06/11/15 5:59am

I had a few things in mind when I left a good job at the Daily News in 2008 to write for a weekly newspaper in a place I was only vaguely familiar with. For one, I wanted to write stories longer than 600 words and The New York Times wasn’t exactly knocking on my door. I also wanted to write about the people of Long Island, a place to which I felt more of an attachment than any of New York City’s five boroughs. (more…)

06/06/15 6:41pm
Vanessa Jones (Credit: RPD)

Vanessa Jones

A 27-year-old woman is facing felony assault charges Saturday after allegedly slicing another woman numerous times in a parking lot in Riverhead, town police said.

The incident came as “the result of an ongoing dispute between the two over a mutual male partner,” police said.

Officers caught up to Vanessa Jones, 27, of Riverhead and charged her with second-degree assault after a 26-year-old Riverhead woman had turned up at Peconic Bay Medical Center looking for treatment for her wounds. (more…)

06/04/15 11:05am
Guardian Angels members spent their patrol introducing themselves to the public and handing out informational pamphlets. (Credit: Guardian Angels)

Guardian Angels members spent their patrol introducing themselves to the public and handing out informational pamphlets. (Credit: Guardian Angels)

The Angels stood their ground, and the panhandlers near the Riverhead train station “scattered.”

So said Benjamin Garcia, the patrol director for the NYC Guardian Angels, an anti-crime group that took to the downtown area for patrols Wednesday afternoon into the night. (more…)

05/24/15 12:52pm
Sister Margaret Smyth and a pack of hamburgers she's going to help distribute to families in need. (Credit: Michael White)

Sister Margaret Smyth and a pack of hamburgers she’s going to help distribute to families in need. (Credit: Michael White)

It’s a holiday weekend, and no one should go without a grilled hot dog or hamburger.

That was the thinking behind New Suffolk Waterfront Fund‘s decision to donate 192 hot hamburgers, 126 hot dogs and “enough buns for them all” to the North Fork Spanish Apostolate for local residents in need, said the group’s chairwoman, Patricia McIntyre.

The decision followed the nonprofit Waterfront Fund’s 7th annual Chowderfest event held on its waterfront property in New Suffolk on Saturday. (more…)

05/23/15 3:00pm
The Old Burying Ground in Southold — which features some creepy headstones — is in need of some fixing. (Credit: Michael White)

The Old Burying Ground in Southold — which features some creepy headstones — is in need of some fixing. (Credit: Michael White)

The bodies of the 17th- and early 18th-century Puritans and others in Southold’s Old Burying Ground stretch east from the tombstones, even though the inscriptions face west.

“The idea was that on judgement day they could sit up and greet Christ, whom they believed would be coming from the east,” explained Jane Andrews, a First Presbyterian Church member.

While not exactly Christ, a team of redeemers will soon descend on the graveyard to kick off a five-year effort to restore the Main Road site — originally called “God’s Acre” in 1640 — to its former glory.

The church’s cemetery committee has already approved spending $45,000 this summer and fall on repairs and preservation efforts, and hopes to address 50 to 70 of the old stones. The church will also be seeking grants to fund the project.

But the biggest challenge, those involved say, is recruiting and training that team of volunteers to repair cracks, remove unsightly caulking and shore up felled stones, among other tasks that need to be performed at what is considered New York’s oldest colonial cemetery.

“We need volunteers of all levels of ability,” Ms. Andrews stressed. “And it all depends on how much help we get.”

To that end, the first of a planned 10 training workshops for volunteers will be held at the site Saturday, June 6, at 9 a.m.

This all follows a survey of 754 grave markers that was conducted last year from church committee members. The Old Burying Ground is part of the cemetery owned by the church and dates to the town’s founding. Today, the cemetery spans about eight acres and is still active for town residents who wish to be interred there.

Among the grave markers that can be found at the site is the box tomb of Barnabas Horton (1680), who helped found the town; Helena Underhill (1658), who is buried under the oldest marked grave on the property; and Ezra L’Hommedieu (1811), a descendent of French Huguenots who is considered to be the most influential man in the town’s history.

According to a cemetery pamphlet and other resources, Mr. L’Hommedieu was taught by Native Americans how to make quality fertilizer (a skill he later passed on to fellow European settlers), delivered ammunition and supplies to the eastern Suffolk County militia and served as a state senator and representative from New York to the Continental Congress.

At the cemetery, there are also three stones marking the graves of slaves, such as that along the property line near Main Road for woman named Bloom.

As the story goes, Bloom was found deaf and mute on a Southold beach in 1808 soon after a British ship fired a cannon into a shorefront house. Abrahama Mulford took her into his home and cared for her until she died two years later.

Also of great interest to visitors of the Old Burying Ground in Southold — not to be confused with the Old Burying Ground in Cutchogue, where restoration began last year — are the carved death’s head — typically skulls with wings — and, later, cheerier soul effigies that mark the tops of many of the stones.

“The death’s heads, frightening skulls with sunken eyes and sometimes bared teeth, symbolize life’s impermanence — its insignificance compared to life and death,” the pamphlet reads.

“With Puritans, everything was about death,” said Melissa Andruski of Southold Free Library, who runs tours of the graveyard. “Death was central to their way of living. Everything was about preparing for death, which is kind of gloomy, I suppose. They believed your fate, whatever that was, is already determined and there was nothing you could do to change it. Hence, the winged death’s heads. Then over time, the soul effigies come into being, so we’re kind of letting go here and being a bit optimistic.”

Ms. Andrews’ favorite headstones at the Old Burying Ground mark the graves of a brother and sister who both died in 1717. Samuel Hutchinson was 16 and Martha Hutchinson was just 9. Death’s head symbols are carved toward the top of each stone, though the wings of the death’s head above Samuel’s marker forms a heart, which Ms. Andrews said is a “juxtaposition of life and death.”

Ms. Andrews has a theory about the mood of the carver who etched the stones for the siblings, who might have died from the same disease. “Maybe the carver was of mixed minds,” she said. “And he just couldn’t bear to use the traditional, grim imagery.”

mwhite@timesreview.com

05/14/15 1:13pm
A rendering of the Peconic Crossing project planned for West Main Street. (Courtesy)

A rendering of the Peconic Crossing project planned for West Main Street. (Courtesy)

A five-story affordable housing project planned for along the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead has received $5.49 million in grants from New York State.

“This is huge; I can’t underscore that enough,” explained Marianne Garvin, the president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Long Island, which is teaming up on the West Main Street project with a Rochester-based, for-profit developer called Conifer Realty. “Without the financing, you can have a concept and a dream and an aspiration, but you don’t have the project being built.

“This gives us the financing and the ability to actually build what we’re dreaming about building.” (more…)

05/09/15 8:00am
NYIT Vocational Independence Program students watch as their dean, Ernst VanBergeijk, scales a rock wall at the Baiting Hollow Scout Camp Friday. (Credit: Michael White)

NYIT Vocational Independence Program students watch as their dean, Ernst VanBergeijk, scales a rock wall at the Baiting Hollow Scout Camp Friday. (Credit: Michael White)

The students enrolled in the Vocational Independence Program at Central Islip’s New York Institute of Technology seem to adore their dean, Ernst VanBergeijk.

All of the three dozen-plus college-age kids have learning disabilities and/or autism spectrum diagnoses, and this past school year, they showed their respect for “Dean Ernst,” as they call him, by rising once again to his annual fitness challenge.  (more…)

05/05/15 10:00am
Howard Dean, seen here in an undated photo, will be speaking at Peconic Landing later this week. (Credit: Courtesy Peconic Landing, Mona T. Brooks)

Howard Dean, seen here in an undated photo, will be speaking at Peconic Landing later this week. (Credit: Courtesy Peconic Landing, Mona T. Brooks)

Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, Democratic National Committee chair and 2004 presidential candidate, will host a question and answer session at Peconic Landing nexy week devoted to the Millennial generation and its effects on the world.

The nonpartisan talk — called “How Our Grandchildren’s Generation is Changing Everything” — will be held Friday May 15 at the Peconic Landing Community Center in Greenport, starting at 8 p.m.

Tickets to the event are free but registration (available online) is required since space is limited. (more…)