04/24/14 12:51pm
04/24/2014 12:51 PM
East End Livestock and Horsemen's Association members take trail rides in the spring and fall each year after getting permission from the state parks department. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

East End Livestock and Horsemen’s Association members take trail rides in the spring and fall each year after getting permission from the state parks department. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Nature buffs who’ve been waiting more than a decade for access to Northville’s Hallock State Park Preserve will soon have their chance — as work to create an access way, visitors center, and trails is scheduled to begin sometime this year, according to a release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

Mr. Cuomo announced Tuesday that a total of $90 million in state budget funding had been secured for work at 53 parks and historic sites across the New York State — with $3 million going toward work at the 220-acre preserve.

The news comes some 14 years after the state purchased the park property and an adjoining 300 acres from KeySpan Energy for $16 million in 2002.

It’s also one of a handful of announcements since then that work would start on the park. Meanwhile, no-trespassing signs had marked trees along the public parks perimeter, keeping it from being utilized, before the News-Review reported on the signs in 2008.

A view of the Long Island Sound to the east from the bluffs. (Credit: Richard Wines)

A view of the Sound looking east. (Credit: Richard Wines)

At that time, Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said he was confident work would start at the park later that year, and two years after he announced the project would be receiving a $1 million grant for an environmental educational center on its grounds.

In the meantime, however, Mr. LaValle said this week that money is no longer available, and had been redirected elsewhere into the state parks system since it was never used.

But his prospects for the park were buoyed by the new allocation of $3 million, which he helped secure.

“I think this is the beginning of opening up a great resource for the people of the East End to enjoy, and people visiting from across the state — because the environmental parts of nature there are very, very special,” he said.

The park property stretches from Sound Avenue to the Sound and includes open plains, a tidal pond, thick woods and a mile-long stretch of pristine beach.

The $3 million comes in addition to $3.9 million that had been raised from the sale of the adjoining 300 acres — which were sold as protected farmland to local farmers, said Dan Keefe, a spokesman for the state Department of Parks, Recreation and HIstoric Preservation.

The newly allotted $3 million and about $900,000 from the farmland sales will be used to construct an entrance route, visitor center, a “green” parking area, and trails to provide public access to undeveloped areas of the park, Mr. Keefe said.

“Right now there is no legal way to access that park,” said Richard Wines, president of the Hallockville Museum Farm that borders the property. “The additional $3 million is great news for the public who will finally have access to enjoy this incredibly beautiful resource.”

Mr. Wines said the current plan, which was developed in 2010, is to put the visitor center close to the Hallockville Museum on Sound Avenue.

Should that be the case, Mr. Wines said the museum stands to benefit greatly, and could possibly share services with the park at some point in the future.

The visitor center will house restrooms and a meeting room to gather for educational events and programs, Mr. Keefe said, adding that a finalized design plan is currently in the works, with construction to begin sometime in 2014.

“We have been waiting for years now for things to get going so the public would have assess,” said Joseph Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, which helped facilitate the sale of the protected farmland to raise funding for the park’s development. “It’s a beautiful piece of property. It was a major accomplishment for all of us that were involved in it.”

Many players took park in the conservation — and now the much-anticipated development plan for the park — a close to 50-year process that, were the land not protected, it could have been transformed to fit any number of different development projects, including nuclear power plants, said Herb Strobel, executive director of the Hallockville Farm Museum.

“Very few residents have any idea of what the land might have [otherwise] been,” Mr. Strobel said. “It could have been a major industrial seaport… [or a] site for several nuclear plants— but it is not. It could have been the site for major residential development—but it is not.”

“Each of these scenarios would have dramatically changed Riverhead, the entire North Fork, and probably the whole East End,” he said.

Long Island State Parks Commission member and Hallockville Museum Farm director, George Bartunek, said the pairing of the state park with the closeby Hallockville Museum and the Long Island Antique Power Association “creates a grouping of attractions on Sound Avenue that will reflect the connection between Long Island’s natural history and its agricultural heritage.”

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Trails, starting from the visitors center, will lead north to the property’s sandy beaches, though there will be no actual beach usage permitted initially, Mr. LaValle said.

“This is the first step,” Mr. LaValle said. “That park, in terms of the future, will have a mirage of different uses. I think given the economy it’s always good that people have local options that they can do with their family.”

Funding has also been set aside for other local state parks, it was announced this week.

Orient State Park will also be receiving $200,000 to replace a failing drinking water line for a health and safety reasons, while Wildwood State Park will be receive unspecified funding for upgrades to non-compliant cesspools.

“As we celebrate Earth Day, we continue to invest in our parks and historic sites statewide,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “New York is proud to have the nation’s oldest State park system, and we will continue to do all that we can to preserve and guard these natural resources so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

According to Mr. Cuomo, a recent study by Parks & Trails New York found that state parks generate $1.9 billion in economic activity annually and support 20,000 jobs statewide.

cmiller@timesreview.com

Featured Story
04/24/14 8:00am
Shoreham-Wading River freshman Brian Morrell has found himself in rare company by throwing two no-hitters in his first two varsity starts. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Shoreham-Wading River freshman Brian Morrell has found himself in rare company by throwing two no-hitters in his first two varsity starts. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Soon after Taylore Baker threw consecutive no-hitters in his first two varsity starts in 2008, the Canton, Ohio, teen and his father began researching who else had ever accomplished the feat.

They started by looking through the Ohio state record books. They also searched the Internet for a match elsewhere in the country.

They found no one. Until now.  (more…)

Featured Story
04/23/14 7:00pm
04/23/2014 7:00 PM

Riverhead police copsThe cost of converting the Route 58 armory into a justice court and police station would be $11.3 million, according to a recent estimate by an engineering firm hired by the town.

The cost of constructing a brand-new one? Nearly double — and that price doesn’t include the cost of land to build on.

Cashin Associates was hired by the town last fall, along with EGE Architects, for $87,500 to deliver an evaluation, analysis, schematic design and cost estimate for the conversion of the armory. In a letter sent this week to town Justice Allen Smith, who requested the estimate, Cashin vice president Aldo Marletti wrote that constructing the premises from scratch would cost $21,787,900.

Judge Smith has been warning town officials about cramped quarters at the justice court for years. He said the cost estimate for a new building was done only for comparison purposes. Cashin will not be paid extra for the additional estimate, which is covered by its existing agreement with the town.

To date, no one on the Town Board has proposed construction of a new building for the police and courts. But the $11.3 million armory renovation has been opposed by at least three board members who have since suggested other options, including expanding the existing police station or using the Second Street firehouse.

“We can’t afford $22 million or $11 million,” said Councilman John Dunleavy.

Councilman George Gabrielsen, who also opposes the armory plan, questioned the motivation behind requesting a new-construction estimate.

“This seems like another way to try and convince the board to vote for the armory,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said. She favors moving Town Hall to the Second Street firehouse and moving the court into the current Town Hall building. That would enable the police station to expand and occupy all of its current building, which is now shared with the justice court.

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten could not be reached for comment.

The $21.7 million estimate does not include the cost of land. Mr. Marletti of Cashin said the amount of land required would depend on whether the site were located within the town sewer district. If sewers are available, he explained, a five-acre site would be sufficient, but if not, 9.5 acres would be needed to comply with county health department regulations.

Mr. Marletti estimated that a new police station would require 25,800 square feet, at a cost of $480 per square foot, for a total of $12.38 million. Those figures are based on the cost of the Suffolk County Police Fourth Precinct headquarters, which Cashin worked on in 2008.

Cashin’s estimated cost for a new court facility, based on a 14,900-square-foot building at $375 per square foot, came in at $5.58 million. Those figures were derived from costs related to the 2003 addition to the Supreme Court building on Griffing Avenue, Mr. Marletti said.

Also included in Cashin’s overall estimate were a 15 percent contingency budget for the project, $563,000 in site development fees and $150,000 for a radio tower.

The Town Board is scheduled to hear a presentation on the armory renovation project at its May 1 work session, officials said.

Featured Story
04/23/14 12:48pm
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Riverhead Police Officer Timothy Murphy and Chief David Hegermiller (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Riverhead Police Officer Timothy Murphy and Chief David Hegermiller (Credit: Courtesy photo)

How many driving while intoxicated arrests does it take to be the “top cop” in Suffolk County? Riverhead police officer Timothy Murphy can tell you: exactly 118.

Mr. Murphy, who was named one of the top DWI officers in 2012, was again honored as the county’s top DWI cop during a ceremony that recognized 23 officers from across the county for their arrests.  (more…)

Featured Story
04/23/14 10:32am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO

The Riverhead School Board unanimously adopted a budget for next year on Tuesday night, opting to use additional state aid that recently came down the pike partly on more teachers next year, and partly to reduce the tax burden.

The proposed budget, a $121.2 million spending plan that proposes a tax levy increase of 2 percent, will require taxpayer approval next month.

Riverhead School District was given about $850,000 more in aid in a final state budget that was adopted last month. At the suggestion of Superintendent Nancy Carney, Riverhead’s tentative budget includes using $368,000 of the additional state aid to reduce the tax levy rate bump, which had previously stood at 2.4 percent. In addition, the district now proposes hiring two new English as a Second Language teachers.

The estimated tax hike is below the state-mandated allowable tax levy rate of 2.4 percent, or $93.8 million, which represents the increased amount the school can collect from property taxes with a simple majority vote.

As for boosting the district’s ESL program, Ms. Carney has said that during the 2005-06 school year, the district had 378 ESL students and 11 ESL teachers. Although the district’s ESL student population swelled to 870 students in 2013-14, the district only had 13 ESL teachers, she said.

School board vice president Greg Meyer had requested at the April 8 meeting that the district look into hiring at least another middle school guidance counselor.

Ms. Carney said during Tuesday’s meeting that funding for the new hire isn’t included in next year’s budget because her office is in the process of securing a grant that will allow the district to employ more guidance counselors.

In addition to voting on the budget, residents will also be asked to vote on two ballot proposition proposals.

The first one is for a $3.98 million bond proposal for bus purchases.

Ms. Carney has said that if the bond is approved, the district will be able to buy about 35 large propane-powered buses, as well as about five handicapped vans, over a five-year span.

Voters authorized a program in 2007 to purchase school buses each year, retiring old vehicles in the process.

However, that five-year program has ended and those funds have been spent.

The school board also approved a second ballot proposition to grant an easement to Long Island Head Start. Ms. Carney has said the district sold a portion of land at Phillips Avenue School in Riverside to Head Start for about $10 in 1994. During recent renovation work at Phillips, Ms. Carney said the county health department discovered the land transfer was “never formalized” and needs to be completed before any final permits are issued for a new sanitary system at the school.

04/22/14 3:46pm
An orange sign on the locked door of Blue Agave Mexican Grill announcing that the restaurant was seized Tuesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

An orange sign on the locked door of Blue Agave Mexican Grill announcing that the restaurant was seized Tuesday afternoon. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

State tax officials shut down an East Main Street burrito joint Tuesday afternoon for failing to pay thousands of dollars in state sales taxes — but the restaurant’s owner told the News-Review he’s going to pay back the state Department of Taxation and Finance and that the eatery won’t be closed for long.

“I’m working with them now, and it’s going to be reopened definitely next week,” owner Ken Loo said.

The doors of Blue Agave Mexican Grill, which opened in 2012 and had, of late, only accepted cash payments, were locked Tuesday afternoon. Customers were greeted by multiple bright orange signs informing them that the property had been “seized for nonpayment of taxes and is now in the possession of New York State.”

According to the state tax warrant system, five tax liens have been filed against the restaurant since 2012, four of which are current — totaling $13,804. A New York State Tax Assessment spokesperson said that, in order for the restaurant to reopen, Mr. Loo will need to pay a total of $8,187 for nonpayments from 2013.

Mr. Loo — who also runs the sushi restaurant Haiku out of the same East Main Street building as Blue Agave as well as the Hy Ting Chinese restaurant on West Main Street — said he had to focus his attention on the Birchwood restaurant after his brother James, who owned and operated the Polish Town bar, died suddenly in January.

Mr. Loo said he discovered Birchwood was five weeks behind on payroll.

“I had to pay those guys,” he said. “A lot of things I can live with, like owing the state money. But I can’t owe people that have been working there for 30 years and not give them their paychecks.”

In addition to the money owed from Blue Agave, two liens totaling $13,659 were filed against Hy Ting and one for $14,149 was filed against Haiku, according to state records.

Mr. Loo said he had been in the process of paying for the taxes owed by Hy Ting and Haiku, and had a year to pay off the Blue Agave’s lien, but instead chose to use the money at Birchwood to “keep it afloat.”

When the deadline for Blue Agave’s payments came and went, the state stepped in.

Finding that tax agents had seized the restaurant and changed the locks was no surprise, Mr. Loo said.

“They change the locks and, when you give them the money, they give you the key,” he said.

He told the News-Review he would pay the state taxes in full to reopen the restaurant and was confident that, despite a “brutal” winter, the eatery would survive.

“I don’t want to see that place go,” he said. “It’s going to be open again … All three are still going to be there.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

04/22/14 2:00pm
The east dam in Grangebel Park (BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO)

The east dam in Grangebel Park (BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO)

It’s about that time of year again.
No, not time to hit the links or start planting your garden.
It’s time for the alewives.
Christopher Paparo, who runs Calverton-based Fish Guy Photos, posted a video over the weekend of the alewives running through Grangebel Park.
“The ‪#‎alewife‬ run is in full swing on Long Island. Took this video this morning in Riverhead. ‪#‎Intova‬” he posted on Facebook.

The fish passage, which allows alewives to migrate back up the Peconic River, was championed by Bob Conklin, a former Riverhead biology teacher.

Mr. Conklin died in December 2010, just three months before the passage — which was about 10 years in the making — was completed. I

The passage replaced an old dam that was built many years ago and was blocking alewives from traveling from the salt water portion of the river to the fresh water part, where they spawn.

In 2012, the project was the subject of an episode of the fishing show ‘Lunkerville.’

Watch the video by clicking here: