05/16/15 6:00am
A Riverhead police officer walks the beat downtown on Monday night. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A Riverhead police officer walks the beat downtown on Monday night. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Editor’s note: This story was published in Thursday’s paper, before an arrest was made in relation to the downtown robberies.

On Monday morning, Francine Smith was walking past the Suffolk Theater, newly purchased gift in hand. It’s a route along Main Street she’s familiar with, having lived in Riverhead for the past 17 years.

But once the sun sets, she’ll be back inside. She and her husband don’t want to risk going out, she said.

“I wouldn’t come down here at nights, to be honest,” Ms. Smith said. (more…)

05/15/15 6:41pm

An SUV crashed into the Pizza Hut on Route 58 Friday afternoon. (Credit: Manny Velasquez)

An SUV crashed into the Pizza Hut on Route 58 Friday afternoon. (Credit: Manny Velasquez)

Manny Velazquez was just starting to eat his pepperoni pizza when an SUV came flying through the wall behind him.

“I heard this ‘Pow,’ ” he said. “I looked to the right, saw the wall and didn’t realize what was going on. It didn’t register at first.”

It was only when his family — there celebrating his daughter’s place on the charter school honor roll — yelled at him to get out of the building did Mr. Velazquez understand: a Nissan Pathfinder SUV had just crashed into the building, missing him by a few yards.

Riverhead police said the SUV crashed into two vehicles, then barreled into the Pizza Hut near the Route 58 traffic circle Friday afternoon, sending the driver and two patrons to the hospital, Riverhead police and witnesses said.

The crash happened about 4:20 p.m., when a woman driving an SUV south on Roanoke Avenue collided with a PT Cruiser headed east on Route 58.

Witness Louie Strittmatter, who was at the 7-Eleven nearby, said the driver of the PT Cruiser didn’t yield as he entered the circle and crashed into the SUV.

The SUV then plowed into a truck headed north before jumping the curb, sideswiping Mr. Velazquez’s Scion sedan and striking the building near the front entrance.

“She was totally airborne,” Mr. Strittmatter said.

Two customers sitting in a booth at the time of the crash suffered minor injuries from flying debris, according to police at the scene. The driver also suffered “neck and back” injuries, though they weren’t considered to be serious.

“It sounded like a big pop,” said Mr. Velasquez. “Not an explosion or anything.”

Police are saying the incident was an accident and made no arrests. Fire Marshal Craig Zitek said the restaurant will have to remain closed as the integrity of the entrance is now “questionable.”

As crews towed the SUV away, Mr. Velaquez was left standing outside the restaurant next to his now-damaged car, grateful his family was safe, but bemoaning his poor luck.

Hours before eating at Pizza Hut, he had picked up his car — a limited edition Scion xD — from the auto shop.

“I just got it back today but then this just happened,” he said. “I don’t want to pay this deductible.”

He never even finished his pizza.

psquire@timesreview.com

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05/15/15 10:00am

Fishermen Chuck Purificato and Chris James spent each frigid day this winter in a shed off Main Road in Southold, hunched over work tables and warmed only by their heavy coats and the kerosene heater that would spit choking smoke back into the room.

“No water, no nothing,” Mr. Purificato boasts. “All winter! And it was cold this winter, boy.”

He laughs in short, gravelly bursts.


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Their goal behind the madness? To craft Long Island’s best bucktail fishing lures.

Over the decades, Mr. Purificato, 65, has run several tackle shops across Suffolk County, but the other businesses dried up. A store in Ridge was open for years, but closed in 1994. He relocated to do business in Freeport before shutting that down, too.

“Things happened,” Mr. Purificato said. “I got sick — just life in general. It’s the whole nine yards of growing up on Long Island.”

Mr. Purificato holds a new bucktail lure in his hand. The bucktails only take about a minute to make each. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Mr. Purificato holds a new bucktail lure in his hand. The bucktails only take about a minute to make each. (Credit: Paul Squire)

He worked on the side a bit, making lures for friends, and Mr. James, now 48 years old, helped as an apprentice of sorts. Now, the longtime friends have decided to give it one more go and open up another shop.

“I said to Chris, ‘Let’s make a last stand,” Mr. Purificato said. “Let’s make it happen.”

Their newest storefront in Southold, a tiny set of rooms set into an former antique shop, is that last-ditch effort.

“We did it,” Mr. Purificato jokes. “We weathered the storm.”

The pair met, unsurprisingly, while fishing. Mr. James was fishing the Shinnecock Canal when he ran into Mr. Purificato. The two began chatting and Mr. James mentioned that he’d recently purchased a set of lures called Chucks Bucks.

He had no idea that it had been Mr. Purificato who made them.

“That was it,” Mr. James said. “We exchanged numbers, starting talking. We fished every day for, like, the next year.”

Between them, the two have more than 100 years of fishing experience. They joke that they are pirates born hundreds of years too late.

“You take that knowledge and put it into this stuff? It’s a winner,” Mr. James said. “With the amount of knowledge he has, I’m always learning something new.”

“We don’t want to sit in bars,” Mr. Purificato said. “We don’t want to get in trouble. We want to go fishing!”

Mr. Purificato focuses on the task at hand: finishing another lure. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Mr. Purificato focuses on the task at hand: finishing another lure. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Two desks are set up on opposite sides of the small Southold shop. One each one are small clamps and scissors and piles of dyed deer hair. This is what they’ll use to make the bucktails and other lures. Mr. Purificato said it’s the twisting motion he uses when wrapping the hair to the lure that makes his special.

The pair like fishing for fluke, but make bucktails of all sizes.

“We make the big stuff because people need it, but we prefer the smaller stuff,” he said.

Mr. James points to the “most important” decorations on the walls.

One is a sculpture of a bald eagle head perched over the door frame, representing America. The other is an old crucifix, flanked by bucktails hanging from the wall.

Mr. Purificato is a spiritual man himself. He burns sage in an ashtray — it keeps away the evil spirits, he says — and the smoke trails up past his wall of tools.

The men admit they have a way to go to get their shop up and running. But they’ve already churned out hundreds of lures and plan to offer new ones in the future. This fall, they’ll host classes to teach local fishermen how to tie bucktails themselves.

“You’ve gotta start somewhere,” Mr. Purificato said. “We decided to start from the very bottom and build it back up again.”

psquire@timesreview.com

05/14/15 12:26pm
Jeffrey Pittman and Rasheed Manuel. (Courtesy RHPD)

Jeffrey Pittman and Rasheed Manuel. (Courtesy RHPD)

Three men arrested as part of a drug bust on Third Street Wednesday night were held in county jail after their arraignments in Riverhead Town Court Thursday morning.

While two of the men faced felony charges for drug possession, the third — a Coram man charged with a misdemeanor for loitering — protested his arrest. (more…)

The Shoreham-Wading River football field will now be named after Thomas Cutinella. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)

The Shoreham-Wading River football field will now be named after Thomas Cutinella. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)

Thomas Cutinella, the Shoreham-Wading River student and varsity athlete who died after a football-related injury last fall, has left his mark on the Shoreham-Wading River school district.

Now his name is part of the high school itself.

In a unanimous vote by the SWR school board at its meeting Tuesday night, the high school athletics field was renamed the “Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field.”  (more…)

There are just four schools in the state qualified to teach a new Advanced Placement program called Capstone — a rigorous curriculum that has students write in-depth research papers and dissertations: Brooklyn Technical High School, George W. Hewlett High School, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, and Williamsville East High School.

Shoreham-Wading River School District wants its high school to become the fifth. (more…)

Resident Michael Burns (center) addresses the board as neighbors watch on. Mr. Burns was one of a handful to criticize a plan to build a new parking lot. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Resident Michael Burns (center) addresses the board as neighbors watch on. Mr. Burns was one of a handful to criticize a plan to build a new parking lot. (Credit: Paul Squire)

In the Miller Avenue Elementary School multi-purpose room Tuesday, just a few hundred feet away from the front door of some of their houses, a group of more than a dozen residents came with a clear message to the local school board: keep your parking lot away from us. (more…)