John White's neighbors hope for peace, calm

John White talks to reporters outside of his

John White talks to reporters outside of his home in Miller Place the day he was released from prison. (Dec. 23, 2010) Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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Residents near John White's Miller Place home say they miss the days before the national media knew where they lived.

They said nothing really ever happened on Independence Way until one night in August 2006 when tragedy linked two families from two communities in a racially tinged case that left them, and much of Long Island, divided.

White was convicted of killing 17-year-old Daniel Cicciaro Jr. of Selden, who came to the block and stood outside White's house late one evening after feuding with his son. Residents say they are hoping to move on, but that's hard to do with the case making headlines again after Gov. David A. Paterson freed White from prison after serving five months of a 2- to 4-year sentence.

Jason Felser, who has lived down the block from White for seven years, said he believes that in covering the story, the media never really acknowledged his street's diversity.

Demographic data from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2005 to '09 describe Miller Place as 93.1 percent white and just 2.5 percent black, but Felser described his neighborhood - with its stately homes and manicured lawns - as a melting pot of residents from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, all living side-by-side without incident.

"This is the American dream," Felser said, standing in his driveway. "We've never had a problem with anybody. I hope this issue is put to rest."

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Another resident, who declined to give his name, said he wants the neighborhood to turn the page on this case.

"Obviously, the town can move on," he said, poking his head out of his front door to see an ongoing news conference outside John White's home. "But I don't know about the families [involved]."

Around their neighborhood last week, as they prepared for the holiday weekend, Miller Place residents talked about how the community has fared since the White case.

"I'm not sure how the town will move on," said Stanley Farkas, 73, a retired environmental engineer. "But in time, it will pass."

Keith Mellor, 22, of Mount Sinai, said he doesn't think the case is indicative of a large-scale race problem on Long Island. He thought it was an isolated case fueled by anger and fear, but not by race.

"You've got to be careful," he said. "When you're in a confrontation, you don't know what people are capable of."

Ronni Farrell, 51 of nearby Sound Beach, has been following the case for years. She said the only way for the community to heal is for it to foster a tolerant atmosphere by better educating children about race.

"I think it starts in the schools and at home," she said. "It's time to forgive, move on and try and put our lives back together again."

A 67-year-old middle-school teacher from Mount Sinai said she hopes the issue will fade into the past.

"You do have to move on," she said. "But how? Nobody can answer that."

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Joe Maniscalco, 27, of Mount Sinai, said it would be hard to end the discussion now, especially since so many disagree with Paterson's decision.

"I think it will continue to be talked about," said the golf instructor. "A lot of people are not happy about it."

A man named Michael, who lives a few houses down from White, called the shooting "a tragedy all the way around," one that put a strain on the community.

"Who wants to look out their door and see a bunch of news vans?" he said. "No one even knew this neighborhood was here before this."

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