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Steve Bellone

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Working with the rideshare company Lyft, Suffolk County is offering free rides for senior citizens, veterans and people who are driving impaired to get their vaccinations for COVID-19 at county-run sites.

Starting on June 1, seniors who are over the age of 60, veterans and driving impaired residents can contact Suffolk 311 to schedule a pick-up and drop off to receive their inoculations.

The county would like residents to have an “equal ability to get their vaccines,” regardless of whether they have easy access to transportation, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said at a press conference announcing the program. “It’s not only good for them and their health: it’s good for all of us. It means that we will get closer to the numbers and the level of vaccinations we need to say that we have put this virus behind us.”

Suffolk County will be able to schedule and pay for the rides on behalf of residents, according to a Lyft spokeswoman.

The effort is a part of Lyft’s Universal Vaccine Access program, which started in December of 2020. Lyft has created more than 100 such partnerships and is facilitating access to rides throughout the country.

Lyft drivers will not wait outside while residents receive shots. County staff can arrange for pick up and drop off up to seven days in advance when residents call 311.

When seniors, veterans or driving impaired residents need transportation for their shots, county staff can request a ride using Lyft’s Concierge platform, which allows groups to request rides on behalf of those who may not have access to a smartphone or a bank account.

Bellone indicated that the county put out a competitive process to select a partner who could allow residents who don’t have access to a smartphone or who haven’t downloaded an app to secure a ride.

Lyft is committed to helping communities reach an “immunity that is going to get our economy back on track and our community back to normal,” Jen Hensley, head of government relations at Lyft said at the press conference.

Bellone shared his appreciation for the efforts of Senator Chuck Schumer (D).

“Without [Schumer’s] support, we wouldn’t be in a position to be able to offer a program like this,” Bellone said.

Vaccination efforts have helped reduce the spread of the virus, according to a recent interview with Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

Lyft has also partnered with the White House. 

From May 24 through July 4, anyone going to get their shots can get a ride code through the Lyft app or web site for two free rides during normal pharmacy hours of 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. of up to $15 each.

The county’s partnership with Lyft is the latest effort by Bellone to increase the number of people who have received the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Through a “Lift Your Spirit, Take Your Shot” campaign, residents who are 21 years old and over and who receive their shot at a Suffolk County run site during the month of May will get a ticket that they can redeem at a participating brewery, winery and distillery for a free beer, tasting, glass of wine or cocktail.

Eight businesses are participating in that effort, including Del Vino Vineyards in Northport.

County Executive Steve Bellone with Dr. Gregson Pigott in front of the vaccine pods in Hauppauge. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is encouraging residents to get their COVID-19 vaccines.

On Thursday, April 29, he joined Dr. Gregson Pigott, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Dr. Shaheda Iftikhar, deputy commissioner for the Department of Health Services and Holly Rhodes-Teague, director with the Suffolk County Office of the Aging outside the H. Lee Dennison Building to announce the second phase of the county’s “Take Your Shot” campaign. 

With vaccine hesitancy on the rise, the multi-media campaign will utilize TV, radio and targeted digital advertisements to address misinformation and build trust for those still on the fence. 

Bellone said at the press conference that as of April 29, there were 271 new cases of COVID-19 within the last 24 hours out of 15,628 tests. 

“That’s a positivity rate of 1.7%,” he said. “That is huge.”

He added the last time the county saw a number nearing the 2% mark was at the start of the virus’ second wave back in the fall around Halloween — before the Pfizer vaccine became available.

“We are below 2% positivity, but we’re back in that 1% range where we were throughout the summer last year, when we were still dealing with the pandemic with no vaccines,” he said. “So, this is significant.”

Bellone noted maintaining the lower number is proof that the vaccines are working.

Aline of people ready to get their vaccines. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“We want to get to the point when we say this virus is behind us once and for all, and the vaccines are the key to reaching our goal,” he said. “You need to be doing everything that we can to get people vaccinated to #TakeYourShot.”

The first phase of the Take Your Shot initiative was originally launched late last year in an effort to foster public awareness and designed to encourage county residents on the importance of receiving the COVID-19 vaccines. 

The second phase launched last week will continue to help remove potential barriers for people getting the vaccine. 

“As of yesterday [April 28], more than 660,000 residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Suffolk County,” he said. “That’s nearly 45% of our residents. While we’ve made tremendous progress over the last few months, at this point, there are no excuses, vaccines are available to everyone 16 and older.”

Right now, the Pfizer vaccine is the only shot eligible to teenagers, and Bellone said he’s encouraging high school juniors and seniors to do their part. 

“We have a lot of school-related activities that are opening up and coming back — prom, graduation — and we’re very excited that those are going to happen,” he said. “Getting vaccinated is a way to reduce the spread of the virus and make those big gatherings safe.”

Bellone had another message to young people. 

“You have a stake in this county,” he said. “You can be part of the effort to completely defeat this virus in and help save lives.”

The county also announced walk-in vaccination appointments available at select county vaccine pod locations.

“Our residents are busy, they want flexibility,” he said. 

Started on April 29, residents can visit the Selden campus at Suffolk County Community College and get their vaccines anytime between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m. 

“We’ve seen promising progress,” he said. “As more of our economy continues to open up, we want to return to normalcy.”

Photo by Julianne Mosher

A new law will now keep bicyclists safe on the roadways with its 3-foot rule.

On Tuesday, April 27, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and members of the biking community at Stony Brook’s Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn to sign it in officially. 

Bellone said the legislation will help ensure the safety of bicyclists while out on the roadways requiring drivers to pass on the left and provide the riders with at least 3 feet of space. Violations of this law are punishable by a fine of $225 for the first offense, $325 for the second offense and $425 for any subsequent offenses. 

It is the first of its kind in New York state.

“For us in Suffolk County, where we love the outdoors, many of the reasons why people choose to live here is because of our incredible natural resources: our parks, our open space and the beauty that we have here,” he said. “Bicycles are such a big part of that. We are committed to, and we have to be committed to, making sure that cycling can be done safely, and people are protected as much as possible.”

He added that because of the COVID-19 pandemic, bike sales have “skyrocketed.” People want to be outside more. 

“We’ve obviously been working on these issues for some time,” he said. “But the pandemic has only made it even clearer how important this is to people’s lives — and quite frankly, to all of us, even if you never get on a bike.”

Hahn added that Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn attracts bicyclists from around the world who come and enjoy the area’s paths, roads and trails.

“Our roads are going to be safer now,” she said. “But there is tremendous synergy between our environment and our economy, between what we have here to enjoy where we live. And who we attract to come here as visitors, who we attract to come here as businesses, and people — especially after the pandemic — are looking for places to live, places to visit where they can recreation safely.”

Bellone noted, though, that Long Island roads can often be dangerous, and he is committed to keeping the streets safe.

“We know that bicycling on certain roads in the county can be dangerous, but we’ve been working on that issue,” he said. “We’ve taken a number of significant steps to educate drivers and improve infrastructure to create a safer environment for bicycles on the road. So, today, our efforts go one step further.”

Attorney and board member of the New York Bicycling Coalition Daniel Flanzig said that currently only 33 states have this law.

“[NY] Vehicle & Traffic Law 1122-A currently exists, but only requires a motorist to pass a cyclist at a safe distance,” he said. “What a safe distance is to me is different to you.”

Flanzig said that the new law of a 3-foot distance is a tangible, recognizable number.

“I think 3-foot distance actually makes it easier to enforce,” Hahn said. “Now there’s a set difference. Previously, the law said drivers must pass cyclists at a safe distance and that wasn’t defined.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Michael Kessler embrace at a press conference on April 19. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan

Advocates, lawmakers, developers and tenants gathered at ELIJA Farm in South Huntington on Monday morning to announce new inclusive housing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) reported that an additional $10 million in funding will go to the development of 10 new housing units in Riverhead through the county’s inclusive housing pilot program.

“We’ve now funded more inclusive housing units in Suffolk County than we have seen in the state,” Bellone said. 

He first announced a pilot program in 2019 to fund projects designed to meet the regional need to develop new housing opportunities. After a successful trial run that saw a necessary demand, the program will now be permanent. A sum of $2.5 million dollars will be allocated every year for the next four years to fund inclusive housing projects for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The announcement came during Autism Acceptance Month, which Debora Thivierge, executive director and founder of The ELIJA Foundation, called “Autism Action Month.” It also falls under Fair Housing Month, celebrated every April. 

Thivierge founded ELIJA Farm as a nonprofit project in 2016. The farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program offers methodical opportunities for diverse populations and integrates members into the life and community of the farm. 

“For us its original purpose was to empower Long Island’s journey through autism and today couldn’t be a more significant day to kind of mark that mission,” Thivierge said at a press conference in Huntington last week. 

According to the New York Housing Resource Center, there are more than 25,000 adults in Suffolk County with intellectual or developmental disabilities and 63% of them live with family caregivers. Of those caregivers, 25% are over the age of 60.

Ten units in Riverhead were completed earlier this year and are now fully occupied by individuals eligible to receive services through the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. 

Gateway Plaza, developed by G2D Group, was bought as a 64-unit apartment building in Huntington Station. Part of those units will be devoted to people on the autism spectrum. 

It is the only apartment building in Huntington with a doorman and its ground floor has about 14,000 feet of commercial space.

“We’re doing everything we can so that all the individuals in our community and across our country have the opportunity to live their best lives, to reach their full potential and that they have equal opportunity to do so,” Bellone said.

Developers believe that the quality of life will be much better for these individuals if they live in an accessible and walkable area of town. With opportunities even on the first floor, residents will be exposed to integration efforts as opposed to living in a remote place and being isolated from their community. 

Jason Harris, 22-year-old son of Thivierge and self-advocate moved to one of the Huntington units in February. 

“It’s been the greatest experience I’ve had so far, and it feels like I have my independence,” he said. “But I’m not feeling alone.”

The ground floor will have a cafe and office space where residents will have an opportunity to work and be integrated in the community as well as the commercial side of Gateway Plaza. 

“This is a game changer for people with autism, and intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Patricia Calandra, master housing navigator at the New York Housing Resource Center. “We are so grateful to be able to start this bigger, better model of acceptance and inclusion for our loved ones in the local community.”

Calandra is the mother of Joey and Jenna, who are both on the autism spectrum, and have lived independently in a community apartment complex in Coram for the last four years. 

She mentioned all the ways her adult children have gained independence and a sense of community from living alone, despite their disabilities. They’ve built relationships with neighbors, taken on work opportunities in the community, and gained the confidence to get out of their comfort zone and venture out on their own, she said. 

“Autism Awareness Month is now Autism Acceptance Month,” Thivierge added. “And ELIJA really feels that it’s ‘Autism Action Month’ because we have to start doing things that are really going to make change.”

Photo from the county executive

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced at a press conference on April 22 at Lake Ronkonkoma a $100 million in funding to eliminate outdated cesspools and septic systems identified by scientists as the primary source of excess nutrients that have fouled local bays, contributing to harmful algae blooms, beach closures and fish kills.

The funding from a combination of federal, state and county sources, will be used to complete long-awaited sewer projects along south shore river corridors, and to boost funding for the landmark county program that provides grants to homeowners who choose to upgrade to new nitrogen reducing septic systems.

“With the help and support of our colleagues in state government, the business and environmental communities, and our friends in the building trades and organized labor, Suffolk County has made more progress over the past five years than had been made in the prior four decades in efforts to address the lack of wastewater infrastructure that has harmed water quality and been a drag on our economy,” Bellone said. “This new investment will allow us to take significant next steps in implementing a long term plan to improve water quality.”

Under the funding plan, a total of $30 million in funding would be invested in the County’s grant program for homeowners, including $10 million recently awarded by the State Septic System Replacement Fund, and $20 million from the County’s Drinking Water Protection Program.

An additional $70 million would be invested to complete two long awaited sewer projects along south shore river corridors that comprise the Suffolk County Coastal Resiliency Initiative, which will eliminate nearly 6,000 cesspools and septic systems by connecting parcels to sewers.

The new funding includes $24 million from a county reserve fund to connect homes in Sewer District #3 Southwest to the existing sewer system, and $46 million from the county’s allocation under the $1.9 trillion American Recovery Plan to address the increased cost of projects to connect parcels along the Carlls River (Babylon) and Forge River (Brookhaven). 

The sewer projects are being funded primarily with Post-Sandy resiliency funding, but constructions bids received during the COVID pandemic were significantly higher than pre-bid construction estimates.

Bellone thanked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D) for making sure that the American Rescue Plan funding can be used for sewer infrastructure. “We are hopeful that there will be a separate federal infrastructure bill, but the timetable for Congress to act is not clear yet, and these historic sewer projects are ready to begin now,”  he added.. “Thanks to the leadership of Senator Schumer, the County has the ability to use a portion of its ARP funds to address the cost increases driven in large part by the uncertainties of the COVID pandemic.”

Suffolk County’s Septic Improvement Program, the first of its kind, was established in 2017 and provides grants of up to $30,000 in State and County funding to homeowners who choose to replace their existing non-performing cesspool or septic system with a new Innovative/Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment System.

The program was recognized earlier this month by New York State as the winner of an Environmental Excellence Award, and has twice been awarded 70% of a $15 million statewide allocation of funding from the New York State Septic System Replacement Program.

To date, more than 2,300 homeowners have applied for grants under the program. County funding for the program was originally established at $2 million per year, but increasing interest on the part of the public prompted the County Legislature to approve $3.7 million in additional water quality funding last July because the pace of applications exceeded the amount of funding available.

 “The high level of interest in the program, even during the COVID 19 pandemic, shows just how strongly the people of Suffolk County feel about the need to improve water quality,” Bellone said. “This additional funding will help make sure that the amount of grant funding keeps pace with the number of applications we are receiving.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer added, “I worked hard to deliver over $10.8 billion in aid directly to New York’s counties, towns, and villages as part of the American Rescue Plan, in addition to the $300 million I secured for this project after Sandy. I’m glad to see County Executive Bellone use a portion of this aid to help fill the funding gap and advance these long-awaited sewer infrastructure improvements. These projects are vital to the health and well-being of Suffolk residents, and are essential to improving the quality of life in the county for years to come.”

John Cameron, Chairman of the Long Island Regional Planning Council said that water is the life blood of Long Island.

“County Executive Bellone’s initiatives protect our sole source aquifer-the drinking water supply for more than 2.8 million Long Islanders,” he said. “These investments will also help reverse the negative impacts that nitrogen pollution has had on coastal wetlands, coastal resiliency and the overall quality of life in Suffolk County and all of Long Island. They will additionally create numerous economic development opportunities by strengthening our downtowns, increasing tourism and recreation.”

Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director, Citizens Campaign for the Environment added that the announcement brings Long Islanders closer than ever to restoring clean water in Suffolk County.

“Year after year, we witness water quality impairments and harmful algal blooms from nitrogen pollution plaguing nearly every bay, lake, river and estuary in our county. However, we are now seeing growing success of the county’s program to combat nitrogen pollution from sewage and replace these antiquated septic systems,” she said. “This infusing of critical funding will ensure we are well on our way to once again seeing healthy waterways and productive ecosystems throughout Suffolk County.  We applaud our county and state leaders for working to add funding for this crucial clean water program and we cannot think of a better Earth Day present!”

 

 

County Executive Steve Bellone, center, speaks at the April 20 press conference. Police Chief Stuart Cameron, left, and Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner Geraldine Hart were also in attendance. Photo from Suffolk County

In response to the 50 mass shootings that have occurred throughout the country in the last month, the Suffolk County Police Department is enabling supermarkets and big box retailers to connect to a camera system set up to provide the police with video access to schools.

Using a resource called SHARE, which stands for Sharing to Help Access Remote Entry, businesses can plug their closed-circuit systems to the police department’s Real-Time Crime Center. The connection, which will have no cost for businesses, is designed to provide critical, up-to-the-minute information to police in the event of an active shooter.

“We know from previous active shooter events that seconds matter,” said SCPD Commissioner Geraldine Hart at a press conference on Tuesday announcing the initiative at the Suffolk County Police Department Headquarters in Yaphank. “Seconds can save lives.”

The ability to see inside a building would give the police intelligence that they could pass along to first responding officers, providing a description and updated location of a person or people who had weapons.

“One of the things that keeps me up as county executive is the idea that we could have one of these shootings here in our county in Long Island,” said County Executive Steve Bellone (D) at the press conference. The SCPD, which has been “at the forefront of efforts to address the possibility of mass shootings is, once again, announcing a continuation of these efforts.”

The collaboration between these stores and the police could go a step further, giving the police access to electronic controls that would allow them to open electronic doors remotely for emergency responders, helping them get to victims sooner and giving them a chance to maneuver around a perpetrator.

“We value partnerships with the community,” Hart said. “The goal is to keep people safe.”

Since 2016, the Suffolk County Police Department has done 420 active shooter presentations. On May 2, the SCPD will hold an active shooter drill at a King Kullen in Middle Island, which is the first time the police will conduct such an exercise in a supermarket.

The SCPD has also held 67 stop the bleed training classes for residents, which teaches people to treat wounds and practice applying tourniquets.

The SCPD will have the “ability to see inside those stores if, God forbid, an active shooter situation arises,” Bellone said.

In 2019, Bellone, Hart and Police Chief Stuart Cameron announced the SHARE program at West Babylon high school, which gave police the ability to tap into closed circuit TVs at area schools.

“This is one of the best things we can do to help save lives in an active shooter situation,” Bellone said. “We’re going to do everything we can on a local level to deal with the possibility of mass shootings.”

Bellone called the number of mass shootings in the country, which exceeds one per day, “insane,” and urged Congress to adopt “common-sense gun safety measures.” Rather than wait for a provision that might solve or prevent all the problems, Bellone urged Congress to take action immediately to reduce the risk of events that rob families and the community of loved ones amid senseless violence.

The police would only access cameras in the event of an emergency or a potentially dangerous situation.

Last month, the Village of Port Jefferson — which has had cameras hooked up to the Suffolk County Real-Time Crime Center for over two years — was able to help police find and arrest Joseph Garcia of Port Jefferson Station for the alleged shooting of David Bliss Jr. on Main Street. 

“We were proud to partner with the Suffolk County Real-Time Crime Center a few years ago to take advantage of this program that keeps our streets safe,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “It’s proven to create a quick response and help reduce crime in our village.”

Businesses and Suffolk County residents can gather more information at: SCPDShield.org.

Additional reporting by Julianne Mosher

New Suffolk County Police officers were sworn in this week at the academy in Brentwood. Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown 

A total of 54 new recruits were sworn in by Suffolk County officials in Brentwood police academy, Monday, April 12.

  Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and county Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart were responsible for swearing in the second portion of the class, one that had the highest percentage of minorities in the history of the county.  

The first class, holding 50 recruits, was sworn in March 29. With a total of 104 recruits from all over Suffolk County, including eight women, 28% are minorities and 10 are fluent in Spanish. 

Photo by Kimberly Brown

“Being a law enforcement officer is a crucial role in our society,” Bellone said. “So first let me say thank you for your willingness to stand up and serve your community and being willing to take on the responsibilities of a law enforcement officer.” 

 Almost half the recruiting class had prior law enforcement experience and one-third of the class are military veterans.  

Bellone expressed his anticipation for the recruits to begin their 30-day training.

Special recognition was given to the good Samaritans, a retired NYPD officer and a Marine, who did not hesitate to offer assistance to Officer Christopher Racioppo in his time of need after a traffic stop stabbing in Patchogue Saturday. 

“Officers responded immediately and relied on their training, the quality training that they received here in this academy to make the critical, split-second decisions that needed to be made that very well may have saved his life,” Hart said.  

Hart welcomed the new class in taking their next step into a life of service as they embark on their new careers in law enforcement.

County Executive Steve Bellone stands outside the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge where a new vaccine rollout will begin in a couple of weeks. Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown

A new COVID-19 vaccination site finally opened at the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge, where the vaccine’s mass distribution will be given out to hundreds of residents in the upcoming weeks.

The latest expansion will help Long Island recover from the consistent 4% positivity rate that surged to a height of 12% during the second spike of the coronavirus outbreak in February.

“The numbers have declined since, but they are not declining any further at this point,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said March 24. “We have undoubtedly hit a plateau and are stubbornly maintaining this approximate 4% positivity rate.”

Predicting the positivity rate would drop down to 1% by March, Bellone said his predictions did not happen. The hospitals are still hovering around 400 COVID patients and even with vaccine quantities increasing, officials are continuing to see the positivity rate at a steady level.

According to Bellone, the reason for the consistently high percentage in COVID cases is due to warm spring weather creating an overall eagerness to leave quarantine, making opportunities for locals to catch the virus.

“The fact that many people are getting vaccinated and that spring is here, people are rightly feeling optimistic and positive,” Bellone said. “That is leading to more people coming out, which is a positive thing, but we do need to be cognizant of the fact that the virus is not gone and that there are still risks.”

So far, the county has vaccinated more than 400,000 residents with at least their first dose, but expects to see a rapid increase in vaccination supply in the upcoming weeks. 

Despite the positive outcome of Suffolk County opening up its latest mass vaccination site, other areas on the Island, such as the Twin Forks, remain some distance away from distribution points. Bellone said he is aware of the problem. 

“We’ve gone to great lengths to get to every corner of the county,” he said. “We even took a plane to Fishers Island to make sure we can get residents, who are isolated, the vaccine.” 

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart, right, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. File photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Suffolk County Police Department suspended two officers for kicking Christopher Cruz, a 30-year-old homeless man who stole a car and injured two other officers, after he had been handcuffed.

Cruz had stolen a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee in Port Jefferson Station late on the evening of Feb. 23. During a 35-minute chase, Cruz rammed two police cars, injuring two officers who were eventually treated and released from the hospital.

Cruz, who has been charged with several crimes, including third-degree grand larceny, second-degree assault, third-degree criminal mischief and resisting arrest, was kicked by officers who now face their own criminal investigation. At the same time, four other officers, including a supervisor, who didn’t stop the assault on a handcuffed suspect, are also on modified duty pending the investigation.

“The matter is now in the hands of [District Attorney Timothy Sini’s] office, and I can confirm that there is a criminal investigation,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a press conference on Tuesday night.

The two officers have been suspended without pay.

“If we are to continue to build trust with all of our communities, we have to be transparent and we have to hold our officers to the highest standards,” SCPD Commissioner Geraldine Hart, said during the press conference.

Hart called the incident “disturbing” and said the department would continue its internal investigation.

The investigation of the officers’ behavior came to light after officials reviewed a recording from another responding officer’s body camera.

“While Cruz was standing up and handcuffed, a 6th Precinct police officer pushed the arrestee forward from behind and kicked the back of his leg,” Hart described. “The officer who initially pushed Cruz and one other officer kicked Cruz multiple times while he was on the ground.”

Hart called the inaction of other officers “unacceptable” and said the “number of officers who did not intervene is a direct violation of our rules and procedures.”

She called the actions against the officers “swift” and said the investigation would continue and could involve other police officers.

The police made a formal referral to Sini (D), who was a former police commissioner, and had pledged to clean up the county’s law enforcement agency amid a scandal engulfing the former DA.

Hart recognized that the public would express outrage at the video.

“People will be rightfully angry and disappointed and I can tell you that I am, too,” Hart said. “This type of behavior cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Hart added that the incident should serve as a message to the rank and file that “we must be better. I expect our officers to act with respect and restraint. If you witness misconduct by a fellow officer, you are obligated to stop it.”

Hart assured the public that the matter is “being taken very seriously.”

Bellone, meanwhile, who also called the video “disturbing,” underscored the review the county was conducting of police policy.

These types of reviews are occurring throughout the country, particularly after several high-profile incidents of police actions caught on video. The death of Minnesota resident George Floyd at the hands of police officers now charged with his murder, triggered numerous protests throughout the country.

Bellone said the video of the Cruz arrest is a “stark example of why those [body cameras] are so vital and important. I can tell you that I will not move forward and present a police reform plan that does not include body cameras for the police department.”

 

 

County Steve Bellone announced Suffolk County's third mass vaccination site. Photo by Andrew Zucker

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) joined other elected officials on Wednesday, Feb. 17, at Suffolk County Community College’s Selden campus to announce its new vaccine site.

The campus will be home to Suffolk County’s third mass vaccination site, and will administer some of the nearly 8,000 vaccines that were delivered to the state earlier this week. 

“The college is uniquely situated for this effort,” Bellone said. “These campuses are strategically located throughout the county on the west end, east end, and now in the middle of the county with the Selden campus.”

He added the Selden campus will focus on vaccinating those with comorbidities, municipal employees and Northwell Health employees.