07/20/14 8:00am
07/20/2014 8:00 AM
Columnist James Varney said recently that he believes intellectual diversity might not be welcome thing on Long Island's East End.

Columnist James Varney said recently that he believes intellectual diversity might not be welcome thing on Long Island’s East End.

I read with amazement the News-Review article about New Orleans columnist James Varney, who penned a column in his home paper about his negative experience after visiting Riverhead for a wedding.

Mr. Varney’s column in the Times-Picayune of New Orleans titled “The Long Island Internet Blues” indicates that while staying at the Hyatt East End in Riverhead, he was not able to access some conservative websites. He theorized that the hotel, by design, prevented him from doing so and allowed Internet access only to liberal-leaning web sites.

Mr. Varney did not stop there. He continued in his rant and went on to write that “in the big money enclaves of Long Island the concept of diversity may be revered. Intellectual diversity, on the other hand, not so much.”

Give me a break. As a card-carrying liberal Democrat and resident of Riverhead, I feel compelled to respond and defend Riverhead from this big fool from the Big Easy.

As the News-Review article correctly pointed out, there are far more registered Republicans in the Town of Riverhead than Democrats. Supervisor Sean Walter and the entire Town Board are Republicans. As far as Mr. Varney’s characterization of Riverhead as a “big money” enclave, I think most town residents, including myself, would be shocked to learn that we live in a big money enclave. The truth is that Riverhead is a working class community with a very diverse population that encourages and allows a wide range of political beliefs. In my humble opinion, it is a good place to live.

I understand that during his visit to Riverhead, Mr. Varney had some additional observations that supported his belief that Riverhead was a bastion of liberalism. On a visit to the aquarium he noted that most of the fish swam to the left. While driving around town, he thought there were just too many no-right-on-red signs. He was also shocked that he could not find a single citizen openly carrying a gun. My comments are — I hope, clearly — tongue-in-cheek, but illustrate the absurdity of some of what Mr. Varney writes about Riverhead.

I truly wonder what motivated him to target our little hamlet? Did he not have a good time during his visit? Was he disappointed that, unlike in New Orleans, he could not walk around town with an open container of alcohol? Was the Po’ Boy he got at the neighboring Subway not to his liking? Was he disappointed that, unlike New Orleans, Riverhead does not have a big gambling casino in the middle of town? I also question why being unable to access a specific website on a hotel computer was so important for a professional journalist in this age of smartphones and iPads.

I would like to respectfully suggest to Mr. Varney that he consider concentrating his criticisms and writings on his hometown of New Orleans. There appears to be plenty of fodder in the Big Easy to fill many columns. Earlier this month, nine people were shot on Bourbon Street after a gunfight between two men in the heart of the tourist district. In April of this year, the New Orleans Police Department entered into a consent agreement with the federal government that permits the Justice Department to monitor police activities in the city after a multi-year investigation concluded that the New Orleans Police Department engaged in a pattern of conduct that violated the Constitution and federal laws.

In conclusion, I think Mr. Varney owes the Town of Riverhead and its citizens an apology for falsely representing the values for which our community stands. Perhaps he would consider shipping us a large amount of crawfish for a good old-fashioned crawfish boil in the middle of town as a token of his sincerity.

R0815_JERRY-BILINKSKI_C1-150x150Jerry Bilinski is a case manager with a nonprofit group that advocates for incarcerated and mentally ill people. He lives in Riverhead.

07/19/14 8:00am
07/19/2014 8:00 AM
Migrant farmworkers at a North Fork vineyard. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Migrant farmworkers at a North Fork vineyard. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

It was a sunny August afternoon last year when we at the paper got word of police activity — a possible drug bust — in Mattituck. It turned out a 2-year-old boy had fallen from a second story window, dropping through open Bilco doors and landing in a basement below. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center and, miraculously, escaped any major injuries.

Who wouldn’t say Aug. 27, 2013, was a good day for our area?

Well, plenty of people, apparently.

You see, the boy’s name was Javier Cruz. (more…)

07/12/14 8:00am
07/12/2014 8:00 AM
Marco and Ann Marie Borghese purchased their Cutchogue vineyard in 1999. (Credit: Jane Starwood, file)

Marco and Ann Marie Borghese purchased their Cutchogue vineyard in 1999. (Credit: Jane Starwood, file)

The untimely and tragic deaths of Ann Marie and Marco Borghese have me thinking about the passage of time, particularly insofar as the North Fork’s grape-growing/wine industry is concerned. To the best of my knowledge, the Borgheses were the first second-generation owners/winemakers/industry boosters to pass from the scene, which is an indicator, after a fashion, of just how long this industry has been around hereabouts. Their recent deaths have also caused me to reflect on the list of others who passed before them, which, again, is a reflection that a lot of years have gone by since Louisa and Alex Hargrave planted their first grapes here in the early 1970s. But first, a word about the Borgheses.  (more…)

07/11/14 6:00am
07/11/2014 6:00 AM

I feel like Ziggy lately. The black cloud above my head is clearly labeled “Computer Problems.” Some so-called “computer geniuses” (I use the term loosely) have passed along viruses to me that have killed off two of my main tower computers. Presently, viruses are also attacking the pink laptop donated to me by my daughter. I mentioned that it’s pink, right? My favorite color? I can receive email but I can’t read it. So I must refrain from using Etag5@optonline.net. If you have news to share, send it to etaggart05@gmail.com.  (more…)

07/04/14 2:00pm
07/04/2014 2:00 PM
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Jen Becker making hats for newborns and preemies at her home in Southold this week.

At 4 a.m. the morning after my son was born, a nurse ducked into the room as my wife and I were falling asleep and gave him his first bath. When she was done, she swaddled him up tight and placed a red, green and white knit cap on his tiny bald head.

It was two days before Christmas and baby Jackson had his first hat. Even with a dresser drawer full of infant caps, the hospital freebie kept his skull warm long after the holidays.

Perhaps it’s because it was made by hand, or maybe just because it was sturdier than the others, but we loved that darn hat. While we realize he’ll never wear it again, there’s no way we’re tossing it in the garbage any time soon.

It turns out we’re not alone. (more…)