Riverhead Blues Festival organizers issue statement canceling event, slamming detractors

03/14/2011 1:12 PM |
JOHN NEELY FILE PHOTO | Performers at least year's festival.

JOHN NEELY FILE PHOTO | Performers at least year's festival.

The organizers of the Riverhead Blues & Music Festival announced Monday they are canceling the popular downtown event indefinitely.

Below is a statement issued by Robert Barta, president of the Council for the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, in its entirety.

“After much speculation by local media outlets, it is my duty to inform the public that the Council for the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall has voted not to file a Chapter 90 application for the purpose of running the Riverhead Blues & Music Festival at its traditional location this year.

While this announcement will undoubtedly bring some gloating from both long-time detractors and opportunistic naysayers, the decision was made solely to reduce financial risks to the Music Hall had we attempted to produce it traditionally in the present environment.

The festival will continue this year as a series of in-house fundraising events. These will allow us to continue our mission of programming for the community while maintaining control of our organization’s integrity. During the past year, I have honestly and truthfully represented the Vail-Leavitt’s interests in a positive spirit of community cooperation. Along the way, two particular men issued personal attacks against me and my organization which I now wish to address.

The council is a non-profit charitable 501(c)3 corporation and has made its financial reports available online for years before such organizations were legally required to this year. This fact was specifically misstated on the pseudo-journalistic blog of Anthony Coates. False implications of “missing armbands” and computer crashes among others in his comments seemed intended to publicly smear our credibility. His writing style is often personalized and denigrating, referencing his targets with a false air of familiarity. Lacking any originality beyond creativity with facts, Mr. Coates usually opens his statements with references to the “lol” acronym or chuckling to himself but I, for one, am not amused. Such a pattern of behavior and deliberate fabrications are serious and concerning from the man who is now credited as our town supervisor’s “political conscience.”

Ray Pickersgill’s comments blamed the Vail-Leavitt for lack of advance event publicity while ignoring his own central role in last year’s well-publicized delay. I note that his Business Improvement District’s events were approved with more than the mere two months time which we were granted. Most recently, Mr. Pickersgill used a very personalized writing style oddly similar to Mr. Coates’ to insult and degrade me with repeated phrases like “write this down” and “you don’t get it.” Clearly, he demonstrates a different understanding of cooperation, leadership and professionalism than I do. While Mr. Pickersgill sometimes offers disclaimers with his commentary, I make and made all my statements as a business leader and educator, U.S. citizen and town resident.

Mr. Pickersgill and Mr. Coates each cited the festival’s “failure” as they misrepresented facts over the past year. While Vail-Leavitt never agreed in writing to the financial disclosure form Mr. Coates proposed to me in the supervisor’s office, I present here the requested statement in response to Councilman James Wooten’s recent civil and reasoned comments in a News-Review editorial letter:

Income sources:
Ticket sales $53,308
Vendor fees­ $21,350
Contributions $1,000
Other revenues $3,345
Total Revenues $79,003

Expenses:
Entertainers $27,950
Advertising $5,426
Insurance $4,620
Labor expenses $3,100
Permits & Fees $200
Other expenses $30,936
Total Expenses $ 72,232

NET GAIN BY THE VAIL-LEAVITT $6,771

Mr. Wooten, in his letter, also described his genuine concerns over the need for an admission fee and what the BID may have spent to support the event. Vail-Leavitt and the festival received exactly $0 of financial support from the BID over each of the past two years. As seen above, our admission fee was necessary in order to provide more extensive live entertainment than any other event and still financially benefit the Music Hall.

The cost of services from the town was used as an argument against support of the blues festival, but I haven’t read where Mr. Pickersgill takes responsibility for in-kind expenses for the BID’s events this year. Those free events will require the very same overtime and in-kind support afforded the Blues & Music festival, but for many more days and tax dollars. Medical and ambulance services were (despite Mr. Pickersgill’s phony claim) paid for by the Vail-Leavitt. More importantly, the benefits of the Vail-Leavitt to both our business and non-business communities extended well beyond the days of the actual event.

The town services acted as once-a-year support offered to maintain the Music Hall as a local treasure while it serves as a venue for events such as Riverhead Idol, charitable fundraisers, public meetings and debates (and inaugural ceremonies) at no charge throughout the year.

The Vail-Leavitt’s budget for the current fiscal year is extremely frugal, approximately $37,000 in total. Our board’s primary concern is the continuing mission of the Music Hall to the community and attempting to run the festival at the parking lot site this year posed unnecessary risk in such an environment of politically motivated hostility. We ask that concerned community members show their support for the Vail-Leavitt by coming to our events, making a tax-deductible contribution or volunteering time. Contact us at 727-5782 or www.vail-leavitt.org and be part of Riverhead’s most unique cultural and historic organization as we move forward to meet our continuing challenges.”

Comments

comments

35 Comment

  • So much whining by Barta and Tria good bye–you ran a horrible event filled with local bands anyone could see for free locally and bands that included Barta or his family. Stop blaming others–Ta ta boyz you wont be missed.

  • The biggest expense was “other expense”? A non defined budget line meaning what? No wonder why the “lols” Gentlemen you dodged the truth about your event for years. It’s time for a change.

  • OK we know Pickersgill & Coates can fight nasty and be ugly…….. and continue to give Riverhead its well earned name as a town of in-fighters, good old boys and wrong way politicos…………The good people of Riverhead are proud of the Vail-Leavitt and love the blues fest The BID is USELESS, DESTRUCTIVE and a waste of taxpayer money. Yes it is time for a change!

    “A narrow mind and a wide mouth usually go together”

  • Here’s what really transpired, the Vail went out to the real world to find a venue to hold their fundraiser/festival….& guess what? What they found was just how expensive it would be to hold this event outside of the town w/o the free towns services. Not so easy is it gentlemen, so now lets blame the BID for your inability. As for the BID, they are going to do their own thing this season. This is not the BID of 2005…this is 2011, these folks are hands-on…events are being scheduled, THEY WILL BE FREE, & it would appear they now have an open weekend in July.

  • Here’s what really transpired, the Vail went out to the real world to find a venue to hold their fundraiser/festival….& guess what? What they found was just how expensive it would be to hold this event outside of the town w/o the free towns services. Not so easy is it gentlemen, so now lets blame the BID for your inability. As for the BID, they are going to do their own thing this season. This is not the BID of 2005…this is 2011, these folks are hands-on…events are being scheduled, THEY WILL BE FREE, & it would appear they now have an open weekend in July.

  • Tom Gahan has got to feel vindicated, for even the local musicians themselves say his festival was the best run.

  • The Vail cancelled the event because two guys asked about their finances a year ago? Something doesnt make sense here. Tom Gahan was right its all about the megaegos at the Vail they beat this event into the ground. Seems to me Mr Barta is being childish.

  • So… 37,000 + last years profit of 6,771= 43,771.00 Wow.. that’s alot of money going to waste that could be used to generate a community oriented festival… with financial donations… for, if this is a community after all.. and we want to see good things happen for this ailing town, then.. one might think that a little less posturing is needed and alot more constructive thinking is called for.

  • Are you Kidding? When Tom Gahan ran festival he ran it like a feudal Lord! Blackballing musicians, stealing every dime the festival made .. Tom was so corrupt the town had to remove him from running the festival. Get your facts right

  • What exactly is the “other” expense of $31,000? Ridiculous.

  • I couldn’t of said it better.

  • Those are very strong words…”stealing”??….last time I checked, that would be a punishable crime. Was Gahan convicted of any crime or wrong doing?…let alone even charged?…The answer is a resounding “NO”. Was he strong willed and at times tough to work with…..maybe so…were there some people he simply didn’t like, for what ever reason…again, yes, maybe so…..but those are “personal” differences…..none of which fall under the category of “criminal”. So before you vilify a man and smear him and state that he was stealing, please check your history & facts. Tom’s record keeping was somewhere between marginal and adequate…..that’s what got him into trouble with the town and ultimately let go from his role. This happened along with a concurrent smear campaign from folks who were not in his good graces and felt it their obligation to bring him down. Love him or hate him…..Tom Gahan and a host of great volunteers put on the most professionally produced and well executed events, along with the best gear and sound system. Every event held, post-Gahan has experienced a slow steady decline at every level…..EXCEPT those that volunteer and worked their hearts out with the tools they were given.

  • On a week in which I watched the debate to close down the voice and funding of NPR and after years of involving myself neutrally in debates related to the Riverhead Festival and many other political circumstances , I am quite cognizant of how Politics can act against the best Interests of the Public it wishes to inevitably serve .
    In is very much a shame that the dedicated persons that aim to involve themselves in earnest are often subverted by hidden agendas and ego- oriented individuals . The dysfunction displayed here is not limited to a Music Domain that claims to sing the Blues of Good Reason and Honest Truth…. I think a big step back is in order, related to the specifics of this failure to integrate sound diplomacy and cooperative organizational skills on this and many other occasions, as we attempt to assemble representative governing bodies in simple majorities and enterprises that are often are stocked with a minority of dedicated persons strong enough to endure the treacheries of involvement . .. not to mention a depth of real talent it showcases . If you have difficulty following my logic or my point here , than I have accomplished the same tactics that have landed many of us exactly where we are today …. The insanities of human condition often fall prey to all new heights of a corruption that necessitates a need to do that which ” The Blues” all so adequately aim to bring to a stage , which it has been unfortunately been denied … the same Public Broadcast ability that NPR brings to millions and they to thousands in Live Performance.
    It is time to reach deep into our hearts , less than our pockets, to pull out the truth that George M Vail and Simon Leavitt were empowered to believe in with the help of a guy named Thomas Edison that tinkered with some junk that brought sound to a stage that they made survive for decades past a century of his sound inventions . Alec Baldwin came up with the term “Sound Investment” when he involved me and many in the ” S0und ” causes that put him on top of a Rock that was less then the Mountain he attempted to leap. I suggest we all continue to climb that hill that has turned into an earthquake we all need to recognize as validly upon us . Keep on shaking ..rocking and rolling and the parking lot will turn back into Paradise it used to be !

  • I’ve heard & read plenty of chatter from the Vail about how the so-called detractors ruined the blues festival . Yet, I haven’t read any place where the town of Riverhead refused to allow the Vail to have their beloved fundraiser. What I have read here is that ” the Council for the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall has voted NOT TO FILE a Chapter 90 application for the purpose of running the Riverhead Blues & Music Festival at its traditional location this year.” So I ask…What’s the problem here? Why has this become such an issue for the Vail, if they didn’t even apply?…As far as I can tell the BID Management has absolutely nothing to do with accepting or rejecting the Vail Chapter 90 application. Now perhaps this makes a good news story as I’m sure the Vail is loving all this attention, but I’ll tell ya what folks…a week from now, after the local paper posts a few letters to the editor on the subject, this issue won’t be anything more than a fleeting memory, but what people & musicians alike will remember (with a fondness) was who created such a great event, & sadly under who’s control brought an end to this event, and you can take that to the bank.

  • The festival will be missed.

  • I don’t understand why the idea of sending Oysterpond students to Mattituck is still being brought up. It’s obvious where the Oysterponds community stands on the issue.

  • Did Dick leslie give you those figures? The end justifies the means,Dick knows what I mean.

  • No
    and I would be happy to share the data with you or you can verify the #s yourself
    again, the goal here is to save taxpayers $. If we can get Greenport to control their costs or reduce the fees they charged Oysterponds, I would be very happy
    Thom

  • If your #s are correct(I will check for myself)then 637,511 might be correct,but only if you sent ALL
    the students.At the last special meeting an option of choice was to be offered to the students.Not all of the students would probably choose 1 district and you have made a motion that if you want to stay where you are you can.2 sets of buses,2 districts for you and the admin.to work .I m not sure but there are probably other duplication of services and costs that you did not list.Throwing around LARGE #s gets peoples attention with or without all the facts.With that said what is the cost per student at Oysterponds.By the way, it seems strange to me that you wouldn t try to hold the line on the budget ,but would be happy to see it at a 2% increase.I m sure the taxpayers would rather see no increase!

  • Welcome back Tom, I missed you.

    The bottom line is the Greenport BOE offered Oysterponds a contract, which was a flat rate and would have included an additional discount of 5% if the contract was signed for five years. The tuition would have been significantly below the Seneca Falls rate. The Oysterponds BOE insisted on the Seneca Falls rate, not Greenport, and now Oysterponds wants out of the contract which was negotiated in good faith. The increase seen this year is a direct results of Oysterponds asking for and agreeing to the Seneca Falls rate, which is set by a predetermined formula. Now that you realize you got the fuzzy end of the lolly-pop of your own accord, you do not want to honor that contract.

  • Welcome back Tom, I missed you.

    The bottom line is the Greenport BOE offered Oysterponds a contract, which was a flat rate and would have included an additional discount of 5% if the contract was signed for five years. The tuition would have been significantly below the Seneca Falls rate. The Oysterponds BOE insisted on the Seneca Falls rate, not Greenport, and now Oysterponds wants out of the contract which was negotiated in good faith. The increase seen this year is a direct results of Oysterponds asking for and agreeing to the Seneca Falls rate, which is set by a predetermined formula. Now that you realize you got the fuzzy end of the lolly-pop of your own accord, you do not want to honor that contract.

  • ***Sorry about the spelling. ***Litigation, **Tuition**typing too fast- Cynthia Goldsmith-Agosta

  • ***Sorry about the spelling. ***Litigation, **Tuition**typing too fast- Cynthia Goldsmith-Agosta

  • Reneging on the contract with Greenport is just like contracting out to have security system installed in your home and then deciding not pay the contractor once it is installed.

  • the reason why the seneca falls formula was used is because the former superintendent could not be bother to give the Correct number of students attending nor could he help
    to negiotate
    why should Greenport subsudize oysterponds?
    mattituck would just slot the kids in –no extra staff or anything-80 kids in a high school of 700 is not even noticable
    80 kids in a hs of 280 is 30% which means more staff
    tom gray does the bidding of another BOE member who did not even vote her OWN CONSCIENCE

  • Because there are elitist parents with means who do not want their kids to go to Greenport at all. They want their children to go to OPS elementary and then divide the community by sending their kids to anywhere but GPT. They do not care about saving you money. They want what they want, and expect you to pay for it!!!

  • It would appear that both BOE members Linda & Walter, who negotiated and approved the 5 year contract with GPT are comfortable with giving away $1m away of taxpayers $. Having been in attendance, I heard Gpt say they were willing to give a 5% discount off the Seneca falls rate.
    Then, to blame the contract on the former superintendant, yet if I recall correctly both Walter & Linda voted not to terminate his contract. I guess they enjoyed having him around so they could blame their stupid decisions on someone else

  • I can’t wait to hear what they say when we all talk about combining the entire North Fork into one district, as it should be: Riverhead to Orient. And I do mean including RIVERHEAD to Orient.

  • nope not true
    I wanted the Superintendent gone but I did not want another district to have the problems we did.
    I wanted the problems to be made public, and to have the former super resign or to acutally have —well under the terms negiotated with the members who voted YES to pay him off WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO TELL THE PUBLIC REASONS —-we cannot say what if anything he did or did not do–read the separation agreement–that is what I voted against–it is $171,000 not 70K and there is a pay out of 20K every year yes EVERY YEAR until he and his wife die because he does not need our health insurance–he just gets the MONEY
    to not be able to tell the public what went wrong–it stinks–if we had to pay he should have worked this year for his money

    as far as Seneca Falls—and discounts
    that was not on the table 3 years ago—I was not on the BOE until 3 months before the contract was signed. and if there is no contract seneca falls automatically kicks in
    and if the new BOE members had not voted to rescind everything including assigned parking, GHS was open to renegiotating
    the PRIOR contract was extended by the previous BOE presidents (Frost, Tuthill, Webb or whoever)and no one ever figured out that we had fewer kids. I did though.

    we SHOULD pay our own way–subsidizing us is unfair–and I do not want to use our children as pawns to get a lower rate–are we SELLING our kids to the lowest bidder? Do we go into the grocery store and say “hey you need our business so give us a lower rate than greenport residents????

    If it is money then tuition ALL kids out to save a milliion or 2 a year.

  • Health insurance for life was in original employment contract.
    The vote to terminate could not change that. $70k to not pay $20ok next year and to begin improving things sounds like a good investment. Better than $40k in legal fees last year that accomplished nothing

  • They would have been able to terminate his contract if Thom Gray did not publicly chide Dr. Rachlin at a board meeting. There was a clause in the contract that stated the BOE could not publicly ridicule him. So he cost the taxpayers 171 k plus 20 k each year until he and his wife expire according to class of 1967. I’m not sure if I agree with you that that was a good investment.

  • be careful what you wish for…i work in a “regional district”… it is way to big and the quality of education is not the same as it is out there.

  • Does Greenport provide special afternoon and evening busses for Oysterponds students for after school activities?

  • Gray Area – I do not know how you create stories out of wholc cloth. Greenport never offered a 5% discount, whether or not to a fixed price or a Seneca Falls based contract if OPS signed up for 5 years. The offer you refer to took place on the South Fork not the North Fork. – Pythagorus

  • not true again, there was a percentage of health insurance–and NOT insuracne because he has it in another way–this ia a straight PAY OUT of about 20 grand a years which goes up every year
    If one is negiotating a contract or renegotiating one why not renegotiate that as well????
    And it is not 70 thousand
    it is $95 thousand this year (he does not work for OP now) and $76 not to work next year–was 100K but he decided to work at Wainscott which is against his contract–he was allowed to do so by taking a smaller pay out.
    so it is 20 K or more yearly for probably 20 years=400K
    $171K to NOT WORK
    yeah really smart