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Neighbor in Valley Stream probe denies engaging in racial harassment

Protesters gather in front of the Long Island

Protesters gather in front of the Long Island Rail Road station in Valley Stream in July in support of Jennifer McLeggan. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

A Valley Stream man says he wants to “live in peace” after accusations from a Black neighbor about years of racial harassment from those in his household that led to community protests and a law enforcement investigation.

John McEneaney, 57, who is white, lives next door to Jennifer McLeggan in a house he shares with his girlfriend, Mindy Canarick, 53, and his father, Michael McEneaney, 82. 

In an interview, the younger McEneaney denied harassing McLeggan. 

"I just want peace … All I ever wanted was to live in peace," he said.

McLeggan, a 39-year-old registered nurse with a two-year-old daughter, placed a sign last month on the front door of her Sapir Street house.

It said, in part: "My neighbors have been racially harassing me since I purchased my home … They have said that I can be erased … I live in FEAR in my home."

An image of the sign brought widespread attention to the dispute from elected officials, including Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, as well as from activists and local residents. Activists marched through Valley Stream to show support for McLeggan, who said she's tried in the past to get a restraining order in connection with the dispute.

Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said McLeggan's allegations — as well as counter allegations of harassment from the neighbors — were being investigated. He said there had been close to 50 calls for police service between the two parties — complaints back and forth — since McLeggan moved onto the block in 2017. Ryder didn't elaborate on the nature of the complaints. 

Miriam Sholder, a spokeswoman for Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, said investigators from her office “have been in regular contact” with McLeggan and her lawyer.

“Our investigation is actively ongoing,” she said.

McEneaney, speaking while accompanied by his lawyer, Jason Kolodny, said it was "absolutely absurd and untrue" that his family said they could have McLeggan "erased."

“My family has lived in Valley Stream since 1964 and we’ve never had a problem with anyone. I wish her and her child well,” McEneaney said of McLeggan.

McLeggan also has detailed other alleged abuse, including feces and dead squirrels being left by her house, the neighbors having “guns seen on video,” McEneaney wearing blackface and also using a blow torch in his home.

McEneaney said the only black he’s worn on his face has been a ski mask to shovel snow. When asked about a blow torch, he said he lit some carburetor cleaner on fire in his yard one night while bored.

McEneaney said that last summer he agreed to stop target practice shooting in his backyard with a pellet gun after the police asked him to in order to keep the peace with the neighbor.

“I said ‘No problem officers,’” added McEneaney, who said he fears for his safety after “a lot of death threats” on social media.

Ryder said last month that McEneaney has legally used a BB gun to shoot unspecified items in his yard.

Kolodny, who also represents Canarick, said his clients were "disappointed that they're being accused of being bigots or racists, when really none of that is true."

A GoFundMe page has raised more than $46,000 for McLeggan since its creation last month. The online fundraising appeal says she hasn’t been able to afford “a proper security system.” 

Earlier this week, state Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages gave activist Anthony Herron Jr. a “Protect Black Women” citation to mark his 30th day of parking outside McLeggan’s home at night and keeping watch.

McLeggan said she’s not surprised by her neighbor’s denials.

“I didn’t expect him to admit anything or to come clean. He’s just backpedaling now because of all the media attention this has gotten,” she said. “Now, he’s saying he wishes me and my child well … well, I don’t believe it for a minute.”

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