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 Accused of Child Sex Abuse

A Suffolk County correction officer was arrested Thursday for allegedly sexually abusing a child over a nine-year span, as well as theft and weapons charges, prosecutors said.

Robert Weis was charged with felony counts of sexual conduct against a child, criminal possession of a firearm, criminal possession of stolen property, and a misdemeanor count of official misconduct. Authorities are also investigating whether there are more victims.

“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 said. “He violated the trust placed in him by those close to him, both professionally and personally.”

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.

When authorities executed a search warrant at his home, 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. Those charges are currently pending.

Weis was arraigned on the charges today in Southampton Town Justice Court. Bail was set at $1 million cash or $3 million bond.

Weis faces up to 25 years in prison, if convicted of the most serious charge. He is due back in court on Tuesday. The investigation is continuing.

Investigators urged anyone who was victimized by Weis or has information regarding the allegations to contact the Southampton Town Police Department’s Detective Division at 631-702-2230.

Hempstead Town Councilman Ed Ambrosino Pleads Guilty To Tax Fraud

ambrosino
Edward Ambrosino

Hempstead Town Councilman Edward Ambrosino has admitted to committing federal tax fraud, prompting the Republican to resign the elected seat he’s held for the past 16 years.

The 54-year-old North Valley Stream man pleaded guilty to tax evasion Wednesday at Central Islip federal court. 

“Just like the people who put him in office, Ambrosino owed it to his fellow citizens to pay his fair share of taxes,” said Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

Federal prosecutors said Ambrosino, an attorney who will be disbarred due to the felony conviction, diverted more than $800,000 in legal fees from clients that he was required to provide to his former Uniondale-based law firm. The clients included the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency and the Nassau County Local Economic Assistance Corporation. 

Ambrosino also evaded substantial income tax, and filed false and fraudulent
corporate tax returns on behalf of Vanderbilt in 2011, 2012, and 2013, authorities said. He claimed false and fraudulent business expense deductions, and failing to report funds he diverted from his former law firm, according to investigators.

Ambrosino faces up to five years in federal prison, as well as $254,628 restitution to the Internal Revenue Service for the tax years 2011 through 2014 when he is sentenced by U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert. He also agreed to pay $700,000 in restitution to his former firm.

Suffolk County Police Sergeant Arrested for Theft

www.houstondwiattorney.net
Photo by www.houstondwiattorney.net

A Suffolk County police sergeant was arrested Tuesday for allegedly falsifying time sheets in order to steal more than $7,000 over a two-year period, prosecutors said.

Robert Kall was released without bail after being charged with felony counts of third-degree grand larceny, corrupting the government, falsifying business records, as well as a misdemeanor count of official misconduct.

“Robert Kall’s alleged actions constitute a serious violation of the trust instilled in him by the Suffolk County Police Department and the public he was tasked with protecting and serving.” Suffolk District Attorney Timothy Sini said. 

Prosecutors alleged that the 48-year-old Shoreham man falsified police records to indicate that he had worked full shifts when he had not on 12 separate dates between Feb. 3, 2016, and July 17, 2018. As a result, he allegedly received an additional 12 paid days off from work, valued at $7,429.24, to which he was not entitled.

Kall’s absence from work was established “by examining various records, including but not limited to, the cell site records for Kall’s cellular telephone; Kall’s access pass for usage at the Seventh Precinct building; and the Automatic Vehicle Locator … records of Kall’s vehicle,” investigators wrote in court documents.

Kall has worked for the department since 2000 and has been a sergeant since 2014. He is due back in court on June 4. He faces up to seven years in prison and a $14,858.48 fine, if convicted.

“Misconduct of any kind is taken seriously and will not be tolerated in this department,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, noting that Kall was suspended without pay. “Residents should be assured that our officers are committed to their profession and Kall’s conduct is not reflective of the Department’s dedication to service.”

NY Budget Brings Big Changes to Long Island

The New York State Capitol in Albany. (Shutterstock)

Banning plastic shopping bags, congestion pricing, and making the two percent property tax cap permanent are just some of the big changes for Long Island tucked in the New York State budget.

The State Legislature passed the $175.5 billion spending package by the April 1 deadline on Monday morning. In it are measures that will impact daily life for many Long Islanders.

“This is the broadest, most sweeping state budget that we have done,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Here are the main takeaways:

CONGESTION PRICING

The much-debated toll on drivers that go below 60th Street in Manhattan passed. It’s called Central Business District Tolling and is designed to cut both gridlock and vehicle-related air pollution as well as raise revenue for mass transit.

Tolling will start no earlier than Jan. 1, 2020, once members of the Traffic Mobility Review Board pieces together recommendations for the full implementation.

While congestion pricing is expected to raise $15 billion for the MTA’s next five-year capital plan starting next year, MTA President Pat Foye said $7 billion from the federal government and revenue from other taxes will bring the MTA $32 billion total.

BAG BAN

Also included in the state budget is a ban on single-use plastic bags to protect the environment. Shoppers will have to bring their own bag for groceries, or opt to pay a 5-cent fee for a paper bag.

New York State is now the second state in the nation after California to have such a ban. Some municipalities on LI had previously passed laws taxing or banning plastic bags.

INTERNET SALES TAX

The days of sales-tax-free online shopping are coming to an end in New York State.

The budget creates a framework for the collection of sales taxes by internet marketplace providers, which is expected to annually generate $160 million in new revenue for local governments and $320 million for the MTA, Cuomo said.

This governor added that it will ensure that out-of-state merchants do not have a price advantage over the local retail community.

PROPERTY TAX CAP

The cap on municipalities, schools, and other special districts raising taxes more than two percent annually was initially passed years ago to help address parts of the Island and state having some of the highest taxes in the nation.

But today, the state made that tax cap permanent, so it won’t hang in the balance and require renewal each year by Albany lawmakers, as is customary with various other pieces major legislation.

HEALTH CARE

The budget codifies Affordable Care Act provisions and the New York Health Care Exchange into state law, and it strengthens the women’s agenda initiatives by improving access to IVF and egg-freezing services, instituting a rape shield for sex trafficking victims and investing in initiatives to combat maternal mortality.

MORE ELECTION REFORMS

It also included key election reforms requiring three hours of paid time off so New Yorkers will be better able to vote on Election Day, the allocation of $10 million in funding for early voting and a public financing commission with binding power to implement public campaign financing for legislative and statewide offices.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

The budget addressed several criminal justice reforms including the elimination of cash bail for most misdemeanors and low-level charges. More than 16,000 people are currently held in New York state jails pre-trial, according to state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Queens), the author of the Bail Elimination Act and a longtime advocate for criminal justice reform.

It also prevents law enforcement agencies from releasing mugshots “that do not have a specific law enforcement purpose.”

-With QNS

3 New Restaurants To Try on Long Island

Marie Blachère was founded in Provence in the South of France in 2004 by Bernard Blachère, a French baker with a passion for traditional bread.

MARIE BLACHÈRE BAKERY

With 500 locations throughout France, this popular bakery known for authentic artisan breads and a modern market design opened last month in Great Neck — its first location in the U.S.

Its products are baked and prepared on-site daily, made from traditional French-inspired recipes and U.S.-sourced ingredients, with the exception of its flour imported from France.

The menu includes French pastries, sweets, croissants, baguette sandwiches and salads as well as traditional American fare such as burgers, pizza, club sandwiches, donuts, muffins, and wraps. Beverages range from espresso, macchiato, cappuccino, latte, house coffee and hot chocolate to cold brews, teas, waters, juices, and more.

The two-floor bakery will also feature rooftop dining beginning next spring.

550 Middle Neck Rd., Great Neck, marie-blachere.com

BIG DADDY’S EAST

This Cajun-style bar and restaurant that’s the second location of a Massapequa eatery of the same name opened just in time for Mardi Gras.

Big Daddy’s goes big with its annual “Mardi Gras Madness Week,” where they have seven nights of New Orleans-style celebration with live music and specials. The menu features Cajun, creole and soul food such as Louisiana crawfish boil, motor mouth stuffed shrimp, and Cajun “10-oncer” burger. Patrons are in good hands with Executive Chef Adam Anders, who trained under Emeril Lagasse.

One of the most festive places to go on LI for that New Orleans feeling.

44-46 E Main St, Bay Shore, 631-968-2505, bigdaddyseast.com

MODI WINE BAR

Making mouths water with a creative, modern Italian bistro menu is the hip, cozy new Modi Wine Bar, a chic casual dinner and drinks spot that recently opened in Franklin Square village.

The 60-seat white-tablecloth locale is attached to its sister restaurant, Cinelli’s Pizzeria. Two-time Chopped competitor Chef Merlin Tlepa expertly cooks up the culinary magic at Modi, the brainchild of Joseph Cinelli, an Italian immigrant, and his brother, Peter.

Modi has 14 wines on tap, ranging from Italy to California. Must-tries include the delectable Cajun-rubbed seared tuna with avocado mousse, Sriracha aioli and balsamic glaze appetizer, the perfectly prepared and presented New York strip steak with sautéed gnocchi, bacon, and Brussels sprouts, and the top-notch homemade tiramisu.

Modi Wine Bar,1195-A Hempstead Tpke., Franklin Square, 516-352-1745, modiwinebar.com

Elmont Group Opposed To New Islanders Arena Suggests Using Land As Ball Fields Instead

Elmont Against The Megamall, a group of residents opposed to building a new arena for the New York Islanders near Belmont Park, released this rendering of their proposal for the land: Parks and a community center.

A group of residents opposed to building a new arena for the New York Islanders on land next to Belmont Park in Elmont have released a proposal of their own for the site.

Instead of a hockey arena, the land should be used for a community center, Little League fields, and other sports fields, according to Elmont Against The Megamall, which has registered with New York State as a lobbying organization and hired California-based strategist Howard Kushlan to lead its lobbying efforts.

“The megamall and the arena are simply too much,” Tony Bhatti, a leader of the group, said in a news release touting the group’s plan. “It’s time to start over and our plan is a good place to start.”

The new group is working with prominent local attorney Albert D’Agostino of the Valley Stream-based law firm of Minerva & D’Agostino, to build a case against the development. It’s also reportedly working with Mercury Public Affairs, which helped opponents nix a plan to build a mall at the Cerro Wire Site in Syosset.

The Islanders won a bid in 2017 to build a new arena in Elmont, making real fans’ hope that the NHL team will skate home to Long Island after moving from Nassau Coliseum to Brooklyn. The hockey team and its financial backers got the greenlight to build a new 18,000-seat arena on New York State land adjacent to the Belmont racetrack in what officials touted as a $1-billion project.

Critics of the plan maintain that the already traffic-congested area can’t afford the inundation of additional cars and trucks that a new arena and mall complex would bring. Supporters argue that the park’s Long Island Rail Road station will allow fans to use mass transit, easing the impact on local gridlock. But opponents doubt that additional LIRR trains to the park will be enough to mitigate the issue.

The Preston House and Hotel: A Heart Beats Anew in Riverhead

While people were celebrating love on Valentine’s Day, The Preston House and Hotel, a romantic restaurant and historic boutique hotel in downtown Riverhead, toasted Feb. 14 as its first anniversary in business.

Preston House is a chic farm-to-table New American-style restaurant with seating for 88 or 160 including al fresco in warmer months. The 20-room, five-story hotel located directly behind the restaurant features studios and suites that offer intimate service. Together, they offer the best of both worlds, with modern convenience and historic charm.

“We’re happy to be part of the revitalization of downtown Riverhead,” says executive director Jennifer Petrocelli.

Four years ago, her father, Joseph Petrocelli, bought the property built in 1905 that was once the home of Henry Preston, the first salaried Suffolk County sheriff. After extensive renovations that aimed to salvage as much of the charm as possible, the family transformed it into the hotel and restaurant.

“We restored it to its former glory,” Petrocelli says, noting that they kept the original ceilings, floorboards, and other details intact while modernizing the building with French tiles, shiplap, and custom artwork.

The modern luxury hotel behind the restaurant is a new build with custom furniture. It has three different size rooms, include 430-square-foot studios, 650-square-foot one-bedrooms, and a 900-square-foot suite. Guest rooms feature modern furnishings, Carrera marble bathrooms, and honed concrete floors that add a touch of industrial chic.

Leading the kitchen at Preston House is Chef Matthew Boudreau, aka Chef Matty, a veteran of Baron’s Cove in Sag Harbor and Vine Street Cafe on Shelter Island as well as national barbeque competitions. The menu that changes with the seasons is billed as “upscale, yet approachable” and uses locally grown ingredients — including produce from its own garden and beehives — new approaches, and fresh takes on classic standards. The focus is on sustainability and refinement with ingredient-driven and flavorful fare that takes a balanced and traditional approach to food.

The restaurant’s mixologists also offer innovative cocktails and an adventurous wine list that celebrates the winegrowing regions of the world in a 1,000-bottle wine cellar.

Cheers to that!

The Preston House and Hotel is located at 428 East Main St. in Riverhead. It can be reached at 631-775-1500 or theprestonhouseandhotel.com

Sea Cliff Mayor Touts Village’s Progressive Ideals

Left: Sea Cliff Mayor Ed Lieberman. Right: Sea Cliff Avenue in the village downtown.

Best known as an artsy enclave, the Village of Sea Cliff flexed its environmentalism over the past year, becoming the first village in Nassau County to enact a reusable bag law and ban single-use plastics.

Leading the charge is Sea Cliff Mayor Edward Lieberman, who is running unopposed to his second term in Tuesday’s village elections in the scenic Gold Coast village with Long Island Sound views, storybook charm, and a deep sense of community pride.

“We are progressive and lead the way with regard to environmental concerns,” said the mayor, criminal defense attorney, and former Nassau prosecutor. “I always like to call it the shining gem of the North Shore.”

It’s not an overstatement to say that Sea Cliff stands out from the pack of 64 villages in Nassau and 96 villages on Long Island. It has a rich history. Originally a Methodist campground and religious meeting site during the mid-1800s, the town emerged as the setting for live theatrical performances by the turn of the century. More than two dozen historic landmarks dot the one-square-mile village.

Related Story: Sea Cliff: Long Island’s Artistic Masterpiece

“That heritage remains today,” said Lieberman, a longtime village resident married 45 years with two children and two grandchildren. He cited the Latin motto on the village seal, Suum Cui Que, “which to me translates into a community of openness, diversity, and enjoyment of all people.” A more stringent translation is, “Their own be allowed also,” or more loosely, “To each his own.”

Sea Cliff shops
ART HAVEN: Sea Cliff, just one square mile, is dotted with various quaint and quirky shops and galleries.

To protect the community from litter and pollution, the Sea Cliff village board required businesses to charge customers five cents for plastic bags to encourage the use of reusable bags. The law went into effect on Earth Day 2018. The City of Long Beach was the first municipality in the county to enact a similar ban a year prior, Suffolk has a similar law, and statewide legislation is pending.

In January, another Sea Cliff village law went into effect banning businesses from using plastic straws, stirrers, single-use utensils, and foam containers. Like with the bag law, violators face $100 fine for the first offense, and $200 for each violation thereafter.

Sea Cliff was also on forefront in the fight against New York American Water’s rate hikes for the about 5,000 residents in the village, which sued the New York State Public Service Commission in an attempt to reverse the increases. That case is pending. Lieberman hopes to see a public entity providing water instead of a private company.

The village additionally sued to block the RXR Realty’s $1 billion Garvies Point project that is building 1,100 condos and luxury apartments on Glen Island off the coast of Glen Cove and neighboring Sea Cliff. Although an appeals court recently upheld a lower court’s rejection of that suit, Lieberman feels vindicated.

“Given the fact that there’s a new administration in Glen Cove, we hope that moving forward we have a mutual understanding [that] new developments will have an effect on our village,” he said. “I have met with the new mayor there numerous times, we have a very good working relationship, and I hope that continues.”

In addition to the village’s progress, members of the community have also made some firsts of their own. Former FBI supervisory agent and Sea Cliff resident Geraldine Hart last year became the first female Suffolk County police commissioner.

There have also been some big names drawn to life in the self-proclaimed “Victorian village by the sea.” Former notable residents include influential writer William Cullen Bryant, actress Natalie Portman, Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik, and Saturday Night Live comic Kate McKinnon.

“We have a real network of artists and musicians who display their talents on a regular basis at some of our local restaurants,” the mayor said. “A lot of people are coming to explore our village … We have an influx of young, family-oriented newcomers who are finding Sea Cliff to be a very unique suburban environment to bring up their children and enjoy their community and the unique individuals that make up our village.”

Election Reform Shakes Up Political Calendar

The Nassau County Democratic Committee held their 2019 convention at the Cradle of Aviation on Wednesday, February 13, 2019 (Photo by Tab Hauser)

New York State’s recently enacted election reforms will make it easier for voters to cast their ballots but the sped-up political calendar will also make running for office more challenging for candidates.

In addition to allowing early voting nine days before the elections starting this year, reforms that the State Legislature passed in January also nixed the usual primary day in September and bumped it up to the same day as the federal primary in June — meaning underdogs challenging party nominees will lose months of campaign time.

“We have to get started a little earlier than usual,” says John Jay LaValle, the outgoing chairman of Suffolk County Republican Committee who is stepping down in March before he starts doing more media touting President Donald Trump, as he did in the 2016 campaign.

On Long Island ballots this year are dozens of races, including those for Suffolk County Executive, Nassau County District Attorney, both county legislatures, judgeships, town seats, as well as Glen Cove and Long Beach city posts. That’s in addition to village and special district races that aren’t held on Election Day.

Both the Nassau and Suffolk GOP chapters held their nominating conventions in February instead of May, as did the Nassau County Democratic Committee, while the Suffolk Democrats are forgoing the convention altogether, party officials say.

The new timeline includes bumped-up deadlines to meet state Board of Elections requirements to get on ballots. Candidates began circulating designating petitions on February 26 and have to file those petitions by April 4. Candidates seeking to primary party nominees can begin circulating independent nominating petitions April 16 and have to file the paperwork by May 28. The petitioning process was previously held over the summer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes the reforms will increase voter turnout.

“The truth is New York’s voter turnout is among the lowest,” he said when signing the reforms into law. “The early voting is going to be transformative for the system.”

While candidates will be appearing earlier than usual from now on, the issues on the campaign trail will remain the same.

“I think voters are looking for grassroots real people to run for office who can really represent them,” first-term Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who isn’t up for re-election this cycle, told Democratic party faithful during the convention in Garden City last month. “I think they’re sick of do nothing politicians who are not doing the right things for the right reasons, they are doing the wrong things for their own reason. People are looking for a change.”

-With Michelle Gabrielle Centamore

RACES TO WATCH

Suffolk County Executive
Democrat Steve Bellone seeks third term
Republican challenger: Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy

Nassau County District Attorney
First-term Democrat Madeline Singas seeks re-election
Republican challenger: Francis McQuade, attorney from Long Beach

Hempstead Town Supervisor
First-term Democrat Laura Gillen seeks re-election
Republican challenger: Hempstead Town Tax Collector Don Clavin

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor
First-term Republican Joseph Saladino seeks re-election
Democratic challenger: Oyster Bay Town Clerk James Altadonna

Brookhaven Town Supervisor
Republican Ed Romaine seeks fourth full term
Democratic challenger: Will Ferraro, a former state legislative aide from Selden

NEW THIS YEAR

Early Voting
Voters can cast ballots starting nine days before Election Day, November 5.

Primary Day
Primaries will be held June 25 instead of in September.

Voter Registration
Voters who move to another county won’t have to re-register.

FUTURE REFORMS

These reforms are pending additional state action

No-excuse Mail-in
Voters will be able to mail in absentee ballots without having to provide an excuse.

Pre-registration
Sixteen and 17 year olds will be able to pre-register to vote, so they’ll be enrolled on their 18th birthday.

How Long Island Helped Put Men On The Moon

Astronaut John Young leaps from the lunar surface as he salutes the U.S. flag next to the lunar module during an Apollo 16 extravehicular activity, April 21, 1972. (NASA Photo)

When President John F. Kennedy gave his famous “We choose to go to the moon” speech in 1962, it was Grumman Corporation workers on Long Island who made it happen seven years later.

NASA contracted the company to design, build, and test what became known as the lunar module, the spacecraft that U.S. astronauts used to first set foot on Earth’s closest celestial neighbor on July 20, 1969. The “Lem,” as it was known for short, was about twice the size of a standard sedan.

“The landing of the lunar module and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon was one of the most momentous events in American and world history that Long Islanders remember with pride,” says Adam Sackowitz, a local historian. “Long Island played a direct role in landing man on the moon.”

Grumman built 13 lunar modules during the course of NASA’s Apollo program. Of those, most went to space, but three are on Earth, including one at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, where it is central to the current “Countdown to Apollo at 50” exhibits, school initiatives, and community programs celebrating the mission’s golden anniversary.

The moon landing redeemed America’s space race credentials after Russia became the first nation to successfully launch an artificial satellite into Earth’s orbit in 1957. These days, NASA is busy using rovers to explore Mars and having The New Horizons spacecraft snap photos of the Kuiper belt four billion miles away. Catching up is China, which made the surprise announcement in January that it landed a rover on the dark side of the moon.

Besides learning about moon rocks, landing the lunar module on the moon also reaffirmed the grit of the nation — and the Long Islanders who helped land astronauts there.

As Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”