06/14/15 5:59am
06/14/2015 5:59 AM
(Credit: Caroline, Flickr)

(Credit: Caroline, Flickr)

A new bill passed unanimously last week by the Suffolk County Legislature will help keep kids healthy by blocking the sale of toys containing potentially unsafe levels of lead and other chemicals linked to serious health conditions.

The Toxin Free Toys Act aims to protect children from toys that contain “potentially unsafe levels of six hazardous chemicals” and known carcinogens, according to a press release. If the proposal is signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, the county Department of Health will begin notifying retailers in January. Beginning December 2016, inspectors would conduct random checks for unsafe toys at stores using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer, which evaluates the items’ chemical composition.

“As a mother, I am outraged that children’s toys contain these toxic chemicals that can cause cancer, learning and developmental disabilities and respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disorders,” said county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who sponsored the bill.

Similar anti-toxin measures were recently signed into law in Albany and Westchester counties.

Under the proposal, toys sold in Suffolk County would only be allowed to contain strictly regulated amounts of antimony, arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, lead and mercury.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to give anything bad or toxic to a child,” said Kathy Halliwell, owner of Goldsmith’s Toys and Electronics in Greenport. “We carry all quality toys here.”

Suffolk County’s initiative was introduced in response to a report issued by the New York League of Conservation Voters and Clean & Healthy New York that found “several products” containing toxic components on Long Island store shelves.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, lead paint was banned by the United States in 1978 but is still widely used by other countries in manufacturing toys. Because lead is odorless and invisible to the naked eye, young children can inadvertently expose themselves to it when they put toys that contain lead in their mouths.

While the use of lead paint is prohibited, the use of lead in plastic toys hasn’t been banned in the U.S. According to the CDC, lead softens plastic and makes it more flexible.

Only a certified laboratory can accurately test a toy for lead, the CDC said, and a blood test is the only way a child’s lead levels can be measured.

For a list of recalled toys, visit cpsc.gov.

Have a health column idea or question for Rachel Young? Email her at ryoung@timesreview.com

06/11/15 5:59am
06/11/2015 5:59 AM

I had a few things in mind when I left a good job at the Daily News in 2008 to write for a weekly newspaper in a place I was only vaguely familiar with. For one, I wanted to write stories longer than 600 words and The New York Times wasn’t exactly knocking on my door. I also wanted to write about the people of Long Island, a place to which I felt more of an attachment than any of New York City’s five boroughs. (more…)

06/08/15 7:00am
06/08/2015 7:00 AM

I’m not a dog. Just in case some of you might have thought … As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t want to come back as a dog. To be someone’s Chihuahua traveling in a woman’s purse or Great Dane to impress the neighbors’ hissing cat, no, no. If I do come back for a second try at life and happiness, let it be as a seagull, flying high and free over Long Island’s beaches and bays, yes, I’ll take that. As I am slaving away in my yard, I see the gulls gliding in sensuous abandon, carried by the wind, a mix of silent flight and piercing cries, ready to dive for that unfortunate fish or for a quick sweep by our picnic table left alone too long.  (more…)

06/06/15 5:59am
06/06/2015 5:59 AM

Over the past several weeks, the East End’s waterways have been inundated with toxic red and mahogany tides resulting in die-offs of diamondback terrapin (turtles), bunker and alewives. Our local media have done a good job of not only reporting on these occurrences but also speaking with the experts to explain them. So I was infuriated when Riverhead Supervisor Walter, asked about these die-offs, was quoted as saying that previous rain “may have washed toxins into the water” and quickly backed away from the “toxic” idea, saying later when asked about scientists’ findings, “Yeah, well everybody has their own theory. Mine is that the bluefish are chasing them into the river.”

Yeah, the bluefish are to blame. (more…)

06/02/15 6:00am
06/02/2015 6:00 AM
(Credit: MSNBC)

(Credit: MSNBC)

There was a moment during Saturday’s premiere of MSNBC’s “Lockup Extended Stay: Long Island,” the new reality series filmed at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, that offered a truly unique look at the inside of our local jail.

Two inmates — a woman facing a relatively short prison sentence and a man staring at life inside a tin can — are pronounced man and wife by Southampton Town Clerk Sunday Schiermeier, who announces, “You may now kiss the bride.”

After a few seconds of rare intimacy — they met only three months earlier inside that same jail — they are told to return to their stations.

They are now man and wife, but they’re inmates above all else.

It’s this moment that best illustrates why “Lockup” makes for great television, even if it merely exploits the unique circumstances of some of the jail’s more colorful inmates and will do little to improve their overall place in society.

A more informative and better intended show might feature inmates after they are released from prison or cover subjects dealing with Long Island’s heroin problem away from our jail. Like most reality shows, the primary goal of “Lockup” is to entertain.

I went into this review fully expecting to blast the show for its exploitative nature, but found it to still have enough heart and journalistic value to keep me interested. I will watch again.

One of the chief concerns we heard from readers since first reporting that the show would air this week was that it would portray Riverhead in a negative light. Of course, since it’s a show about life in jail, it’s hard to imagine it serving as a booster for tourism. The show is not meant to be a reflection on the people of Riverhead or Suffolk County, but rather a small portion of the prison population.

After one episode, “Lockup” has told us nothing about Riverhead or Riverside, except for a few brief glimpses of landmarks like the Suffolk Theater or the water tower. In fact, none of the three inmates featured in the first episode, “Sufferin’ County,” is from the East End.

Aisha Figueroa, the bride in the first episode, was arrested by police in Huntington for a robbery in which she allegedly fired a gun at a gas station attendant. She wed Chris Colbert of the Bronx, who is described as a high-ranking Bloods gang member awaiting trial for second-degree murder. The concept of Ms. Figueroa marrying someone who may never spend another day on the outside is explored in the episode, but not at any great depth.

Instead, we’re shown the actual ceremony and told how prison weddings work. Ms. Figueroa’s mother, one of the two witnesses permitted under jail rules, is shown being asked to remove her jewelry and even her bra before entering the jail.

“It has underwire in it,” corrections officer Neil MacDonald explains. “In here, that’s a dangerous instrument.”

Perhaps the episode’s most poignant moments involve the third featured inmate, Tyerance Mickey of the Bronx. Also a Bloods gang member, we’re told he’s in jail for charges of robbery, assault and murder — online prison records show he was actually convicted of robbery, assault and criminal possession of a weapon — and was awaiting transport to an upstate prison. He was originally being held on Riker’s Island, but was moved to Suffolk County because he was involved in too many fights there. He said he’s been a gang member since he was 10 years old.

In the episode, Mr. Mickey, a violent criminal who has spent half his life in a jail cell, is shown during a rare visit with his wife’s children, encouraging them to stay out of trouble. In another scene, he tells young gang members to get out of the lifestyle before it’s too late.

Online prison records show that both Mr. Mickey and Ms. Figueroa have since been shipped to upstate prisons. She’s eligible for parole next year. He’s facing between four and 10 years.

In a perfect world, we’d get more of these characters. But this is the television world and the trailer for the show promises to give us new characters and more violence in the coming weeks.

At least this week’s episode provided us with a handful of tender moments and a few glimpses of the harsh reality of prison. Will Mr. Mickey abandon his gang member past for a better life, as he promises? Will Ms. Figueroa and Mr. Colbert ever spend time together in a world where their meetings aren’t shared with guards?

We’ll probably never know what becomes of any of these three inmates, but their present circumstances tell us a happy ending isn’t likely.

The first episode may have been a pleasant surprise, but that’s television, not real life.

grantCMYKThe author is the executive editor of Times Review Media Group. He can be reached at gparpan@timesreview.com or 631-354-8046.

05/25/15 6:00am
JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO

(Credit: Jo Ann Kirkland)

One morning last week, Glenn Addario left his home in Coram and got to work about 7:45 a.m. His first task of the morning was digging a grave.

At Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, Glenn checked in at maintenance headquarters and picked up a “dig slip” that told him where he’d start his day. The paper had coordinates he’d follow to locate the gravesite within the 365 acres, where more than 346,000 veterans and their close relatives are buried.  (more…)