A months-long property dispute on the Roslyn Harbor-Glenwood Landing border reached a head with one resident allegedly getting into a physical confrontation with one of his neighbors late last week and shouting anti-Semitic slurs at the neighbor’s home.
Eric and Elina Goldman, who live in a Roslyn Harbor home that borders Glenwood Landing, called the Nassau County Police Department after a neighbor identified as Thomas Cerna shouted anti-Semitic slurs outside their home. The couple also claimed that the police did not properly respond to the situation.
The Goldmans moved into the area in July 2020 and say that a dispute involving plantings by their next door neighbor over the property line began in early fall of that year.
“Towards the end of the summer, there was immediately some confrontation regarding plantings on the property line, and this property line dispute ultimately escalated,” Eric Goldman said. “It really got to the point where the police had to come out, where they basically said ‘None of us are professionals. We can’t read surveys. We need to get the property officially staked out. When the stakeout occurs so that we can see the official dividing lines, everything will be clear as day.’ So I thought we’ll nip this in the bud. We’ll get the stake in to show the property line.”
On Friday, June 4, Eric Goldman says he worked with Roslyn Harbor Mayor Sandy Quentzal, a village building inspector and “multiple police officers” to make sure that “everything was well-documented” while the stake denoting the line was put in.
“[Mayor Sandy Quentzal] and I went around taking pictures and videos on our phone of every single thing,” Goldman said.
Later that day, the Goldmans allege Cernas’ wife tore the stake that designated the property line out of the ground. They claim that the next day Cernas himself came over to “confront” them about the stake.
“The next day [Cernas] more or less comes over ringing our doorbell, confronting us about the survey,” Eric Goldman said. “We kindly said, ‘Listen, we’ll give you two weeks to move stuff that was planted on our side,’ thinking we’re being nice, given the entire circumstances that had stretched us thin on both money and patience at this point.”
It was then the Goldmans say that Cernas got physical.
“He very abrasively screams at me, ‘I’m not moving my trees,’ at which point I said, ‘If you don’t move the trees, I have full authority to remove them myself,’” Eric Goldman said. “I went and I chopped off the tree with some hedge clippers, which I had every right to do. He then proceeds to punch me and pummel me against my fence.”
Elina Goldman, who was inside the house putting the couple’s 9-month-old infant to bed, heard shouting outside, saw the fight and called Nassau County Police, while Eric says he tried to defend himself from Cerna.
“I did everything in my power to just not get hurt,” Eric Goldman said. “So I’m sitting there getting punched and pummeled and didn’t even so much as raise a hand other times to defend myself because I have a family, a life, a career and that’s not what I do to individuals. I only had hedge clippers in my hand, and my mind went to, ‘I’m not gonna be charged with assault with a deadly weapon.’”
The police came, but the Goldmans say they did not file a report and tried to minimize the situation.
“They basically came and this is where I think the pinnacle of the story really took its turn, is where the cops really did—outside of us—nothing,” Eric Goldman said. “They tried to sweep this under the rug as well. ‘It’s just a neighborhood dispute. You don’t have any bruises, visible laceration marks…at the time I wasn’t gonna, I’m not gonna lie and be like, yeah, I’m in so much pain, I can’t even move. I don’t have any marks on my face because I was luckily, an able-bodied human able to defend myself from getting hurt.”
On Tuesday evening at 5:37 p.m., Eric Goldman saw Cernas get out of his car and come across their lawn.
“He sees me in my windows,” Eric Goldman said. “He gets out of his car, walked onto our grassand then starts screaming.”
The Goldmans’ Nest doorbell camera picked up audio of the man shouting: the F-word combined with hateful derogatory terms about Jews. Cernas repeatedly said, “You’re going down.” During this, the Goldmans were inside, huddled with their child and crying.
“This is our first time in our entire lives that we’ve ever even heard anti-Semitic comments like that firsthand,” Eric Goldman said.
The couple couldn’t sleep that night, constantly checking their windows and cameras. They did call the police, but claim the officers were not much help.
“We don’t engage whatsoever, because the police officers told us earlier that if he comes over, then we don’t engage,” Eric Goldman said. “[The police said], ‘Call us back, no need to engage with them.’…And long story short of it is that they said, ‘Want to just walk away and just say it was a verbal assault?’ And I said absolutely not. It took them getting about seven different officers to my house. And finally the desk officer who was on command at the time came in person to explain to us the difference between aggravated harassment and regular harassment and then harassment with a bias. Because once again, they were trying to say that it was just nothing more than verbal abuse, that it was hearsay.”
“There was a direct quote we got from one of the officers,” Elina Goldman said. “When I was hysterical, he looked at me and said, ‘Well, just to be clear, prejudice is not a crime.’ And I was like, that’s a very interesting thing to say to someone right now.'”
” Her husband went on to describe the back and forth. “It got to a point where I was getting loud because I said, ‘I feel like I’m the defendant right now. I feel like I’m being interrogated.’” He said he was given multiple statements to sign.
“I said I would absolutely not sign until each word was restruck with my words. It was horrific, as my wife said. I understand that you guys don’t want to do the paperwork here, but this is a big deal. The fact that Friday, [the police] let it go. And it escalated into violence because when [the neighbor] physically attacked me and you guys did nothing about it, he just got a free pass to come home.’”
“I think the inaction spoke more volumes than the action in this case,” he added. “And it was just disgusting to feel for the first time in my life that I was…the victim being treated as a defendant being interrogated when I called the cops for assistance here.”
Quentzal, the mayor of Roslyn Harbor, confirmed the property dispute and condemned the comments in a statement to Blank Slate Media.
“The Village of Roslyn Harbor, in the strongest words possible, condemns all anti-Semitic comments and actions of any kind,” Quentzal said. “The two neighbors are involved in a property line dispute that is a civil matter. “Although we would normally not become involved in a civil matter, we received a call from the police and went to the property to attempt to de-escalate an unfortunate situation. Clearly we were unsuccessful in our efforts.”
The Nassau County Police Department has not yet responded to a request for comment. A woman who answered a phone number attributed to Cerna said her husband refused to comment for this story.
“And so at this point, our fear is what’s next, right?” Eric Goldman said, following the physical confrontation. “Now it’s death threats and actual Jewish comments that are fearful for our entire religion. It’s nothing short of again horrific. And now it’s like what’s next?”
Elina Goldman added, “I want to make sure this does not go on and that it is apparent that this kind of hatred is not accepted in the community.”