Newsday, July 11, 2009, "Nightmare commute"




BY KEITH HERBERT AND ERIK BADIA

Fire investigators are probing what sparked a blaze beneath the deck of the Throgs Neck Bridge that burned for 10 hours Friday among timbers, plastic gutter rings and paint chemicals, forcing the bridge’s closure and causing one of the longest and most wide-ranging traffic jams in recent memory.

By Friday evening, the bridge — a vital connection between Queens and the Bronx, used especially by truck traffic headed to New England — was functioning almost completely. About 112,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.

But there was one big exception: Vehicles with commercial plates are banned from all the bridge’s Bronx-bound lanes until further notice.

The Queens-bound lanes of the Throgs Neck Bridge reopened at 1 p.m. Two of the three Bronx-bound lanes were reopened at 6:15 p.m., only to noncommercial traffic. The rightmost of the Bronx-bound lanes will remain closed until future notice.

Newsday, June 24, 2009, "Mummy's no mommy"




*2nd place, Deadline News category, 2010 Press Club Of Long Island Media Awards*

BY ERIK BADIA


Talk about a case of mistaken identity.

Egyptologists from the Brooklyn Museum and doctors from North Shore University Hospital learned yesterday through a CT scan that a 2,500-year-old mummy previously thought to be a woman—and named Lady Hor—actually was a man.

Dr. Jesse Chusid said that while the mummy’s bodywrap of linen covered in plaster, called cartonnage, bore the shape of a woman, the body within had the anatomy of a man.

When Lady Hor’s image appeared on the screen, “we knew almost immediately that it was not a woman,” Chusid said. “You can actually see there are the pelvic organs of a male.”

The discovery was made after Chusid, a radiologist, and Dr. Amgad Makaryus, director of cardiac CT and MRI at the Manhasset hospital, performed a 64-slice computed tomography, or CT scan, on the mummy.

Newsday, August 22, 2009, "'Patience, wisdom' shone"



*3rd Place, Deadline News category, 2010 Press Club Of Long Island Media Awards*

BY ERIK BADIA

FDNY veteran Paul Warhola was remembered at his funeral in Center Moriches yesterday not just as an experienced and dedicated firefighter, but also as a man of many talents.

"He could build and fix just about anything," New York City Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta said at the ceremony, held at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church.

In addition to the work he did at the Engine 221 firehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, "he was much sought after on his days off to help the other members of the house," Scoppetta said.

Along with Scoppetta and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, 6,500 firefighters, police and emergency responders inundated Center Moriches for the funeral. Warhola, 47, suffered a stroke Aug. 12 responding to an alarm at a Brooklyn apartment building.

Newsday, June 20, 2009, "Some local stores still carry recalled products"



BY ERIK BADIA

After Nestle USA voluntarily recalled all its Toll House refrigerated raw cookie dough products because of possible E.coli contamination, supermarkets across Long Island pulled the products from their shelves—mostly.

A late afternoon visit Friday to several supermarkets in western Suffolk and eastern Nassau revealed not all stores on Long Island, even those within the same chain, received the memo.

While two laminated signs hung in the place where Nestle cookie dough products used to sit at the ShopRite on Woodbury Road in Plainview, the Dix Hills Super Stop & Shop on Jericho Turnpike still stocked all the cookie dough products.

The store’s manager said he was unaware of the recall and declined to comment further.

Newsday, August 5th, 2009, "And the beach goes on"




BY ERIK BADIA

She worked as a cashier at Jones Beach 65 years ago, but Dorothy Max was back on the boardwalk yesterday in a different capacity —to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Jones Beach State Park.

Max, 81, who worked at the beach from 1944 through the late 1950s, was among those who came to the park’s Central Mall boardwalk to honor the “crown jewel” of the New York State parks system.

Max said that her group of cashiers were an attraction all their own. “When the lifeguards wanted to relax, they came up to the cashiers’ booths at the gates — we were quite a draw,” she said.

State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and Assemb. Dave McDonough (R-Merrick) were among the elected officials in attendance and spoke briefly to the crowd.

Newsday, August 31, 2009, "'Black Beast' returns"



BY ERIK BADIA


It's been an incredible journey for the "Black Beast," an early 20th Century race car that has managed to survive for 100 years.

It took back-to-back victories at the Vanderbilt Cup on Long Island in 1909 and 1910, competed in the inaugural Indianapolis 500, and was nearly lost after being left to rust for decades in a barn.

It was one of more than 30 vintage and late model automobiles on display yesterday at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn for the sixth annual celebration of the Vanderbilt Cup races.

Jack Wegman, 71, a classic car owner and enthusiast, drove from his home in Cape Cod Sunday just to catch a glimpse of it.

"It's incredible - that's one of the greatest cars in this country," Wegman whispered, as if he was guarding a well-kept secret.

In some ways, he was.

Newsday, July 29, 2009, "1 Killed, 1 Hurt by FedEx Truck"



BY ERIK BADIA

An out-of-control FedEx truck hit and killed a pedestrian and then slammed into a line of parked cars on a busy Long Beach street yesterday morning, also injuring awoman in one of the cars, police and witnesses said.

Lt. Bruce Meyer of the Long Beach Police Department said the truck was traveling west on East Park Avenue, possibly at a high rate of speed, when it hit and killed a man in his early 50s.

Police have not released the identity of the man, pending notification of next of kin.

The truck then rammed the Toyota Solara convertible Bonni Goetz was sitting in with such force that it pushed it into two other vehicles parked in front of her.

Goetz was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside with minor injuries, and treated and released around noon.

The identity and condition of the FedEx driver was not immediately released.

Newsday, December 14, 2010, "Commuters: Service Has Ups, Downs"














BY ERIK BADIA


One veteran LIRR rider, Lynn Hoffman, 55, of Hicksville, said she had generally good feelings about the train system she uses to commute from the Hicksville station to Penn Station five days a week to take classes at Studio Jewelry on Madison Avenue.

“Very good,” she said, adding, “It’s excellent, to tell you the truth.” But she said she avoids the on board bathrooms. “I use the ones in the station,” she said.

Her feelings echoed many of those expressed by commuters in the just released Metropolitan Transportation Authority customer survey.

But while many in that survey indicated they were satisfied with service, some riding the rails yesterday were more critical of the LIRR.

“What they consider on-time and what the real-world considers on-time are totally different,” said Jeremy Leonhardt, 38, from Ridge, who commutes five days aweek from the Ronkonkoma station to Penn Station.

Newsday, March 14th, 2010, "After Haiti, joyous reunion"


BY ERIK BADIA

She’s finally back home.

Two-year-old Brianna Dacius has been reunited with her Elmont parents after the child was stuck in Haiti for weeks after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January.

Brianna, who had been living with her grandmother in Port-au-Prince since July, had an emotional reunion Friday night with her parents at Kennedy Airport.

Yesterday morning, Brianna and her parents appeared in Elmont with state Sen. Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington), who was among those assisting the Dacius family in arranging Brianna’s return and who personally paid $504 for her airfare back to New York.

“I am relievedmy daughter is back in my arms and that this very long, trying and frustrating time for our family is over,” her mother, Fabiola Pierre-Paul, said in a statement.

Newsday, December 10, 2009, "Sentencing delayed for Roslyn Ponzi schemer"

BY ERIK BADIA

It was a dreary day for the victims of Roslyn-based investment adviser Edward T. Stein Wednesday - and not just because of the weather.

Sentencing of the former hedge-fund manager, who pleaded guilty in June to running an 11-year, $30-million Ponzi scheme and stealing more than $6.5 million from one investor, was adjourned until Feb. 8. Stein remains free, with a restriction on travel, on $2 million bail.

Stein, 59, who ran Edward T. Stein Associates Ltd. in Roslyn, was to be sentenced in federal court in Brooklyn on securities and wire fraud charges. He faces 15 to 20 years in prison.

But according to an administrator in the chambers of presiding Judge Jack Weinstein, the sentencing was adjourned because one of the parties was not ready to proceed.

In addition to the criminal complaint, Stein faces charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission in a civil action in Manhattan that alleges he moved more than $55 million of investors' money through accounts he controlled, fleecing 83 people.

The SEC suit claims that Stein began his scheme in 1992 and paid off selected investors, funded a failing fashion magazine endeavor and bought a condominium in Manhattan.

Part of Stein's plea deal in the criminal case requires him to cooperate in locating and turning over all of his assets in the SEC civil trial.

Newsday, September 18, 2009, "Free Wi-Fi being installed in downtown Copiague"

BY ERIK BADIA

Downtown Copiague will soon have free Internet access and better security, according to Babylon Supervisor Steve Bellone, thanks to the latest implementation of the town's wireless access plan.

The Town of Babylon is installing six solar-powered Wi-Fi devices that will provide free Internet access and support for security cameras in the downtown area, Bellone said Friday.

"This is a great amenity for the residents and the entire community, and for people who come here to shop and recreate," Bellone said at a news conference at the Copiague Long Island Rail Road station.

The wireless devices will be set up along Great Neck Road, from Dixon to Scudder avenues, town officials said. Internet service will be available to anyone within about 1,500 feet of the devices.

Newsday, September 9, 2009, "Retailers hope gamers buy love of Beatles"



BY ERIK BADIA

Long Island retailers say they are hopeful that gamers and music lovers will make the latest Rock Band game at least half as successful as the legendary band from Liverpool that inspired it.

The Beatles: Rock Band, which features 45 Beatles songs, is the latest title from the popular Rock Band franchise that started in 2007. It went on sale at midnight Tuesday and will be available nationwide starting Wednesday.

The Beatles version features an animated and computerized rendering of the Fab Four performing songs that span the length of the band's acclaimed career, from "I Want to Hold Your Hand" to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" to "Get Back."

Newsday, September 6, 2009, "Amityville nuns opt for community health care choice"

BY ERIK BADIA

In Amityville, the motherhouse of the Sisters of St. Dominic is home to about 95 to 110 nuns at any given time - ranging in age from 65 to 100-plus - many of them retired.

Until recently, their health care was provided primarily by a staff of workers and nurses - along with drivers who delivered the nuns to their doctor appointments. But over time that arrangement became a financial drain, according to Sister Elizabeth McGarvey, the order's counselor for health and retirement.

Now a new arrangement provides care to eligible nuns who are retired - and also to members of the surrounding community.

The new health care unit at the motherhouse is a cooperative effort between the sisters and the Comprehensive Care Management Corp. (CCM), a nonprofit that is part of the Bronx-based Beth Abraham Family of Health Services.

Newsday, August 29, 2009, "34 pricey LI ZIP codes make Forbes’ 2009 list"

BY ERIK BADIA

The 2009 Forbes list of the top 500 most expensive ZIP codes in America is out, and not surprisingly, many Long Island communities made the cut.

Thirty-four Long Island codes are on the list, up from 33 last year, thanks to the addition of 11598 in Woodmere. Eleven Island codes are in the top 100.

But it’s not all good news.

Twenty-seven of the 34 codes saw a drop in median home value, with many declines in double digits. Rankings are based on those values.

Only five increased in median home value, while Woodbury and Manhasset remained the same.

Newsday, August 29, 2009, "Danny's no Bill, but still trouble"

BY BILL BLEYER AND ERIK BADIA

Tropical Storm Danny will skirt Long Island Saturday afternoon, leaving heavy rain, severe beach erosion and rip currents as its calling card.

"We’re looking at a tropical storm or whatever is left of it tracking south and east of Long Island," National Weather Service meteorologist Peter Wichrowski said.

At its closest, the edge of the storm should be more than 65 miles east-southeast of Montauk Point about 4 p.m. Saturday.

"The biggest impact will be heavy rainfall," he said. "Some spots [on the East End] could see four inches of rain but it’s not [all] directly related to Danny."

Rain falling across Long Island Friday morning was largely due to a storm over the Gulf Coast, he explained.

Newsday, August 24, 2009, "Michael J. Conroy, architect"

BY ERIK BADIA

Michael J. Conroy, an architect who designed luxury homes for Kelly Ripa, Rudy Giuliani and other notables, has died of undetermined causes, relatives said yesterday. He was 38.

"We don’t understand it," said Conroy’s brother Matthew, of Holtsville. "He had so much going on. He was amazing."

He said his brother had been seeing a cardiologist and that his death, after a medical episode Thursday morning at his Blue Point home, may have been related to a heart condition.

He said an autopsy was inconclusive and the family is awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

Conroy said his brother was the type of person to whom everyone turned for answers. Whether it was about life or the type of shingles to put on his roof, "he was the only guy I would call for advice."

Newsday, August 24, 2009, "Taking a giant 'leap for life'"


BY ERIK BADIA

As he tumbled headlong out of the airplane at 13,500 feet, all Rick Collins could think of was the Tom Petty song "Free Falling."

The Westbury attorney’s first skydiving experience came as he made a "leap for life" over Calverton yesterday to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

Collins, 50, said that, while he is not good with heights, his first jump went smoothly.

"It was great," he said, as he watched the videotape from his adventure at Skydive Long Island in Calverton. Collins didn’t have to jump alone; he was strapped to an instructor. "The adrenaline is pumping, your heart is pounding," he said.

It was that fear of heights, as well as a personal connection with cancer, that inspired him to jump out of an airplane.

When he was a teenager, Collins said, his cousin, a bodybuilder, died after fighting cancer. In 2001, Collins’ longtime training partner lost his battle with cancer.

Newsday, August 22, 2009, "Surfers: This is swell"

BY ERIK BADIA AND APRIL WARREN

Surfers all around Long Island are readying themselves for swells that will pound South Shore and East End coastlines Saturday and Sunday courtesy of Hurricane Bill.

Talk of the weekend marine forecast was on the tip of many a tongue at Island surf shops and beaches Friday.

"Everybody’s getting psyched up about the big waves coming through," said Mark Gagliardi, 24, co-owner of Religion Surf and Skate Ltd. in Shirley.

Gagliardi said he is expecting 10- to 15-foot waves on Sunday, and customers have been stocking up on wax and leashes for their boards in preparation.

While Friday’s conditions may have been far from ideal, according to those who were out riding the waves, the consensus from surfers was that conditions on Sunday should be nearly perfect.

Newsday, August 17, 2009, "88 Tickets in four hours"

  

BY ERIK BADIA

It was a beautiful morning to be cruising the Meadowbrook State Parkway on a motorcycle—but 88 riders found out their bikes or paperwork weren’t up to snuff.

State Police from Troop L had set up a motorcycle safety checkpoint early yesterday morning on the parkway, about two miles south of the Merrick Road exit.

At least 10 troopers, three investigators from the Department of Motor Vehicles and an inspector from the National Insurance Crime Bureau descended on the parkway at 5:30 a.m. and began stopping all southbound motorcyclists to inspect their bikes.

Newsday, August 12, 2009, "John McNamara, firefighter"

BY ERIK BADIA

A firefighter and Sept. 11 first responder who fought to get health benefits for fellow rescue workers he believed got sick from contaminants at Ground Zero, has died after three-year battle with cancer.

John McNamara, 44, of Blue Point, was a 10-year veteran of the FDNY and volunteer firefighter in his hometown. He died Sunday at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center of colon cancer, believing his own exposure to toxins at the lower Manhattan site caused his illness.

He spent about 500 hours working at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. McNamara was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2006.

In the last years of his life, McNamara joined John Feal, founder and president of the FealGood Foundation, in pushing for the passage of the James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, which Congress is currently reviewing.

Newsday, August 10th, 2009, "Crash kills teen"

BY ERIK BADIA

A Copiague teenager was killed when he lost control of his car and hit a tree in North Bay Shore, police said.

Jonny Hernandez, 18, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which occurred at about 11 p.m. Saturday on North Thompson Drive.

Suffolk police said Hernandez was driving alone north in his 2000 Honda Civic, possibly at a high rate of speed, on North Thompson Drive when he lost control of his vehicle.

His car went off the road and struck a fence before hitting a tree and two parked cars in a driveway.

Hernandez attended Farmingdale High School last year and was the youngest of three children.

His mother, Ledys, described him as a warm and approachable person.“He was outgoing, friendly,” she said at the Hernandez home in Copiague yesterday.

Newsday, August 5th, 2009, "In drowning, spouse saved"

BY ERIK BADIA AND MATTHEW CHAYES

Delia Balkaran said her husband, Narie, sacrificed his own life to save hers.

The South Richmond Hill couple had been swimming together at Jones Beach’s Field 6, a bathing area not protected by a lifeguard, when a wave came and took them both under the water, Delia Balkaran, 25, said in an interview last night.

It was then that he pushed her up so she wouldn’t drown — a swift action that shecredits with keeping her alive.

“He’s a hero because he saved me,” Balkaran said. She said her husband of two years had swallowed too much water.

Newsday, August 3rd, 2009, "Champ aims to go the distance"


BY ERIK BADIA

It’s not exactly a talent that you can bank your future on, but being the watermelon seed spitting champion of the northeast does have its perks — like a guest appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

It may have been pure happenstance that 12-year-old Taylor Ann Haiduk of Bellmore was at Six Flags Great Adventure on the Fourth of July — the same day the park was holding the first northeast watermelon seed spitting competition for kids.
On a lark, Taylor entered and beat out dozens of other competitors at the Jackson, N.J., theme park by spitting a watermelon seed 26 1/2 feet.

It’s a gift she never knew she had. “I’d never done it before,” Taylor said yesterday at her grandparents’ home in Bellmore.

Tonight, her title will be put on the line for the contest’s finale, National Watermelon Day. 

Newsday, July 27, 2009, "High Art a Steal at Auction"

BY ERIK BADIA

High culture and bargain prices mixed in Southampton yesterday at a public auction held on behalf of a Philadelphia family who was scammed by disgraced financier Bernard Madoff.

The auction, which featured art from world-renowned artists such as Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Rembrandt, was held at Four Seasons catering in Southampton, and was the third such auction of the family’s art collection.

The auction would not identify the name of the family. But auction officials said the bidding took place on Long Island because the family has ties here.

More than 120 items were put up on the block, including more than 100 paintings, sketches and etchings; four sculptures; and more than a dozen rugs and carpets from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir and China. They netted more than $275,000 in total.

Newsday, July 8, 2009, "Affordable housing plan"

BY ERIK BADIA

Standing in a vacant lot that is destined to be home to 14 housing units, each containing an accessory apartment, Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone announced yesterday a plan to use about $1.5 million to help low- and moderate-income people find, and keep, housing in the town.

The three new programs will be the first expenditures of the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, set up in 2001, which contains about $2.8 million.

Petrone said the programs are designed to benefit as many residents as possible. “The approach here is broad based,” Petrone said at the site, at Lowndes Avenue and Railroad Street in Huntington Station.

“This program is everybody’s in the town, it’s not just for one group.”

Newsday, July 1, 2009, "Anti-bias program finalized"

BY ERIK BADIA


The day after a Mastic Beach woman became the latest victim of an alleged hate crime, Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy announced the final two pieces of an anti-bias program designed to prevent such an attack.

The latest portion of Levy’s program consists of a 30-second public service announcement, which county officials plan to air on cable television and during previews at Suffolk County movie theaters. A DVD on assimilation and acceptance will be sent to every school district in Suffolk. The program was started earlier this year in response to the Nov. 8 beating death of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue.

Seven Patchogue-Medford High School students were charged in connection with Lucero’s death.

Newsday, June 29, 2009, "Still cruising North Shore"

BY ERIK BADIA


It appears the dolphins sighted last week on the North Shore have no plans to leave just yet.

But the group of about 150 to 200 dolphins first spotted Wednesday in Cold Spring Harbor, Huntington and Northport has now split into two groups. One group headed for City Island in the Bronx while the others were seen in the Long Island Sound near Bayville.

One Oyster Bay town official confirmed yesterday he saw the dolphins about a half mile off the coast, near Oak Neck Point and Rocky Point in Bayville. He said boaters near the mammals were told to observe them from a distance and to proceed with caution.

Charles Bowman, president of The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, said the dolphins are hunting and appeared normal. He said they likely have split into multiple groups to continue looking for herring.

Newsday, June 17, 2009, "B. Smith, 106, a fixture in Babylon"

BY ERIK BADIA


Beatrice Ethel Smith, a lifelong Babylon resident, died at her homeat age 106, a relative said yesterday.

“She was lovely, a lovely person,” said Smith’s great-nephew, Dennis D. Smith of Wantagh. He said Smith, who died June 13, “never had a bad thing to say about anybody. Everyone adored her.”

Born in Babylon on Nov. 9, 1902, Smith, along with her older sister, Claire, attended Babylon Union Free School and was a senior member of the Girls Friendly Society of Christ Episcopal Church. After graduating, Smith worked in New York City as a stenographer for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co.


Newsday, June 15, 2009, "Honoring their cheers for flag"


BY ERIK BADIA

Already an enterprising young lady at just 11-years-old, Kaitlin Parnahay decided on her own to enter the Flag Day contest at her Valley Stream school and even stayed up late to make sure she didn’t miss the entry deadline.

The sixth-grader from Wheeler Avenue Elementary School was one of six winners selected by a panel of Vietnam and World War II veterans for Assemb. Robert D. Barra’s “What Does the American Flag Mean to You” essay and artwork contest.

Kaitlin spent about two hours drawing her winning poster, which featured a collage of iconic American images including George Washington and soldiers hoisting the stars and stripes. Kaitlin was both excited and nervous to receive her award, and was proud to honor her country on Flag Day.

“America is an important part of history and our lives, and means a lot to me and my family,” she said.

Newsday, June 13, 2009, "Cold Spring adds $100M complex"

BY ERIK BADIA


Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory unveiled a $100-million complex Friday it says will focus on such diseases as cancer and Alzheimer’s.

The six-building, 100,000-square-foot research compound, called the Hillside Laboratories, is the largest expansion in the 119-year history of Cold Spring Harbor Lab, which is located in Laurel Hollow. Opening in July, the facility will create 200 jobs and increase the lab’s research space by 40 percent.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory president Bruce Stillman said the new facility will “advance our understanding of cancer and neuroscience —particularly mental disease.” At a dedication ceremony, the keynote speaker, Nobel laureate Phillip Sharp, said researchers using the complex will “generate new discoveries that we cannot even imagine today.”

Neurobiology, genetics and quantitative biology research at the lab will target diseases including cancer, autism, Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, aiming to develop new techniques in diagnosing and treating these illnesses.

Stillman also touted what he said was the environmentally friendly nature of the new complex. The new buildings will be 30 percent more energy efficient than current lab standards, he said.

The institution raised another $100 million for staffand equipment to go along with the facility. “Without that, we would just have an empty space,” Stillman said.