VALLEY STREAM/Police probe arson in school fire, evacuation
An arson fire forced the evacuation and closing of a Valley Stream school yesterday, and resulted in minor injuries to four school staff members, police said. No students were injured, and classes were scheduled to resume today, the district's superintendent said.
The fire in a second floor men's bathroom at Valley Stream North Junior-Senior High School caused heavy smoke conditions and set off automatic alarms about 9:30 a.m., officials said. The 1,200 students, and staff in the building on Herman were evacuated to a nearby sports field.
Marc Bernstein, the schools superintendent, said, "It appears that a paper towel dispenser was put on fire . . . made out of plastic, the smoke was quite intense." The Franklin Square Munson fire department responded. School personnel who tried to extinguish the fire beforehand were later treated for smoke inhalation at a local hospital and released, police said. The Nassau County police arson/bomb squad is investigating.
A C.W. Post freshman was assaulted at the school by another student, said the alleged victim's lawyer and an spokesman for the Nassau district attorney.
Nicholas DePetris, 19, of Sag Harbor, was punched in the face April 12 by another student, Najee Smith, inside Brookville dorm of the Long Island campus, according to spokesman Chris Munzing and Edward Burke of Sag Harbor, the victim's attorney. "His injuries are significant, " Burke said.
Smith is the son of rap superstar LL Cool J, according to Munzing and Burke.
The incident came just days before an early morning brawl Sunday in which six people were injured, including four Post students.
Messages left for Smith, 20, through his Facebook page were not immediately returned. He was charged with third-degree assault and released on a desk appearance ticket for May 11.
- SOPHIA CHANG
NEW YORK/Judge cancels hearing in proposed 9/11 deal
In the face of challenges to his authority, the federal judge handling thousands of health claims from Ground Zero responders has canceled a hearing next week at which he planned to rule on the fairness of a proposed settlement for up to $657 million.
U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein had threatened to block the settlement if more money wasn't included. But New York City and its contractors, who negotiated the deal with lawyers for the plaintiffs, filed an appeal with the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week, arguing that Hellerstein had no power to intervene in a private settlement.
In a brief order yesterday, Hellerstein said he was adjourning the hearing planned for Tuesday while discussions between the parties continue. He did not set a new date. - JOHN RILEY