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.
A Garden City teenager has been accused of threatening to kill his school principal in a message found written in a classroom.
Nassau County police arrested Joshua Barley and charged him with making a terroristic threat, a felony.
Police said the 18-year-old wrote on the blackboard in his classroom at the Rosemary Kennedy BOCES School on North Jerusalem Road that he wanted to “assassinate the principal and take over the school” at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday.
A witness notified the principal who then called police.
Barley will be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Hempstead.
In his third State of the State address, delivered with much enthusiasm in Albany on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he wants to nix the Long Island Power Authority and touted a slew of proposals on gun control, women’s equality and decriminalizing marijuana possession.
Halfway through his first term, the governor challenged legislative leaders to pass those and other less-controversial parts of his 2013 agenda while he gave full vent to his criticism of Congress for delaying passage of $60 billion in Superstorm Sandy aid.
“This is an unprecedented situation in modern times where the federal government has not been responsive in the face of disaster,” Cuomo said, noting that in the 73 days since the catastrophic storm only $9 billion of the package has been approved. “That is not acceptable.”
Although Cuomo has no control over Congress, he suggested that the state could make reforms this year in education, storm preparation and campaign financing. He also promised to maintain his focus on New York’s economic development—an area that’s helped his 70-percent approval rating.
LI came up only in reference to Sandy—both Nassau and Suffolk county executives got shout outs along with Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford)—and the complications the Island faces during its recovery process.
Referring to LIPA, which faced harsh criticism for the extensive post-storm blackouts, he said: “It’s never worked, it never will, the time has come to abolish LIPA. Period.” The governor did not say what should replace it—the entity was created by his father Mario when he was governor—but did say the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, would need more oversight authority.
On the issue of rebuilding shorefront homes damaged in the superstorm, Cuomo proposed a buyout program for those living in areas prone to flooding. For those who prefer to stay, he urged storm hardening.
“Instead of just rebuilding a home, I’d rather pay more and put a house on pilings today than build that house three times,” he said.
Cuomo also proposed improving public alert systems before the next storm as well as establishing a state-level strategic fuel reserve to stave off another potential gas crisis.
The governor was most forceful on the topic of women’s rights and gun control. He insisted that the state approve banning assault weapons and large-capacity magazines in addition to increased sentencing guidelines for users of illegal guns in the wake of the Newtown massacre.
“Forget the extremists,” Cuomo said with rising passion in his hour-long speech. “It’s simple. No one hunts with an assault rifle. No one needs 10 bullets to kill a deer. And too many innocent people have died already.” His remarks were greeted with thunderous approval in the legislative hall.
He was equally adamant when proposing his women’s equality plan for pay equality, strengthening domestic violence laws, stopping workplace sexual harassment and protecting a woman’s right to choose—possibly the only issue as emotional as gun control.
“Because it’s her body, it’s her choice,” he yelled three times in a row. “We passed marriage equality. Let’s make history again and pass women’s equality in the state of New York!”
Cuomo’s proposal to reduce the public view of 15 grams of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation is aimed at reducing the disproportionate number of minorities charged with possession during the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk program in the five boroughs.
“It’s not fair, it’s not right, it must end and it must end now,” he said while reintroducing an idea that died in the state Senate last year. Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) blocked the bill when he was majority leader but now that the Skelos has a power-sharing agreement with Senate Democrats, Cuomo might have a better chance at getting his way.
Among the other notable proposals the governor rattled off were raising the minimum wage to $8.75, creating a statewide network of electric car charging stations and videotaping confessions for those charged with violent crimes and sex offences.
The governor got a few laughs while promoting upstate whitewater rafting by touting a new Adirondack Challenge event with a display of legislative leaders and himself Photo-shopped riding in rafts. He closed by praising the community spirit that sprung from Sandy’s destruction.
“In our darkest moment we shine the brightest,” Cuomo said. “New York State is rising because it’s more unified than ever before.”
Thousands of Superstorm Sandy damaged vehicles being stored in parts of the Pine Barrens region are increasingly raising environmental concerns from officials and advocates worries about fluids leaking into nearby drinking and surface water supplies.
Opening arguments are slated to begin Friday in a lawsuit against an Eastport farm accused of illegally storing vehicles. Two weeks ago, Riverhead officials expanded a similar makeshift storage lot in Calverton. And New York State environmental officials are monitoring other unofficial junkyards that have been popping up since the storm.
“Superstorm Sandy was a natural disaster over which nobody had any control,” said Richard Amper, executive director of the not-for-profit Long Island Pine Barren Society, which advocates for open space preservation. “But the dumping of wrecked cars in drinking water protection areas represents a disaster of government’s own making if action is not swiftly taken to remove junk cars.”
Vehicles that were damaged by the Oct. 29 superstorm’s floodwaters were towed to storage lots set up by insurance companies and others. The companies hope to resell undamaged parts of the cars. But the damaged cars risk leaking gasoline, oil, anti-freeze and other toxins into adjacent wetlands or the ground before seeping into aquifers that serve as LI’s drinking water supply.
Suffolk County and Brookhaven town are suing Ringhoff Farm, claiming its owners illegally stored vehicles on land they were paid to preserve. The suit alleges the junkyard violates town zoning rules and the terms of a deal with the county, which bought the 140-acre farms’ developmental rights for $1.7 million.
“Suffolk County taxpayers did not purchase the Ringhoff Farm’s development rights in order for it to be used as a junkyard,” County Executive Steve Bellone has said. The farm’s owners did not return calls for comment.
According to Christopher P. Ring, the attorney for the Ringhoffs, as soon as the Ringhoff’s were told to ‘cease and desist,’ they immediately stopped allowing Sandy damaged cars onto their property and are in the process of removing them.
State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) agents first discovered the farm’s junkyard and then notified the county, whose investigators were initially denied access. Judge William Kent, who’s presiding over the case, has issued a temporary restraining order forbidding the farm from accepting more vehicles.
The Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission reportedly cited the Ringhoffs this week for storing the damaged cars as well, which may bring additional legal action against the farm’s owners.
When other Sandy lots started popping up, the DEC issued statement reminding “landowners who are considering accepting vehicles on their properties to follow regulations designed to protect environmentally sensitive areas.”
Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst also released a joint statement on the vehicle storage issue saying, “we must remain mindful of the potential for long term and costly consequences if proper and thorough environmental and safety precautions are not taken.”
The DEC said it also directed a Southampton sand mine owner to off a portion of the property that was regulated by a DEC permit and that the owner complied without being issued a violation, officials said.
While authorities continue to monitor such situations and the Ringhoff case has its day in court, Riverhead town leaders voted Dec. 27 to expand Insurance Auto Auctions Corp.’s storage of tens of thousands of vehicles on runways at the 2,900-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL), which falls within the Pine Barrens groundwater protection area. Riverhead, which has been trying to develop the property for years, earned $2 million by insurance companies to store the out-of-commission cars for up to a year.
But the DEC issued a notice of violation to Jan Burman, who owns a subdivision in EPCAL, and Copart, an insurance company that was storing Sandy damaged vehicles on his portion of the property deemed to be protected sensitive grasslands. The company declined to comment.
In addition to environmental concerns, critics are concerned that unscrupulous used car dealers may try to pawn off the damaged vehicles to unsuspecting buyers. But with big bucks to be made off scrapping the vehicles and storing them in the meantime, the problem will likely persist.
“This is not a Sandy relief for victims, this is a money making business proposition,” Amper said.
Move over Napa and Tuscany. Wine Enthusiast magazine has ranked Long Island as one of the ‘10 Best Wine Travel Destination for 2013’ alongside regions such as Rioja, Spain and Vale dos Vinhedos, Brazil.
The honor comes as The New York Wine and Grape Foundation has been celebrating the fact that last year 48 New York wines were rated 90 or above by the three major wine consumer magazines — Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Wine & Spirits.
“It’s a unique amalgam of metropolitan influences against a core of hearty, agricultural tradition,” Wine Enthusiast wrote of LI wine country’s allure, where more than 50 wineries dot the North Fork and the Hamptons.
East End vintners have perfected the craft of making aromatic wines rich with flavor. LI’s wineries offer a profusion of Merlot, Chardonnays and sparkling wines, among other varieties.
Oenophiles mostly flock to the wine trail to sample the latest offerings during summer and the fall harvest season.
Among the local favorites are Lenz Winery in Peconic, the second-oldest winery, Martha Clara’s Vineyards in Riverhead, one of the most recognizable names, and Channing Daughters Winery in Bridgehamton, which prides themselves on “artisanal experimentation.”
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.