Selected interviews and articles

Newsday – ‘Jaws’ among movies to be shown at the beach at Long Beach on Saturdays

‘Jaws’ among movies to be shown at the beach at Long Beach on Saturdays
by John Asbury

There’s something on the water.

The iconic 1975 shark movie “Jaws” that chilled beachgoers for generations is playing on the beach at Long Beach next month as part of the city’s summer movie series.

The events sponsored by the city and the Northeast Bay & Canal, West End and Westholme civic associations show movies every Saturday night through the summer. “Jaws” is scheduled to show Aug. 22 at the entrance from New York Avenue.

“It’s really cool to sit on the beach and watch a movie on the big screen. What could be better than watching a movie about the ocean right in front of the Atlantic?” City Spokesman Gordon Tepper said. “It’s becoming a Long Beach summer tradition.”

City officials reassure residents that the water is safe and no attacks have been reported.

A 3,500 pound great white shark known as “Mary Lee” was spotted off Long Beach and Jones Beach in May, but a GPS tracker shows the shark was most recently near South Carolina and Florida.

Jones Beach swimmers were cleared from the water last week after a suspected shark was spotted. Another shark was seen about 70 yards off Overlook Beach in Babylon.

The next movie scheduled in the Long Beach series is “The Lego Movie,” to be show Saturday at 8 p.m. at the New York Avenue entrance. Movies are planned through Sept. 19. The series concludes with “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

Entrance to the movies is free and beachgoers can bring beach chairs and blankets.

Long Island Herald – City announces street sign design contest

City announces street sign design contest sign design contest
Effort is part of city’s recent traffic safety initiative
by Matthew Ern

The city speed limit was lowered to 25 miles per hour on side streets last month. Park Avenue remains at 30. The city is calling on residents to come up with a slogan to help create awareness about it traffic safety initiative.

The city is calling on residents to come up with a creative slogan for its new traffic safety initiative, after the City Council voted last month to lower the city’s speed limit to 25 miles per hour on side streets.

The winning slogan will be displayed on new signs at all five entrances to the city. Residents must submit their entry to comment@longbeachny.gov by May 1 and officials say the new signs will be up by the summer.

Finalists will be selected by city officials, and residents will have the opportunity to vote on their favorites on the city’s website. The winner will receive a family beach pass for the 2015 summer season. There are no restrictions, such as length, on the slogans and the city is encouraging residents to be as creative as possible, officials said. The volume of submissions received will determine how many finalists will be selected for residents to vote on.

“The contest is promoting the fact that we’re very cognizant of traffic safety here in the city of Long Beach,” said Gordon Tepper, the city’s director of communications.

Submissions are already coming in, and the city is encouraging civic groups and schools to get involved and further promote the contest.

The recently announced traffic safety initiative also includes synchronizing the traffic lights on Park Avenue, and addressing pedestrian and bicycle safety concerns. The resolution to lower the speed limit was passed after the Long Beach Police Department recently conducted a traffic speed study along Park Avenue and discovered that 15 out of every 100 drivers currently speed, among other findings.

“Public safety is always our top concern, and that is why we commissioned the traffic study,” Councilman Anthony Eramo said in a statement. “Studies have shown, and our traffic study consultants recommend, that lowering the speed limit by five miles per hour can have a serious impact in reducing the number of traffic-related injuries and deaths in Long Beach.”

The slogan contest is designed to get residents involved and thinking more about traffic safety.

“The council passing legislation was a significant measure,” Tepper said. “Now it’s important to put the message out and promote it.”

Newsday – Nor’easter caused some of the worst coastal flooding since Sandy on parts of LI

Nor’easter caused some of the worst coastal flooding since Sandy on parts of LI

By Patricia Kitchen & Ellen Yan

A nor’easter that combined with a full-moon high tide drenched Long Island in some of the worst coastal flooding since superstorm Sandy, shutting down sections of main roads and forcing some residents to flee their homes, authorities said.

Floodwaters in Fire Island’s Ocean Beach topped 2 feet, making roads impassable and stores soggy in this summer community of fewer than 100 off-season residents.

“It’s over 13 inches outside my door,” said Debbie Goldsmith, whose home sits in the middle of the island. “The puddles, they are like lakes.”

Ocean Beach fire chief Ian Levine said it was probably the worst flooding since Sandy in 2012. “It was over my knees, it was almost up to my waist in certain spots,” he said.

Other places hard hit by Sandy got the brunt of Tuesday’s storm, with flooding almost meeting moderate benchmarks in Freeport, Long Beach and Lindenhurst, said meteorologist Joe Pollina of the National Weather Service in Upton.

Rising tides prompted Lindenhurst residents to go to higher ground with their cars.

“This morning there was nothing in the driveway in front of my house, and then within five minutes, it was up over the end of South Fourth Street up past a neighbor to the north,” said Rhonda Verrier, who lives on the street. “We had to quick get out of the house.”

By about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, 3 inches of rain had fallen in Plainview, New Hyde Park and other spots, meteorologists said, but a record for the day, 2.05 inches, was set at Long Island MacArthur Airport, breaking the old one of 1.74 in 2009.

Daytime wind gusts of 49 mph were reported in Eatons Neck, weather data showed.

The Northern State Parkway in Jericho was impassable Tuesday and closed off by Route 106/107 for seven hours, until about 6 p.m.

On the north side of Long Beach, the Reynolds Channel rose to some of the highest levels seen since Sandy, swollen by the storm surge, high winds and a full-moon high tide, said Long Beach spokesman Gordon Tepper. Many roads by the canals flooded, he said.

City crews checked storm drain covers all day to ensure they were clear of debris and were expected to continue checking into the night, he said.

The “saving grace” for state parks was that winds from the east were not long-lasting, said Wayne Horsley, Long Island regional director of state parks.

At Jones Beach, the Feliz Navidad display, a section of the Holiday Lights Spectacular, was blown over, he said.

Horsley also said the storm scoured out a 6- to 7-foot drop-off on the beach at Field 5 at Robert Moses State Park, considered “severe erosion.”

The weather also caused delays of up to four hours at local airports.

Light rain, the system’s remnants, will remain Wednesday, meteorologists said.

With Carol Polsky, Joan Gralla and Gary Dymski

Newsday – Michael Fagen, ex-Long Beach councilman, provided emails about political retribution, lawsuit reports

Michael Fagen, ex-Long Beach councilman, provided emails about political retribution, lawsuit reports
by John Asbury

Emails included in a lawsuit filed by six Long Beach police officers who said city officials conspired to demote them for political retribution were provided by former City Councilman Michael Fagen, according to court records.

The six officers, led by former Long Beach police Lt. James Canner, in 2012 filed a $39 million lawsuit against the city, its police department and the Long Beach Democratic Party. The officers said messages by party and city officials discussed payback and demotions for police who opposed Democratic candidates in the 2011 City Council and Nassau County Legislature election.

Fagen provided the emails and text messages, according to documents filed by the officers in the case on Oct. 31. The police officers added Fagen to the lawsuit as a defendant in July.

Fagen was convicted last year of petty larceny and using a false instrument for filing to collect $15,000 in fraudulent unemployment payments. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and 5 years’ probation. He could not be reached for comment. The council removed Fagen from office after his February 2013 conviction.

City Manager Jack Schnirman has asked U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch’s office to investigate the emails, which he said were forged and embellished from the originals sent to him and council members by Democratic Party deputy leader Steve Kohut and council vice president Fran Adelson. Lynch’s office declined to comment.

The case was dismissed by an Eastern District of New York federal court judge in 2012, but refiled last May. An amended complaint was filed in October. The city is seeking to dismiss the case.

The emails provided in the lawsuit showed Kohut and Adelson discussing punishment for the officers for campaigning against Darlene Tangney, wife of Police Commissioner Michael Tangney, in her failed bid for a Nassau County Legislature seat.

The motion opposing the city’s request to dismiss the lawsuit quoted text messages between Fagen and Maria Radin, the wife of police officer John Radin, a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“I think it’s ironic that Mr. Schnirman requested the U.S. attorney to investigate one of his co-defendants [Fagen],” said Eric Rothstein, an attorney for the officers. “I don’t know if they [the emails] are forged or not. It would be a silly thing to do while on his probation.”

The text messages between Fagen and Maria Radin say Fagen found the printed emails in his personal storage locker before he provided them to Radin. Fagen told Maria Radin the emails were “legit,” according to the texts cited in the case.

Fagen said in the text messages that the city deleted a year of emails from his computer during his trial. He said in text messages to Radin that he refused to let attorneys search his computer to verify the emails or search his account.

Long Beach spokesman Gordon Tepper called the case “a frivolous waste of taxpayer dollars” that has created $262,487 in legal fees for the city. He said the officers “recklessly impugned the reputation of Adelson and Kohut.”

“This case is now exposed for what it is: a cash grab based on the conspiracy of a convicted felon,” Tepper said.”It’s indisputable these emails were doctored . . . these texts show a cynical deal made with a felon so he could be removed from the lawsuit.”

Newsday – Long Beach sends equipment, workers to aid snow-struck Buffalo area

Long Beach sends equipment, workers to aid snow-struck Buffalo area
by Robert Brodsky

The city of Long Beach, devastated two years ago by superstorm Sandy, is sending equipment and manpower to the Buffalo region, which is digging out from a historic snowstorm that buried some areas under more than 7 feet of powder and killed at least 12 people.

Yesterday morning, the city dispatched 12 city employees, four six-wheel dump trucks and a mechanic’s service vehicle, which will be used if any of the trucks break down, Long Beach spokesman Gordon Tepper said.

City lawmakers said the resources are a way of showing gratitude to municipalities that sent supplies and workers to Long Beach after Sandy in October 2012.

“It is only fair that after other towns and cities did so much to help us in our moment of need, that we do whatever we can to ‘pay it forward’ and assist those in need,” City Council President Scott Mandel said.

The employees dispatched to the Buffalo region are expected to return in time for Thanksgiving, according to Councilman Len Torres.

Suffolk and Nassau counties have also sent a convoy of trucks, equipment and workers to Buffalo to assist with snow removal.

Suffolk sent two payloaders, which are carried on two trucks, and two dump trucks. The county also sent a foreman and six equipment operators who together can cover 24-hour shifts.

Nassau deployed seven workers, two dump truck/plows and three payloaders.

Newsday – Snow removal budgets beefed up as towns prepare for winter

Snow removal budgets beefed up as towns prepare for winter
by Scott Eidler

Long Island town and city governments, battered by last winter’s snow removal costs, are budgeting more money for sand, salt, labor and equipment to avoid coming up short again next year.

Even under pressure to stick to the state’s tax levy cap and cut costs, 10 of the 15 towns and cities are proposing spending a combined $2.3 million more to keep roads clear.

Brookhaven’s preliminary 2015 budget includes spending about $1 million more than this year — the largest hike on Long Island — to bring the town’s total snow removal budget to $3.67 million. Brookhaven officials were lambasted for their failure to quickly or adequately respond to a February 2013 blizzard that dumped more than 30 inches of snow.

Four storms dropped more than 6 feet of snow on Long Island this year, forcing municipalities to dip into reserves or other funding sources to pay staff overtime, rent heavy equipment, and replenish salt and sand supplies.

“It’s very tough to budget for disaster and snowstorms,” North Hempstead finance director Aline Khatchadourian said. “You want to have the infrastructure in place, make sure you handle it, but you don’t want to overtax the residents.”

Even with the $1 million increase, Brookhaven’s 2015 snow removal budget “does not represent the ability to handle another record-breaking year,” Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro said. The town has spent more than $10 million in snow removal costs so far this year, he said, with the potential for winter storms still ahead in November and December.

Early forecasts indicate local governments may need the extra money in their budgets.

John Dlugoenski, a meteorologist for AccuWeather, said the State College, Pennsylvania-based forecasting service is predicting “slightly above normal for snowfall on Long Island,” this winter, with “the potential for it to be well above normal, depending on how many big storms there are.”

Hempstead Town approved an $800,000 cumulative increase with $900,000 more for road salt, but $100,000 less for snow-removal overtime costs.

North Hempstead Town is proposing an overall budget with reduced spending, but increased the snow removal budget by more than 8 percent, to $726,058 from $670,000. Nearly all of the hike is for anticipated overtime costs.

The Town of Babylon has proposed a $100,000 increase of “program operations” that cover supplies, such as road salt, officials said.

“We can’t run into something in the middle of the winter where we run out of salt, and we can’t tell our residents we ran out of funding and can’t salt the roads,” said Thomas Stay, Babylon commissioner of public works.

Shelter Island, Long Island’s smallest town, proposed increasing its snow removal budget to $90,000 from $56,000. The town spent about $117,000 on snow removal this year, the bulk of it for sand and salt.

Shelter Island until about five years ago was able to mine and store its own sand, Highway Superintendent Jay Card Jr., said. With sand mines depleted, the town has to truck it in, paying a $125 ferry fee for each truckload, he said.

Huntington, Smithtown and Riverhead, as well as the city of Glen Cove, are not increasing their snow removal budgets.

Huntington will use a reserve fund if additional snow removal money is needed next year, spokesman A.J. Carter said in an email. “There was a policy decision to hold spending to this year’s levels across the board,” he said.

Southampton does not set a budget specifically for snow removal, but officials proposed increasing the town highway budget for contracts, overtime and salaries for next year.

East Hampton’s proposed 2015 budget calls for a $34,000 increase in its snow-removal budget. Southold’s preliminary budget increases snow removal spending by about $20,500. Oyster Bay is planning to allocate an additional $40,127.

The City of Long Beach approved an additional $10,000 for sand and salt purchases in its 2014-15 budget, city spokesman Gordon Tepper said.

The Town of Islip preliminary budget increases its snow removal spending by $155,000, to $2.42 million from $2.26 million. The town has already exceeded that budget by $1.1 million, said Public Works Commissioner Tom Owens.

Islip early this year needed to rent larger pieces of equipment, such as payloaders and road graders, because the smaller equipment it usually rents could not push the nearly 3 feet of snow from intersections and municipal lots.

Owens said he is “aggressively” signing up vendors with heavier equipment to prepare for any heavy snowfall this winter. The town also has purchased 10 snow plows for $300,000 that are expected to arrive in November.

“Whatever I’ve got to throw at a snowstorm to get it done is what I’m going to do,” he said.

Newsday – High surf, rip currents bring closure of 4 LI beaches

High surf, rip currents bring closure of 4 LI beaches
by Darran Simon

Dangerous rip currents and high surf caused by Hurricane Cristobal forced the closure of several Long Island beaches to swimmers Thursday, disrupting for some the start of the summer’s last hurrah.

Swimming was prohibited at Jones Beach State Park, Hither Hills State Park and Robert Moses State Park, said George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director of the state Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The beaches are expected to reopen Friday.

In Long Beach, the city’s chief of lifeguards closed its beaches to swimming because of the rip currents and rough surf and Suffolk County closed the outer beach at Smith Point County Park.

“The conditions are extremely rough strong undercurrents,” Gorman said Thursday.

Gorman said flooding closed field 6 at Jones Beach for about two hours. and Hither Hills, where most of the beach front was underwater for a short period.

The closures didn’t affect attendance, Gorman said, adding that Jones Beach saw 88,000 visitors and Robert Moses 13,500 visitors.

He said visitors to the two beaches flocked to see surf conditions and take pictures of the waves, making up for those who stayed away. A handful of people stayed away from Hither Hills, but “hundreds and hundreds” of surfers went to Montauk Point State Park and Camp Hero State Park, he said.

At Robert Moses, beachgoers generally appreciated the safety precautions — or had no interest in taking a dip in the ocean.

“I don’t want my kids to drown, or myself, so I understand,” said Jerry Baratta, 48, of St. James.

Baratta, who brought his daughters Morgan, 8, and Leigh, 10, and son, Teddy, 7, said he learned from the parking attendant about the swimming restriction.

“I said can we at least put feet in the water?” he said.

But the assistant high school principal in Carle Place was ready for the day. He’d packed pails, a beach ball, football — and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

April Brookins, 54, of Brooklyn, only needed her beach chair — which she keeps in her car yearround — and her Harper’s Bazaar magazine

“I rarely go in the water,” said Brookins, a law firm office manager who drove a car with a license plate that read “BITHESEA” to Robert Moses.The National Weather Service said swells from Cristobal posed the risk of dangerous rip currents and high surf for Long Island’s Atlantic beaches, with possible waves and surfs between 5 to 10 feet.

Rémi Cousin, 33, a climatologist at Columbia University, took a 6:45 a.m. train from Harlem to ride the waves at Robert Moses with his body board. “It looks more scary than it is,” he said.

Surfers descended on Long Beach Thursday despite the chief of lifeguard’s order.

“We advise them not to, but they’re doing so at their own risk,” city spokesman Gordon Tepper said.

Dangerous rip currents and high surf were expected until Friday; a high-surf advisory was in effect until early morning for southern portions of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Mother Nature rules the day, said Kerry Troi, 54, of Melville. “I enjoy Mother Nature and you sometimes have to take cues” from her. She’d wanted to swim but was content sunbathing at Robert Moses.

With John Asbury

and Gary Dymski

Long Island Herald – Summer kicks off in Long Beach

Summer kicks off in Long Beach
City, businesses welcome busy weekend
By Alexandra Spychalsky

According to city and local businesses, Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, was a good kickoff of what they think will be a successful season in Long Beach.

“We had a dynamite weekend,” city spokesman Gordon Tepper said. “The beaches were packed, the boardwalk was packed, the weather was great. The city is thrilled with the turnout from Memorial Day weekend.”

The beach officially opened to the public last Saturday, and sunny weather — for most of the weekend — brought locals and tourists down to the sand in droves. Though Tepper said he has no statistics yet, the city estimates that this Memorial Day weekend drew bigger crowds than last year. And even though Long Beach isn’t starring in tourism commercials like last year’s, which featured Billy Crystal, the city is mentioned in two state-sponsored commercials starring Billy Joel and Michael Strahan.

Following up on its successful inaugural season last year, the Shoregasboard reopened at Riverside Boulevard. Beachgoers enjoyed returning favorites like Swingbellys Cool Kitchen, Sugo Cafe, Lido Kosher Deli and Villagio, as well as newcomers like Corazon de Cuba, Whale’s Tale and the Beach House. Tepper said that the food truck court will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week for the rest of the summer. Though not all of the trucks may be there on weekdays until the end of June, he said, there should still be plenty of options for residents looking for somewhere to go on their lunch break.

For the first time, the city is also allowing local vendors to sell food and drinks on the boardwalk and the beach. Employees of Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters roamed the West End beaches last weekend, selling their bottled cold brew coffee.

“It was great to be there. It was a lot of fun,” said Marc Chiusano, lead barista at Gentle Brew. “It was busy — the boardwalk was alive and hopping. There was a lot of good energy.”

Right next to the food courts, I.Fly Trapeze also returned to Riverside Boulevard beach for the holiday weekend.

Some residents complained that the city was not keeping up with the busy crowds, and that garbage cans were left overflowing on the boardwalk over the weekend. Tepper said that while the Department of Public Works constantly clears away garbage, the city recently launched a new app that will help residents relay their concerns. Using the app, they can take a picture of a garbage can, submit it, and notify the public works crews.

“We’re proactive anyway, but we certainly recommend that people notify us,” Tepper said.

L.B. Craft and Variety owner Cassandra Bolivar said that her business boomed over the weekend. Though her store sells a wide variety of items, it is know as the place to pick up beach supplies on the way down to the shore. Bolivar said that her business depends on the weather, and with two sunny days in a row last weekend, things picked up for her.

“I’m hoping because the boardwalk is back that people will come and visit,” Bolivar said. “But I don’t take it for granted. It’s my first day every day.”

Though tourists help her business in the summer, it’s the locals that keep it going, she said, especially this past winter, which was a tough time for all businesses owners in the city. “It was a very long winter,” Bolivar said. “We all struggled. I thought it was never going to end. This weekend, Long Beach came alive.”

Long Island Herald – The Shoregasboard is back!

The Shoregasboard is back!
City renews food truck court, expands beach food options
By Alexandra Spychalsky

Beachgoers have some new food options to look forward to this summer.

In addition to the continuation of the successful food truck court — the Shoregasboard — introduced last summer, the city announced this week that a variety of food vendors will be stationed along the boardwalk and on the beach this summer.

“Last year’s Shoregasboard was a really innovative idea and a tremendous success,” said city spokesman Gordon Tepper. “It’s great when we can deliver a selection of restaurants providing food all over the city, from the east to the west. We’ve got basically everything you could want.”

The City Council is expected to pass a resolution Wednesday night that will allow the city to provide the new concession options.

Prior to last year’s food truck experiment, Tepper said, the beach traditionally had one food vendor on the boardwalk, which served what residents complained was a limited menu. Last year’s food truck court was a good step forward, he said, offering beachgoers a wide variety of food options from local favorites such as Swingbellys, Villaggio, Sugo Café and Lido Kosher Deli. The Shoregasboard will continue this year, Tepper said, with some new additions, like Whale’s Tale, the Beach House and Corazon de Cuba.

In addition to food trucks, under the new plan, vendors will have permanent carts stationed at almost every beach entrance. For example, the Laurel Luncheonette will be at National Boulevard, while C&C Deli will be at Grand Boulevard. Some vendors will also be mobile on the beach. The Whale’s Tale and the Lookout Deli will roam the East End, and Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters will operate in the West End.

“In our continuing effort to make the boardwalk experience better than ever, this summer the city will be offering an unprecedented diversity of quality foods with a local flavor,” said City Councilman Anthony Eramo. “Long Beach residents clearly indicated that they wanted a wide array of food choices along the beach and boardwalk, and that’s exactly what they’ll be getting.”

City officials said that the idea to provide new food options grew out of the boardwalk surveys and public forums held last year. It was clear, they said, that residents wanted more variety.

In an effort to expand the concessions at the beach, city officials said, the city sent out hundreds of requests for proposals for their operation. All of the licensed food services businesses in Long Beach were contacted, and notice of the RFP was published in numerous purchasing and bid publications in the tristate area, officials said. A majority of the vendors are Long Beach businesses, but unlike last year, the city will allow some outside businesses to operate at the beach as well.

The Shoregasboard and the boardwalk and beach food carts will begin operating Memorial Day weekend, and offer food seven days a week through the summer. Tepper said that their hours would be similar to last year’s food truck court: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends, though final details are still being worked out.

West End staple Swingbellys will return to the Shoregasboard to serve barbecue favorites. Owner Sean Sullivan said that being a part of the food truck court helped the business last year, and he hopes it will be a welcome boost after a long winter.

“It worked out well last year,” Sullivan said. “We’re hoping that this summer, with the boardwalk open for the whole summer, it’ll be even better.”

He added that although the restaurant has a new menu, customers can expect much of the same food that the Swingbellys Cool Kitchen truck offered last year, like pulled pork sandwiches, shrimp po’ boys and lobster rolls.

Local coffee spot Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters will be one of the newcomers to the boardwalk. It opened on East Park Avenue two years ago and now has a loyal following, but owner Mike Shcherbenko said he is trying to make sure everyone in Long Beach knows about the shop.

“We’re trying to expand our product among Long Beach,” he said. “People in the East End know us, but the West End doesn’t know who we are.”

Gentle Brew will have a cart on the boardwalk, at New York Avenue, and will also roam the beach, hawking their signature cold brew, a bottled iced coffee with milk and sugar. “People crave it during the summer,” Shcherbenko said.

Long Island Herald – Polar Bears take the plunge

Polar Bears take the plunge
Warm weather brings out the crowds
By Alexandra Spychalsky

Less than 24 hours before Long Island was buried once more in snow, the sun was shining and the mild weather drew thousands to the beach on Sunday for the 15th annual Long Beach Polar Bear Super Bowl Splash.

“At 11 a.m., there weren’t that many people here; we were nervous,” event co-founder Pete Meyers said. “Now I think it’s going to be the biggest ever. It’s 50 degrees and sunny out. People are dying to get out of the house.”

Thousands flocked to this year’s event to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which grants the wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses. “It was an enormous crowd,” said Gordon Tepper, the city’s director of communications. “It was a phenomenal turnout, and they raised a ton of money for charity, which is what it’s all about.”

The event began informally in 1998, when Meyers and his friend Kevin McCarthy decided to take a dip in the ocean on the morning of the Super Bowl. As it became an annual tradition, more and more people joined in, Meyers said, and they decided to turn it into a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish in honor of their friend Mike Bradley’s son, Paulie, who had died of cancer in 1997, at age 4. Bradley’s wife, Patti, died in 2009, and the event now honors her as well. Since the event became a fundraiser, it has helped grant the wishes of more than 300 kids.

“The Polar Bear Splash, in conjunction with Make-A-Wish, is the epitome of what makes Long Beach awesome,” said City Councilman Anthony Eramo, who has been among the swimmers every year except for one since moving to Long Beach 10 years ago. “It’s not just during tragedy, like Hurricane Sandy, when our community comes together to help others.”

Last year’s Splash had a somewhat different tone; it was held just three months after Hurricane Sandy, the boardwalk had been demolished and many Long Beach residents were still displaced. But the event had record participation, organizers said, with people coming from all over the tri-state area to show their support for a community still reeling from the storm.

This year, a bit of normalcy was restored — flags lined the railings of the new boardwalk at Riverside Boulevard, from which spectators watched the massive crowds on the beach.

“Everyone showing up last year showed that we could move past it,” said Long Beach resident Josh Janov. “This is a way for people to come together and enjoy life.”

This year, the event also honored Connor Troy, a Long Beach “wish kid” who died last year after attending the Splash — and receiving his wish. Last year, Connor’s mother, Kerry Ann, told the crowd that his wish was to meet Kermit the Frog and the Muppets, so Make-A-Wish arranged a trip to Disney World for Connor and his family. She said that the trip was a life-changing experience for him.

As of Tuesday, the Polar Bears had raised $500,000 this year for the foundation. Though more donations are expected, that figure put the Polar Bears above a huge benchmark — $4 million raised in total, organizers said.

“Make-A-Wish is the best organization,” Bradley said. “All of the money goes to the children. We raise all of this money for the children, and they make sure it gets there. That’s why we choose to be with them.”

Pat Clemency, president and CEO of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Metro New York, said she is amazed at how Long Beach has not only kept the event alive, but made it thrive. “The community of Long Beach has inspired everyone from all parts of the tri-state area to come,” she said. “There’s 6,000 people in the water, 20,000 people total. It’s a remarkable undertaking that starts in very few communities.”

Clemency said that last year alone, the foundation granted 85 wishes thanks to the Polar Bear Splash. “For families, it says that you are not alone in this, there is a community supporting you and making those wishes possible,” she said.

Some “wish kids” attended Sunday’s Splash. Ten-year-old Masha Benitz has had a number of heart surgeries, and her wish was to take a Disney cruise. She came on stage to present the $3,000 she and her friends have raised for Make-A-Wish.

“What we see time and again is families come together and say, ‘We’ve had the experience of a wish, and it’s our time to pay it forward,’” Clemency said. “You see generations of wish families coming down here, and that’s a pretty remarkable thing.”

“Years ago, Make-A-Wish helped my family — my son was sick. It’s an unbelievable organization,” said Tom Ryan, of Bellmore, who has been coming to the Splash for eight years. “I recruit people to come down. Every year is better than the last.”

Bradley said that it’s too emotional for him to meet the “wish kids,” but he said he loves that they come and take the plunge. “They’ve got the most courage out of anyone,” he said.


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