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.

NY Islanders Arena Gets Key State Approval

Islanders Captain Anders Lee carries the puck across the blue line during the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 26th, 2019. (Photo by Joe Nuzzo)

The New York Islanders got a key government panel’s approval Thursday to build a new hockey arena in Elmont as the NHL team prepares to skate from the Brooklyn Barclays Center.

The Empire State Development Corporation unanimously approved the proposal to build the $1.3 billion arena along with a new hotel and retail on a state-owned 43-acre vacant plot of land adjacent to Belmont Park racetrack on the Nassau County-Queens border.

“It’s time to rock and roll and put up that great building to have a home that we can call our own to keep the Islanders on Long Island because the fans deserve this,” said Islanders co-owner John Ledecky.

The complex will include a 19,000-seat arena, 350,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, and a 250-room hotel. Once the state Franchise Oversight Board approves the state’s environmental review of the proposal in the coming weeks, construction is slated to begin with the goal of opening the arena in time for the 2021 season. But it’s possible that critics of the plan — such as residents of Floral Park and Elmont concerned about increased traffic — can still sue to try to block the development.

The approval comes a month after state officials announced that a new Long Island Rail Road station will be built to accommodate fans traveling to and from the arena. And it comes two years after they originally pitched the idea to the state.

Long Island’s only professional major league sports team left their original home of Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale — where they spent four decades, including their four-straight Stanley Cup-winning seasons — to move to Brooklyn in 2015, but after two years in New York City, the team’s owners started eyeing another home. 

Around the same time that talk of the team returning to the recently renovated coliseum was scuttled, New York Arena Partners — a partnership between the Islanders, Mets, and arena developers Oak View Group — advanced the Elmont plan.

 

Former Nassau Exec Thomas Gulotta Dies

Thomas Gulotta

Thomas Gulotta, a former Republican lawmaker who served as Nassau County executive from 1987 through 2001, presiding over the creation of the Nassau County Legislature, died on August 4. He was 75.

The former Town of Hempstead supervisor and ex-New York State Assemblyman from North Merrick was elected to Nassau’s top job when the county was controlled by what was known as the Board of Supervisors. He was the first county exec to have to work with the 19 members of the Nassau legislature when that body was formed in 1996. He declined to seek re-election to a fifth term following a financial crisis that resulted in a state bailout and the creation of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority.

“He was one of the brightest and most gifted elected officials I have met in my years in county government,” said Nassau County Legislature Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park). “He was a hard-working public servant and was counted as a friend by residents in every corner of the county. Tom Gulotta served with distinction and dignity and will be missed.”

Gulotta’s legacy includes the creation of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove, Nassau County Aquatic Center in East Meadow, and the Cradle of Aviation Museum, which is the anchor of Museum Row in Garden City. After he left political life, he worked for the law firm of Albanese & Albanese, LLP. He was succeeded by Tom Suozzi, who is now a congressman.

“Tom was a dedicated husband, father, and public servant,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat. “In his career in government that spanned over four decades, Tom served our residents with distinction. In recent years, I was lucky enough to become good friends with both Tom and his wife, Betsy. My heart goes out to Betsy and the whole Gulotta family for their loss.”

He is survived by his wife Elizabeth, brother Frank, son Christopher, and daughter Elizabeth. He was buried at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

NY Police Called For Backup In Gang-Plagued Hempstead

New York State police

New York State and local law enforcement agencies are joining forces in a new effort to combat a spate of recent gang violence in the Village of Hempstead, where multiple village police commanders were recently arrested.

State police will patrol the village, send technical resources to help village police, and the state will assign a full-time investigator to the FBI’s Long Island Gang Task Force. Authorities also will form a new task force targeting gangs in the area and increase scrutiny on parolees who are known gang members.

“The situation here is not unique but it is unacceptable: It’s guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them and it’s gang violence,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. 

This isn’t the first time state police have been called in to help local police patrol gang-plagued neighborhoods on Long Island. They started doing the same in Brentwood and Central Islip in 2017 after a string of high-profile MS-13 murders there.

“Families in the Village of Hempstead deserve a safe neighborhood to raise their children in,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, who asked Cuomo for help with Hempstead. 

In addition to patrols, the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) is sending technical advisors to Hempstead police to assess their needs for License Plate Readers, video cameras, social media analysis, and training. DCJS, Nassau County, and Hempstead village authorities will also form a task force to create longer-term goals to combat gang violence in the village.

That’s in addition to the FBI’s task force, which the state will assign a full-time investigator to from its Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Office of Special Investigations (DOCCS) to enhance gang enforcement activities in the community. DOCCS will also establish specialized gang caseloads for individuals with known gang affiliations on LI who will be placed under intensive supervision.

“We are grateful for any additional resources that the State of New York may provide us, whether financially or with patrol cars, and look forward to working side by side with the state’s extraordinary law enforcement officers,” said Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan.

The Stray Cats Rock Amityville To Kick Off 40th Anniversary Tour

The Stray Cats' drumer Slim Jim Phantom and bassist Lee Rocker donned Massapequa t-shirts while frontman Brian Setzer wore a 9/11 Museum shirt during the encore during their show at Revolution Bar & Music Hall on Aug. 2, 2019. (Long Island Press photo)

Rockabilly rebels The Stray Cats strutted their pompadours Friday to Revolution Bar & Music Hall to rock their hometown fans on Long Island with an intimate show kicking off their 40th anniversary tour — their first in a decade.

Classics, new tunes off 40, their first album in 26 years, and redemption echoed through the invite-only show — tickets were only given to Sirius XM subscribers— since the trio from Massapequa was rejected when they auditioned in 1977 to play at the same Amityville venue, which was then known as Past Times Pub.

“People thought we were nuts,” Brian Setzer, the band’s Grammy-winning singer and guitarist, told the audience of about 300 between songs while recalling the failed tryout. “It’s OK, because here we are now!”

Setzer, whose revival work extends to not only rockabilly, but also swing, with his eponymous 19-member Brian Setzer Orchestra, is considered one of the world’s greatest living guitarists. But for this show, he was back where it all started, on a small local bar’s stage alongside stand-up bassist Lee Rocker and drummer Slim Jim Phantom.

The trio dutifully weaved together the new and the old from their catalog. They opened the set with “Cat Fight” off their new album before launching into “Runaway Boys” and “Double Talkin Baby” off their 1981 self-titled debut, then went back to the latest effort for “3x a Charm,” which they followed up with one of their most popular hits, “Stray Cat Strut” also off their debut.

The Cats then gave a nod to their ‘50s muses and covered Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” and gave a shout out to “the king of surf guitar” before playing Dick Dale’s “Misirlou.”

Spicing things up was Lee Rocker taking lead vocals on one of the new ditties, “When Nothing Goes Right.” Setzer took a moment to tell the failed audition story between “(She’s) Sexy and 17” and “Fishnet Stockings” before jokingly asking, “Did we pass the audition?”

They closed out the set with none other than “Rock This Town,” after which Setzer quipped, “Old Massapequa don’t look that bad.” An audience member yelled “welcome home!”

For the encore, Phantom and Rocker came out in Massapequa High School t-shirts, while Setzer wore a 9/11 Museum shirt with the NYPD logo. They closed the night with “Rock It Off,” “Built For Speed,” and “Rumble In Brighton.”

For those who missed it, the Cats play Pier 17 in Manhattan on Aug. 6 and Setzer is squeezing in a local solo show at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Aug. 10 before the band takes their act on the road across the country through the fall.

It looks like they passed that second audition after all.

How To Make A Restaurant-Quality Lobster Roll at Home

Lobster rolls are a summer staple but can be enjoyed all year round.

Summer on Long Island isn’t complete without enjoying a lobster roll at one of the many restaurants across Long Island that serve them, but for those who can’t get enough, the delicious delicacy can easily be made at home.

Long Island native, author, and Chopped champion Chef Eric LeVine who runs 317 Main Street in Farmingdale revealed his secret to preparing the perfect lobster roll — a dish he’s made countless times during his decades in the restaurant industry. His first tip? Don’t cheap out on the key ingredient.

“Make it fresh,” he said, noting that for best results, only Maine lobster bought from a local fish market will do. “Don’t use frozen lobster because the water content it too high.”

Nobody wants a soggy lobster roll. For the same reason, the former Elmont and Valley Stream resident who previously did catering at the Lido Golf Club said that after shelling a fresh lobster, pat the meat dry.

But first things first. When shopping for a fresh lobster, LeVine said finding a female is the goal. Female lobsters can be identified by what look like little hairs on their underbelly, he said. Females also have broader tails than male lobsters.

Related Story: Who Serves The Best Lobster Roll on Long Island?

‘They tend to be sweeter,” said the chef. “They tend to be a little more tender.”

He also advises against putting a lobster in already-boiling water. The best method is to put the lobster in a pot of water and then bring the water to a boil until it reaches 165 degrees. Lobsters should be boiled 10 to 20 minutes.

After the lobster is cooked, shelled, and the meat is patted dry, mix it with one tablespoon of mayonnaise and two tablespoons of lemon juice per pound of lobster meat. Add salt and white pepper.

Another reason to use a female lobster is the possibility of finding roe in the tail. If that happens, run the roe through a cocktail strainer and add it to the recipe while mixing the mayo, meat, and lemon juice. He said the addition is “really tasty.”

The last step is selecting the bun, which should ideally be lightly buttered and toasted. LeVine prefers a brioche bun, but adds that some lobster-roll lovers would rather have it on a hot dog bun. Once toasted and buttered, put the lobster on the bun and enjoy!

Related Story: 10 Long Island Seafood Shacks To Hit This Summer

Venditto Pleads Guilty To Corruption Charges

John Venditto
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, left, leaving federal court in Central Islip with his attorney on Thursday, Oct. 20.

Disgraced ex-Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto has admitted to corruption in a plea deal that will spare him serving any time behind bars following his 2017 arrest.

For former lawmaker pleaded guilty Friday at Nassau County court to a felony charge of corrupt use of position or authority and a misdemeanor count of official misconduct. Charges of defrauding the government and conspiracy were dropped in exchange for the plea. 

“Our investigation uncovered pervasive corruption in the Town of Oyster Bay where the powerful and connected used the government to benefit themselves at the expense of the taxpayers they were sworn to serve,” Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said. “This felony plea by former Town Supervisor Venditto sends a strong message that corruption will not be tolerated in Nassau County and my office will pursue these cases aggressively without fear or favor.”

Nassau prosecutors said the 70-year-old Massapequa man directed former town Parks Commissioner Frank Nocerino to hire an individual at the behest of Frederick Ippolito, the former town planning commissioner from Syosset who died in prison this year at age 78 after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion. The employee, who paid more than twice the rate of others in his position, was hired while the town was considering layoffs due to a financial crisis, authorities noted.

Later, Ippolito—who was already convicted at the time—ordered the employee be fired, according to investigators. Venditto and Richard Porcelli, deputy executive leader of the North Massapequa Republican Club, agreed to fire the employee, but also fired others to divert attention from the firing, prosecutors said.

Nocerino and Porcelli were each charged with official misconduct in the case. Porcelli was also charged with conspiracy. They both pleaded not guilty and their trials are pending.

Venditto was sentenced to three years conditional discharge. He had faced up to four years in prison on the felony.

Venditto was acquitted last year of federal corruption charges in a separate case. His co-defendants in that case, fellow Republican former Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, and Mangano’s wife, Linda, were convicted following a retrial in March.

Boy Racing Across The Nation For Pediatric Cancer Survivors Joining Long Island Fun Run

Matteo Lambert

A 9-year-old Virginia boy who is running 32 different 5Ks in 15 states to raise money for kids with cancer will be participating in a race in Wantagh on Saturday.

Matteo Lambert, who made it his mission to run 100 miles in support of the charity Hopecam, which uses technology to connect kids in treatment to their classmates, will be among the runners hitting the road for the Purple Ribbon 5K Run/Walk this weekend.

“I love using my legs to support kids and my friends … with cancer,” Lambert told the Vancouver Sun after a recent race in Canada. “Last year I participated in my school’s 5K run, pretty unsure if I could finish. I ran a good time. So, I ran another 5K, and another one, and, well, you know how the story goes — I’m hooked.” 

Founded by a Binghamton University student in honor of his grandmother who passed away due to pancreatic cancer, proceeds of the Purple Ribbon 5K race will be donated to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.

For each race Lambert is in, he “borrows” the superpowers of a Hopecam pediatric cancer survivor, a photo of whom will adorn the cape he wears while running. In the Purple Ribbon Run, Lambert will borrow the powers of  Benjamin, a leukemia patient from Baldwin Place in Westchester County. After each race, he sends the cape and any winning medals to the child. So far he’s raised $25,000 — far exceeding his $5,000 initial goal.

Lambert, who has made national headlines for his mission, most recently made news when he traveled last week to Chicago to meet his hero, Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo, a pediatric cancer survivor.

“You are an inspiration,” read a note that Lambert gave Rizzo on Friday, evoking the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. “Let’s help kids be kids. Give us a moonshot.” 

Rizzo, who hadn’t hit a homerun in more than a month, came up in the third inning while bases were loaded, the Cubs had two outs, and were trailing the Padres 0-3. Rizzo then hit a go-ahead grand slam out of Wrigley Field — his 20th homer of the year — paving the way for the Cubs to beat the Padres 6-5. Lambert then ran his 20th race on his mission — and his first 10K, finishing in the top 10 percent. 

Lambert also has upcoming races at Camden Yards on Aug. 3,  Kansas City’s Kaufmann Stadium on Aug. 10, Nats Park on Sept. 21, and several other races and events along the way.

The Purple Ribbon 5K Run/Walk will start and finish at Forest Lake Elementary School, 3100 Beltagh Ave. in Wantagh. For more information, visit purpleribbonrun.com Fee: $6-$30. 8 a.m. July 27.

Dog Walking App Wag Puts Pups At Risk, Long Island Woman Claims in Lawsuit

The dog-walker app Wag fails to properly train employees who are accused of killing at least 11 dogs in recent years, a Long Island woman alleged in a federal class action lawsuit filed this month.

The lead plaintiff, Barbara Meli, of Nassau County, and two other women filed the claim seeking $5 million in damages against the $7 billion California-based app in Central Islip federal court on July 1. The suit alleges the company violated New York State business law, negligently misrepresented its serves in its advertising, and unjustly enriched itself.

“Wag reaps huge profits in this new age of a mostly unregulated gig economy where lives are for profit, at a cost of silent deaths of the dogs who are meaningless by the standards of Wag’s technological business model,” the trio, represented by Manhattan-based attorney Susan Chana Lask, allege in the suit before Judge Joan Azrack.

Wag’s app-based business model has been likened to the ride-share app Uber or the food delivery service Grub Hub in which there is a low bar to entry for employees. Since Wag was founded in 2015, it has grown to serve more than 100 cities in 43 states.

Its dog walkers have reportedly been involved in the deaths of 11 dogs, according to The New York Post, which reported last month that Wag spokeswoman and actress Olivia Munn was dispatched to console a grieving family. 

Meli said she hired an attorney after she immediately became suspicious of the company’s claims when she first tried to use the app to get someone to walk her three dogs. 

“Meli did some research on the web and discovered the beginning of a horrendous history of Wag dog killings, thefts and beatings and Wag dog walkers committing other crimes in consumer homes,” according to the complaint.

Another plaintiff, Stacey Champagne, alleged in the suit that she told her Wag dog walker not to take her Golden Retriever puppy, Ellie, to a dog park because the pup was in heat, not spayed, and could easily get pregnant. But the dog walker allegedly ignored those instructions.

“Ellie… got to play around with a bunch of other dogs on our walk,” the dog walker is quoted as saying in the court documents. “I brought her down to Court Square and at one point she was surrounded by five male dogs who wouldn’t stop sniffing her.”

Now the owner is afraid that her puppy might be pregnant.

The third plaintiff, Tracey Hassel, alleged that her senior 9-year-old Cockapoo, Samson, hasn’t been the same since a Wag dog walker ignored instructions not to take the pup for a long walk during a heat wave, according to the suit.

“Accidents and incidents are rare, but we know the impact even one can have on the family involved,” the company told Courthouse News.

Long Island Beach Ranks Least Safe For Swimming in NY

The beach house in the distance on in Tanner Park in Copiague, Long Island, NY.

A small bayfront park in southwestern Suffolk County has ranked as having the least safe water quality for swimming in New York State, according to a national report released on Tuesday.

The Chicago-based nonprofit Environment America Research & Policy Center reported that Tanner Park in Copiague “tested as potentially unsafe for 48 days, more days than any other site in the state, and 68 percent of the days that sampling took place” at 276 of 422 sampled beach sites deemed potentially unsafe for at least one day in 2018. It also found that eight Suffolk County beaches were in the top 10 to have the most potentially unsafe swimming days last year.

“Swimming at the beach is a prime summertime joy for millions of Americans, but clearly we have more work to do to make sure water at all our beaches is safe,” said John Rumpler, the group’s clean water program director. “We must invest in water infrastructure that prevents pollution to ensure that America’s waterways are safe for swimming.”

The report released looked at fecal bacteria levels at beaches in 29 coastal and Great Lakes states as well as Puerto Rico. It found that nearly 60 percent of 4,523 beaches tested nationwide had water pollution levels that put swimmers at risk of getting sick on at least one occasion last year.

The report used standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Samples tested positive for fecal bacteria, which can make people ill, particularly with gastrointestinal ailments. Swimming in polluted water causes an estimated 57 million cases of illness annually, according to a 2018 study from the journal Environmental Health. Common sources of this pollution include stormwater runoff and sewage overflows. That’s why the Nassau and Suffolk county health departments often issue beach closures after strong rain storms. 

The report includes several recommendations to prevent bacterial pollution and keep our beaches safe for swimming. Rain barrels, rooftop gardens, permeable pavement, and urban green space can all absorb stormwater runoff and prevent sewage overflows. 

Besides Tanner Park, the other seven beaches in Suffolk that ranked as last safe in the state were Shirley Beach in Shirley, Venetian Shores in Lindenhurst, Valley Grove Beach in Northport, Sayville Marina Park, Benjamin’s Beach in Bay Shore, Corey Creek Beach in Blue Point, and East Islip Beach. One beach in neighboring Nassau County, Biltmore Beach in Massapequa, also made the top 10.

Top 10 Beach Sites by Most Potentially Unsafe Swimming Days in New York in 2018. (Source: Environment America Research & Policy Center)

Long Island Heat Wave Causes Power Outages

Jones Beach State Park
Long Islanders cool off at Jones Beach State Park (Shutterstock)

A heat wave that blanketed Long Island with sweltering conditions over the weekend cause tens of thousands of homes and businesses to lose power, officials said.

PSEG Long Island reported that more than 27,000 of its 1.1 customers lost power in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Saturday and Sunday. Most were restored by Sunday night, with only a few hundred outages remaining Monday morning.

“Crews have been working 16-hour shifts in grueling conditions to ensure any customers affected by an outage have power restored safely and as quickly as possible,” the utility said in a statement, blaming the outages “local, isolated equipment failures.”

The National Weather Service (NWS) lifted the excessive heat warning Sunday night. High humidity made temperatures in the 90s — with a high of 99 recorded in Islip on Sunday — feel like up to 112 in parts of the Island, according to Upton-based NWS meteorologist Tim Morrin.

“The real story this weekend in this heat wave was the heat index,” Morrin said. “It wasn’t even necessarily record breaking in the realm of temperature…but it was certainly impactful when it comes to the dew points that help generate those heat indexes.”

Now that the heat wave has passed, parts of the Island are under a flash flood watch as potentially severe thunderstorms are forecast to hit the region.