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.
Lawmakers are calling on the federal government to help combat mold infestations in Long Island homes flooded by Superstorm Sandy, leaving some houses uninhabitable.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and county leaders are asking the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to prepare plans that will assist homeowners remediate the hazardous mold once Congress approves funding for the program.
“Mold is causing a second wave of destruction among Superstorm Sandy victims, rendering houses unhealthy and unlivable even after the water has been pumped out,” said Schumer during a news conference Tuesday.
Federal Emergency Management Agency resources cannot be used to remove mold from houses entirely under current law, only mold up to the watermark from the flooding, the senator said. He said the Sandy aid package working its way through Congress should remedy that, but that immediate aid is crucial.
“The longer we wait, the longer these homes lie vacant,” said Schumer at the Seaford home of Larry Elliott, 85, who is among the homeowners in dire need of financial assistance for mold remediation.
Elliott’s home, which he had lived in for 30 years until being displaced by Sandy, is right on canals that lead to the Seaford Harbor. Once able to look out onto the canals while sitting on his bedroom windowsill, he returned to a house that is inhabitable despite having heat and electricity restored because mold has infested the structural beams.
“The damage is devastating,” said Elliott. “I can hardly remember where the entrances are anymore,” he added while standing in what was left of one of the bedrooms of the house.
The mold has spread in other Sandy-flooded houses like Elliot’s. Ten percent of 948,540 of LI households experienced some flooding or storm damage, according to FEMA.
The damp surfaces combined with the heat being turned back on create the ideal environment for mold to grow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that exposure to some forms of mold can pose health risks such as upper respiratory tract symptoms and eye and skin irritation.
“Mold is not a minor issue,” said Schumer. “Many houses that have been flooded have or will have mold.”
Mold remediation can cost thousands of dollars, a costly service many residents can’t afford, forcing them to live in toxic homes, turn to cheaper ineffective products or find someplace else to live.
Schumer, who was joined by Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano and Sam Chu, commissioner for the Suffolk County Department of Labor, are also urging lawmakers to reimburse programs such as AmeriCorps that have been funding mold remediation.
In the past, federal funding was able to aid Hurricane Katrina victims with mold removal through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery.
Congress approved more than $9 billion in Sandy aid to the national flood insurance program last week after the House of Representatives failed to approve the full $60 billion package that had passed the U.S. Senate, sparking local outrage. Despite the delays, Elliot is staying positive.
“I am hopeful,” Elliott told the Press. “I can’t help but be hopeful after this outpouring support today that I will be able to get the aid I need.”
An East End man and a Nassau County woman have been arrested for drunken driving with their children in two separate incidents seven hours apart, authorities said.
In the first case, Nassau County police said 49-year-old Phyllis Lindberg was driving eastbound on Sunrise Highway near her Massapequa home when she drifted off the roadway and struck a parked car shortly before 5 p.m. Monday, authorities said.
Lindberg and her 6-year-old daughter, who was in the vehicle with her, were taken to a local hospital for treatment of neck and back pain after the car overturned. Police said she was found to be under the influence of alcohol.
Then, shortly after midnight Tuesday, Southampton Town Police said 32-year-old Cristobal Espinoza was stopped for a failing to maintain a lane on Flanders Road in his hometown of Flanders. Espinoza failed sobriety tests and had his 8-year-old child in the vehicle, police said.
Lindberg and Espinoza were each charged with endangering the welfare of a child and driving while intoxicated with a child, a felony under Leandra’s Law.
Lindberg will be arraigned at First District Court in Hempstead and Espinoza will face his charges at Southampton Town Justice Court.
Lindberg’s daughter was released to the custody of the girl’s father. Espinoza’ s child was returned to his mother.
It turns out 2012 was a bang up year for stupid crime on Long Island as local suspects—some of whom are still fighting their charges—raised the bar for WTF police news moments.
And it wasn’t an easy year to be a stand-out crook. Remember the Sandy crime sprees, gas line assaults and post-superstorm price gougers? Then there’s the alleged public corruption, including the conviction of former Nassau County Legis. Roger Corbin, the arrest of Hempstead Town Clerk Mark Bonilla and a half dozen Nassau County police officers and officials facing various charges over the past 12 months.
While those who made this list didn’t leave anyone dead, some came close or, at the very least, put the suspects and public at risk. Move over Lindsay Lohan, these are our local candidates for TruTV’s World’s Dumbest Criminals.
10. Alleged West Sayville Wedding Gift Thief
Weddings are always nice. Love is in the air. There’s usually an open bar. Families put aside their feuds for a day. But someone always makes an ass of themselves. Or, in Omar Santiago’s case, Suffolk County police said he ruined one couple’s nuptials over Labor Day weekend by trying to steal a box of gift envelopes. The New Jersey teen was quickly apprehended by fellow guests as he ran from the West Sayville Country Club after stuffing a bunch of the envelopes down his pants. Smooth. The gifts were returned and Santiago pleaded not guilty.
9. New Cassel Man Plays Dentist
OK, this one is kind of disturbing. Many people are scared of the dentist, but Nassau County police said more than 100 folks had no problem having an undocumented immigrant with a sixth-grade education use unsanitary second-hand tools to perform dental work on them in his dirty New Cassel home/office. A tipster dropped a dime on the wannabe tooth fairy in April—after he’d been running his cash-only business for at least a year. Manuel Carranza was charged with unauthorized practice of a crime, criminal diversion of a prescription and other counts.
8. Bellport Teen Allegedly Brings Drugs to Court
Ah, to be young again. That feeling of invincibility that gets so many kids in trouble is apparently strong with this one. Authorities said that Keandre Hudson swallowed bags of cocaine and heroin before being arrested for fleeing police in October. He passed the drugs while locked up at Suffolk County jail, where he is being held after not posting bail. The 17-year-old Bellport man then allegedly brought the drugs with him to court while pleading not guilty Nov. 20 to fleeing cops and other charges. That’s when investigators searched him, found the narcotics and added new charges, authorities said. What more convenient place to get arrested than before a judge?
7. Garden City Man Accused of Mailing Poo to Ex-wife
Love stinks, as The J. Geils Band famously sang. But federal authorities alleged that Gerald Desiderio took that song a bit too literally when he reportedly mailed alimony checks smeared with poop to his ex-wife in Arizona. The 51-year-old Garden City man apparently took a cue from the likes of drug dealers who don’t realize they can get busted for dropping narcotics in the mail. The feds said Desiderio also mailed vulgar notes, “tasteless objects” and a photo of a knife with a serrated blade. He will face the charges in Arizona, although if there’s any upside to the charges being on the federal level, he won’t have to deal with “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio.
6. Drunk Driver Saved by Cops Before Train Hits Her Car
This one could have ended a lot worse. In a scene torn out of The Fugitive, a drunken driver mistakenly turned onto the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Bay Shore last spring, got stuck and had to be rescued by Suffolk County police officers moments before a train smashed into her car. Police had tried to radio ahead to get the train to stop, but there wasn’t enough time. Neither the officers, the driver nor anyone aboard the train were injured, but the Volkswagon was totaled. Oh yea, and the 43-year-old Islandia woman was arrested for DWI.
5. Nine Alligators Found on Long Island in Six Weeks
Here’s the lone stupid crime on this list that remains unsolved. Were there more alligators dumped across Nassau and Suffolk counties before the temperatures dropped to sub-Everglades levels? Maybe. But now that winter’s in full swing, any baby gators that turn up next will likely be frozen to death. The tiny killing machines started popping up Sept. 28 in Mastic Beach. Others were found in Shirley, Wading River, Lake Ronkonkoma, Yaphank and two turned up in Baldwin in two days. The most recent one was discovered in Southampton on Nov. 11. Who knows how many more would’ve been found had Sandy not struck in the middle of this mysterious gator dumping spree.
4. Jason Kidd Nabbed for Hamptons DWI Crash
What makes the NY Knicks’ point guard arrest stupider than any other drunken driving charge or celebrity brush with law enforcement? The 39-year-old NBA All Star had only signed a $9-million contract with the team 10 days before allegedly wrapping his SUV around a utility pole near his Water Mill home in July. Adding to the stupid timing of the allegations was that they came just as team owner James Dolan decided against matching the Houston Rockets $25-million contract offer for breakout star Jeremy Lin. Kidd’s fighting the charges.
3. Williston Park Man Charged With Shooting Girlfriend Over Zombies
People have strong feelings about the fictional zombie apocalypse. But none more so than The Walking Dead fan Jared Gurman, who Nassau police said was so adamant in his argument that the government can release a zombie virus that he shot his girlfriend of four years in the back outside his Willison Park home Dec. 4—about three weeks before the world didn’t end for the Mayan “apocalypse.” The woman survived and Gurman was charged with second-degree attempted murder. He’s being held on $1 million bail.
2. The Long Island Hot Dog Hooker
This is one for the ages. Longtime stripper, bikini lover and tube-steak slinger Catherine Scalia, 45, propositioned undercover cops at her Baldwin hot dog truck last May. They charged her with prostitution when they showed up at her East Rockaway home. She argued she only was giving lap dances, not selling sex, then pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor prostitution charge and was sentenced to seven days time served. We’re not judging strippers or wiener salespeople here. What’s so stupid about this case—aside from the hilariously incongruous combination of professions—is that she was busted for doing the same thing in the same spot on Sunrise Highway years prior. And vowed to continue.
1. The Jones Beach Faked Death Plot
Sometimes people joke about faking their own death, starting their life over under an alias and living off the life insurance money. Most people have enough sense to know that it’s too ridiculous an idea for it to ever work. Then there’s Raymond Roth of Massapequa, who Nassau authorities said tried to do just that after allegedly cleaning out his wife’s bank account, putting his house up for sale and faking his own drowning at Jones Beach in August. He later turned up in Florida, sped back to LI when the alleged plot unraveled and turned himself in after a stop at the psych ward. He pleaded not guilty, along with his kid who’s accused of helping him. His wife’s filed for divorce.
Westfield Sunrise Mall in Massapequa was evacuated for a bomb scare after a suspicious package was found on Monday evening, Nassau County police said.
A mall employee saw a 31-year-old woman acting incoherently, carrying two suitcases and a shopping bag leave the packages unattended near Sunrise Jewelers and walked away shortly before 6 p.m.
The mall was evacuated as a precaution after police officers took the unidentified incoherent woman into custody in another part of the mall and called in the Arson/Bomb Squad out of concern for the contents of the abandoned packages.
“Better safe than sorry,” said a Walmart employee who declined to give his name after watching the bomb squad robot in action on the east side of the mall on Sunrise Highway.
Police said the packages were determined not to be a threat around 8 p.m., when the mall was reopened.
Mall security referred calls to management, which was unavailable for comment Monday evening.
The woman was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.
Suffolk County police say the alleged hit-and-run driver who critically injured a teenager in West Islip on New Year’s Eve got help trying to cover up the crime from his passenger and girlfriend.
Kristofer Busching, 25, of North Babylon, was arrested Sunday along with his passenger, 19-year-old Carlo Caamano of Bay Shore, and girlfriend, 23-year-old Alicia Santamaria of Bay Shore, who police said wasn’t in the car at the time of the crash.
Police said Busching was driving a Chrysler 300 northbound on Udall Road when he hit the victim at 10:26 p.m. Dec. 31. Police found the victim unconscious lying in the road after witnesses reported seeing the suspect’s vehicle flee the scene.
Busching, Caamano and Santamaria were charged with conspiracy. Busching was additionally charged with assault, leaving the scene of an accident with serious physical injury. Caamano and Santamaria are also facing charges of hindering prosecution. Caamano and Busching were charged with criminal mischief and petit larceny as well.
All three are scheduled to be arraigned Monday at First District Court in Central Islip.
The victim remains in critical condition at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip.
A 20-year-old man died after the car he was driving crashed into two houses in his hometown of North Amityville on Saturday night, seriously injuring his teenage passenger.
Suffolk County police said Roger Castro was driving his Pontiac Bonneville southbound on Great Neck Road when he lost control of the car, drove off the road, hit a vacant house and then crashed into a second house with residents inside at 8:35 p.m.
Castro was pronounced dead at the scene. His passenger, 15-year-old Edwin Cruz of North Amityville, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital where he is listed in serious condition.
One of the residents in the occupied house was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip for treatment of minor injuries.
A Town of Babylon building inspector inspected both houses and the vehicle was impounded for a safety check.
First Squad detectives are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information about this crash to call them at 631-854-8152.
Jury selection started Thursday in the trial of a former high-ranking Nassau County police official accused of conspiring to cover up a school burglary as a favor to a police benefactor.
Mark Cohen, the Suffolk County judge presiding over the case against ex-second deputy commissioner William Flanagan, said the trial is expected to conclude in mid-February, barring any setbacks.
Flanagan and two other former high-ranking police officials, deputy chief of patrol John Hunter and Alan Sharpe, deputy commander of the Seventh Precinct, have denied accusations of scuttling an investigation into a Merrick man who stole more than $10,000 worth of electronics from Bellmore’s John F. Kennedy High School in 2009.
Zachary Parker, the son of a prominent police benefactor, last year admitted to the burglary, violated his probation and was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison. Parker and his father have not been charged in connection with the alleged cover up.
In the Flanagan case, nearly 100 prospective jurors—many forced to stand—packed the Nassau County courtroom and were asked if health, business, vacation obligations, language difficulties or other responsibilities would preclude them from serving.
Students and those caring for children or the elderly were released with little or no contest. But those claiming business obligations were met with more scrutiny by the judge, prosecutors and defense counsel.
The judge went over the case with possible jurors and advised them not to speculate why Sharpe, Hunter and Flangan are scheduled to be tried separately. The jury selection process is expected to continue into next week.
Before the jurors were ushered in, Cohen discussed procedural issues in the upcoming trial, including an amendment to the original indictment and acknowledging that he received the prosecutors’ witness list.
Cohen was appointed in March after two previous Nassau judges recused themselves. One of the two, Judge John Kase, announced this week his retirement and return to the criminal defense law firm he founded.
Flangan, Sharpe and Hunter were indicted following a Press expose into benefits given to those who have donated money to a Nassau police nonprofit foundation that is building a new police academy at Nassau Community College.