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Valley Stream neighbors' spat spurs protests as officials urge restraint

Sights and sounds from demonstrations in support of Black lives across Long Island on Friday, July 24.  Credit: Howard Schnapp

Two dozen protesters marched through Valley Stream neighborhoods late Friday afternoon before nearly reaching their destination — where they were halted by police tape — the home of a Black woman who alleges a neighbor has harassed her since she moved  in years ago.

“Her skin was not OK with this man,” said Terrel Tuosto, a protest organizer from West Hempstead, flanked by a cordon of Nassau County police officers. “A woman, a mother, is being harassed... nobody stood up to him.”

Tuosto was speaking about Jennifer McLeggan, 39. The mother of a 2-year-old girl has said she has been harassed by a man living next door since she moved into her home on Sapir Street four years ago.

The police tape kept protesters further back on Sapir Street. Cops stood behind the police line ensuring that no protesters walked down to the houses where the two quarreling neighbors live.

Valley Stream Village trustee Vincent Grasso said protesters were expressing “righteous anger” but said that the problem was more of a long-simmering clash of personalities than racial discrimination.

Some village residents honked or chanted in support of the protesters, but on Pilgrim Place earlier in the evening a man angrily told them to “get a job” before he unleashed a string of profanities. 

Tuosto, using a loudspeaker, appeared to relish the confrontation. “We’re trying to help people Like you,” he said to the man. To his fellow protesters, Tuosto said “he’s spitting rhetoric that he hears on TV."

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder on July 14 said officers visited the home McLeggan shares with her daughter to take a statement from her that’s now part of an ongoing police investigation.

They also asked community members to be patient as the probe continued.

"I want to make it very clear that hate crimes and bigotry have absolutely no place here in Nassau County," Curran said.

Ryder said community members concerned about McLeggan's accusations need to be patient while his investigators look into them.

Since McLeggan moved into the Sapir Street neighborhood, police said the department has received close to 50 calls for service at the two homes, with an equal number of complaints from each.

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