Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York View image | gettyimages.comFor the second time in less than a month Muslim leaders here have had to condemn terror committed in the name of Islam, as they once more have proclaimed that these killers do not represent Islam’s billion adherents across the globe—a message that President Obama repeated in his Oval Office address to the nation Sunday night.In Westbury, the Islamic Center of Long Island released a statement on its website saying it “strongly condemns the shooting incident in San Bernardino, California.”In its statement, the ICLI, which recently unveiled an interfaith institute at the mosque, said it “stands with the victims and their families” while also calling on Congress to enact greater gun control measures.“May God give comfort to survivors and give all of us resolve and wisdom to liberate our country from violence, fear, hate and anger,” the ICLI said.In Suffolk County, Dr. Yousuf Syed, trustee of the Islamic Association of Long Island at the Selden Mosque, distributed a lengthy email titled “Open Letter to Fellow Americans, We Stand With Them in Solidarity in Condemning the Mass Shootings.”“How could men like the San Bernardino killer…claim to be Muslim, when he has no respect for his own one year innocent baby child he left behind without mercy—I cannot call him an animal, because it would be an insult to animals,” the letter reads. “They would not abandon their off-springs like that.”“Islam requires that Muslims possess ‘Upright Character,’ and deal justly with [the] entire human race, irrespective of their ethnicity, nationality, creed, and whether they are friend or foe—these are the teachings of Islam,” the letter notes.Condemnation of the attacks echoed from coast to coast, as it did following the Nov. 13 assault on Paris.Nationally, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights group in the country, decried the massacre inside the conference room of the Inland Regional Center, which serves the developmentally disabled, which killed 14 and injured 21 others. The facility was being rented by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health for a holiday party. What began as a normal workday turned into a tragedy as a seemingly radicalized and heavily armed husband and wife duo gunned down their unsuspecting victims. It was the largest radicalized Islamic attack on US soil since nearly 3,000 people died on Sept. 11, 2001.“We condemn this horrific and revolting attack, and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured,” said CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush. “The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence.” View image | gettyimages.comFederal authorities have yet to publicly identify a motive in last week’s shooting in San Bernardino, but the FBI is investigating the rampage as terrorism. Both Tashfeen Malik and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook were killed in a ferocious gunfight with authorities after they fled Inland Regional Center in a black SUV. Investigators now believe Malik had pledged allegiance to the self-declared Islamic State, citing her Facebook post under a different name that the social media site has since scrubbed.Over the years, Muslim Americans have often been unfairly criticized for the false impression that they don’t outright condemn terrorism whenever it occurs, whether it’s at home or abroad. Muslim groups and interfaith leaders, however, say Muslims do repudiate terror but their statements don’t get nearly enough media attention.Prior to the San Bernardino slayings, Muslim Americans were already on edge. They point to a wave of Islamophobia from presidential candidates and the public, as well as harsh rhetoric directed at Syrian refugees since the coordinated strikes in Paris last month which claimed 130 lives. CAIR has also documented troubling cases around the country when innocent Muslims have been the victims of reprisal and intimidation at their local mosques. View image | gettyimages.comIn a rare speech to the nation Sunday night from the Oval Office—his first since 2010—President Obama urged Americans not to conflate Islam with terrorism. Anti-Islam rhetoric, Obama said, only plays into the so-called Islamic State’s hands.“We cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want,” the president said, using another name for ISIS. “ISIL does not speak for Islam. They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death, and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a billion Muslims around the world — including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.“Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around the world are Muslim,” the president continued. “If we’re to succeed in defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.”
Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York [dropcap]A[/dropcap]cross the Island some municipalities are clearly ahead of the pack. These communities possess the good fortune to have visionary leaders, courageous council members and the right combination of assets, infrastructure and drive to make a difference in people’s lives. When you look for local role models, a few stellar examples quickly come to mind: Jack Schnirman, Long Beach city manager; Paul Pontieri, mayor of Patchogue; Francis X. Murray, mayor of Rockville Centre; and state Sen. Jack Martins, the former mayor of Mineola. They didn’t all face the same problems, but these guys knew how to get it right. For Long Beach, Jack Schnirman faced a daunting challenge. As city manager, he wasn’t an elected leader but he was responsible for getting all the parties on board so he could right the city’s precarious finances. He inherited a $14.7 million deficit and he turned it around so now the city has a $7 million fund balance. Long Beach just got its eighth consecutive positive credit action from Moody’s. Not only did they upgrade the city’s bond rating, they gave the city a positive outlook going forward.By comparison, Nassau County is under the control of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) because of its chronic failure to balance the books. The Town of Hempstead’s credit rating has been downgraded many times, and Moody’s just withdrew its rating for the Town of Oyster Bay due to irregular filings—town officials say a computer broke down—and Standard & Poor’s is contemplating doing the same. In the town’s defense, a withdrawal is not the same as a downgrade, but it’s not an encouraging sign. Both ratings agencies have given the Town of Oyster Bay until the end of March to get its financial filings in order before they issue their ratings.“We are proud to be one of the municipalities moving in the right direction,” said Schnirman.On his watch, Long Beach declared a fiscal crisis, working with the city’s employees to achieve some contract concessions and downsize the workforce. Then came Superstorm Sandy. Still, by all accounts, Long Beach has managed to rebound—and been rewarded by consecutive good bond ratings. Schnirman praises the city council for “fiercely advocating for the resources to rebuild our city the right way with stronger infrastructure to protect ourselves from future storms.”To Schnirman’s credit, he navigated the city through the aftermath while staying within Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s tax cap of either a 2-percent limit or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. In Long Beach, the allowable tax increase is .47 percent because inflation is so low.“The challenge is that it caps revenue but it doesn’t cap expenses,” he explained. “Many of the fixed costs go up every year far greater than the size of the cap, so it necessitates constantly making cuts and difficult choices and being creative in order to live within it.”But Schnirman has been able to make it work.Handout: Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman“Jack has brought exceptional professionalism to the management of the city’s finances, and the repair and development of its infrastructure,” said Lawrence C. Levy, executive dean at Hofstra University’s National Center for Suburban Studies. “He was one of the heroes of Sandy.”Looking around the Island, Levy singles out Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray for what he’s done for his community. “Fran Murray is one of those mayors who has come to realize that the future of the village lies in making even better use of a strong downtown,” explained Levy. “He has understood that a lot of people want to move to Rockville Centre, but not everybody wants to live in a traditional, single-family house. They want rental apartments. They want to be able to walk to restaurants, to the movie theater.”Murray’s solution was to go vertical to solve the parking problem as well as add more apartments. Critics said Murray’s plan calling for more density was untenable, making the dire prediction that “Queensification” was about to transform their village, but it did not come to pass, as Levy observed.“Rockville Centre could be a model for downtown development rocketing a whole village!” said Levy. And he should know, because he now calls the village home. State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) first made waves in municipal circles when he helped transform Mineola as mayor by focusing on its downtown.“He used to have political leaders and other supporters whispering in his ear that if he goes ahead with his proposed high rises [downtown], his promising career would come to an end,” Levy said. “He just didn’t listen. He decided this was best for the village. People would see it and the payoff would be huge.” They did and it was. Martins won his mayoral re-election by “an enormous margin,” Levy observed, then he won his state Senate race by defeating an incumbent Democrat and now he’s running for Congress to fill the empty seat vacated by Rep. Steve Israel (D-Dix Hills). In some sense, things started looking up for Martins when he embraced high rises.Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri faced a different problem.“I think Paul Pontieri had the hardest row to hoe,” said Levy. “He started with a village that was deeply down on its heels and almost hopeless.” Among his initiatives in Patchogue, Pontieri brought in a cultural arts center, encouraged developers to offer relatively affordable residential options, and created a vibrant, younger feel to the downtown. Handout: Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri“But he had to go to war with the political and business and civic establishment,” Levy said. “He was willing to put his career and his mayoralty on the line, and he has been validated and vindicated over and over again. People often refer to him as the poster child for the new suburbia of Long Island.”Pontieri himself puts it more humbly.“I lived in Patchogue my whole life so I knew we had the bones and the strength to get something done,” he said. “What I saw were blighted properties that could be turned into opportunities.”He got upgrades for the village’s sewage treatment plant to accommodate higher density. Or, as Levy put it, “He not only saw above ground—he saw below ground!”Pontieri knew he had to revitalize the village’s downtown. “Nothing comes into a town that is empty. You need to put feet on the street,” he said. And there was another stark reality, which may sound ironic today. “We had a parking problem—there were empty spaces.” In fact, about 2,000 of them, he said.But a decade ago in came Copper Beech Village, developed by Pulti Homes of New York, on a 5-acre site with 80 units of affordable housing—16 per acre. Suffolk County chipped in $3.3 million to help Patchogue acquire the land from the previous homeowners. Then other high-density developments started sprouting up. “Once Pulti invested the first $5 million, it said that we’re worth investing in,” said Pontieri. “We cleaned up five acres of blighted property and put in 80 families with an average age of 38 years old.” Young families are vital to the future, Pontieri says. “The communities that fight this, they’re going to be the ones without the Little Leagues, because young families won’t have a place to start or invest in,” the mayor said, pointing out that his vision comes with some self-interest as well. “Someday I’m going to want to sell my house, and I’m hoping that one of these kids who’s invested in this village will look at my home and want to buy it!”Villagers started to get with the program he laid out once they could see the caliber of the development, the attention to design and details. “Let the developers make the money they need to make and they’ll stay with the project and give you quality,” Pontieri said. “Squeeze them too much and you end up with what you deserve.”Can other villages do what Pontieri did with Patchogue? “They can duplicate it,” the mayor insisted. “Don’t just listen to the gray-haired guys in the audience saying, ‘No!’ Understand that there’s a majority of the population out there that’s looking for change.”What these leaders have in common, Levy said, is “They’ve dared to be different.”
President Harvey Stenger says all classes must be taken online by Thursday. In addition to this, spectators will not be allowed at the university’s sporting events. VESTAL (WBNG) — Binghamton University will take measures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus in the Southern Tier. In an announcement made Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced all SUNY and CUNY schools will move to a distance-learning model. The full message sent to 12 News can be read below: For more coverage on the coronavirus, click here. All classes must go online by Thursday, March 19.Laboratory classes will be taught remotely; exceptions can be allowed by dean.Internships and clinical work can continue.Research laboratories and facilities will remain open.Residence halls, dining halls and other campus facilities and buildings will remain open.Students can stay on campus or may choose to go home.All events (including seminars, conferences, etc.) scheduled on or after March 19 must be canceled or moved to an online format, excepting as follows: Spectators will not be allowed at athletic competitions and performances as of March 19. A decision on Commencement will be announced by Friday, April 17.Staff report to work as normal.VPs/division heads can approve limited employee remote work assignments as a pilot for business continuity purposes.Staff with health concerns may request a remote work assignment.All University business travel is suspended. Exceptions may be approved by division heads when travel is critical to the University’s mission. The university says these rules will remain in effect until the end of semester.
COLESVILLE (WBNG)- Wednesday morning flames ripped through a barn in Colesville causing damage. Officials say they don’t know if anyone was home or if people live there. The fire is still under investigation. Stay with 12 News for further updates. A 12 News crew at the scene said they still can see smoke coming out of the structure as of 7:45 a.m. The fire happened on 644 North Rd. in Colesville. On the same property as the fire, fire crews say a house caught fire a few years ago. According to the fire department there were no injuries to firefighters or people.
For hours, protesters shared their grievances. When the crowds crept closer to police, some demonstrators linked arms, forming a barricade around officers. When protesters were ready to call it a night, one officer took a knee, with other officers following his lead. “You taking a knee shows you have some type of respect for what we’re doing,” said Talon Thomas, a protester at the event. “Some people wanted to and they just didn’t, you could tell they wanted to and they didn’t, and there were some that just had to. I respect those guys who swallowed their pride and stepped up,” said Thomas. “We just have to, as a community, come together and figure out how we can do better,” said Thomas. (WBNG) — Protesters say Tuesday night’s demonstration shows that calling for a change can be successful and done peacefully. “There’s a lot of cops who really know what’s right and what’s wrong. They know why we’re out there, they knew we weren’t trying to be violent,” said Thomas. Tuesday night’s protest started with a speak out event at Cheri Lindsey Park with hundreds later marching to the Binghamton Police Department. At the station, dozens of officers waited in a line. The protesters demanded officers take a knee in solidarity. Protesters say the struggle is not over, but they are working to bring change. “We have to come to the table eye to eye and get something done about this. The yelling at each other, standing around with shields and batons, and burning stuff down, nothing is getting done right,” said Malcolm. Malcolm then shook the officer’s hand and gave a him a hug. For Malcolm, it was his way of showing peace. “We’re here peacefully and you’re out here with us, and [the officer] said, ‘Yes’, and I said, ‘Well, we’re just as scared as you are, and we have no weapons,'” said Malcolm. When officers ignored protesters calls for taking a knee, one protester named Malcolm approached officers with a message.
BINGHAMTON (WBNG) — On June 1, around 1 a.m., the Our Space Playground in Recreation Park burned down. Send to: Community Foundation for South Central New York, 520 Columbia Drive, Suite 100, Johnson City, NY 13790 You can donate to the rebuilding of the playground by clicking here. Check can be made available to CFSCNY with Our Space Fund on the memo line. The playground was built in 2016 and was considered to be the most accessible playground for children with disabilities in New York State. Officials say the playground fire was arson but not related to protests over the death of George Floyd.
Schimmerling told 12 News he purchased several thousand bottles of hand sanitizer in preparation for the Southern Tier’s reopening, and gave them out at locations in Owego, Endicott and Binghamton “Safety has always been very important to me and this community has been really good to me,” Schimmerling said. “We’ve always been successful here and this is my way of giving something back to the community.” Schimmerling tells 12 News that he will continue to hold giveaways until all of the hand sanitizer is gone. OWEGO (WBNG) — Tom Schimmerling of Schimmerling Injury Law spent Sunday traveling around the Southern Tier handing out free bottles of hand sanitizer.