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Long IslandPolitics

Suffolk Legislature approves law mandating reporting of misconduct at water and amusement parks

The measure was proposed after a constituent complained to Berland about an incident involving her daughter on a YMCA day camp outing at Splish Splash water park in Calverton, where she and several girlfriends say they were groped in the wave pool. 

The Suffolk Legislature Tuesday unanimously approved a local law requiring water parks and amusements parks to immediately report to police any complaints or sexual misconduct or other criminal activity.

“This is the first step to making sure we protect our children,” said Legis. Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills), who sponsored the measure with Presiding DuWayne Gregory (D-Copiague). “It’s very important that law enforcement be called when an individual is facing harm.”

The measure was proposed after a constituent complained to Berland about an incident involving her daughter on a YMCA day camp outing at Splish Splash water park in Calverton, where she and several girlfriends said they were groped in the wave pool. She said the youngster complained to water park officials and the five men were removed from the park, but were not identified and police were not immediately called.

Berland read from a letter from the mother, whom she declined to identify who said, “The wave pool is a pedophile’s paradise . . . our children are not safe in water parks and will not be until comprehensive policy changes are put in place.

“My daughter is still having nightmares . . . in therapy and is always nervous,” Berland continued to quote the mother. ”Please support this bill so an incident like this is never pushed under the rug again.”

Berland said the incident was investigated by the Riverhead police but they have been unable to identify the alleged assailants from park security cameras.

She also produced an email from Anne Brigis, president of YMCA Long Island, saying it “endorses any initiative that enhances the protection, security and well-being of our children."

The measure also has backing from the Crime Victims Center’s Parents of Megan’s Law.  Richard Ledda, program manager, said, “The girls should be commended because they did exactly what they were supposed to do — they told. But something went terribly wrong” adding there is "nothing that would stop these sexual predators from returning . . . to victimize more children.”

George Nolan, legislative counsel, said the law was “written narrowly” because there is little existing law requiring citizens to report a crime they observe beyond state laws that make teachers and school officials mandatory reporters of potential child or sexual abuse. He said the law would not affect public pools.

Splish Splash officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But officials have said they cooperated with investigators and their offers to call police that day were turned down by the camp’s counselor and the parents of the first girl who complained.

Under the law, the county attorney would have to sue to recover a penalty of up to $5,000 for the first violation  and $10,000 for a subsequent one.

Jason Elan, spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone, said the county executive is supportive of the legislation.

A half dozen health and school officials also appeared at a hearing, backing a proposal of Legis. Wiliam Spencer and Gregory to limit sale of flavored e-cigarettes and nicotine products-cigarettes. The measure will restrict sale of such products to those that are flavorless, tobacco, mint or menthol-flavored.

“This stuff is being marketed directly to kids and it's poison,” said Chris Richardt, head of the Suffolk High School Principals Association.

Dr. Shetal Shah a local vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics,  said “Banning flavors will have the greatest impact on affecting a lifetime addiction to nicotine.”

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