Hundreds gather to denounce anti-Semitism at candlelight vigil

By Zachary R. Dowdy

Hundreds of people gathered and held candles aloft to take a stand against a spate of hateful acts directed not only against a Long Island Jewish center this week, but also the dozens of others across the country.

“It’s unacceptable and we have to put a stop to it,” said Rick Lewis, CEO of the Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center in Plainview, at the candlelight vigil Thursday night.

Some participants wore yarmulkes while others sported turbans, still others sported fedoras while some preferred hoodies. Clean shaven and bearded, toddlers and seniors, the people gathered outside the center were as racially and ethnically diverse as their disparate faiths.

They represented faiths including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Sikhism and others.

But, holding signs that said “United We Stand” and “Muslims For Jews,” they braved frigid temperatures for one reason: to send a message to the perpetrators of the bomb threats and anti-Semitic and racist graffiti that they won’t tolerate attacks.

“Not in our community, not in our town, not here, not now,” said Rabbi Jonathan Hecht of Temple Chaverim of Plainview, who helped organize the vigil called United Against Hate.

The group was responding to a wave of threats phoned in to Jewish centers this week, including one to the Plainview center Monday that prompted police to evacuate the facility that held about 400 people at the time.

About 100 bomb threats against Jewish centers were reported in the New York communities of Plainview, Staten Island, New Rochelle, and Tarrytown, as well as in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Indiana, Alabama, Missouri, North Carolina and Florida.

President Donald Trump said during his address to Congress Tuesday that the attacks are a reminder of deep divisions in the country but that Americans should unite against bigotry.

“Inclusiveness, tolerance and love will triumph,” said state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), one of several politicians in attendance. “Those feelings of hate and intolerance have no place on Long Island or in New York.”

Nassau Legis. Carrie Solages (D-Elmont), said the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was concerned with how “good people” respond to hatred, adding, “We would be making Dr. King proud here tonight by what we are doing.”

“We are all children of Abraham,” said Jalees Ahmed, who said he is a parishioner of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. “We want to let our neighbors know we condemn in the strongest terms acts against our Jewish brothers and sisters.”

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Indicted Oyster Bay town supervisor steps down

OYSTER BAY – Months after being indicted on corruption charges, longtime Town Supervisor John Venditto has stepped down.

The 10-term Republican supervisor and Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano are both accused of taking bribes and kickbacks from a Nassau restaurant owner.

“It will be difficult, if not impossible, for me to function as the town supervisor going forward, as I focus on clearing my name,” he said in a statement Tuesday explaining his resignation.

His resignation became official at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Deputy Supervisor Joseph Muscarella will take over the town supervisor’s duties until the board selects a replacement.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs has not called on Mangano to resign, and neither has the Democratic minority in the Legislature.

Potential Democratic county executive candidates – Legislator Laura Curran, Assemblyman Charles Lavine and Comptroller George Maragos – have all stopped short of calling on Mangano to step down, too. Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman did say that Mangano should step aside in the wake of Venditto’s decision.

“The taxpayers and residents of this county deserve a county executive who is not engrossed in a criminal trial,” says Schnirman.

News 12 Long Island reached out to County Executive Ed Mangano’s office for comment, but has not heard back.

Political analyst Jerry Kremer says that while residents in the Town of Oyster Bay are outraged by the corruption charges, the same can’t be said on a countywide basis.

“Considering Nassau County is 1.6 million people, you really don’t have that much of an aroused public right now,” says Kremer.


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By Ted Phillips

           Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto, who is under indictment on federal corruption charges, said he will resign from a 35-year career in government at the end of the day Wednesday.

“I have decided to leave my position as the Oyster Bay Town supervisor,” Venditto said in a statement on Tuesday. “I now feel that it is in the best interests of the town and its residents for me to do so, especially since it will be difficult, if not impossible, for me to function as the town supervisor going forward, as I focus on clearing my name.”

The announcement ends months of speculation on his future in the town since his indictment in October on federal corruption charges. He is accused of soliciting and accepting bribes from restaurateur and former town concessionaire Harendra Singh in return for helping him obtain town guarantees on $20 million in loans.

Venditto has pleaded not guilty. Singh, who also faces federal charges, is due in U.S. District Court next week for jury selection in his trial.

The resignation ends a career in government that includes being elected to 10 terms as town supervisor. A Republican, Venditto first won election as supervisor in 1997 after serving as town attorney and councilman. As supervisor he maintained a tight control over the board

That grip began to loosen last year and board members openly dissented against some of his decisions as the Singh controversy broke and former town planning commissioner Frederick Ippolito pleaded guilty to federal tax evasion charges.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler, during a court hearing for Ippolito last year, said, “There’s something rotten in the town of Oyster Bay.”

Councilman and Deputy Town Supervisor Joseph Muscarella said he will serve as interim supervisor and he expects the board will select a new supervisor within 30 days.

Muscarella said Venditto has “done a lot of good things for the town of Oyster Bay,” adding that he is “hoping in my heart he will be found not guilty.”

He added that the town must now go in a “new direction.”

Venditto, 67, a resident of North Massapequa, last year began collecting his annual pension of $79,575 and took a reduced salary from the town so that his combined gross yearly pay remained at $140,000.

Venditto’s reputation in Oyster Bay suffered as the town’s once enviable finances deteriorated as debt more than doubled to more than $729 million over the past decade and Standard & Poor’s downgraded Oyster Bay’s credit rating to junk status. The downgrading prompted Venditto to say publically that he had made mistakes in the management of the town.

After years of easy victories, in 2015 he won re-election by fewer than 100 votes when he was challenged by a virtual unknown.

Councilman Joseph Pinto praised Venditto for doing “wonderful things for the town of Oyster Bay for many years,” but said the past year and a half have been difficult for the town.

“Hopefully now the focus will come off what’s going on with the supervisor and go back to what’s important for town residents,” he said.

Democrat Bob Frier, a former town board candidate from Woodbury and a Venditto critic, said, “Taxpayers should demand that whoever they appoint should not be part of this culture of corruption that has existed in the town of Oyster Bay.”