Burke in a book
Sometimes, books and their real-life subjects collide. That was the case recently with Nelson DeMille’s new novel “The Maze” and former Suffolk County Police Chief James Burke.
The book, which fictionalizes the still-unsolved Gilgo Beach murders, also depicts a cascade of corruption in Suffolk law enforcement, including a Burke-like police chief with risqué tastes who may be interfering with investigations.
The plotline apparently didn’t sit well with the real-life official. “Burke read the book, by the way,” DeMille said in a Newsday Live Author Series interview last week, referring to the former police leader who served prison time after admitting that he assaulted a suspect and worked to cover up the beating, after the suspect broke into Burke’s vehicle and stole items including pornography and sex toys.
DeMille said that Burke “had dinner with somebody I know and this person I know said he was not happy with the book because it indicated that he might have been involved with the murders.”
“But you know,” DeMille continued, “you gotta call it like you see it.”
Burke has not been linked to the events at Gilgo. Newsday has previously reported how Burke, under FBI investigation due to the beating and cover-up, “iced out the FBI from Suffolk police investigations, including Gilgo.”
In the Newsday Live/Long Island Litfest interview, which will be available for viewing on Nov. 29 at newsdaylive.com, DeMille said, “I represented the corruption that I thought existed that everybody seemed to agree existed.”
The thriller also features a Suffolk district attorney willing to play outside the bounds of the law, a seeming nod to the county’s former DA, Thomas Spota, who was indicted in 2017 on federal charges for being involved in the cover-up of Burke’s beating of the suspect.
DeMille, a Long Islander who has written about the region in previous books, said he was interested in the way governmental impropriety could happen in such a fairly affluent suburban area:
“It was sort of like I was saying, how does this happen here, this kind of deep corruption.”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
Rolling the dice
As New York inches closer to approving full casinos downstate, some on Long Island are moving and shaking to get a piece of the action. And the casino companies are ready to play.
On Dec. 1, the Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers and the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce are sponsoring a forum titled “Small Business Opportunities if Downstate Gaming Expands on Long Island.”
It’s a mouthful — but the existence of the forum, along with its participant list, says even more.
Besides representatives from the two county chambers, two representatives from Las Vegas Sands Corp. — former Gov. David Paterson, now a senior vice president at Sands, and Norbert Riezler, Sands’ chief procurement officer — will attend.
Then there’s a name on the list that at first glance seems like a strange addition: Hon. John Callahan, the former mayor of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
The obvious question: Why would a former Pennsylvania mayor be participating in a forum about gaming on Long Island?
The answer: Because more than a decade ago, Las Vegas Sands opened a gaming complex, which eventually included a casino, a hotel, restaurants, a concert venue and more, in Bethlehem — and Callahan was mayor at the time.
Sands senior vice president Ron Reese told The Point he hoped the forum would provide an opportunity to talk with Long Island business owners and others about how they could benefit from and prepare for a casino complex, potentially on the Island.
“It’s important for both sides to engage in conversation,” Reese said. “We’ve spent time on Long Island, we’ve enjoyed getting to know the people on Long Island, and now we’re being upfront about the opportunities this could bring.”
Reese noted that a casino resort could offer such opportunities for local small businesses in a variety of industries, from restaurants and retail to security, flowers, lighting and information technology.
The forum, which also will include Discover Long Island’s Kristen Reynolds and the Long Island Federation of Labor’s Ryan Stanton, will take place at the South Farmingdale Fire District station on Locust Ave. It comes as state officials and the Gaming Facility Location Board are readying to release a request for applications that will jump-start the process for developers, casino operators and others to apply for one of three downstate licenses. According to the schedule the state has set up, that RFA must be released by the first week of January.
But the competition already is in full gear. Even as the Sands explores its options, other companies are looking at sites across the region with, most recently, Saratoga Casino Holdings, the Chickasaw Nation, Legends and Thor Equities unveiling their plans to bid for a casino and hotel resort in Coney Island.
— Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall
For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/nationalcartoons
Surveying the field
One of the biggest debates coming out of the midterm elections in New York has been about the quality of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s field campaign.
That operation was run by the New York Dems coordinated campaign, and there has been plenty of criticism — including from members of the State Legislature — that the state party’s work was insufficient to pull some down-ballot Democrats over the finish line.
To get a better sense of the terrain, The Point asked state Democratic chair Jay Jacobs what exactly it was that the party did when it came to field work.
Jacobs sent us a memo outlining a $6 million total field investment. That included the party hiring 37 field organizers, seven regional organizing directors, 12 student organizers, and a handful of individuals in leadership roles.
The memo lists a tally of nearly 1.4 million phone calls, close to 900,000 doors knocked, plus more than 5.4 million text messages statewide from the party and Hochul’s campaign. The field effort included a program to recruit and follow through on absentee ballot voters, plus a robocall from former President Barack Obama sent to 566,000 Democratic voters toward the end of the race. State party field staff worked in some of the closely contested congressional districts, according to the memo, including all four of Long Island’s races. They were more active in some districts, such as CD4, where “the NY Dems staff were the vast majority of the program and handled all strategic field decisions,” Jacobs wrote in an email. Democratic candidate Laura Gillen went on to lose in the Democratic-leaning district to Republican Anthony D’Esposito.
How should all this be interpreted? It’s difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons of how much money the state party spent on field efforts in previous years, because the coordinated committee does not file separate disclosures, and this was Hochul’s first run for the top of the ticket. Furthermore, not all cycles are equally competitive. Jacobs was not the state chair during Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s runs in 2014 or 2018, but he was in 2010.
“There was a field program,” Jacobs wrote to The Point. “I remember being involved in it, but it was nowhere near as large.”
As for the larger criticisms about where the party was missing, Jacobs wrote that there is a “basic misunderstanding” of the roles of the state party versuscounty parties: “Obviously, the State Party will never have the capacity to populate a full field operation in every corner of the state — in every corner of every county.”
— Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano
The Point will be back Monday, Nov. 28. Happy Thanksgiving!
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