04/26/15 8:00am
Eve Kaplan, owner of Garden of Eve in Riverhead point to cold damage on a small tomato plant. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Eve Kaplan, owner of Garden of Eve in Riverhead point to cold damage on a small tomato plant. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Wading River farmer Robert Andrews’ crops are mostly still in the ground, shielded from the recent cold snaps by warm earth.

Mr. Andrews said Saturday morning’s cold snap didn’t damage too many of his crops.

“It’s not bad at all,” he said. “It just slowed things down a bit.”

Not all farmers have been so lucky.

The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for early Saturday, warning that “sub-freezing temperatures will kill crops and other sensitive vegetation.” Another frost advisory had since been issued for early Sunday from 2 to 8 a.m.

While most farmer’s crops have just been planted, other farms — like Garden of Eve Organic Farm & Market in Riverhead — are feeling the hurt from the wind and cold.

“It’s just tough on everything,” said Garden of Eve owner Eve Kaplan. “You get a warm day and you think it’s over and then you get a 40-degree day with wind.”

Ms. Kaplan held up a tomato plant in a small pot. The edges of the small leaves had withered and died.

That’s thanks to the freezing temperatures and the harsh wind, which Ms. Kaplan said is especially blustery on her farm. Even cold-tolerant plants like cabbage and lettuce have been damaged in their pots, she said.

“People won’t buy these because they think they’re diseased,” she said.

Ms. Kaplan said her employees have been carrying plants inside at night and putting down covers over the rows to shield other crops.

Even farms like Mr. Andrews — which use greenhouses — are feeling a sting, not on their plants but in their wallets.

“We’ve been running [through] oil to get the greenhouse going,” he said.

However, vineyards have not been as affected, since the grapes have not yet begun growing. Only a long stretch of cold weather could do significant damage, said Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyard general manager Steve Levine.

“A one-night freeze isn’t going to do much,” he said. “We don’t have any damage. We don’t even have grapes yet.”

psquire@timesreview.com

Featured Story
04/25/15 2:19pm
Little League president Tony Sammartano addresses the teams during his last Opening Day. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Little League president Tony Sammartano addresses the teams during his last Opening Day. (Credit: Paul Squire)

On his last Opening Day, Riverhead Little League president Tony Sammartano had some advice to share.

To parents: Enjoy these chilly spring days with your young kids. These will be the best memories.

To the audience: Take the time to volunteer with the Little League for your own children or your community.  (more…)

04/25/15 8:00am
This 1960s boxcar was recently purchased by the Railroad Museum of Long Island using the estate money from Walter H. Milne. The boxcar, long coveted by the museum, completes a set on its track in Greenport. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

This 1960s boxcar was recently purchased by the Railroad Museum of Long Island using the estate money from Walter H. Milne. The boxcar, long coveted by the museum, completes a set on its track in Greenport. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Walter H. Milne never married. He had no children. His relatives had all passed away.

He lived alone in a two-bedroom ranch house in Des Moines, Iowa, where he also died alone in 2013.

But with just 26 words, the Long Island native has changed the fortunes and the future of Long Island’s railroad museum.

“I give, devise and bequeath the rest, residue and remainder of my estate to the Railroad Museum of Long Island presently located in Riverhead, New York,” reads Mr. Milne’s will, filed in Des Moines in August 2008.

The value of the 78-year-old’s estate came to half a million dollars — more than triple the museum’s normal annual budget, administrators said.

“We almost fell over,” said vice president Dennis DeAngelis. “When I heard that number, there was dead silence from me and I’m not usually someone who’s at a loss for words.”

For the past two years, the museum — which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary — has been quietly selling off his assets and setting aside the money for long-needed repair jobs and other projects, Mr. DeAngelis said.

One of those projects finally came to fruition earlier this month, when $5,000 from the windfall paid for something that’s been on the museum’s wish list for more than a decade: a “beautiful” 40-foot-long boxcar to use as exhibit and storage space.

“This is like manna from heaven,” said museum president Don Fisher.

Mr. Milne, the museum’s surprise benefactor, grew up in Levittown, not far from the Long Island Rail Road tracks where freight trains shuffled produce and raw materials back and forth between New York City and the East End.

In those days, the LIRR was a freight operation, with few commuter trains, Mr. Fisher said.

But while others may have tired of the clatter of the trains’ flatcars, Mr. Milne fell in love.

Even after moving to Des Moines after college to work at a nearby medical school, Mr. Milne’s train fever — especially for those on the Long Island Rail Road — “never diminished,” Mr. Fisher said.

“It was his passion,” he said.

Mr. Milne signed up for membership in the railroad museum each year until the late 1990s, Mr. Fisher said. He would visit now and again to take pictures, but wasn’t well known.

Back home in Iowa, he painted model trains to look like Long Island Rail Road freight cars and sold them on eBay. His garage was dominated by a giant, expensive model train layout based on the LIRR’s Jamaica station.

“He left his entire earthly estate to the museum,” Mr. Fisher said. “It’s incredible. It really is.”

Mr. Milne was practically unknown to the museum’s volunteers, Mr. DeAngelis said.

“No one who we know at the railroad museum knew him,” he said. “We were, to put it mildly, very surprised. It came out of nowhere.”

The museum was contacted by an attorney in Des Moines about Mr. Milne’s estate, Mr. DeAngelis said.

At first, it seemed the museum would pull in about $60,000 from the sale of his house. But over the course of several months, that number ballooned to roughly $200,000.

Finally, the attorney called Mr. DeAngelis to explain there had been a mistake: Mr. Milne also has a pension fund worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that had been overlooked.

“It’s a great boon to the railroad museum,” Mr. DeAngelis said.

In August 2014, the museum board settled his possessions for about $513,000 after selling off Mr. Milne’s house and car, a Honda Element.

The funds come as a welcome boost to the museum, which for years has been running on a tight budget, its administrators putting off necessary renovations to save money.

“We’re very cautious with our finances,” Mr. Fisher said.

Mr. DeAngelis said it was the second best thing to ever happen to the museum, after the donation of a Riverhead location in 1997.

“The only money we get is from membership dues and gift shop sales,” he said. “This allows us to do things that would have taken years to get done.”

Mr. Fisher said about $100,000 of the bequest will go toward the ongoing restoration of a steam locomotive.

Roughly $200,000 was put into an endowment fund last fall. “We don’t touch that money,” Mr. Fisher said. “It grows.”

From the proceeds of the estate, the museum also put about $50,0000 into an escrow account, reserving the remaining $150,000 for capital projects.

It was from that fund that the museum’s board allocated the money for the boxcar. 

04/15/15 1:21pm
Who owns this sign?If you ask a local community group or a oil terminal, they'll both say they do. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Who owns this sign? If you ask a local community group or an oil terminal, they’ll both say they do. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The dispute between Northville’s community association and the local oil terminal over its proposed expansion plans has spilled over into a strange new battleground: a tiny plot of land on the side of Sound Shore Road containing a wooden sign.

Both sides claim ownership of the sign, saying the other appropriated it to post their own “spin” on the expansion project.

The roughly three-foot-by-six-foot sign — located next to United Riverhead Terminal’s headquarters — had been used for more than 20 years by the Northville Beach Community Association, even featuring its name painted on the sign.

But on Monday the sign was gone. By Tuesday, the sign was back, but the community association’s name was gone.

In its place was a new message from the terminal, touting the company’s tax contributions and job creation.

“It’s small potatoes but this aggravates me,” said Dave Gruner, a member of the community association who had been in charge of changing the messages on the sign for years. “The way I look at it, they have stolen our sign.”

But URT general manager Scott Kamm said the sign was always owned by the terminal, which he said allowed the community association to post its messages.

According to the Riverhead Town building department, a permit was issued in 1972 for a sign on the north side of Sound Shore Road, which was submitted by “Northville Industries Corp. Riverhead Terminal.” However, no sign permit exists for the property to the south where the disputed sign is now, a town employee said.

It was unclear whether the original sign permit to the north was for this sign or another unrelated one.

Mr. Kamm said he had the sign changed because he objected to messages written on it directing residents to the community association’s website, which calls the expansion “unnecessary.”

URT needs a special permit to construct the expansion, which it says would add six new jobs and support local families and businesses. But neighbors, led by the civic association, have come out in force against the project.

In two public hearings each lasting hours, residents railed against the project. The Riverhead Town Board hasn’t made an official determination on the special permit yet, but several board members said last month they were convinced by public opinion to deny the project.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kamm claimed the civic association — which was formed 50 years ago specifically to oppose the construction of the original terminal — put messages on the board urging residents to oppose the proposed expansion.

That’s why the sign was taken down and replaced with a more corporate-friendly version, he said.

“We’re trying to put a positive message out to the community,” Mr. Kamm said. “A positive spin.”

But civic association president Neil Krupnick denied the claim that the community association posted negative messages, and also said the terminal doesn’t own the sign in the first place.

Mr. Krupnick said the sign was handed over to the civic association as a “good neighbor” gesture in 1993 by then-owners Tosco. It was maintained by the terminals owners since and was even repainted by United years ago.

The sign as it appeared before this week. An inset shows the minutes from the meeting in which community members say the sign was handed over to them. (credit: courtesy photos)

The sign as it appeared before this week. An inset shows the minutes from the meeting in which community members say the sign was handed over to them. (credit: courtesy photos)

“They had two options: ask us to change our message or tell us to pick up the sign,” Mr. Krupnick said. “They did the third option and took it … It’s rude. It’s petty. It’s childish.”

Mr. Krupnick said the sign now gives the appearance that the civic association has changed its position on the project.

“Anybody who doesn’t know they took over the sign might think, ‘Did NBCA sell out to United?’ ” he said.

Minutes from a civic association meeting state that the sign — formerly used by the terminal — was given as a gift.

Mr. Kamm says those meeting minutes are inaccurate; the sign was always owned by the terminal, he said.

“It’s on United property,” he said. “Always have been. We’ve always maintained it. We’ve always painted it.”

Both Mr. Kamm and Mr. Krupnick say their organizations are willing to talk to the other’s. So far, neither has gotten through.

“We’ve always had a great relationship,” Mr. Kamm said. “Unfortunately the new president has turned things around over this new gasoline project.”

“They’ve not reached out to us at all,” Mr. Krupnick said.

psquire@timesreview.com

04/14/15 10:00am
General contractor Roy Schweers and New Beginnings founder Allyson Scerri outside the old farmhouse on Sound Avenue being renovated for Brendan House, a long-term care facility for adults with brain trauma. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

General contractor Roy Schweers and New Beginnings founder Allyson Scerri outside the old farmhouse on Sound Avenue being renovated for Brendan House, a long-term care facility for adults with brain trauma. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

It’s taken two years for Brendan House to get this far.

And New Beginnings founder Alysson Scerri says that’s pretty good.

(more…)

04/13/15 4:08pm
A car crashed into this house on Roanoke Avenue Saturday night. Police have arrested a man they say tried to run away on foot. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A car crashed into this house on Roanoke Avenue Saturday night. Police have arrested a man they say tried to run away on foot. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Cracks criss-cross the ceiling, dart down the walls and pass through the door and window frames inside the living room of a two-story home on Roanoke Avenue near Pulaski Street.

Three windows facing the side yard are off-kilter, the venetian blinds casting crooked shadows on the couch nearby. The thin floor has buckled by the white door, which rests on busted hinges. Outside, the door is worse, and a wooden walkway has been reduced to a pile of splinters, as if something large took a bite out of it.

That something was a sedan. (more…)