Danielle McNerney, who is white, and Michael Abraham, who is Hispanic, both have a history of hard drug use. Both were charged with drug possession by Suffolk County police.
But that’s where the similarity ends.
McNerney went home after drug-free therapy, while Abraham, like many other minority defendants, says he didn’t know about such an option. Instead, he got probation. Four years later, he wound up in jail on a felony possession charge.
These different outcomes reflect the racial disparity in Long Island’s system of dealing with criminal drug possession, a Newsday investigation shows.
Overwhelmingly during the past decade, whites on Long Island were far more likely than minorities to receive a lighter charge and penalty when arrested by police for possession of marijuana as well as controlled substances such as heroin, cocaine and illegal pills.
At the same time, blacks and Hispanics had nearly double the rate of whites in facing more serious felony charges and jail time for drug possession, according to an analysis of court records from 2005 to 2016.
Last year, Long Island hit a new milestone with drug arrests. More people were charged with drug possession than any time in more than a decade, jumping from 6,243 arrests in 2005 to 8,070 in 2016 — a 30 percent increase.
While marijuana arrests steadily increased by 10 percent during this time, possession of heroin, cocaine and illegal substances soared by 40 percent.
Over the past decade, the racial disparity in drug possession — a common charge in pull-over arrests by Long Island police — can be found in these numbers.
On Long Island, 85 percent of whites picked up for possession of heroin, cocaine and other controlled substances since 2005 were charged with a misdemeanor. That is the lowest charge of its kind, often resulting in a fine or eventual dismissal. Few went to jail.
Meanwhile, blacks and Hispanics made up nearly two-thirds of all those charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, which can mean years in prison if convicted.
Newsday also found a similar racial pattern with marijuana — a common offense among those pulled over and arrested by Long Island police.
Disparity in drug arrests
Though addiction experts say marijuana use is the same among whites and nonwhites, records show 60 percent of marijuana possession arrests in Nassau in the past decade were minorities and 50 percent in Suffolk — a rate far above their proportion of the general population.
“With some degree of regularity, whites are getting the benefit for being charged with a misdemeanor for the same conduct that nonwhites seem to be charged with a variety of felonies,” said Jason Starr, former Long Island director for the New York Civil Liberties Union and chair for the Nassau County Bar Association’s civil rights committee.
Newsday reviewed more than 100,000 Long Island separate cases involving 33 charges identified as the primary ones resulting from “stop and frisk”-like tactics — such as resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration, criminal trespass and a host of drug-related offenses.
Long Island police arrest and court data were collected from January 2005 through December 2016 and provided by the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. This agency keeps track of numbers regarding arrests, convictions and sentencing reported throughout New York State.
While the state data did not give specific names or the precise location of arrests, they did include age and racial designations for white and nonwhite defendants in each county, including those identified as black, Hispanic, Asian and other minorities. The state data reflect the most serious charge given out at each arrest and include those individuals who may have been arrested more than once in any given year.
Newsday’s study of more than 50,000 drug possession cases from 2005 to 2016 also found a sharp racial disparity when it comes to punishment.
Even when convicted of felony possession charges, blacks and Hispanics on Long Island were nearly twice as likely to wind up behind bars than whites for heroin, cocaine or illegal pills.
And if convicted of the misdemeanor charge, even though more whites were arrested in total, nonwhites were nearly twice as likely to go to jail, records show.
A similar pattern existed on Long Island for those found with pot. For every 100 marijuana possession arrests, 2 whites received some jail time, whereas 10 nonwhites wound up behind bars — five times the rate of whites.
The analysis is based on records provided by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, which collects data from around the state.
‘No discretion in the charges’
Long Island law-enforcement authorities reject the idea that race plays a factor in drug arrests. Suffolk police say charges are essentially colorblind, determined by the amount of drugs found and whether there was an intent to sell.
“There’s no discretion in the charges,” said former Nassau acting Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, who retired in July. Krumpter said state law clearly outlines the degree of severity for those arrested with controlled substances. “They’re charged based on the weight of their actions.”
But addiction expert Jeffrey Reynolds said the racial disparity in drug possession arrest statistics — particularly with blacks and Hispanics facing felony charges at a much greater rate than whites — doesn’t reflect the reality of who’s using illegal drugs on Long Island. Federal studies show little racial or ethnic difference from the 10 percent average of illegal drug use among the U.S. population.
“It doesn’t sound right that minority folks are carrying higher quantities than white folks; if anything these days, it’s probably the reverse,” said Reynolds, president and chief executive of the Family & Children’s Association in Mineola. “It’s white folks that are using prescription pills, it’s white folks who are using heroin. So when you look at where the arrests are landing, it doesn’t reflect the current profile of what we’re seeing on the Island in terms of who is actually using the drugs.”
Delores Jones-Brown, a law professor at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice and founding director of its Center on Race, Crime and Justice, suggested that Long Island’s racial disparity in drug arrests may result from “hot spot” policing methods that concentrate efforts in minority communities with high rates of crime.
In addition, Jones-Brown said, white middle-class defendants are often able to afford private defense lawyers who can persuade prosecutors to lower charges, from an initial felony to a misdemeanor, before it reaches a grand jury. This can mean the difference between going to “a drug treatment facility as opposed to being sentenced to prison or jail,” Jones-Brown said.
Impact on drug users
These differences in outcome can have a profound personal impact for drug users. The examples of McNerney and Abraham are typical of concerns about racial fairness in Long Island’s criminal justice system.
Around noon on April 17, 2015, Suffolk police stopped McNerney on Route 109 in Lindenhurst and charged her with carrying an unspecified quantity of heroin, according to records. She was charged with possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, a Class A misdemeanor. The Smithtown hairdresser, now 26, was also arrested on a charge of unlawful possession of another controlled substance — Clonazepam, a tranquilizer often abused as a recreational drug — and a hypodermic needle.
It wasn’t the first drug arrest for McNerney. “There were multiple times,” McNerney recalled. “I was either driving in a car with drugs on me, or going to get drugs.”
Drug-taking defined much of McNerney’s young life until recently. Like some other suburban middle-class kids, she found Long Island awash in cheap heroin and a cornucopia of illegal pills. “I was using for eight or nine years, and just got involved with the wrong crowd in high school,” she recalled. “Just fell into it and then continued from there. It [heroin and other drugs] was enough to make me to continue to use. And then I got physically and mentally addicted to the drugs.”
The April 2015 heroin arrest persuaded McNerney that her addiction was a downward spiral unless she agreed to get help. She had seen heroin and opioids claim so many young lives and worried that she might become another fatality.
“That I would die — all you need is one bad batch of drugs and you’re dead,” she said of her motivation to get better. “I’ve seen it happen to a lot of people and it’s very devastating.”
Given her track record, McNerney feared going to jail, but her private attorney recommended Drug Court, a program that stresses rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Four years earlier, after a previous arrest, McNerney said she also had entered Drug Court. But she relapsed into heroin abuse and found herself stealing to support her habit.
Despite the severity of being pulled over and arrested for drug possession, McNerney said she was fortunate that her private lawyer and supporting parents urged her to again enter the Drug Court program. “Because it seemed like the better option, as far as either going to jail, or actually getting the help that I needed for my addiction,” she explained.
On March 1, after months of drug-free therapy and avoiding jail, her case finally ended with a brief court appearance. Her misdemeanor charge of controlled substance was reduced to a one-year conditional discharge and a small fine. As part of this plea bargain, another charge against her for possession of the same tranquilizing opioid drug and petty larceny from January 2015 was dropped.
McNerney was one of about 15 “graduates” that day in Drug Court, all of whom had followed a similar path.
Project director Edward Gialella said Suffolk’s Drug Court is geared as “an alternative to incarceration” for those charged with drug possession charges, even those with a history like McNerney. Its main purpose is to thwart crime driven by a serious addiction to heroin, cocaine and other illegal drugs by steering defendants toward rehab, he explained.
‘Flexibility’ in drug program
Each year, about 100 people graduate from the program after succeeding with constant drug-testing and treatment, Gialella said. Even those with prior felony convictions can be accepted into the Drug Court program with the approval of prosecutors, but those currently arrested for drug sales or violent crimes are excluded, officials say.
“There is a lot of flexibility in it,” said Suffolk District Court Judge Derrick J. Robinson, who oversees Drug Court in Central Islip and helps determine the eligibility of each defendant. Robinson said rehab is strictly supervised and can result in more jail time if a person is caught using drugs again.
“People in the Drug Court, this is not their first time [in the criminal justice system],” said Robinson. “They usually had other charges and they know what can happen [if caught using drugs again].”
Usually, defendants such as McNerney are urged to plea-bargain and enter into this program by a defense lawyer or family member, said Robinson and Gialella. If approved for the program by Drug Court without objection from prosecutors, defendants come back regularly to report on their progress and make sure they are complying with the terms of their plea-bargain. Officials say they want to get more eligible defendants with drug histories into the program when possible.
Most who get into Drug Court rehab are overwhelming white, according to records and interviews. In a November 2016 survey, whites made up 88 percent of those currently in the Drug Court system, with only about 5 percent identified as black or black/Hispanic, with the rest other minorities, according to court officials.
Yet, the annual group of about 100 Drug Court graduates is only a small portion of the thousands arrested each year in Suffolk for drug possession. Countywide in 2016, there were 3,370 arrests for possession of controlled substance.
Officials say they don’t keep track of the overall racial composition of those who might be eligible for the program. They say they decide each case on an individual basis. “We don’t look at that [race], as far as who’s being arrested and that makeup,” Gialella said.
No offer of Drug Court
Over at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverhead, it’s a much different story. Often blacks and Hispanics make up a large percentage of those who wind up behind bars for drugs, according to both the Suffolk sheriff and inmates inside the jail.
In a recent interview, inmate Michael Abraham said he wishes he could have gone to Drug Court or other rehab treatment plan in 2010 when he faced the same seventh-degree misdemeanor drug possession charge. Instead he got six months probation without any offer of help for his addiction.
While officials say Abraham was eligible for consideration in Drug Court, Abraham said he never learned of its availability. Four years later, his drug addiction — and the criminal behavior to support his habit — was still continuing, he said.
Records show Abraham was charged in July 2014 with a felony possession for crack cocaine — about 500 milligrams — and a lower marijuana offense. He said he parked his car near a Bay Shore gas station. Documents show he was approached by Suffolk police who suspected he might be a seller — something Abraham denies.
“I was just crossing a gas station and a police officer came up to me,” recalled Abraham, now 31. “He said, “What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Nothing’. He searched me, found stuff on me, and I got arrested.”
Ultimately, Abraham pleaded guilty to a reduced felony charge of attempted possession of a controlled substance and was given a two-year sentence. Again, Abraham was eligible for Drug Court under the rules, said officials, but Abraham said he never learned about that possibility.
“Whites will get a [treatment] program and I get sentenced with a felony, which follows me everywhere,” said Abraham, an auto mechanic worried that employers may reject him because of his felony drug arrest. “It ruins my chances of getting a job. It basically makes everything harder with a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor which gets overlooked if I go for a job.”
Police and court records list Abraham as Hispanic, though his family background is from the West Indies, which he says is a mix of white and Hispanic. He considers himself a minority who is viewed by authorities “as a bad person” because of his ethnicity.
More nonwhites sent to jail
Abraham said the racial disparity in drug arrests is evident throughout Suffolk’s jail population. “Most everybody that’s in here is either Spanish or black. I think there’s, like, two white boys on the floor,” said Abraham when interviewed last year. “I see a lot of people who have drug problems that could be probably home fixing their problems, as opposed to in here, locked down.”
Abraham’s defense lawyers didn’t return calls about the case, and the Suffolk district attorney declined to comment. Abraham is now out on parole, records show.
In Suffolk over the past decade, black and Hispanics made up 63 percent of felony drug possession arrests, but 73 percent of those sentenced to jail or prison. A similar pattern existed in Nassau, records show.
In human terms, this difference in outcomes can be immense, said Suffolk inmate LeVar Jackson, 39, of Central Islip, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor drug possession and was interviewed in 2016 in the Riverhead jail. Jackson said Drug Court never came up in his case. Suffolk prosecutors were unavailable for comment if he was ever considered eligible.
Like other inmates, Jackson believes white addicts are perceived differently by police and prosecutors than minorities like himself.
“When the white kid gets into trouble, whatever the case may be pertaining to drugs, little Billy needs help and is not looked upon as though he’s stealing from his family or hurting others as something bad. He just needs help,” explained Jackson. “Whereas when we commit acts of drug possession or drug sales, we’re doing that to poison the neighborhood. We need help as well.”
Suffolk Sheriff Vincent F. DeMarco says he’s heard similar complaints by other minority inmates behind bars for drug possession who wish they’d been offered rehab. “It happens a lot with Drug Court,” DeMarco said. “The [defense] attorney says they’re not eligible or they just don’t know about it.”
Both DeMarco and Drug Court officials say they’ve taken recent steps to expand awareness of the program among those accused of drug crimes, including during arraignment, stressing the chance for treatment instead of incarceration.
Rehab not always sought
Yet defendants and their defense lawyers don’t always seek out rehab for reasons that seem to go beyond race.
Laurette Mulry, attorney in charge of the Legal Aid Society of Suffolk County, said her staff regularly alerts their clients — often poor minorities who cannot afford a private attorney — about Drug Court. Her staff represent about half of the court’s defendants. But Mulry said many drug-addicted defendants would prefer spending a shorter time in jail than a year of court-supervised drug treatment.
“Addicts often don’t want to go to rehab — even though that seems counterintuitive,” explained Mulry.
Judge Karen Kerr, supervising judge of Suffolk District Court, which includes Drug Court, agreed that the power of drug addiction will often compel defendants, regardless of race, to accept punishment behind bars rather than promise to get clean.
“You have to be ready for Drug Court and ready for change or people will take jail over drug treatment,” said Kerr.
That was the case of Siobhan Eareckson, 26, who says she initially preferred the idea of going to jail rather than enduring rehab through Drug Court. In August 2013, she was pulled over by police while driving high on cocaine and other drugs.
“When I first heard about it [Drug Court rehab], I thought anyone who would do that is crazy,” she recalled. “That would mean that you couldn’t get high — and that was unfathomable to me. But when I finally came around and realized that wasn’t how I wanted to live my life anymore, it was like a huge blessing.”
On the day of her 2016 graduation from Suffolk’s Drug Court, after a year of being drug-free, Eareckson rejoiced in her freedom with her family, including her 2-month-old daughter in a stroller.
Looking around at the courtroom, Eareckson acknowledged the racial disparity in the current system and how many more drug offenders need the help that she was lucky to get.
“I look at the people who are graduating today and it’s really unfortunate — like everyone’s white,” she said, in a self-conscious whisper. “It’s unfortunate that people are maybe being judged based on their race and stuff like that. They’re not making it through and it’s sad.”
However, McNerney doesn’t believe race had anything to do with the outcome of her case. At her Drug Court graduation in March, she was joined by her lawyer and family — grateful she got a second chance.
“They were definitely happy about drug court because they never wanted to see me in jail,” she said with loved ones around her. “If I felt I was in this alone, I don’t know how successful I would have been.”
JS Chart by amCharts
Smithtown politician Patrick Vecchio, the longest-serving town supervisor in Long Island history, will leave office at the end of this year, after losing a close vote to a rival from his own party last week.
When he began overseeing Smithtown in 1978, he embarked on a political career that ultimately would span seven U.S. presidents and witness a world of change over four decades.
Below, see milestones from Vecchio’s career on the left, and, on the right, major world events that occurred during the course of his time as Smithtown town supervisor.
Dec. 8, 1977
Vecchio defeats Republican town Supervisor Charles Cacciabaudo by 67 votes.
Jan. 20, 1981
Ronald Reagan becomes president. Iran hostage crisis ends.
Wages unsuccessful campaign to unseat state Sen. James Lack.
Nov. 5, 1985
Wins fifth two-year term as supervisor.
January 28, 1986
Space shuttle Challenger disaster
May 25, 1989
Endorsed by Smithtown Republicans for re-election, the first time he receives bipartisan backing.
Nov. 7, 1989
Wins seventh term – and first four-year term. (Voters in 1988 had approved extending the supervisor’s term.)
Nov. 9, 1989
Berlin Wall falls.
Feb. 13, 1990
Switches parties in bid to unseat Democratic County Executive Patrick Halpin.
Sept. 12, 1991
Loses both Republican and Conservative county executive primaries.
July 17, 1996
TWA Flight 800 crashes off Long Island.
Sept. 11, 2001
World Trade Center attacks.
June 29, 2007
The first iPhone is released.
Nov. 3, 2009
Wins 12th term as supervisor, defeating Democrat Patricia Biancaniello.
Nov. 6, 2012
Barack Obama is elected president for a second term.
Sept. 10, 2013
Defeats Councilman Robert Creighton in Republican primary. Goes on to win November general election.
Jan. 20, 2017
Donald Trump becomes president.
Sept. 25, 2017
Concedes defeat in Republican primary to Councilman Edward Wehrheim.
Over the past decade, Long Island’s blacks, Hispanics and other minorities were far more likely than whites to be arrested and wind up behind bars for a group of crimes that experts say are the suburban equivalent of “stop and frisk” charges, a Newsday investigation shows.
Nonwhites on Long Island were arrested at nearly five times the rate for whites, according to an analysis of police and court records from the years 2005-2016.
For every one Long Island arrest per 1,000 whites, there were on average 4.73 arrests per 1,000 nonwhites, records show. A similar racial pattern existed among those who wound up in jail.
Newsday reviewed more than 100,000 Long Island separate cases involving charges identified as the primary ones resulting from “stop and frisk”-like tactics — such as resisting arrest, obstruction of governmental administration, criminal trespass and a host of drug-related offenses.
The analysis compared the number of arrests involving whites and nonwhites (black, Hispanic, Asian/Indian and others) with the overall Long Island population reported by the U.S. Census. During this time, whites made up on average 73 percent and nonwhites 27 percent of Long Island’s population.
While the state data does not detail how a person was arrested, Long Island police say these types of charges are predominantly the result of pull-over traffic stops. As Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini explained, “A lot of our police interactions are traffic stops because people are driving in Suffolk County, as opposed to the city where fewer people are driving.”
Police say these arrests are based on legally permissible causes or “reasonable suspicion” discretion by officers, part of an overall crime-reduction strategy. Under the law, police can use their discretion to stop, question and possibly frisk suspects if they believe a crime has been committed.
Riding alone in patrol cars, officers will focus their attention often on “hot spots” — street corners, open spaces or buildings generally found in Long Island minority neighborhoods — where complaints of crime are the highest, officials explain.
“We go to great pains to ensure that our members are not engaged in any forms of biased policing,” says former acting Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter, who retired in July. “A small percentage of the population are responsible for the majority of the crime. We look to target those individuals that, based on their histories, are responsible for that crime in those hot spots.”
But critics say many pull-over arrests are prompted by minor traffic infractions, such as a faulty brake light, that can quickly turn into more serious charges affecting nonwhites in unfair proportions. While white drivers may get a warning or a traffic ticket, they say, nonwhites are more likely to face serious felony charges.
Frank Torres, former president of the Long Island Hispanic Bar Association, and other critics point to recent “stop and frisk” cases — some caught on video — that illustrate what they say is an underlying bias on Long Island that has existed for years.
“All too often I hear, this would not happen to a non-Latino white person,” Torres explains. “The officers will pull someone over for something very minor — a broken taillight, or the headlight is not working or something of that nature. Where otherwise the officer may look away, so to speak, and not bother, but when they see that it’s a person of color or Latino, that’s the basis to stop … and invariably it snowballs.”
While arrests by police are the most serious consequence of overall traffic stops, they account for only a small percentage of stops. More than 90 percent of the thousands of police stops each year wind up in a ticket or just a warning, according to records and police officials.
Newsday’s review of more than 100,000 cases, both felonies and misdemeanors, found one of the sharpest racial distinctions involves arrests for drug possession.
Government studies nationally show little difference in marijuana usage between whites and nonwhites. Yet the Long Island rate of arrests for possession of marijuana is nearly quadruple for minorities than for whites — 5 arrests for 10,000 whites, 20 arrests for 10,000 nonwhites, records show.
And when it comes to drug arrests for having heroin, cocaine and illegal pills (“possession of controlled substances”), nonwhites were overwhelmingly charged with a felony, while whites generally faced a misdemeanor charge with far less chance of going to jail.
Experts see bias
This pattern of arrests reflects a tale of two different justice systems on Long Island depending on race, some experts say.
“The anecdotes that we’ve heard here across Long Island, as well some of the data that we’ve actually been able to look at over time, has indicated that indeed there is some sort of racial and ethnic bias in policing here on the Island,” says Jason Starr, formerly director of the Nassau and Suffolk chapters of the New York Civil Liberties Union and chair for the Nassau County Bar Association’s civil rights committee.
Delores Jones-Brown, a law professor at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice and founding director of its Center on Race, Crime and Justice, said the Long Island numbers suggest “some racial targeting going on.”
“Disproportionately it is black and Hispanic people who are being arrested for these low-level crimes — which then turn into criminal records that can hurt them for their job opportunities and life chances in the future,” she said.
In Suffolk County, the racial pattern of drivers getting pulled over at traffic stops is part of an ongoing U.S. Justice Department review of policing methods involving minorities. The federal oversight stems from a 2013 settlement agreement prompted by the 2008 hate-crime death of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero and charges of discriminatory police practices.
The Justice Department review includes a comparison of racial patterns in police pull-overs of drivers with the general census population. Examining traffic stops with the racial breakdown of a community is a common approach used by federal authorities and criminal justice experts around the country to test for possible bias.
Nassau’s practices are not under review by the Justice Department, but the federal agency’s effort in Suffolk suggests evidence of some racial disparity in who gets pulled over.
According to an initial report examined by Newsday, more than 28,000 traffic stops made by Suffolk in the first four months of 2015 show blacks and Hispanics were stopped by police more often than would be expected based on census numbers.
Notably, Suffolk blacks accounted for 15.4 percent of traffic stops — far more than what would be expected from their 7.1 percent of the population in the county, documents in the Justice review show. Hispanics also had a higher-than-expected rate. Whites, on the other hand, were less likely to stopped, with 59.2 percent of actual traffic stops compared with their expected number of 71 percent based on the population.
Sini concedes the data reviewed by the Justice Department shows “some disproportionality when it comes to stopping whites and African-Americans” and vows to prevent any unfair racial patterns in who gets arrested by police.
“I’ve talked to many African-Americans in Suffolk County who have said that they have been racially targeted in the past,” Sini said. “Certainly I’ve heard from many folks of color, particularly men, that they’ve had experience in their past where they feel like they’ve been racially targeted.”
Long Island’s pull-over stops and arrests are part of a nationwide debate about policing methods.
President Donald Trump has expressed support for “stop and frisk” methods in New York City as an effective “proactive” crime-fighting tactic to be followed by other localities around the country.
However, this strategy of focusing on certain offenses and neighborhoods — intended to reduce overall crime and improve the quality of life — has sparked concerns about its possible racial overtones.
In November 2013, a New York State attorney general report warned about racial disparities in New York City’s “stop and frisk” policing methods. It found blacks and Hispanics were far more likely to be stopped by police than whites, especially for common charges such as marijuana possession.
Newsday examined 33 different kinds of so-called “stop and frisk” charges — previously reviewed by other government and academic experts in other regions — that applied to Long Island’s suburban setting.
Long Island police arrest and court data were collected from January 2005 through December 2016 and provided by the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. This agency keeps track of numbers regarding arrests, convictions and sentencing reported throughout New York State.
While the state data did not give specific names or the precise location of arrests, it did include age and racial designations for white and nonwhite defendants in each county, including those identified as black, Hispanic, Asian and other minorities. The state data reflect the most serious charge given out at each arrest and include those individuals who may have been arrested more than once in any given year.
Nationally, information about racial patterns in traffic stops and resulting arrests varies widely because of the lack of uniform reporting methods, experts say. “There’s no consistency across states on traffic stops” says Stanford University assistant professor Sharad Goel, co-author of a 20-state analysis of police pull-overs this year.
On Long Island, prosecutors generally leave it up to police departments to monitor concerns about race and ethnicity in who gets pulled over. In addition to their comments about the state arrest data, Nassau and Suffolk police officials were asked by Newsday to provide all available information concerning race and ethnicity regarding arrests and pull-over traffic stops.
In Suffolk, the Justice Department review provides a racial breakdown of traffic stops, without specifics on arrests like the state data. Nassau police provided their own breakdown of race and ethnicity in arrests for a five-year period but said they don’t keep track of traffic stops, nor do they know what percentage of stops wind up in arrests. Newsday’s review found Long Island’s decadelong racial disparity in “stop and frisk”-like arrests continues, with law-enforcement authorities debating how to address it.
Among the findings:
A racial pattern to all Long Island felonies, not just “stop and frisk” charges. In Suffolk County, nonwhites accounted for 25 percent of the population but 53 percent of all felony arrests in the past decade. Similarly in Nassau, nonwhites made up 30 percent of the population but 67 percent of all felony arrests.
A racial disparity on who goes to jail. Despite guidelines for sentencing consistency, nonwhites on Long Island wound up behind bars far more than whites. In Nassau, for example, 70 percent of felony “stop and frisk” convictions involving nonwhites received jail time, compared with 42 percent of whites. Critics say white drug offenders, especially those with private attorneys, benefit from certain courts and sentencing methods that favor rehabilitation instead of incarceration.
Marijuana possession, one of the most common “stop and frisk” offenses, rose last year to its highest arrest level in more than a decade on Long Island. In Nassau, blacks and Hispanics made up 60 percent of marijuana possession arrests — twice their percentage of the population. In New York City, where “stop and frisk” methods have been hotly debated, marijuana possession arrests have dropped by nearly two-thirds since 2011.
Questions about police discretion in certain crimes. A strong Long Island racial pattern exists with criminal charges that critics say rely too much on police discretion — such as resisting arrest and obstruction of governmental administration. For example, while Suffolk blacks and Hispanics account for about one-fifth of the population, they made up more than a half of all resisting-arrest charges in the past decade. While nonwhites make up less than one-third of Nassau’s population, they account for nearly two-thirds of obstruction charges.
Missing numbers and little review. Most Long Island authorities admit they rarely check for racial patterns in arrests and court outcomes, even though it’s recommended by experts. For six years, Nassau County police failed to properly report the number of Hispanic arrests to the state.
Crime down, disparity remains
While reported crime has generally declined over the past decade, racial disparity for those arrested has not.
“In the counties where people use their vehicles and don’t walk as much, a traffic infraction is the equivalent to ‘stop and frisk’ in the city,” says Garden City lawyer Amy Marion, who has represented clients claiming unlawful arrests by police. “You have vehicles being stopped allegedly for a traffic infraction, and that leads to an unlawful search of the person and the vehicle, and other charges being put down against the individual.”
Those who represent Long Island police say racial patterns in “stop and frisk” arrests reflect only where cops are being sent by their supervisors, rather than any inherent bias. Police say they often meet with school, church and community leaders in minority areas, responding to safety concerns about crime.
“No matter what your color is, if you commit a crime — or you appear to be committing a crime — you will be stopped by one of our police officers, and an investigation will ensue that may lead to your arrest,” said James Carver, former president of the Nassau County Police Benevolent Association. “Our police officers don’t look at color. Our police officers only arrest people who commit crimes.”
But many Long Islanders who are black or Hispanic share a story of being stopped at some point by police, with a nagging sense of unfairness based on their race or ethnicity.
Tamara Clark, 49, said she knows what racial profiling by police feels like. The East Brentwood legal secretary says she has an excellent driving record and had “never been arrested, thank God.” But she recalls how a Suffolk officer once pulled her over in her car while she was driving to a neighborhood store with her young son.
“I was pulled over randomly and I said, ‘Is there anything wrong?’” Clark recalled. “If you’re just looking for random purposes for a black male or black female, you can’t just can’t pull every black male and every black female over, or every Hispanic male and Hispanic female over.”
Police quizzed her and then let her go, she said, without any explanation. “I feel if I didn’t stand up for myself and continue to ask why and what was his reason, it could have led to a little more than that,” Clark said.
Attorney Fred Brewington, who has handled several lawsuits against police in which race played a factor, said resisting arrest is among a group of questionable “stop and frisk” offenses commonly cited by police.
“The police officer who decides to charge someone — with obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct — has an enormous amount of discretion,” said Brewington. He said “reasonable suspicion” legal grounds during a pull-over stop — particularly with white cops dealing with minorities — “allows them the opportunity to utilize their authority and the law to mask other deep-rooted issues.”
Newsday’s review showed resisting-arrest charges against nonwhites on Long Island are far more common than for whites. In Nassau, while nonwhites account for 30 percent of the county’s population, they made up 63 percent of resisting-arrest charges during the past decade. A similar disparity exists in Suffolk, records show.
Obstruction of governmental administration — a charge that critics say relies on a wide latitude in police discretion — also has a sharp racial pattern. In Nassau, 67 percent of all OGA arrests in the past decade involved minorities.
Nassau’s former acting commissioner Krumpter denied any allegations of bias in the department. “There are always going to be a few bad apples and in those cases here in Nassau County, we take aggressive action,” Krumpter explained. “We will not tolerate misconduct by our police officers.” He objected to the term “stop and frisk” and said most pull-overs by police result in questioning rather than any physical contact.
Arrests vs. population data
Criminal justice experts, such as Jones-Brown, say local law-enforcement officials should routinely compare arrest patterns with the racial makeup of their community to ensure there is no bias or racial profiling. The National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, has recommended police officials conduct inspections and audits as a preventive.
“It’s an important starting point,” Jones-Brown said of comparing arrests to the general population. “It is easy to deny the existence of racial profiling if we are not looking at any data.”
But Newsday found Long Island prosecutors generally don’t check for racial profiling in arrests, convictions or sentencing — despite several high-profile disputes in recent years, including the ongoing Justice Department settlement in Suffolk.
“The answer to that is no,” said a spokesman for Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, when asked about an overall review for racial patterns. “We analyze the facts and circumstances of each arrest on a case-by-case basis.” Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota declined to comment, according to a spokesperson who said concerns about racial patterns are left to police officials.
As criminal arrest cases go to court, Newsday also found, there exists a racial disparity in who winds up in jail.
Nonwhites on Long Island arrested on “stop and frisk” charges were more likely to land behind bars (local jail or state prison) than whites charged with the same offense.
For example, during the past decade in Nassau County, for every felony “stop and frisk” conviction involving nonwhites, 70 percent wound up behind bars, while 42 percent of whites faced jail time. Similarly, 66 percent of Suffolk minorities convicted of such felonies were incarcerated but only 40 percent of whites.
Even with low-level misdemeanors in both counties, the rate of going to jail is almost double for minorities.
Sini said his department has improved its review of race and police practices, based on the data of police pull-overs prepared as part of the Justice Department’s 2014 oversight agreement. Suffolk has also stepped up efforts to improve relations with minority communities, he said. Subsequent compliance reports under the Justice agreement have cited better bilingual handling of complaints and screening of new officer applicants for any history of bias.
Overall, the draft report on four months of 2015 data shows that Suffolk traffic stops resulted in a ticket (65 percent of the time) or a warning (30 percent). Less than 2 percent were criminally arrested, said the report, which didn’t provide any analysis of who gets charged, convicted and goes to jail.
“There were more traffic stops for Black, Hispanic and Mixed Race drivers,” the report said. Conversely, it found, “White drivers were less likely to be searched, receive a ticket, be arrested, or have any kind of action taken against them than non-White drivers.”
Sini says the Justice Department’s input is “tremendously value added. It’s almost like having a free consultant.” He said his department is working on refining its reporting methods to reach full compliance under the federal agreement.
A June 2017 Justice update report found Suffolk only in “partial compliance” and working to correct “various shortcomings” found in its traffic stop data methods to detect racial bias.
However, traffic stops only tell part of the story. Newsday’s analysis of the past decade shows a far greater racial disparity exists on Long Island once there is a pull-over arrest, particularly for a felony.
In general, the more serious the crime, the greater the chance of being charged for blacks and Hispanics. And instead of facing monetary fines or points off their driver’s license, they face a greater likelihood of spending time behind bars if convicted, records show.
Nassau’s Krumpter rejected comparisons of arrests to the general population, even though it’s a common standard used by the Justice Department and criminal justice experts. He believes the racial breakdown of arrests should be compared with all criminals in Nassau County at any given time, rather than the general population. He acknowledges no such data comparison now exists.
“Population [comparison] doesn’t take into consideration the transient public who comes into Nassau from other parts of the city and from Suffolk County,” Krumpter explained. “A lot of times, the communities that are predominantly minority you’ll find have a high propensity for crime. And we are very focused on being fair and unbiased here in Nassau County.”
Though Nassau arrest records suggest a comparable racial pattern to Suffolk, there is no similar Justice Department review of its practices, officials said. Krumpter said the department has consistently monitored data for racial patterns. However, when asked about traffic stop data, a Nassau police spokesman said the department was “unable to provide as we don’t track that.” Similarly, the department said it could not say what percentage of traffic stops wound up in arrests.
In response to Newsday’s request, however, Nassau provided its own arrest statistics for the five most recently available years for all misdemeanors, felonies, and violations such as disorderly conduct. It shows whites accounted for 59 percent of all arrests — less than their percentage of Nassau’s resident census population.
However, blacks in Nassau County made up 34 percent of all arrests — approximately three times their 11 percent of the county’s 2010 Census population. These Nassau statistics do not mention Hispanic arrests, which are intermingled in other racial categories, officials said.
Newsday’s investigation found properly counting Hispanic arrests has been a problem in Nassau. For six years, from 2007 to 2012, Nassau police failed to properly report Hispanic arrests to New York state Division of Criminal Justice Services — leaving the category blank in its filings — until the error was eventually corrected in 2013.
State officials first “identified the problem” in early 2008 and worked with its vendor to fix it, said Janine Kava, spokeswoman for the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. “That process took four years — we do not know why it took so long — that would be a question for … [Nassau County officials].” She said the six-year period of arrest data has never been updated by Nassau with the state.
Nassau said it is now reporting Hispanic arrests correctly to the state. “We made the adjustment and made the corrections,” Krumpter said.
Torres called “shameful” the six-year error in reporting Hispanic arrests in Nassau and said both the district attorney and police should check regularly for possible racial profiling. Hispanics account for about 15 percent of Nassau’s population during the dozen years studied.
“What purpose does it serve if you don’t know the categories of individuals being arrested as far as their ethnic or racial background?” Torres said. “That would help into determining whether there is racial profiling or disparity among the arrests here in Nassau County.”
Nassau’s new acting commissioner, Patrick J. Ryder, who replaced Krumpter in July, declined to be interviewed. But in a written statement, Ryder said his department “will analyze data, thus taking into account variables such as Hot Spot policing, crime trends, calls for service and community outcry when determining where additional resources will be assigned.”
‘Hot spots’ and race
Driving in an undercover car, Suffolk Det. Sgt. Mike McDowell recently explained the delicate balance for police in trying to solve crime in “hot spots” within predominantly minority communities without falling into racial profiling.
“A person’s race should have no bearing on why a person is stopped or arrested — it should not come into play,” explained McDowell, a 21-year veteran. Cops patrolling Suffolk go through “an ongoing and continuous training of how to avoid racial profiling, about the pitfalls and legal ramifications of racial profiling,” he said.
“Hot spot” policing, as it’s been practiced around the nation in the past decade, is designed to concentrate police resources in areas where it is most needed. Both Long Island top police officials say they deploy cops into these areas based on a careful analysis of crime stats, victim and neighborhood complaints, and informants tipping them to where suspects may be found.
But critics blame “hot-spot” policing methods for both the stark racial contrast in Long Island arrests over the past decade as well as sweeping up young people in nonwhite communities into the criminal justice system in a way that white youngsters in more affluent neighborhoods generally don’t face.
“The vast majority have had some sort of bad encounter with the police — from simple discourtesy all the way to more serious encounters,” said Starr about black and Hispanic young people. “You begin to feel more like a target because of what you look like than a partner in trying to keep your own community safe.”
At STRONG Youth Inc. in Uniondale, a youth and community development group, staffers teach young people how to deal appropriately with police, even if they feel they are being treated unfairly.
“Our young people are constantly coming into contact with law enforcement,” said executive director Rahsmia Zatar. “We know that racial profiling is a real issue. It’s not something that’s made up. Unfortunately, especially our young men of color are constantly being approached.”
As Long Island’s population becomes more diverse, law-enforcement officials say it’s necessary to make sure there are no unfair patterns in pull-over stops, arrests or in the racial makeup of its police force.
Sini said understanding racial disparity is matter of both the hard numbers in police statistics as well as the public perception based on their own experiences. Sini is running for Suffolk district attorney, seeking to replace longtime incumbent Thomas Spota, who is retiring.
“The question is why? Is there legitimate reasons explaining that disproportionality, or is there an element of biased policing going on, whether it’s intentional or unintentional?” said Sini, recalling concerns about racial disparity he’s heard since becoming Suffolk’s top cop. “I think it’s very important as commissioner to recognize the validity of that sentiment. Or the police will have no legitimacy whatsoever with communities of color.”
JS Chart by amCharts
Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico, but the full picture of the damage and the grim situation facing residents is still unclear. Loss of power and phone service to nearly the entire island has made communication spotty so many Americans have yet to hear from family and friends there. Here’s what you need to know about storm’s damage and how you can help:
The storm immediately left nearly all 3.4 million people without basic necessities like water and power.
The storm tore up the U.S. territory on Sept. 20, killing at least 34 people and leaving nearly all 3.4 million people in Puerto Rico without power and most without water.
Gov. Ricardo Rossello has said he believes the hurricane caused $90 billion in damage across the island.
The storm smashed poles, downed power lines and damaged electricity-generating plants, knocking out a grid that would be considered antiquated on the United States mainland.
Generators are providing power to the fortunate few who have them.
This is without a doubt the biggest catastrophe in modern history for Puerto Rico
– Gov. Ricardo Rossello
Conditions in Puerto Rico remain dire.
Food and water shortages plague the island amid the widespread power outage. Communications are spotty and roads are clogged with debris.
Flights are infrequent.
"It's inhumane" what's happening at the airport in San Juan, a nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas told me – they need food, water and fans. pic.twitter.com/Fcm3QBiMVB
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) September 25, 2017
Officials said electrical power may not be fully restored for more than a month.
Many others are also waiting for help from anyone from the federal or Puerto Rican government.
But the scope of the devastation is so broad, and the relief effort so concentrated in San Juan, that many people from outside the capital say they have received little to no help.
“The devastation in Puerto Rico has set us back nearly 20 to 30 years,
– Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez.
“I can’t deny that the Puerto Rico of now is different from that of a week ago. The destruction of properties, of flattened structures, of families without homes, of debris everywhere. The island’s greenery is gone,” Gonzalez said.
The island’s economy and infrastructure were in sorry shape long before Maria struck.
A $73 billion debt crisis has left agencies like the state power company broke. As a result the power company abandoned most basic maintenance in recent years, leaving the island subject to regular blackouts.
The future looks grim as it’s feared that financial losses from the storm and the inability of young people to find work will perpetuate economic turmoil.
Tax collections will drop, and Puerto Rico’s tourism industry “will not recover for some time,” according to James Eck, a vice president with the credit-rating agency Moody’s.
With no power, more young workers may leave Puerto Rico for better opportunities elsewhere.
That would further a vicious cycle already underway, where fewer workers means less tax revenue, which hurts the economy, which encourages even more people to leave. Puerto Rico’s population dropped by 8 percent from 2010 through the middle of 2016.
How to help
While the urge to donate clothes and other supplies is natural, money is the best way to contribute during times of disaster, charities and philanthropy experts say.
Donating directly through a website gets money to a charity faster than a text donation, even though the text might seem easier.
Places to donate money
Puerto Rico’s first lady, Beatriz Rossello, has launched an emergency fund with help from private companies. United for Puerto Rico (Unidos Por Puerto Rico) lets you donate through PayPal or directly to its bank account.
More on what’s needed
Still, there’s never a time and place for supplies. Diapers, for example, are often requested, as are construction supplies.
Here is the government of Puerto Rico’s full guide on how to help: United for Puerto Rico
How the United States is responding
- President Donald Trump visited storm-ravaged Puerto Rico on Tuesday, touting the federal response amid power, food and water shortages, but also making what critics saw as insensitive comments about the struggling island. Trump congratulated Puerto Ricans for avoiding a high death toll of “a real catastrophe like Katrina.” As many as 1,800 people died in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina breached levees protecting New Orleans
- The Trump administration is temporarily waiving the Jones Act, which prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports, for Puerto Rico.
- The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs for debris removal and other emergency assistance. U.S. states and territories typically cover 25 percent of the costs, with the federal government paying the remaining 75 percent.
- Active-duty military forces have been sent in to help relief efforts.
- Part of the $15 billion Congress passed early this month for hurricanes Harvey and Irma relief also applied to Puerto Rico.
- A group of Democratic senators has requested that Congress immediately take up a supplemental spending bill to be able to send more aid to Puerto Rico.
Law enforcement authorities reported receiving more than $28 million in assets in 2016 seized as the result of state criminal proceedings and another $2.6 million in federal cases. These assets are used in a variety of ways, according to the state, including “funding investigations and prosecutions, reimbursing agencies for the purchase of contraband during the course of an investigation, and paying restitution.” Some of the assets are given to the state Office of Victim Services and others to the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. You can read more here.
Here are details on the value of assets seized in 2016. Click on the charts for details, and see the table below for all the data. Posted on Sept. 29, 2017.
LI ranks high in state seizures . . .
In 2016, the district attorneys in Nassau and Suffolk together accounted for nearly 40 percent of the $28 million in assets seized in criminal cases under state laws. They ranked second and third, respectively, in the state, behind asset-rich Manhattan (New York County). Here are the top 10 authorities.
. . . and in federal cases. . .
Of the seven authorities that seized assets under federal statutes, Long Island’s two district attorneys accounted for nearly 80 percent of the $2.6 million gathered statewide in federal criminal cases. They ranked first and second statewide in this category.
. . . as well as in seizing automobiles
The two counties combined got nearly two-thirds of all the cars seized in the state, 91 out of 139. They ranked first and third in this category.
The details for 2016 asset seizures
|Authority||Assets under state law||Assets under federal law||Vehicles|
|Bronx County DA||$143,288.08|
|Broome County DA||$29,607.00|
|Chautauqua County DA||$50,860.65||1|
|Cheektowaga Police Dept.||$110,707.82||2|
|Chenango County DA||$3,460.00|
|Clinton County DA||$12,369.00||2|
|Cortland County DA||$4,250.00||1|
|Dutchess County DA||$300,527.00|
|Erie County DA||$236,917.73||$150,059.47||2|
|Fulton County DA||$29,921.27|
|Jefferson County DA||$22,521.85|
|Kings County DA||$40,796.50|
|Montgomery County DA||$57,913.83|
|Nassau County DA||$7,162,376.21||$357,647.57||78|
|New York County DA||$13,664,105.59|
|Niagara County DA||$56,311.97|
|NYC Special Narcotics Prosecutor||$380,049.16|
|Oneida County DA||$34,815.80|
|Onondaga County DA||$7,934.00|
|Orange County DA||$179,358.63||4|
|Orleans County DA||$3,007.00|
|Otsego County DA||$25,333.00|
|Putnam County DA||$53,170.70||23|
|Queens County DA||$1,334,245.01|
|Rennselaer County DA||$68,742.38|
|Saratoga County DA||$11,191.91|
|Schuyler County DA||$77,467.10|
|Seneca County DA||$20,650.00||11|
|Suffolk County DA||$4,112,444.61||$1,781,275.46||13|
|Warren County DA||$143,269.88||$24,500.00||2|
|Washington County DA||$15,554.00|
|Wayne County DA||$2,495.00|
|Westchester County DA||$308,034.57||$121,335.66|
Where the money goes
Here is how the money seized in 2016 was distributed to the district attorney, police agencies and drug programs. Funds were not necessarily allocated in the year they were distributed. In the bar chart, small amounts of money to reimburse for purchases of contraband were included in the “police” category but left separate in the table below.
|Claiming Authority||Nassau County DA||Suffolk County DA||Statewide|
|To general funds for investigations||$2,502,073.31||$1,224,106.67||$8,908,632.41|
|To drug treatment programs||$2,223,944.58||$1,088,094.89||$6,816,398.70|
|To district attorney’s office||$1,043,929.44||$569,468.79||$7,381,483.21|
|To general fund for prosecutions||$834,167.10||$408,035.63||$2,972,606.62|
|To police agencies||$348,011.44||$189,727.95||$4,588,117.16|
|Paid for damages/restitution||$161,600.21||$505,636.68||$3,750,027.29|
|Reimbursement for contraband purchase||$3,409.79||$20,924.00||$30,410.79|
Source: New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
Interactive charts via amCharts.com
Some of the nation’s largest and popular retailers have avoided coming to Long Island because of its competitive marketplace, expensive real estate and administrative red tape.
Two big names in the mid-Atlantic region, grocery giant Wegmans and convenience chain Wawa, have yet to put roots on the Island, even though they are expanding nearby.
Rochester, New York-based Wegmans, which was the only grocery chain to earn an “excellent” grade from Consumer Reports readers in a May survey, plans to open its first New York City store, in Brooklyn in 2019.
Philadelphia-based Wawa, which already is in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, is expanding in both states.
Roy Rogers, the Frederick, Maryland, restaurant chain that left Long Island in 2010, said it is in discussions to get back into the market, although it doesn’t have a timetable for its return.
The Cracker Barrel restaurant group, of Lebanon, Tennessee, O’Reilly Auto Parts, of Springfield, Missouri, Bob Evans Restaurants, Dollar General, Ross Dress For Less and Waffle House are among the national chains not on Long Island.
The long process of getting government zoning approvals discourages some retailers from expanding here, said David F. Chinitz, president and CEO at Park Place Realty Group in Melville.
“It could take less than 45 days to get something approved elsewhere, but that same process could take two years or more here,” Chinitz said.
Nevertheless, Long Island’s higher-than-average median household income and dense population outweigh its drawbacks for many other chains.
“Disposable income generally offsets the extra costs, which is why most of the retailers are here,” Chinitz said.
Thirty nine of the 50 largest retailers by 2016 sales, according to the National Retail Federation, have locations on Long Island. Of the 11 that aren’t here, all but three are regional grocery stores.
The median household income in Nassau County rose more than 3 percent to $105,870 in 2016, up from $102,403, according to recently released U.S. Census Bureau data. Suffolk County’s median household income rose 4 percent to $92,933, from $89,488 in 2015.
Those figures compare with a national median household income of $59,039 in 2016.
Stew Leonard’s has recently opened two Long Island stores, overcoming challenges that new chains face.
The supermarket originally tried to open on Long Island in 2002 at Route 110 and Conklin Street near Republic Airport in East Farmingdale. The plans fell through after objections by local aviation officials, pilots and the state Department of Transportation, which said the location would put shoppers too close to the airport’s main flight path.
But when the Dave & Buster’s restaurant pulled out of Airport Plaza, Stew Leonard’s took that space for its first Long Island supermarket, in January 2016. It opened a second store, in East Meadow, in August.
“We knew we wanted to be on Long Island,” said Stew Leonard Jr., president and chief executive of the family-owned company.
“For our stores, at our size, to be supported properly, we need to have a pretty good population in the area,” Leonard added. “The Long Island market works because of that. Also, we’ve learned that Long Island is full of foodies.”
Online competition poses a challenge for retail expansion, said Herman A. Berliner, an economist and dean of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University in Hempstead.
“But when you look at the overall numbers, we have an amazingly low vacancy rate here, especially among our largest and economically most significant malls,” Berliner said.
Below are nine popular national and regional chains that are near Long Island, but are not here.
HEADQUARTERS: Rochester, New York
NUMBER OF STORES: 94
CLOSEST STORE: Brooklyn — coming in 2019
Long Island residents who have traveled or lived upstate or in New Jersey might have visited Wegmans grocery stores, which are known for big displays of fresh produce and prepared foods, attentive customer service and well-maintained stores.
In 2016 more than 7,800 people nationally contacted Wegmans asking for a store in their community, the company said.
The family-owned regional market, which turned 100 years old last year, has expanded along the Eastern Seaboard. It has 46 stores in New York, 17 in Pennsylvania and nine in New Jersey, among other locations. On Sept. 24 the company opened its 94th store, in Montvale, New Jersey, said Jo Natale, the company’s vice president of media relations.
If Long Island had a Wegmans it would have everything I need
— Samantha Pompa (@sammpompaa) July 17, 2017
In 2019 it will open a location in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But the chain says it has no plans to come to Long Island.
Each store typically employs 450 to 550 workers, Natale said. For 20 years the company has made Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Wegmans ranked No. 2 this year. — Carrie Mason-Draffen
NUMBER OF STORES: 640
CLOSEST STORE: Hackensack, New Jersey
Thirty miles — and multiple bridges — separate Wawa in New Jersey from Long Island.
But those 30 miles aren’t expected to shrink anytime soon.
The convenience store brews about 195 million cups of coffee and serves 300 million customers each year. They also eat more than 60 million built-to-order hoagies — that’s Philadelphian for
hero or sub — annually. The stores are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Wawa stores offer some of the same products, and are generally the same size, as 7-Eleven stores.
That’s a problem for any competitor interested in the Long Island market, retail experts said.
Whenever I tell people we don't have Wawa's on Long Island they look at me like I'm from a 3rd world country
— Allan Pedersen (@APedersen0252) September 23, 2017
“7-Eleven is everywhere, and they’re very, very powerful,” said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a retail consulting and investment bank based in Manhattan. “People love their coffee and special drinks and are loyal.”
Wawa declined to comment for this story. But it continues to expand elsewhere, including in Florida, where it plans to open 15 stores this fall. — David Reich-Hale
HEADQUARTERS: Frederick, Maryland
NUMBER OF STORES: 54
CLOSEST STORE: Edison, N.J.
Roy Rogers, known for roast beef, fried chicken and hamburgers, was a fast-food mainstay in the Northeast in the 1980s. The chain had more than 600 U.S. locations in 1989.
But in 1990, Marriott Corp. sold the chain to Hardee’s Food Systems, and many Roy Rogers locations were converted into Hardee’s, McDonald’s, Boston Markets, Wendy’s or other brand stores.
By the mid-2000s, there were only about 40 Roy Rogers stores left, most of them located in the Washington, D.C., suburbs and along the New York State Thruway and New Jersey Turnpike.
As in an old western movie, however, Roy Rogers is making a comeback, expanding to more than 50 restaurants. The chain has built up its business in New Jersey and the Washington metro area.
Roy Rogers closed its last Long Island location, in Shirley, in 2010, but is planning a return.
Roy Rogers left Long Island in 2010. The chain hopes to return soon https://t.co/QVsha9y9QB
— David Reich-Hale (@drhli) October 12, 2016
“Probably the biggest obstacle, as in many markets, has been in finding the right location,” said Jim Plamondon, co-president of Roy Rogers Franchise Co. “We are pursuing that goal and are currently in advanced discussions with a prospective new franchisee.” — Ted Starkey
HEADQUARTERS: Lebanon, Tennessee
NUMBER OF STORES: 645
CLOSEST STORE: Milford, Connecticut
If you’ve driven America’s highways, chances are you’ve passed a Cracker Barrel.
The restaurant features Southern cuisine such as Momma’s Pancake Breakfast and Chicken n’ Dumplins.
The chain’s locations each have a porch with rocking chairs and are decorated with about 1,000 Americana artifacts.
Most stores also feature an old-time general store, where the chain sells about 83,000 rockers, 3.4 million pieces of women’s apparel and 14 million thin-stick candies per year, the company said.
Its first location opened in Lebanon, Tennessee, in 1969. Expansion in the 1990s and early 2000s brought it nationwide. About 40 percent of its 217 million annual guests are highway travelers.
“They associate themselves with highways,” said Thomas Shinick, an adjunct professor of marketing and management at Adelphi University in Garden City. “That’s not conducive to what we have on Long Island.”
Hello – We will let our Real Estate Team know that you would like to request a Cracker Barrel location on Long Island.
— Cracker Barrel (@CrackerBarrel) July 13, 2017
The company doesn’t have a blueprint to expand to Long Island, said spokeswoman Breeanna Straessle, though it does plan to open up to nine restaurants over the next year.
There was speculation in 2015 the chain was coming to Commack, but the company said there was no such plan. — Ted Starkey
O’Reilly Auto Parts
HEADQUARTERS: Springfield, Missouri
NUMBER OF STORES: 4,934
CLOSEST STORE: West Haven, Connecticut
O’Reilly Auto Parts opened in the mid-1950s, during America’s postwar expansion into the suburbs. By 1975, O’Reilly had grown to $7 million in sales at nine stores in southwest Missouri.
The company grew more rapidly after it went public in 1993, and it now has stores in 47 states.
On Long Island, competitors such as Advance Auto Parts, Napa Auto Parts and AutoZone are already established. “There is quite a saturation of auto parts stores on Long Island,” Shinick said.
An O’Reilly executive said competition has never kept it from expanding.
“We have not been first to market, almost ever,” said Mark Merz, vice president of investor relations, financial reporting and planning at O’Reilly. “We just haven’t gotten to Long Island yet.”
Shinick said that if O’Reilly came to Long Island, it would face an additional challenge because the percentage of leased cars — 62.7 percent of new car acquisitions, according to consulting company IHS Market — is about twice the national average.
“The cars here are newer, and they [rarely] break down,” he said, and are under warranty when they do. — David Reich-Hale
Bob Evans Restaurants
HEADQUARTERS: New Albany, Ohio
CLOSEST TO LONG ISLAND: Bensalem, Pennsylvania
Bob Evans was a farmer and businessman in southeastern Ohio who started his food career by making sausage for his diner in 1948. He opened his first Bob Evans branded restaurant in Rio Grande, Ohio, in 1962. The company opened its 100th restaurant in 1983 and now has more than 500 locations in 18 states. Most are in the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and South.
The privately owned chain pitches hospitality and food quality — the Bob Evans name is in the sausage display of many supermarkets — and its restaurants have all-day breakfasts and a country-living theme.
I'd move out of Long Island for reasons:
1. Cracker Barrel
2. Bob Evans
4. Cheaper gas
— Patriece Ausili (@patrieceausili) November 3, 2013
Bob Evans branched out in 2004 when it purchased California-based Mimi’s Café chain, a French-themed eatery. The company sold the 145-location chain in 2013 for $50 million, less than half of the original $103.3 million it paid for it.
Following the sale, the company went back to focusing on Bob Evans expansion. The company wouldn’t comment on growth plans. — Ted Starkey
HEADQUARTERS: Goodlettsville, Tennessee
CLOSEST TO LONG ISLAND: Bronx
Discount chain Dollar General, which bills itself as “America’s neighborhood general store,” was the 20th-largest chain in the country in 2016, with more than $20 billion in sales, according to the National Retail Federation. It is the largest retailer without a Long Island presence that isn’t a regional grocery store.
The first Dollar General store opened in in 1955 in Springfield, Kentucky, where no item sold for more than $1.
By 1989 the chain had 1,300 stores in 23 states. Most products cost $10 or less.
@Pringles I want to try your Ramen-flavored Pringles but there aren't any Dollar General stores on all of Long Island! Please help!
— Luigi (@LuigiM227) July 7, 2017
The company opened its 14,000th location in August. It now has stores in 44 states.
Despite the chain’s reach, none are on Long Island. The company didn’t respond to questions about its expansion plan. — Ted Starkey
Ross Dress For Less
HEADQUARTERS: Pleasanton, California
CLOSEST TO LONG ISLAND: East Windsor, New Jersey
The company launched in 1982 when six junior department stores in the San Francisco area converted into Ross Dress for Less. It is known as an off-price apparel and home fashion retailer.
Along with 1,340 locations in 36 states as of last year, the company also operates 193 dd’s Discounts locations. Ross launched those in 2004.
The store expanded eastward from its California roots and eventually moved into the mid-Atlantic during the 2000s.
The company said on its corporate website that it has a goal of reaching 1,500 to 2,000 stores nationwide, but it didn’t specify where the expansion would be. The closest Ross Dress for Less location to Long Island is in central New Jersey. The company didn’t comment on its expansion plans.
Last year Ross ranked 35th in the United States among retailers, with $12 billion in sales, according to the National Retail Federation.
Ross is the second-largest discount clothing retailer in the country, behind only TJX Cos., which owns TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. — Ted Starkey
HEADQUARTERS: Norcross, Georgia
CLOSEST TO LONG ISLAND: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Waffle House opened its first restaurant on Labor Day weekend in 1955 in suburban Atlanta. It has grown into a Southern staple along interstates and towns.
The brand is known for its distinctive yellow signs, friendly service and inexpensive food that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Most locations feature a jukebox that patrons can use to play Waffle House-branded songs such as “Waffle House for You and Me.”
Upset that we don't have Waffle House on Long Island. Because it's wonderful.
— Jesse (@Alotta_Pain) September 20, 2017
The brand is so ubiquitous in the region — and so well run —that FEMA has a “Waffle House Index,” which shows whether the company’s restaurants are functioning after a natural disaster such as a hurricane.
The company serves an average of 145 waffles per minute.
While there are no Waffle House locations in New York State, there are two roughly 100 miles west of the Island in the industrial Pennsylvania cities of Allentown and Bethlehem. — Ted Starkey
Citizens of more than half a dozen countries will face new restrictions on entry to the U.S. under a proclamation signed by President Donald Trump this week that will replace his expiring travel ban.
The new rules will go into effect on October 18, and range from an indefinite ban on visas for citizens of countries like Syria to more targeted restrictions.
But critics say it’s a mystery why some countries are included and they believe some new countries were added to provide legal and political cover for what they say remains a “Muslim ban.”
The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
Who does the new ban affect?
The new restrictions cover citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen — and some Venezuelan government officials and their families.
The last iteration of the ban covered people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
What are the restrictions based on?
The restrictions are based on new baseline factors such as whether countries issue electronic passports with biometric information to prevent fraud and report information about potential terror threats. That baseline was shared with countries across the globe, and they were given 50 days to comply.
Those that failed to satisfy the “objective process of measuring whether countries met the baseline” are now subject to new restrictions.
What you need to know about the countries included
1. Some, such as Iran and Syria, pose legitimate national security threats to the United States and refuse to cooperate with U.S. consular investigations.
2. Another category includes countries such as Yemen and Libya, where local authorities have sought to be as cooperative as possible but lack full control over their territory and the basic ability to provide the information the United States wants. In those cases, officials said, the United States tried to stress that inclusion on the list wasn’t an indictment of those nations’ commitment to fighting terrorism.
3. The final category includes countries such as North Korea and Venezuela whose citizens don’t necessarily pose a major threat to the United States but where the administration wanted to send a message that the government’s broader actions are unacceptable.
The new visa sanctions on Venezuela, for instance, apply only to officials from five government security agencies and their immediate families.
The restrictions on North Korea will have little impact because so few of its citizens visit the United States.
Are there any exemptions for the ban?
Unlike the first iteration of Trump’s travel ban, which sparked chaos at airports across the country and a flurry of legal challenges after being hastily written with little input outside the White House, officials stressed they had been working for months on the new rules, in collaboration with various agencies and in conversation with foreign governments.
To limit confusion, valid visas would not be revoked as a result of the proclamation. The order also permits, but does not guarantee, case-by-case waivers for citizens of the affected countries who meet certain criteria.
That includes: having previously worked or studied in the U.S.; having previously established “significant contacts” in the U.S.; and having “significant business or professional obligations” in the U.S. Still, officials acknowledged the waiver restrictions were narrower than the exemptions for people with bona fide ties to the United States that the Supreme Court mandated before the expiring order went into effect in late June.
What are experts saying about the ban?
Administration officials have stressed the latest version is the result of a lengthy process, and based on an objective assessment of each country’s security situation and willingness to share information with the United States.
But Avideh Moussavian, senior policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said she saw little difference between the earlier bans and the new policy, despite the addition of two non-Muslim countries.
“What remains the same is the discriminatory core of these bans which were always designed to exclude Muslims from the United States,” Moussavian said.
Stephen Yale-Loehr, an immigration expert at Cornell University, however, said the latest version is narrower and better explained, including about how the government decided which countries to target.
“The third time may be the charm for President Trump’s immigration travel ban,” Yale-Loehr said.
That's right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won't help us protect our people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
What does this mean for the Supreme Court case?
As for the previous version of the travel ban, which expired on Sunday, the Supreme Court on Monday announced it would cancel arguments scheduled for October to give both sides time to consider the implications of the new one. They have until Oct. 5 to weigh in.
Trump’s efforts to restrict entry into the U.S. have been the subject of lawsuits almost since the moment he announced the first travel ban in January, and the latest version is sure to attract new legal challenges — though experts are divided on how they might fare.
— ACLU (@ACLU) September 25, 2017
Last Friday night, during a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President Donald Trump said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say get that [expletive] off the field right now, out, he’s fired, he’s fired.”
That set into motion a series of actions at Sunday’s NFL games across the country, with some players kneeling or locking arms in a sign of solidarity.
On Monday, Trump’s feud with the NFL shows no signs of abating, with the president tweeting early Monday morning: “The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!”
Athletes and analysts continued to share the opinions on the situation. Below is a collection of comments from stars such as Tom Brady, LeBron James and Drew Brees.
LeBron James w/ no regrets about his "U Bum" tweet towards president Donald Trump: "He doesn't understand the power that he has." pic.twitter.com/Ibv3y2kfLN
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) September 25, 2017
LeBron James calls Trump "that guy that continues to try to divide us." pic.twitter.com/ByW50Yc48e
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) September 25, 2017
"I wish I owned an NFL team right now. I'd sign him today." – LeBron James on Colin Kaepernick.
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) September 25, 2017
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin
TV analysts from around the NFL addressed Donald Trump's comments yesterday pic.twitter.com/mV8EIV7XHm
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 25, 2017
NBA MVP Russell Westbrook
Asked about Donald Trump, Russell Westbrook says “I’m definitely not in agreeance with anything he says and I never will be.” pic.twitter.com/8H8KDZN3G8
— Up The Thunder (@UpTheThunder) September 25, 2017
Wizards guard Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal on Trump: "Puerto Rico doesn't have water and power … but you're worried about guys kneeling during the national anthem." pic.twitter.com/SeezZvebTY
— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) September 25, 2017
Warriors coach Steve Kerr
Aaron Rodgers, others after Sunday’s games
Saints QB Drew Brees
Warriors guard Stephen Curry
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) September 22, 2017
Patriots QB Tom Brady
Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson on Donald Trump's remarks part 1. pic.twitter.com/h4NbdOAWdk
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) September 25, 2017
DeSean Jackson on Trump & Anthem Protests Part II. pic.twitter.com/hPEWoUG1TH
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) September 25, 2017
NBA Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) September 25, 2017
Bills center Eric Wood
— Kimberley A. Martin (@KMart_BN) September 25, 2017
Sarah Sanders, White House spokeswoman
White House responds to reporter’s question if Trump regrets criticism of NFL players who protest during anthem https://t.co/PqMjk1cXTX
— CNN (@CNN) September 25, 2017
Press Sec. Sanders on Pres. Trump calling NFL players SOBs: "It's always appropriate" for the president to defend flag, national anthem. pic.twitter.com/H802l9WxxO
— ABC News (@ABC) September 25, 2017
WH: If national anthem protest is over police brutality, 'they should probably protest the officers on the field that are protecting them' pic.twitter.com/LyRIMNc6wI
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) September 25, 2017
Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals
— NFL (@NFL) September 26, 2017
The Yankees host the Royals at Yankee Stadium at 1:05 p.m., followed by the Mets with a doubleheader against the Braves at Citi Field starting at 4:10 p.m.
Game 2: Braves at Mets, Game 1, 4:10 p.m. | Boxscore
Tonight: Braves (Fried) at Mets (Lugo), Game 2, Shortly after Game 1 ends