Paul Pontieri, the mayor of Patchogue, was lucky to get his cellphone back so fast after performing a wedding Thursday at Lombardi’s On the Bay.
It was picked up by a young man who found it lying near the water.
“Wait, are you telling me the mayor of Patchogue lost his phone on the day Donald Trump is going to be here,” the young man asked a stranger who helped get the phone back to its owner.
Pontieri was going to need the device. GOP presidential candidate Trump, who spoke to a Republican fundraiser Thursday night, wants to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants. And Patchogue is the place that put Long Island in the international spotlight after a round of “beaner hopping” by a multiracial group of teens in 2008 ended with the fatal stabbing of Ecuadoran immigrant Marcelo Lucero.
Lucero had used his belt buckle to fight back. A trail of blood marked his movements around a parking lot, across a grass median, and, as the teens fled, to the side of a nearby house on Railroad Avenue, where he died.
On Thursday afternoon, Rabbi Steven Moss told a vigil near the house that, according to Jewish tradition, the soul remains where blood is spilled. “That makes this a sacred place,” he said.
At that point, the vigil was larger than the crowd of anti-Trump protesters gathered further up Railroad Avenue. But the largest crowd of the day, excited Trump supporters, were lined up outside of an old warehouse, now called The Emporium, futher north on Railroad Avenue, where it crossed with Main Street.
One-fifth of a mile — 350 steps — separated the Emporium at the top of Railroad Avenue from the vigil going on below. Those praying and singing at the vigil couldn’t hear those chanting at the protest. Those at the protest couldn’t hear those cheering Trump at the fundraiser. Those at the fundraiser couldn’t see the group observing 15 minutes of silence at The Congregational Church of Christ nearby. And they couldn’t see the signs being waved by Trump supporters on West Avenue.
The day, in short, went just as security — which included sharpshooters atop the warehouse and a circling Suffolk police helicopter — had planned. Suffolk police would say later that there had been no arrests.
In the years before Lucero’s stabbing, Hispanic day laborers were abducted in Farmingville and beaten. In the years after, the U.S. Justice Department would initiate oversight of the county’s police department.
Steve Levy, a Republican who as county executive in 2008 took criticism for statements on illegal immigration, wrote a column last week on the Greater Patchogue news websit, in which he said he did not intend to vote for Trump.
“Those of us who have been shouting into deaf ears to get our immigration laws enforced have found Trump to be quite a conundrum,” Levy wrote. “On the one hand, we finally have a national candidate who is speaking out forcefully about the need to secure our border ... Yet, there was no need for Trump to vilify the average illegal immigrant as being a predator. The overwhelming majority are here just to improve their standard of living. Yet, that’s not an excuse for them to cut in line of the 4 million folks waiting to get in the right way.”
Each year, on the anniversary of Lucero’s death, there’s been a vigil near where he died on Railroad Avenue. And each year, it’s been well attended by local residents.
“This immigration issue is a couple of levels above me,” Pontieri said in an interview last week. “Down where I am, the task is keeping our community together.”