Articles by

Ray Pickersgill

05/20/13 1:38pm
Pickersgill's Robert James salon

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO| Downtown Riverhead looking west from the second floor above Robert James Salon on East Main Street.

I read John Finnegan’s column about his experience trying to site his zip line in downtown Riverhead.

I thought the column was nasty and unnecessary. It reminded me of two truths learned while growing up. One, never be a cry baby. Two, as my father would say, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Mr.Finnegan ran his idea by a group of businesses downtown and the Town Board, the idea seemed to falter as quick as it was proposed.

Let’s deal in a few facts:

Mr. Finnegan has never built or run a zip line.

Mr. Finnegan’s company was just formed, has no funds, has not done a dollar’s worth of business and is trying to raise money online to support his idea.

The zip line as-proposed would run the lenth of the boardwalk downtown and completely compromise the waterfront. It would be a huge, potential liability, costing the town more in increased insurance premiums.

The zip line would strain what is fast becomming a heavily trafficked parking lot, and in return Riverhead would receive — if he is successful —$37,000 a year in total revenue.

This, when according to all the parking studies, each spot is worth $100,000 dollars to downtown businesses. Many downtown visitors and residents have expressed that screaming zip liners overhead is not the experience they are looking for when they stroll the riverfront.

Can you think of any waterfront towns with zip lines running over them?

As businesses downtown, we met with Mr. Finnegan and shared our concerns. We kept an open mind. We tried to be positive and gave him good suggestions on other places for it in the town.

He told us the only place he would consider is downtown. When he saw the Town Board and the businesses had a lot of quetions he could not answer, he decided to make sarcastic comments about our town. He displayed pictures of empty stores, dumpsters and boarded-up windows.

Yes, Mr. Finnegan, we know we use dumpsters downtown and we are working on coming up with a better system, which we have already done on the other side of Main Street.

Yes, we know we have some empty stores, but it is also hard to find tenants to fill 12,000- to 24,000-square-foot storefronts. Believe me, I have tried.

You mentioned Dee Muma, Ray Dickhoff, Anthony Coates and myself. You implied the business community and us do not know what’s good for downtown. Mr. Finnegan, we make our living here. We employ a lot of people here. I have my entire life savings invested here.

And, you know what? There is no other place I would rather be. I am sure the others feel the same.

We volunteer here. We work here. And we are commited to make this town grow and prosper. We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we aren’t where we used to be either. Something called a recession got in our way, then a storm called Sandy.

You are a guy from out of town with a dream, but no money or experience. Forgive me, but Riverhead has seen it’s share of snakeoil salesmen over the years. When someone comes with an idea now, we check them out. After all, it affects everyone.

We did not kick you out of town. We tried to give you alternatives. But instead, you kick us on the way out of town. To me that shows what kind of neighbor you would have been. Your angry letter was a turnoff for me and an insult to the town I have come to love.

Ray Pickersgill is the owner of Robert James Salon and did not write this column on behalf of the parking district or business district.

02/21/11 5:08pm

I read with a bit of a chuckle former Riverhead supervisor Vinny Villella’s column last week regarding Supervisor Sean Walter’s pay package and law practice. In outlining the supervisor’s compensation package, Mr. Villella got the numbers correct but other than that there were few facts in his missive.

Shall we say the rest of the column was an attempt to put a “high-gloss shine” on the story?

Yes, Mr. Walter does receive a pay package as outlined in town law. Mr. Villella received the same type of package, adjusted for inflation, when he was supervisor and so did Mr. Walter’s predecessor, Phil Cardinale. Mr. Villella rails against the fact that Mr. Walter still has his law office open in Wading  River, yet I seem to remember that Mr. Cardinale kept his law office open in Jamesport during his 10 years in town government. Mr. Villella also calls Mr. Walter a “part-time supervisor.” Well, Mr. Walter has been town supervisor for 13 months and in that time we see the earliest buds of turning downtown around. One can hear circular saws and hammers at the Suffolk Theatre, while under Mr. Cardinale the theater was shuttered. The new Hyatt grows closer to reality daily. The former owner of the Frisky Oyster restaurant is developing a beautiful new restaurant in the old Chase building. The Red Collection sells antiques and furniture in the old Ben Franklin building. Dark Horse Restaurant is open for business and looking great. The planned Summerwind project will bring foot traffic to  Main Street. A Long Ireland Brewing brewery and tasting room is coming to Polish  Town. The Blue Door moved to Roanoke Avenue and a new eatery is going in its place. Cody’s barbecue restaurant moves in, replacing the eyesore that was Casa Rica. Athens Grill and Riverhead Grill have had impressive makeovers and all this has happened in this poor economy.

And reality is finally setting in at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, as the town has shed two of Mr. Cardinale’s pet projects — the Rechler housing deal and the mother of all bad ideas, the Riverhead Resorts project and its indoor ski mountain. The Town Board recently sowed the seeds for a reuse plan that will bring clean and high-paying technology-related jobs to EPCAL.

Working with the DEC, Mr. Walter successfully pushed through reform of the Wild Scenic Rivers Act that will allow commercial development on West Main Street. Mr. Walter stood by the courage of his convictions to make dramatic cutbacks and reduce the size of town government, something Mr. Cardinale said “needed to be done” but never had the political courage to do. Mr. Walter cut through the chatter and finally got the rail spur to Calverton. Mr. Walter fought off noisy helicopters over Riverhead, has taken the first steps to reform our animal shelter, got Wading River Creek dredged and, working with Suffolk County in a bad economy, he has preserved more farmland and open space than any 13-month period in the Cardinale or Villella administrations.

Whew! With that track record of results, if you want to wrongly call Mr. Walter a “part-time supervisor” give me a part-timer any time.

Mr. Pickersgill owns Robert James Salon & Spa in downtown Riverhead and is president of the downtown Business Improvement District management association.