12/11/13 9:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Hall.

While many are turning their attention to completing Christmas shopping in time, there’s another December deadline that looms that has the potential to affect many Riverhead homeowners.

A new law requires homeowners re-register for the Basic School Tax Relief exemption by December 31.

Of the town’s eligible residents, 79 percent have re-registered, according to state statistics. But 1,401 homes have yet to apply, the records show.

The easiest way to re-register for a Basic STAR exemption is to file on the Tax Department’s website.

You will need your STAR code to re-register (check your mail from weeks back). If you don’t have the code, you can get it online or by calling the Tax Department at 518-457-2036. You may also call that number to re-register if you prefer not to do so online.

In re-registering, you should have Social Security numbers available for all owners and spouse

The state Department of Taxation and Finance won’t be notifying local assessors about those who have failed to re-register until February 2014, meaning it will be too late to get the exemption for next year.

The reason for the re-filings is a new state law aimed at eliminating fraud, state officials have said. Whether purposely or accidentally, people throughout New York who own multiple homes had registered for multiple STAR exemptions.

But that’s not allowed under the law. A homeowner has to prove primary residence by such documents as vehicle and voter registrations, and it’s up to the local assessor to make a judgment on eligibility.

To be eligible for the Basic STAR exemption, a household must have earned $500,000 or less.

There is no age requirement.

If you have never filed for a STAR exemption and believe you are eligible, you won’t be affected by the re-registration process, but you will need to file a Form RP-425, also available online.

Those 65 or older who receive Enhanced STAR exemptions aren’t required to re-register. Their eligibility is based on age and an annual income of $81,900 or less.

Throughout Long Island, there are 31 percent, or 175,092, who have failed to file, state officials said.

jlane@timesreview.com

11/24/13 10:00am

AMBROSE CLANCY FILE PHOTO | This East End backyard, which once had views of wetlands and berry bushes, is now overun by mile-a-minute vine.

No one is declaring victory just yet, but the man-versus-nature war on what has come to be known as the mile-a-minute vine has been joined. The invasive vine has a predator, experts have found, and it comes in the form of the stem-boring black weevil.

Although he’s taking a cautiously optimistic approach, Cornell Cooperative Extension scientist Dr. Andy Senesac says there’s reason to hope that over the course of several years, the plant could be eradicated

“We’re encouraged, but we can’t be throwing any parades as far as success,” he said.

COURTESY PHOTO | Weevil damage to a mile-a-minute vine leaf.

For the past two years, CCE scientists have been running test programs using the weevil on the North and South forks. The protocol for releasing the weevil was developed by a professor at the University of Delaware and the weevils are being distributed without cost by the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insects Laboratory in Trenton, N.J., where they are being raised.

While the weevils may not be as prolific as their prey, early tests are promising that the insects will steadily eat away the invasive species and eventually wipe it out without damaging other plants that grow alongside it.

The hope is that as mile-a-minute dies off, the weevils themselves will also die off, Dr. Senesac said.

Persicaria perfoliata, as mile-a-minute is properly know, grows up to six inches a day when conditions are right. Also known as “the kudzu of the north,” it easily overmatches native species. It blocks other plants from sunlight, stopping their ability to photosynthesize, which will eventually kill them. Mile-a-minute devastates the natural ecology on a wide scale, stopping the regeneration of forests and woods and doing damage to a community’s economy.

And being an annual, with a generous amount of seeds, it’s a recurring nightmare for homeowners, gardeners and farmers.

“If you look around now, you might think, ‘Oh, it all died. But it’s not over; it will be back the next year,” said Roxanne Zimmer of Peconic, a volunteer at Cornell. “Because it’s an annual, all those beautiful blue berries will seed and reseed. And, of course, the birds and insects will carry it around as well. It doesn’t really poke its head up until June or July. And July is when you start to notice it again.”

CORNELL COOPERATIVE EXTENSION COURTESY PHOTO | Researchers plan to continue to release more weevils in vine-infested sites on the East End in 2014. The program has been in practice for eight years in Delaware, New Jersey and other states, and in that time the weevil has been observed to feed only on the weed and no other plants.

Ms. Zimmer said the vine has a unique feature that she described as a “curved barb that allows it to grab.”

“That’s what makes it so vicious,” Ms. Zimmer said. “It can hook onto a limb or tree and then the next barb will hook on and then it just continues to grow up and out.”

According to research compiled by the University of Delaware, mile-a-minute is an Asian vine introduced to the United States in the mid-1930s at a nursery in Pennsylvania, where it was mixed with holly seeds imported from Japan. Deceptively beautiful, not only for its vibrant green color, its leaves are delicate triangles, almost heart-shaped, and its berries, when ripe, are bluish-purple. The vine has now made its home in 12 mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, extending west to Ohio, south to the Carolinas and north to Massachusetts.

But designing and managing programs to put the weevil to work is no easy process, Dr. Senesac said.

For the dozen states experimenting with weevils, there’s a two-step approval process. It starts with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once a permit is received from APHIS, those in New York have to apply to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit to deploy the weevils. The entire process takes about six months, Dr. Senesac said.

He generally begins the application process in October with the aim of deploying the tiny critters, which are twice the size of the head of a pin, in test areas in late April or May.

In the two years that test programs have been operated, there’s a positive indication that the weevils move beyond the point where they are originally deployed. There has also been some evidence of weevils arriving on Long Island on their own from other locations, Dr. Senesac said.

He cautioned that people whose property is overrun with mile-a-minute not pull it out at the roots at this time of year. It will die out during the winter, and early next spring would be the best time for property owners to destroy new plants, pulling them out at their roots, before they’re able to take hold.

Cornell Cooperative Extension has plans to get information to residents in early spring about how to identify the weed.

Dan Fokine, a volunteer organizer for Shelter Island Vine Busters, an awareness group, said mile-a-minute is relatively new to that island and the East End. He first saw it a couple of years ago.

“Once it hit the ground it really took off,” Mr. Fokine said.

If a neighbor has mile-a-minute, that neighbor should be approached about removing it, he advised.

He compared rooting out the vine with fighting terrorism. “You have to take the fight to it,” he said, “You just can’t fight them on your own turf.”

jlane@timesreview.com

With Michael White

03/30/13 8:00am

The Peconic Bay Power Squadron will present “America’s Boating Course” on Wednesday, May 8, at 6 p.m. at the Riverhead Moose Lodge.

The course is among those available to comply with the new Suffolk County boater education law requiring that by October, all county residents who operate a boat in waters here carry evidence they have completed an approved boating safety course. Similar legislation is expected to be adopted by the New York State Legislature, according to a press release from the Power Squadron.

The course is also approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, the United States Coast Guard and New York State.

There are three sessions as the program continues on May 15 and 22 and  will cover boating law, safety equipment, safe boating practices, navigation, boating emergencies, personal watercraft, charts, use of GPS devices, trailering and other significant issues for boaters.

Attendees will receive a 244 page America’s Boating Course manual, a companion CD and after passing an exam, a certificate of completion. Many insurance companies offer discounts to boaters who earn these certificates.

There’s a $60 fee that covers the cost of the manual and CD. To register, call Fred Smith at 631-298-1930 or visit www.PBPS.us.

jlane@timesreview.com

03/02/13 8:00am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Miss Nancy fishing boat moves through Greenport Harbor.

Life could get just a little easier for East End commercial fishermen if a bill Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-C-Port Jefferson) ushered through the New York State Senate has the same support in the Assembly.

The bill that passed the Senate with only a single negative vote would allow commercial fishermen to aggregate their daily catch limits over a seven-day period. A fisherman could, for example, catch three times his daily quota on Monday and two times the limit on Wednesday and then stay off the water until the following Monday, thereby conserving fuel. The bill that passed the Senate would also allow individuals, each of whom had a fishing license, to go out together in the same boat with each able to take a daily or aggregate limit.

“Fuel for running a fishing boat is extremely costly,” Mr. LaValle said, noting that it “significantly cuts into the already slim profits” fishermen get.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), who is shepherding the bill through the Assembly, said he and Mr. LaValle drafted the bill together in consultation with local fishermen.

While the Assembly is focused on getting a budget passed by the April 1 deadline, Mr. Thiele said as soon as that’s accomplished, the fishing bill would move ahead.

“It’s a bill that is high on my list,” Mr. Thiele said.

Assuming the Assembly gives the legislation the go-ahead, it would go to Governor Andrew Cuomo for his signature.

jlane@timesreview.com

01/11/13 12:00pm

COURTESY PHOTO | The Greenport-Sag Harbor water taxi seen in its inaugural, and most likely last, season.

While he’s not officially pulling the plug on the Peconic Bay Water Jitney, partner Geoff Lynch told Times/Review Newsgroup Thursday it would take a “multi-million dollar” infusion of money for the Greenport-Sag Harbor water taxi service to sail again this summer.

Mr. Lynch, who confirmed an earlier report this week after he spoke at the Sag Harbor Village Board, is president of Hampton Jitney, which partnered with Mattituck businessman Jim Ryan in a pilot program last summer. Hampton Jitney can’t put up the money it would take to keep the enterprise afloat, Mr. Lynch said.

“We can’t do it alone,” he added.

There were no expectations the business would make money on the initial season, Mr. Lynch said, but there were higher expectations on numbers of passengers taking the excursions around Shelter Island to both forks.

At the end of the season Mr. Lynch told the East End Transportation Council — a group of representatives from the five eastern towns exploring transportation services — the water taxi carried about 15,000 passengers since it launched in June 2012. Those who used the service praised it, Mr. Lynch said.

“We had nothing but positive feedback,” he said.

He said he hopes that at some point there will be water-borne service on Peconic Bay such as the water taxi offered, but held out little hope for the 2013 season.

He is expected to carry the same message he gave to the Sag Harbor Village Board last week to Greenport at that Village Board work session on Tuesday, January 22, or the regular meeting on Monday, January 28.

jlane@timesreview.com

01/09/13 3:00pm

COURTESY PHOTO | Peconic Bay Water Jitney that had a trial run between Greenport and Sag Harbor last summer is unlikely to return this summer.

Hampton Jitney president Geoff Lynch, a partner with Mattituck businessman Jim Ryan in last summer’s Peconic Bay Water Jitney pilot program, reportedly told the Sag Harbor Village Board Tuesday night he doesn’t expect the water taxi that ran between Greenport Village and Sag Harbor to float a second season.

It would take an infusion of money from the federal government for the partners to continue the service, Mr. Lynch reportedly told the Sag Harbor Village Board.

He said while the ferry service was a huge hit with riders last summer, financially it was “a bust.”

It wasn’t the first time that Mr. Lynch made the comments about the unlikelihood of resuming water taxi service next summer. In September, he told the East End Transportation Council he didn’t envision a second season. Despite running five trips a day and carrying more than 15,000 passengers since it launched the passenger service in June, he said then, “It’s not a moneymaker.”

Barring investors showing an interest in underwriting the service, he said it wouldn’t be running again. The East End Transportation Council has been charged with exploring mass transit alternatives for the region and has representatives from the five East End towns.

At the time, Mr. Ryan denied that the ferry service wouldn’t resume in 2013. He was unavailable for comment today.

Greenport Village Board member Mary Bess Phillips said Mr. Lynch has asked to make a presentation to that group at either at its January 21 work session or January 28 regular meeting. But she had no information on the content of that presentation.

j.lane@sireporter.com

11/18/12 10:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Pam Green of Kent Animal Shelter.

Suffolk County National Bank has thrown its support behind the Kent Animal Shelter’s drive to build a new $2.5 million facility in Calverton by participating in the “Pause for Paws” campaign.

Three bank branches — at 6 West Second Street and 1201 Ostrander Avenue in Riverhead and 2065 Wading River Manor Road in Wading River — are inviting employees and customers to contribute money to the effort.

The banks will be selling paper paws to be displayed in their windows through to the end of the year. A white paw costs $1, $5 for a blue paw and a coral paw costs $10.

Money raising efforts for the new shelter have been under way for the past year and a half and about a quarter of the cost has been raised to date, according to shelter executive director Pam Green.

“The bank has been a supporter of the Kent Animal Shelter for many years and we are very happy to join with them in their ‘Pause for Paws’ campaign,” said Brenda Sujecki, SCNB vice president of marketing. “The shelter does tremendous work in finding homes for abused, homeless and abandoned animals and their low cost spay/neuter clinic is vital in helping control the pet population in our community.”

Kent has received state DEC permits for a new shelter and it about to submit plans to the Riverhead Town Board and the Suffolk County health department.

With plans for a major fund-raising push in 2013, Ms. Green hopes construction can get under way next year.

“We may not reach our goal by the time we break ground,” she said about the fundraising. “It will possibly be a phased project. We’re hoping when people see that it’s really going to happen, they’ll contribute.”

11/17/12 8:17pm

A 22-year-old Riverhead man was arrested Friday for driving drunk while high on drugs with his 3-year-old son in his SUV — and for assaulting a police officer — after leading Southampton cops on a car chase through Riverside and Flanders, officials said.

The toddler was found uninjured after police finally arrested Tyshawn Riddick shortly before 9:30 a.m., but the officer, Patrick Kiernan, suffered several injuries and was being treated at Peconic Bay Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition Saturday.

Officers first tried to stop Mr. Riddick’s 1999 Dodge Durango on Ludlam Avenue in Riverside after observing several traffic infractions.

Southampton police gave this account of what followed:

When approached by officers, Mr. Riddick fled, driving recklessly through residential areas at an unsafe speed, passing stop signs without stopping and speeding through a red light at Routes 24 and 105, causing several vehicles to veer, screech to a halt to avoid crashing.

Officers in a marked unit with its emergency lights and sirens wailing then followed the SUV to Brookhaven Avenue in Flanders, where Mr. Riddick stopped the truck, put it in reverse and rammed the front end of the police car as an officer was exiting it.

He then fled on foot, leading police on a chase through the surrounding neighborhoods until he was apprehended near Oak Avenue and Arthur Avenue shortly before 9:30 a.m.

Police also found the child, who was taken to PBMC for observation and subsequently released without any injuries.

Mr. Riddick was charged with driving under the influence of drugs with a baby in the car and with a suspended license.

Charges also include two counts of first-degree reckless endangerment, class D felonies; aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle; now a felony under Leandra’s Law, driving while ability impaired by drugs; second-degree assault, a class D felony; and second-degree obstructing governmental administration, a misdemeanor.

He was also charged with a misdemeanor of endangering the welfare of a child; third-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle; reckless driving; third-degree unlawfully fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle; two counts of unlawful possession of marijuana and multiple vehicle and traffic violations.

Police notified Child Protective Services after identifying the baby as Mr. Riddick’s son.

Mr. Riddick was held overnight and arraigned in Southampton Justice Court. He was being held at the Suffolk County Jail on $30,000 bail.