Year In Review: A Look At Massapequa’s Biggest Stories

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Massapequa High School sent off the Class of 2017 in June.

The year 2017 was an eventful one for Massapequa and its surrounding areas, marked by several highs and lows and a number of intriguing developments.

In March, police found Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay, shown in sketch form here, dead in the Massapequa Preserve.

The air of peace in the community was disturbed in March, when 19-year-old Julio Cesar Gonzales-Espantzay of Valley Stream was found dead in the Massapequa Preserve, the result of a homicide. Diligent investigative work from the Nassau County Police Department led to the eventual arrest of four suspects in connection with the murder.

Chiefs’ pride was the chief thing on the minds of many in June, when Massapequa High School bid a fond farewell to its graduating Class of 2017. Speeches from valedictorian Daniel Urli, salutatorian Christopher Hadsall and general organization president Kristen Ader put an inspirational stamp on the day’s proceedings.

After a long debate, the sixth-grade class of 2017 was told in August that they would attend Berner Middle School in the fall.

Perhaps the year’s most controversial community issue was the district’s plan to move sixth grade to Berner Middle School. The initiative proved polarizing to parents, students and school board members, and the decision was changed, challenged or threatened no less than five times. The state finally got involved in August, and the current class of sixth-graders was permitted to move on to Berner.

The Massapequa Chamber of Commerce’s Street Fair proved a highlight of the summer.

Also in August, the Massapequa Chamber of Commerce pulled out all the stops for an exciting 2017 Street Fair. The event was well attended and offered a slew of attractions, including a petting zoo, live music, carnival games, mechanical bull riding, balloon animals and more.

Firefighter Robert Tilearcio passed away in October, but his loved ones forever remember his bravery.

And late in October, the community received a sad reminder that the effects of September 11, 2001 extend far beyond that infamous date, when Massapequa resident and FDNY firefighter Robert Tilearcio succumbed to brain cancer, which he contracted due to his heroic role in the tragic events of that day. Tilearcio’s championing of the Zadroga Act—which covers medical bills for 9/11 first responders who were exposed to toxins—and all-around bravery made him a beloved figure in Massapequa and beyond.

Cheers to 2017 and here’s to more local success stories in 2018.

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Joseph Catrone is the former editor of Farmingdale Observer, Hicksville News, Levittown Tribune and Massapequa Observer. He is also a contributing writer to Long Island Weekly and Anton Media Group's special sections.

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