his home on Tuesday, he ran away through several backyards before officers captured him, officials said. The video shows multiple officers punching Rogers and using a stun gun on him during a struggle. Police said he refused to surrender and kept reaching for his waistband. 

“I have viewed the video and have many questions,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said. “I call for an independent investigation of this arrest by the Freeport Village Police. At this time, I am asking all to remain calm and patient as the investigation unfolds.“

Freeport Village Mayor Robert Kennedy asked Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas’ office “to look into the matter,” a village spokesman said. A Singas spokesman said, “we are reviewing the matter.”

The incident comes as former Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and his ex-deputy are on trial in Central Islip federal court for allegedly covering up a disgraced police chief’s beating of a handcuffed suspect.

Rogers had a warrant out for his arrest for driving without a license, was wanted for allegedly harassing a victim in October, and is accused of fleeing police in a Mercedes at speeds of more than 100 mph while driving through red lights, stop signs, and on the wrong side of the road when police tried to pull him over last month, authorities said.

He was arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead on charges of harassment as a violation, misdemeanor resisting arrest, and felony assault with intent to injure a police officer. He is being held at Nassau jail and has not posted bail, records show.

The 58-second-long video shows several officers taking Rogers to the ground while other officers later arrive on the scene. Some of the officers punch Rogers repeatedly. Another kicks him while he’s on the ground.

Rogers is heard pleading for help in the video. The woman who filmed it is heard yelling at police. The video sparked outrage online as the footage quickly spread across social media.

“The video, taken by a bystander, clearly shows Akbar lying face down on the ground, pinned down by four officers, as two or more officers take turns punching and tasing him repeatedly,” the advocacy group Justice League NYC said in a statement. “Viciously beating a restrained man is a clear case of brutality exercised by white officers who have no fear of repercussions. When we see examples of white criminals who pose a threat to others including police — being taken into custody without a scratch, time and time again, it makes it very clear this lack of accountability only applied to black and brown people.”

Nassau County Legislature Minority Leader Leader Kevan M. Abrahams (D-Freeport) and Legislator Debra Mulé (D-Freeport) issued a joint statement in response to the incident.

“We are thankful that the district attorney’s office is reviewing the arrest captured in this video,” they said. “We are deeply concerned by the contents of this video and believe a comprehensive, independent investigation is essential. As that process unfolds, we ask for the public’s patience as investigators perform their duties and establish the facts of the case”

Shawn Randall, president of the Freeport Police Benevolent Association, the union that represents the village police department’s members, issued a statement backing the officers.

“The Freeport Police Benevolent Association stands behind our officers and the safety and security of the residents we serve,” he said. “I am confident that when the judicial process is complete and all facts are presented, it will be confirmed that our officers did their jobs in accordance with the law.” 

 

NY Pols Propose Mandating HPV Vaccine For Students, Sparking Debate

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Areca T. Wilson/Released)

A proposal in the New York State Legislature that would require elementary school students receive the HPV vaccine is proving controversial among parents who are trying to stop the bill from passing.

State lawmakers say they’re just trying to keep children from contracting the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus that can cause genital warts and cancer. But opponents of the legislation are concerned with side effects of the vaccine and are a second bill that would allow schools to immunize children without parental consent.

“These bills trample on parental rights and medical freedom and the government has no place in making medical decisions for our families,” Jessica Rudin, a parent from East Setauket, wrote in an online petition opposing the bill that has gotten nearly 90,000 signatures as of Dec. 4.

Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia are currently the only jurisdictions nationwide that require the HPV vaccine to attend school, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least eight other state legislatures are considering such proposals.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children ages 11 and 12 receive Gardasil 9, which is the only HPV vaccine available in the United States. The American Cancer Society (ACS) agrees, noting that more than 33,000 men and women are diagnosed annually with cancers caused by HPV.

“HPV vaccination offers the very rare opportunity to help prevent not just one but six types of cancer,” said Debbie Saslow, PhD., managing director of HPV and GYN Cancers for the ACS. “Just two doses of this vaccine, given to kids at age 11 or 12, and starting as early as nine, can prevent 90 percent of HPV cancers.”

The debate comes after the state removed the religious exemption for students to attend school, a measure that also proved controversial. The HPV bill would require students born after Jan. 1, 2009 receive the vaccination before entering the seventh grade. The legislation, proposed in January, is pending in the health committees of the state Assembly and Senate. 

“Why not give our young people the opportunity to guard against, protect themselves against, anal and cervical cancer?” Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Brooklyn), who is sponsoring the bill, told WCBS New York. “To me it’s a no-brainer. I don’t understand why we would leave this one out.”

Digital Legacies: The Online Graveyard

How to handle people’s online presence must be considered in the internet age. (Getty Images)

Whatever you post on the internet stays there forever, so they say, which is why people are increasingly not only planning funerals and inheritances, but also their posthumous digital legacies. 

A person’s online presence after they pass on is often most visible in two arenas: the continuation of their social media accounts, and the creation of web pages that act as an interactive obituary where loved ones can post comments.

“In recent years, the ways people choose to remember deceased family members and friends has changed,” said Ruth Sheridan, director of supportive care at St. Christopher’s Hospice in London. “Trips to the cemetery are replaced by online memorials and social media sites which can be updated regularly and accessed freely.”

With the number of Americans older than 65 projected to outnumber children in 15 years for the first time in the nation’s history and Facebook users of that vintage among the website’s fastest-growing age groups, the issue is sure to gain steam.

Underscoring the phenomenon, a recent study found that in 50 years, the number of dead Facebook users will outnumber accounts held by the living — assuming the social media website is still around in a half century. 

The study, Are the Dead Taking Over Facebook? A Big Data Approach to the Future of Death Online, raised important questions about how a dead person’s sensitive private information should be handled — and who should have access — after the person can no longer control the account. 

“An exclusively commercial approach to data preservation poses important ethical and political risks that demand urgent consideration,” researchers Carl J Öhman and David Watson wrote. “We call for a scalable, sustainable, and dignified curation model that incorporates the interests of multiple stakeholders.”

As for parts of the web intended for the dead, some social media pages are specifically set up to memorialize lost loved ones. Legacy.com has grown into a Facebook-sized obituary website, acquiring competitors while allowing more and more well-wishers to share memories alongside death notices and photos of those who’ve passed.

Of course, the idea that everything stays on the internet forever is a myth. It’s often a graveyard of dead links. But it’s nonetheless important to ensure loved ones can access your social media accounts after you die so the records can be properly preserved or destroyed, whichever is the final wish.

Sun-Vet Mall Presses On Despite Hardship

Sun-Vet Mall
Sun-Vet Mall

When shoppers stormed Long Island malls on Black Friday, the local shopping center that easily saw the smallest crowds was Sun-Vet Mall in Holbrook, where the retail sector’s troubles are most visible.

Sun-Vet’s two anchors, Toys ‘R Us and Pathmark, remain vacant since the two companies went out of business in recent years, leaving bare more than half of the mall’s about 200,000 square feet of retail space. At least half of the smaller storefronts in the mall are also shuttered. And this week, another Sun-Vet mainstay, A.C. Moore Arts & Crafts, announced that it is also shuttering all of its locations nationwide.

“This place at one time was hopping,” a shopper named Kelly said on Yelp. “Now I just feel sad walking around there. So empty.”

By comparison, Long Island’s neighborhood and community shopping centers had a vacancy rate of 8.2 percent in the third quarter, up from 7.3 percent for the same time period in 2018, according to Moody’s Analytics REIS, a Manhattan-based real estate information company. That’s compared to a vacancy rate of 10.1 percent for the U.S., which has not changed much over the last two years. 

Across the county line in Westbury, The Mall at The Source similarly fell on hard times when anchors Fortunoff, Steve and Barry’s, and Circuit City closed up shop a decade ago. But there are signs of life, as Chinese mall developers announced two years ago that it bought The Source and is turning it into Lesso Home, an interior design hub, although the planned reopening has been pushed back.

The shuttered Pancake Cottage at Sun-Vet Mall.

Built in 1973 and named for its location at the intersection of Sunrise Highway and Veterans Memorial Highway, Sun-Vet these days typically has just a few shoppers milling about. Among those still calling the one-floor mall home is Mandee, Kin’s Costume Jewelry & Bridal, The Karat Stop, Close-Outs & Liquidations II, Lucille Roberts, Aegean Pizza & Restaurant, a liquor shop, an antique store, and a dentist. The mall directory continues to list former tenants such as Blockbuster Video, Sears Portrait Studio, and Payless Shoe Source. Some of the many shuttered shops with gates drawn are Pancake Cottage, Sterling Optical, and Computer Mart.

Sun-Vet’s contraction comes as brick-and-mortar retailers nationwide continue to struggle against the rise of online shopping. Some shopping centers are banking that creating an experiential retail environment will draw more foot traffic. For instance, the American Dream mall that opened last month in New Jersey has a roller coaster and ice rink, with an indoor ski slope scheduled to open in December. SeaQuest similarly proposed, then withdrew an application for, an aquarium at Westfield Sunrise Mall in Massapequa this spring.

The dismal state of Sun-Vet spawned a mock self-depreciating Twitter account that begs for shoppers and boasts in its bio that it was “Voted Best Mall on Long Island in 1987!” The feed has amassed more than 4,000 followers in two years.

Schuckman Realty, a Lake Grove-based commercial real estate firm, “is consulting on the redevelopment of the Sun-Vet Mall,” according to a 2017 profile in New York Real Estate Journal. In a Schuckman brochure advertising “prime real estate for lease” at Sun-Vet Mall, in which the realtor is described as the exclusive broker, it touts “redevelopment coming soon.” 

What those plans entail remain to be seen. Schuckman and mall officials were not available for comment. But in a sign that the moribund mall’s operators are keeping hope alive for happier days ahead, Sun-Vet’s lonely halls are decked out for the holidays, with Santa Claus joining the remaining merchants waiting for visitors.

Women Under 50 Most Stressed Over Holidays, Poll Finds

The holidays can be a stressful time of year for everyone, but those who feel the most stressed out during the most wonderful time of year are local women under 50, according to a new poll.

Sixty one percent of females in that age group reported their stress level is high or very high, a Truth in Medicine poll of New York Metro area found. That’s compared to non-holiday periods when 26 percent reported having high stress and 5 percent who reported their stress is very high. And 46 percent of those polled overall reporting high or very high levels of holiday-induced anxiety.

“Women seem to take the brunt of preparations during the holidays and it shows in the increased stress levels they are reporting,” said Dr. Adhi Sharma, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of Mount Sinai South Nassau in Oceanside. “Everybody reacts to stress in different ways. However, stress can be dangerous when it impacts our daily life for long periods of time.”

The Mount Sinai South Nassau Truth in Medicine Poll, sponsored by Bethpage Federal Credit Union, is a quarterly survey of 600 Long Island and New York City residents conducted by LJR Custom Strategies over landlines and cell phones between Nov. 6 and 11.

Finances and family were the two top causes of stress cited by those polled. Twenty-five percent rated debt and financial concerns associated with the holidays as stress-inducing and 20 percent said family issues raised their stress levels. When asked to choose the top three out of five reasons for holiday stress, a plurality of respondents said all factors — finances, family, overscheduling, shopping, and overeating — cause stress.

“Chronic and long-term stress can have an adverse effect on your health,” said Dr. Aaron E. Glatt, MD, Chair of the Department of Medicine. “Talk to your loved ones about ways to make the holidays more enjoyable and less stressful. It can be as simple as asking other family members to contribute a dish to a family gathering so all the cooking doesn’t fall on one person.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s December 2018 Holiday Health and Safety Tips also recommend managing stress by “balancing work, home, and play” and “getting support from family and friends.” The American Psychological Association recommends managing expectations during the holidays to reduce stress and feel happier now and healthier in the long term. 

Coping mechanisms vary. While 61 percent of women under 50 exercise and 54 percent turn to friends to relieve stress, one in five use alcohol or drugs. Just 6 percent of area adults have sought counseling to help deal with stress, while 9 percent have considered counseling, with the key impediments being cost and time.

Poll results vary by race and other demographic indicators like whether or not residents live in the New York City or Long Island. As was the case with all women 50 and under surveyed, both black men and women respondents in the same age group reported very high or high stress levels around the holidays.

Retirement appears to alleviate a significant amount of stress. The least stressed demographic polled are respondents 65 and older who are retired or choose not to work. This was the only subgroup to not report an increase in stress as the holidays approach.

“At some point in our lives, everyone can use a little extra support in dealing with life’s challenges, especially around the holidays,” said Janet Kahn-Scolaro, LCSWR, PhD, Administrative Director of Behavioral Health and Family Medicine Services at Mount Sinai South Nassau. “When this is not enough, I cannot state enough the importance of speaking with a licensed professional who can help you understand your moods and behaviors and help you cope when life’s stresses become overwhelming.”

New Shop Small Scavenger Hunt Offers Prizes For Small Business Saturday Shoppers

L. to R.: Nassau IDA Executive Director Richard Kessel, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran,the owner of TrainLand, Kenneth Bianco, Sr., and Nassau IDA CEO Harry Coglan.

A new Shop Small Scavenger Hunt is offering fun incentives for shoppers who patronize locally owned stores and restaurants this holiday shopping season.

Nassau County officials unveiled the initiative, which is designed to expand Small Business Saturday by highlighting the economic impact and importance of shopping and dining locally. 

“Ninety percent of all Long Island companies are small businesses so shopping small makes a big impact,” Nassau County Executive Laura Curran told reporters Monday during a news conference at TrainLand in Lynbrook.  “For every dollar spent at a small business, approximately 67 cents stays in that local community. Small businesses employ our neighbors, family, and friends and choosing to buy local helps keep our communities vibrant and strong.”

To participate, officials encouraged shoppers to print out the Shop Small Scavenger Hunt sheet available at nassaucountyny.gov/shopsmall, nassauida.org/shopsmall, or ncchambers.org/events.

To compete in the hunt, shoppers must complete four of the eight tasks, such as purchase a beverage or snack from a local shop or deli and take a selfie with it, take a selfie while getting a haircut at a local barber shop or while getting nails done at a local salon, purchase clothing at a local boutique or gift shop and take a photo with it in front of the store, or buy something at a local hardware store or variety store and take a photo with the purchase in front of the store.

All purchases must be made on Small Business Saturday, all of the shops must be within the same community, and none of the purchases can be made at national retail chains — locally owned mom-and-pop shops only.

The completed Scavenger Hunt sheet and corresponding photos of four tasks must be submitted by 10 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 30. Entries can be submitted on Facebook by tagging: @NCExecutive, @NassauCouncilofChambersofCommerce, @NassauCountyIDA and #ShopSmallNassau or via email to [email protected] with the participant’s name and #ShopSmallNassau in the subject line

The first successfully completed contestants will win gift cards to stores in the community in which they shopped. The first place winner gets $300 in gift cards, the second and third place winners get $200 in gift cards, and the fourth place winner gets $100 in gift cards.

“It’s important that we continue to support our small businesses who are the backbone of this county and nation,” said Richie Kessel, Chairman, Nassau Industrial Development Agency. “We encourage all Nassau residents to shop locally and in their downtowns throughout this holiday season.”

7 Alternatives To Traditional Burials

Bios Urn is turning people into trees.

It used to be that when you died, you were either put to rest in a casket or cremated. But nowadays, those looking for no-traditional burial options have plenty to choose from.

A company that helps turn you into a tree after you die recently made national headlines, but that is not the only unconventional interment alternative available. Those really looking to go out with a bang can have their cremated ashes put into fireworks, while those looking to live on forever can be turned into a diamond. 

Here are seven alternatives to traditional burial.

REST IN SPACE

Most of us won’t get to fly to space before we die, but a company called Celestis will launch your ashes on so-called memorial spaceflights. Prices range from $1,295 for ashes that fall back to Earth to $12,500 for those destined for deep space.

TURN INTO TUNES

Love music? Well, you’re in luck. A company called AndVinyly can press your ashes into a record of your choice, with your birthdate, death date, and portrait on the sleeve if you want, all for about $3,800.

WITH THE FISHES

This one’s not for landlubbers. External Reefs puts your ashes in concrete, which is then lowered into a reef, so you can live on as part of a marine habitat for between $3,000 and $7,500.

BECOME SOME BLING

If diamonds are forever, LifeGem can make you immortal by turning your ashes into the most precious of stones for up to $25,000. Those who prefer glass pendants can hire Art From Ashes, which can also turn you into all sorts of other glass objects.

WITH A BANG

Dogs excluded, who doesn’t love fireworks? For those who love a fiery show in the sky more than the average bear, there’s Heavenly Stars Fireworks, which puts your ashes into mortars that simultaneously scatter your remains while putting on an awe-inspiring show. Packages start at $1,288.

LIKE A TREE

This might be the type of tree everyone can get behind hugging. For between $140 and $169, depending upon the type of tree, Bios Urn will place your ashes in their biodegradable urn with the preferred seed for loved ones to plant and watch grow.

Clavin Unseats Hempstead Supervisor Gillen in Recount

L. to R.: Don Clavin and Laura Gillen

Democratic Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen conceded Thursday the election to Republican challenger Don Clavin, who recaptured the town’s top job in the GOP stronghold.

Gillen, a first-term supervisor who two years ago became the first Democrat to win the town’s top job in more than a century, trailed Clavin, the town tax receiver, by more than 1,500 votes on election night. That lead grew by another 100 votes following a count of paper ballots.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as the first Democratic supervisor in 112 years,” Gillen said. “To those who supported my good government initiatives and fight against corruption, I am disappointed to say we just fell short.” 

Clavin had declared victory on election night, but Gillen waited two weeks for the Nassau County Board of Elections to count the absentee and affidavit ballots before conceding.

“I want to thank the voters of Hempstead town for giving me the opportunity to serve as the next supervisor,” Clavin said. “I am dedicated to an inclusive and forward-thinking administration that will focus on providing the best government services at the lowest possible cost.”

Gillen was one of three incumbent town supervisors on Long Island who were unseated on Election Day.

Republican challenger Yvette Aguiar unseated first-term Democratic Riverhead Town Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith. And Democratic challenger Gerard Stiller unseated first-term Republican Shelter Island Town Supervisor Gary Gerth. 

Clavin, who has been town tax collector for 18 years, will be sworn in on Jan. 2 during a ceremony at Hempstead Town Hall. Gillen had a few parting words before passing the baton.

“I will transition the office in an orderly and professional matter, unlike the transition after I was elected when nearly 200 transfers, raises, and promotions at the 11th hour were approved in order to secure favors and benefits for future political gain at taxpayer expense,” she concluded.

Suffolk Legis. Lindsay Concedes GOP Upset

L. to R.: Suffolk County Legislator William J. Lindsay III and Anthony Piccirillo.

Suffolk County Legislator William J. Lindsay III (D-Bohemia) conceded Wednesday the election to Republican challenger Anthony Piccirillo following a recount in the lone county legislature seat to be flipped on Long Island this year.

Lindsay was trailing Piccirillo by 223 votes in the unofficial returns on election night but did not make up the loss after the Board of Elections counted the paper ballots in the rematch of a 2017 race. The challenger finished the race with a 215-vote lead. 

”I just want to thank the 9,500 taxpayers who put their trust in me,” Piccirillo said, referring to the number of votes he got. “It feels great to be victorious this time around.”

While seeking a rematch of a race Piccirillo lost by about 200 votes two years ago, Piccirillo beat Lindsay in primaries for the Conservative and Independence party lines this year before ultimately unseating the three-term legislator on Election Day.

Lindsay has not specified what he’ll do next, but said “several opportunities” have been presented to him.

”Although I am disappointed with the final election results, I’m incredibly thankful for being able to serve the people of the 8th Legislative District for the past six years,” Lindsay said. 

Lindsay is the son of the late former presiding officer of the Suffolk Legislature William Lindsay.

Democrats now have an 10-8 majority in the county legislature. If the GOP picks up at least one more seat in the next county legislative elections in 2021, they would have a 9-9 split in the legislature. If that were to happen, Republican Suffolk County Clerk would then have to choose the next presiding officer.

On the other side of the county line, all incumbent Nassau County legislators were re-elected, allowing the GOP to maintain their control of that body.

Piccirillo will be sworn in at the legislature’s first meeting of 2020 in January.