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Lake Grove

People can take as many pictures of their friends at the new interactive selfie museum. Photo by Julianne Mosher

It’s a new place to play and all are welcomed to it. 

Popup Speakeasy is an interactive photobooth museum, that allows people to come in and take as many pictures in different settings. 

“It really is for us a place where people can be creative,” said co-owner Catherine Ovejas. “It’s a selfie studio, you come and take your own pictures, or can come with a photographer, and you get access to the whole studio.”

Located at 1860 Pond Road in Ronkonkoma, like a speakeasy of the past, it’s hidden in plain sight. From the outside of the building, one wouldn’t know what to expect when they walk through the front door — a warehouse of 14 different stations from all different eras and scenes. 

Ovejas said that each season the stations will change.

Visitors of the Popup Speakeasy can choose from 14 different photobooth stations. Photo by Julianne Mosher

But right now, there’s a “record room,” decorated with a wall of vinyls and a boombox, a picnic scene where friends can pretend to pop champagne, and a pink repurposed Volkswagen bus tucked away in the back. 

“It’s a nod to pop culture,” she said. “I love retro things. So, you will see a lot of vintage things … things from the 70s, 80s and 90s.”

She said the idea for a selfie museum came amidst the pandemic. Between production, construction and the creation of each theme, they began the process a little more than six months ago, choosing Ronkonkoma as a central location that everyone interested can get to.

As far as she and her team know, she said, this is the first selfie studio in the whole state. 

“There are pop-up photo experiences that have taken place in and around Manhattan,” she said. “But those are more of a museum-type experience where you’re taking pictures of the exhibits, not so much of yourself.”

Oveja encourages visitors to express themselves. 

“We want you to go crazy,” she said. “We want you to interact with the scenes and the different themes and make it your own story.”

She added, “It’s not about looking at an exhibit and admiring it from a distance. I want you to actually bring your personality into the theme.”

For just $25 an hour (at the adult rate), visitors get access to the whole studio. Using an online booking system, the space is reservation-only. Social distancing is required, as are masks — except for when a quick photo is being taken in the scene.

Oveja said they are allowing one group at a time, and the whole studio (plus the props) are sanitized before and after each use.

Children are also encouraged to come and enjoy the studio, where kids ages five to 12 are just $15.

“This is a judgment free zone, we want you to be yourself, have a great time and bring your own personality to the table,” she said.

Co-owner Jose Rivera said the ultimate goal is to franchise, and those future locations will have their own vibe. 

“There’s no limit to how far we can go how far we can go,” he said. “We’re looking forward to collaborating with as many businesses as we can.”

To make reservations, visit popupspeakeasy.com.

Beginning March 26, indoor family entertainment centers will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity. Photo from Urban Air

By Kimberly Brown 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced beginning March 26, indoor family entertainment centers will be able to reopen at 25% capacity. 

Other facilities such as bowling alleys and escape rooms have been open since last August, but indoor family entertainment centers are among the industries that have been left behind during the reopening plan. As a result, they have taken a big hit since the start of the pandemic last March.  

A few Long Island entertainment centers such as Urban Air Adventure Park in Lake Grove and Sky Zone Trampoline Park in Mount Sinai are “excited, eager, thrilled, delighted” to make a comeback this year.

“We tried as a business to get engagement from New York State about the reopen plan for family entertainment,” said David Wolmetz, co-owner of Urban Air. “Meanwhile these other businesses like bowling alleys, gymnastics, casinos, gyms and other indoor recreation centers were able to reopen and we were questioning why the data was not allowing for our business to open.”

Unable to receive the data from the state to support the lack of focus on indoor family entertainment centers, he was able to obtain his own data from other Urban Air parks that were allowed to reopen around the country. 

Observing approximately 140 different Urban Air parks, Wolmetz found that out of the 4 million guests who have been served, no cases of COVID-19 were traced back to their parks. 

“It was very tough for us to understand why we couldn’t reopen, but we remained patient,” he said. “We are doing everything possible to remain safe, and are pleased we will be able to open March 26 and serve the community again.” 

Despite how tough the year has been for such companies and keeping in mind that only 25% capacity will be permitted on reopening shortly, Dominick Crafa, Sky Zone general manager, said he is still looking forward to welcoming back families into the park again. 

“We want to allow people to have fun again, and try to get back to somewhat of a normal,” he said, “We’ll probably be running in the red for a little bit and losing some money, but just the fact that we’re able to get back to some sort of normal life and provide a place of happiness is something we’re excited for.” 

File photo

Suffolk County Police said two North Shore residents were shot and injured outside an East Patchogue bar early Saturday morning.

Police said a man was escorted from El Buen Ambiente, located at 466 East Main St. in East Patchogue, following an altercation with another patron. The man retrieved a handgun from his vehicle and began shooting, striking two bystanders outside the bar at approximately 1:30 a.m, Oct. 24.

A 39-year-old Lake Grove man, who was shot twice in his legs, was transported to Long Island Community Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. A 26-year-old Northport man, who was struck once in the leg, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

The shooter fled in an unknown direction.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this incident to call the 5thSquad at 631-854-8552 or to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.

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Suffolk County Police 4th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a bicyclist in Lake Grove July 23.

Brian Ferretti was driving a 2005 Toyota sedan eastbound on Middle Country Road at the intersection of New Moriches Road, when the vehicle collided with a male bicyclist, who was traveling southbound from New Moriches Road at 1:44 a.m.

The bicyclist, Peter Ferentinos, 61, of Nesconset, was pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. Ferretti, 20, of Sayville, was not injured.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Anyone with information on this crash is asked to call the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

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Mugshot of Louis Shelton. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police have arrested the operator of a carousel ride for allegedly inappropriately touching a child on a ride at the Smith Haven Mall.

Police said a 7-year-old girl was riding on the carousel at the Dreamland Amusements carnival at the Smith Haven Mall June 5 at around 7 p.m. when she was allegedly inappropriately touched by the operator, Louis Shelton.

Special Victims Section detectives charged Shelton, 50, of King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, charged with sexual abuse 1st Degree and endangering the welfare of child. He is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip June 6.

Detectives are asking anyone with information or who believes they may be a victim to call the Special Victim’s Section at 631-852-6184.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police arrested a Lake Grove man May 23 for driving with more than 40 license suspensions.

Highway patrol officer Matthew White pulled over a 2003 Nissan on westbound Sunrise Highway, near Connetquot Avenue, at approximately 8:25 a.m. after he observed the vehicle was missing a front license plate. Officer White determined the driver, James Tomassi, was driving with a license that had been suspended 41 times.

Tomassi, 36, was charged with first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and operating while registration suspended/revoked. His vehicle was impounded and he was arraigned today at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police 4th Precinct crime section officers are investigating an incident during which a man allegedly asked a juvenile to expose himself.

A 16-year-old boy was jogging in Lake Grove April 13 at around 10 a.m. when a man driving a white refrigerated box truck started following the boy and allegedly asked him to expose himself. The teen refused and the driver left.

The man was described as white, had read hair and in his mid-30s. He was missing teeth. The truck had a flower logo on the cab doors.

Anyone with information is asked to call 4th Precinct crime section at 631-854-8426 or call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477). All calls will be kept confidential.

Suffolk County sheriff-elect, Errol Toulon Jr. and his wife Tina. Photo from Toulon

By Kevin Redding

On the Saturday before Easter in 2003, Suffolk County sheriff-elect, Errol Toulon Jr. (D) sat in the den of his Lake Grove home and said to God, “If you give me a chance, I’m going to do something great.”

Toulon, who had dropped from 240 pounds to about 140 and could barely walk, was recovering from a Whipple procedure to remove a cancerous tumor on his pancreas. It had been his second battle with cancer in less than 10 years — in 1996, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma — an ordeal that was followed by MRSA, a type of staph infection, and pneumonia. Doctors and family members expected the worst.

A year later, in the spring of 2004, the Rikers Island corrections officer-turned-captain enrolled at Suffolk County Community College. He went on to receive his master’s degree in business administration from Dowling College and an advanced certificate in Homeland Security management from Long Island University.

Toulon, left, as a bat boy at Yankee Stadium, pictured with Yankees legend Reggie Jackson. Photo from Toulon

In the midst of his appointment as deputy commissioner of operations for the New York City Correction Department in 2014, Toulon pursued and completed his doctorate in educational administration and took leadership courses at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

On Dec. 4, after a last-minute campaign to be Suffolk County sheriff against opponent Larry Zacarese (R), Toulon, 55, became the first African-American elected official in a nonjudicial countywide position in Long Island’s history.

“I still don’t think I’m finished to be honest with you,” Toulon said, laughing. “I am very fortunate and I don’t take any day for granted.”

He said he didn’t even know the landmark aspect of his victory until the counting of absentee ballots was close to being completed. The race was too close to call after Election Day Nov. 7, leaving the tightly contested election hanging for nearly a month.

“I think that can help to show that any individual, no matter what ethnicity or gender, can achieve anything they want,” Toulon said. “But I don’t think, necessarily, the color of my skin will matter at all. I think my work experience and work ethic will show that those who voted for me made the right choice, and I think those that didn’t vote for me will feel I can do the job and have the best interests of the people.”

Those closest to him said despite the odds stacked against him, Toulon’s win makes perfect sense.

“He’s a rare breed of person — you couldn’t ask for a better man for the position,” said Ralph Grasso, a retired New York Police Department officer and friend of Toulon’s for 26 years. “Anything he puts his mind to, he achieves.”

Grasso was far from the only colleague to heap praise on the sheriff-elect.

“Errol’s always shown through his actions how great a leader he is,” said Keith Taylor, who worked with him in the department of corrections for two years. “When it came to officers who were victims of inmate violence, he always made sure to visit them in the hospital, and always without any fanfare. He’s dealt with a lot of adversities and always handles them with dignity, grace and strength.”

Meg Malangone, a registered Republican in Lake Grove who works in the business office at TBR News Media, said Toulon is the first Democrat she’s voted for in 40 years.

“Not only is he one of the most incredible individuals I know, I honestly felt he was the best man for the job,” said Malangone, whose son was friends with Toulon’s sons growing up. “Errol is a wonderful human being. He is a strong, kind, smart and gentle man. He is not afraid to make tough decisions and is thoughtful in his approach to problems and solutions. He is going to be a fantastic sheriff for Suffolk County.”

When he officially starts his new job in January, Toulon said he’s determined to manage the sheriff’s office effectively and utilize skills from his career in corrections to tackle what he considers “the big three”: gangs, the opioid crisis and working with the community to develop a strong re-entry program for those incarcerated to help with housing and jobs when they leave the jail. He said outgoing Sheriff Vincent DeMarco (C) has given him a tour of the facilities, he’s met with staff and he looks forward to working collaboratively with district attorney-elect, Tim Sini (D).

“There is nobody with the type of integrity he has,” said Keith Davies, Toulon’s campaign manager, who was admittedly nervous to start a full-fledged race two months before the election with a candidate he didn’t know. “But then I got to know Errol and I knew I was working for someone that is the right person to be in the position. He kept us motivated and working hard. He’s a good man.”

“There is nobody with the type of integrity [Toulon] has.”

— Keith Davies

Despite his lifelong career in law enforcement, Toulon said the reason he thinks he was elected, and had such large support from community members on both sides of the aisle, can be traced to his second life as a coach of various sports in the last 20 years.

An avid hockey fan who even created a program around the sport within the corrections facility, Toulon coaches ice hockey at the Long Island Gulls Amateur Hockey Association in Jericho and served as a roller hockey coach at The Sports Arena in St. James. He has also coached baseball for the Sachem Youth Advisory Group; soccer for Middle Country Children’s Soccer League; and basketball for Middle Country.

“I’ve tried to make sure it wasn’t about winning or losing with the kids,” Toulon said. “I thought that even the kid who probably wasn’t the best person on the team should’ve gotten an opportunity to play. We won or lost together. A lot of parents asked me to be their child’s coach each season and I felt very honored by that.”

But Toulon’s overall achievements can be traced further back to the 1960s and ’70s in the South Bronx, where he grew up with his younger brother, Anthony, and parents, Errol Sr. and Alma, and attended Cardinal Hayes High School.

“He was always a go-getter,” recalled Errol Toulon Sr., 78, a retired deputy warden of the New York City Department of Correction. “He always volunteered within the community, played baseball and just always gave it his all. We couldn’t be prouder of him.”

Toulon’s mother, 74, who worked in education, remembered her sons being extremely protective of her, not even letting her walk to the local tennis court by herself.

“They were like my guardian angels,” Alma Toulon said. “I’m so proud of Errol Jr. He always does anything anyone asks him to do. He is a wonderful kid … I still call him a kid, he’s 55.”

Toulon pointed to his parents, who both went back to school later in life to get their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, as his two biggest heroes, though he also credited another: Willie Randolph, the former New York Yankees second baseman and New York Mets manager. Toulon came to know Randolph well working as a bat boy for the Yankees in 1979 and 1980.

“I was a diehard Yankees fan, didn’t live too far from the stadium at the time and went for an interview in January 1979,” said Toulon, who fondly remembered being around players like Randolph, Catfish Hunter and Thurman Munson. “They all treated me like I was a valuable part of the team. And that really carried over to my own managerial style that every member of the organization — no matter where you are in the chain — is important to making the team as successful as possible.”

Toulon’s son, Justin, 28, who works in the film and television field in Georgia, called his father the hardest working and most driven person he knows and said Toulon instilled in him the importance of respect.

“I don’t think I’ve ever brought somebody to meet my father that hasn’t said afterward, ‘That’s a great guy,’” Justin Toulon said. “My dad always leaves that impression. You just respect him and he has this charming ability about him. People gravitate toward him.”

Speaking from experience on that front is Toulon’s second wife, Tina, who he met in 2014, and married a year and a half ago. His first wife, Susan, passed away 29 years into their marriage.

“I’m his No. 1 fan,” Tina Toulon said. “He just has this wonderful aura about him: that great smile and those great eyes, full of life. He has an incredible loyalty about him and I love how he connects with people. He wants to always leave things better than how he found them … so I know he can do this job well.”

Emmanuel Dourthe and Reina Alecia were arrested at a traffic stop in Medford June 30. Photos from SCPD

By Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Police arrested two people on drugs and weapons charges following a vehicle and traffic stop in Medford June 30.

Emmanuel Dourthe was driving a 2003 Honda Accord when Sixth Precinct Police Officer Keith Liere pulled over the car for a traffic stop on Mill Road at approximately 8 p.m. During Officer Liere’s investigation, he found a loaded and defaced 9mm pistol, one ounce of heroin, one ounce of crack/cocaine, drug paraphernalia, $1,240 and three cell phones.

Sixth Squad detectives charged Dourthe, 18, of Coram, with second-degree criminal possession of a weapon, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon and two counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. His passenger, Reina Alicea, 20, of Lake Grove, was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, for possessing a switchblade, and fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana.

Dourthe and Alicea were held overnight for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip.

Smith Haven Mall. Image from Google Maps

Suffolk County Police have arrested a Smithtown man for committing several acts of lewdness during the past week at the Smith Haven Mall.

A woman was inside Barnes and Noble May 13 when police said she allegedly observed a man masturbating while sitting at the table next to her. The woman fled and notified police.

Following an investigation by Fourth Squad detectives, Samuel Bartolotto was arrested May 14 at approximately 7 p.m. Detectives determined that in addition to the incident May 13, Bartolotto had also masturbated in his vehicle in the parking lot of the mall May 8 and May 12.

Bartolotto, 26, of Hurtin Boulevard, was charged with three counts of public lewdness and will be arraigned at a later date.

Anyone with information on these incidents is asked to call the Fourth Squad at 631-854-8452.