Former President Donald Trump won Suffolk County in both 2016 and 2020, and that devotion to the Trump cause hasn’t died down in 2021. The pro-Trump organization Long Island Loud Majority advertised a traffic-snarling "Save America" road rally from Seaford to Montauk on Sunday, a callback to big Long Island caravans and car parades boosting Trump’s candidacy.
Trump recently has held events and hasn’t ruled out a 2024 run, despite being twice impeached, the second time for his actions ahead of the violent storming of the Capitol by some of his supporters on Jan. 6.
That event was attended by Proud Boys and other far-right associates, as well as people who carried far-right flags, signs, and symbols.
Some of those symbols showed up on Long Island this weekend, too, according to videos posted to Twitter.
That included images of marchers making their way through Patchogue Saturday evening, some of whom wore the black and yellow colors often associated with the Proud Boys. One carried a flag with the letters "PB" and flashed an "OK" hand gesture at the videographer, which has in some cases been adopted by white supremacists, according to anti-hate organization ADL. (The path to that adoption is too long for a newsletter but explained in detail here).
The videographer, who had been dining outdoors in Patchogue and did not want to be identified by name for fear of repercussions, called the scene "uncomfortable" in a phone call with The Point. The video also showed other flags such as the yellow "Don’t tread on me" banner, along with marchers cursing President Joe Biden and shouting "Biden is a murderer."
A spokeswoman for Suffolk police emailed The Point that the department "monitored demonstrations in Patchogue, and Bay Shore as well as a caravan of vehicles that traveled from Seaford to Montauk over the weekend, and there were no issues reported."
Asked if police monitored the Proud Boys specifically, the spokeswoman said, "We monitored demonstrations but we are not commenting on specific individuals."
The police statement also said the department "is committed to maintaining safety in our communities while demonstrators exercise their First Amendment right."
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Biden vs. Jim Crow
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You might have to wear a mask these days to play the slots at Jake’s 58, but that hasn’t stopped patrons and money from pouring in.
Neither has the pandemic halted the battles between Suffolk County officials about the cash cow public benefit corporation, whose board is appointed by the county legislature while revenue goes up to the state and then back down to the county, and where patronage positions are not unheard of.
Now County Executive Steve Bellone is looking to get people interested in more oversight for the Off-Track Betting Corporation, sending a letter in September to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to request an independent audit.
Calling it a "matter of great significance to the taxpayers of Suffolk County," Bellone is returning to his criticism of OTB’s buyout earlier this year of the company that owned and managed the Islandia casino. The letter details his complaints about OTB "stonewall"-ing his request for documents about the transaction, which he alleges "promotes the appearance of fiscal impropriety."
Bellone writes that he’s worried about OTB mismanagement, which he says is concerning because of the way operating expenses detract from Suffolk’s take: "Quite literally, any dollar Suffolk OTB expends wastefully takes money out of taxpayers’ pockets."
In a Sept. 29 response from DiNapoli’s office that Bellone’s office shared with The Point, deputy comptroller Elliot Auerbach wrote that he had "asked the Long Island Region’s Chief Examiner to review your letter along with the various documents you provided so that your concerns can be incorporated in the planning of our future audits."
Bellone spokesman Jason Elan praised the comptroller for having done "terrific" audits in the past, including one released in September that found the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. spent at least $121,000 on "tickets to sporting events, concerts, food and alcohol for board members, employees and other individuals," according to a DiNapoli news release.
Suffolk OTB head Jim LaCarrubba told The Point he would have "no problem" with DiNapoli "coming in and doing whatever he needs to do, if he feels the need to do it."
As for Bellone’s letter and push for documents, LaCarrubba called it "nonsensical," arguing that the State Gaming Commission reviewed and approved the acquisition of Jake’s 58; OTB’s earlier court settlement with operator Delaware North meant "there were certain things that we agreed to as far as confidentiality goes"; and he would have provided information if Bellone signed a nondisclosure agreement.
Calling this fodder for Bellone to "get himself in the newspaper," LaCarrubba said, "I hate to sound frustrated, but it's frustrating, because we're doing a good job, we're producing at a level that OTB has never produced before. And it's just never enough."
It does not appear, however, that Bellone will be letting this sleeping dog (or horse) lie.
Bellone’s timing on OTB criticism raises the question of whether it was related to the organization’s recent hiring of Ray Tierney as a top lawyer, giving him a perch that helped him run for Suffolk district attorney against incumbent Tim Sini, whom Bellone supports. When asked by The Point if there was a connection, spokesman Elan said no, and sent a statement. "The County continues to demand that these unelected bureaucrats tell the public exactly who is on the taxpayers’ payroll," said Elan.
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano