The below stories ran in the March 15 News-Review newspaper but had yet to appear in full at riverheadnewsreview.com.
‘Save Main Road’ effort starts with civic meeting
By Gianna Volpe
Though everyone at Saturday’s civic association meeting in Jamesport agreed a YMCA would benefit the North Fork, no one seemed to support building a 40,000-square-foot Y facility on wooded property across from Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue, as is the Y’s plan.
One Aquebogue resident said he moved out of Riverhead proper specifically to avoid the downtown hustle and bustle, which he fears a Y would bring to the hamlet.
Another Aquebogue resident, Michael Cotula, said before the meeting that the project “seems out of character with the community; I don’t like it.” Mr. Cotula lives on Colonial Lane, just west of the proposed Main Road site.
Riverhead councilmembers George Gabrielsen and Jodi Giglio also attended the gathering at the Jamesport Meeting House. Ms. Giglio later reminded the News-Review that the Peconic YMCA group, which is raising money for the building and the land, has yet to come to the Town Board with a full proposal of services — or plans for the site.
“I’m a big proponent of the [town’s] master plan the way it was adopted, whether I like it or don’t like it,” Ms. Giglio said at the meeting, which organizers called a “Save Main Road” event. “What was adopted in the master plan in Jamesport is satisfactory to the community, so in that regard I will defend the master plan and if it requires a special permit, that means the community has a chance to get involved.”
Ms. Giglio said she discouraged use of the Aquebogue property and was surprised by the Peconic Y committee’s choice, something Fritz Trinklein, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island, later called a “100 percent flip-flop.”
“Prior to pursuing a particular location, we like to get support from the leaders of the town,” Mr. Trinklein told the News-Review in an interview. “Amongst the several locations that were looked at by the Peconic Y committee, this one received 100 percent support.”
He said both Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen have changed have their positions for reasons unknown.
“The fact that all five Town Board members originally solidly endorsed this location as a very suitable option, and now two of them appear to be acting diametrically opposed to their position only a few months later is incredible,” he said.
Peconic YMCA has been looking for a site on which to build in Riverhead for some 15 years.
Mr. Gabrielsen insisted Saturday that the Town Board worked hard over the last few years to find a suitable site for the YMCA, including EPCAL, which the board had offered the Peconic Y group last year. That potential site was turned down for being too far west, he said.
Mr. Trinklein denied the EPCAL site was flat-out turned down.
“The bottom line is [the county] would not approve septic systems to be put on the property,” Mr. Trinklein said.
Eight acres at Stotzky Park were also offered at a dollar-per-year lease, said Mr. Gabrielsen. But Mr. Trinklein said the two consecutive years of legislative approval needed to alienate the designated parkland there were too long and had too many complications and strings attached.
Mr. Gabrielsen said he believes the Y group’s interest in the Aquebogue location has less to do with waiting time and more to do with accessibility.
“They want to be there because their draw is really for the North Fork, [specifically] Southold, and the South Fork,” he said. “This is really, I feel, more of a country club facility.”
Of yearly membership fees, which Mr. Trinklein said wouldn’t be more than $775 for a family of two adults and any number of children, Mr. Gabrielsen said, “I think you’re going to see a lot of the poorer families in Riverhead are not going to be able to afford it. I have a really big problem with that. I’m more concerned with the everyday, downtown families of Riverhead. And I will never change my view about that.”
In response, Mr. Trinklein said that in his 15 years with the YMCA, he had “never… heard anyone say that that’s expensive” for an entire family.
But he agreed the location’s accessibility to both Southold and the South Fork, as well as Riverhead Town, is key.
“The surveys done in Southold and Riverhead revealed 80 percent of the populace want, more than anything, an indoor pool in close proximity.” He said the location would allow both towns access with no more than a 15- or 20-minute drive.
Georgette Keller, president of Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, who ran the meeting, and others there Saturday repeatedly said the Y should be centrally located in Riverhead Town.
Mr. Trinklein refuted that idea. “Nobody needs a YMCA the most,” he said. “Everyone needs it the same to be healthy in their life.” He added that no matter where the facility is placed, 99 percent of members will need transportation to get to it. For those without cars, he said, “There is a bus route, Route 92, that goes there and drops off.”
Supervisor Sean Walter, who was not at the meeting, said in an interview that the idea of the YMCA’s being inaccessible to some in Riverhead is simply “not a reality.”
“The town is not that big,” he said.
Because the land is zoned residential B-80, the facility will need a special permit from the town proving it is an educational facility, though Mr. Walter said Tuesday he’d be “hard pressed” not to consider a YMCA as such.
YMCA officials have said the facility would feature an indoor pool and weight and fitness rooms as well as multi-purpose rooms that could be used for universal pre-K and other classes.
“I’m not opposed to the YMCA,” said Perry Conklin, a Main Road, Aquebogue, resident of 76 years, but he said the proposed area includes a dangerous curve in the road that would invite accidents.
Some at the meeting said a streetlight might have to be installed.
“They may say you need a traffic light there,” said Mr. Trinklein. “That would really help the people on Colonial Lane.”
Mr. Trinklein said there would still be woods at the location after the project is finished and, furthermore, the building would not be visible from the street.
Some attendees, including Ms. Keller, found it hard to believe the roof of a building with an Olympic-sized pool could be hidden by treetops, but Mr. Trinklein said that would absolutely be the case.
Touching on the worries of Aquebogue residents at the meeting, Mr. Gabrielsen called houses on and near Colonial Lane a big concern.
“Do we have the right to take away their quiet by installing a huge, bright and noisy facility in a residentially zoned place that would probably fit only three or four houses?” he asked.
Civic leader floats incorporation idea
By Gianna Volpe
Proposals for a YMCA and another project called the Village at Jamesport have sparked larger worries among some in the town’s eastern hamlets. And the idea of incorporating Jamesport was floated by a Jamesport civic leader at a meeting called Saturday to discuss the YMCA plan.
A village, with its own zoning laws, could be used to protect what Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association president Georgette Keller called “one of the last bastions of rural, seaside agricultural life in the entire state of New York.”
Ms. Keller has consulted with an attorney about Jamesport’s possible incorporation, she said. If the measure passed, it would become Riverhead’s first incorporated village.
In her opening remarks to those present at the Jamesport Meeting House Saturday, Ms. Keller pointed to a statement Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter made in his State of the Town address last Wednesday — that he wasn’t interested in Riverhead being like East Hampton, but rather more like towns in western Suffolk — as an affront to the area’s focus on agro-tourism.
“We need to make sure it stays rural and agricultural,” Ms. Keller told an audience of about 50 people. “People don’t go to Brookhaven to purchase the flowers to plant in their yards in the spring, to spend their summer vacations, to pick pumpkins in the fall or to cut Christmas trees at Christmastime.
“My attorney referred me to the attorney responsible for incorporating the Village of Westhampton Beach Dunes,” she continued. “I know Mr. Walter thinks the residents would reject another layer of government, but we need to search for all avenues of relief.”
In a later interview, Mr. Walter called Jamesport’s potential incorporation “about the silliest idea I’ve heard. In an era where people are trying to scale back government … this moves in the opposite direction.”
“It’s time to work together, not break things apart,” he added.