08/31/14 8:00am
08/31/2014 8:00 AM
A seaplane flies over Mattituck Aug. 22, one of several aircraft observed over a three-hour period. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

A seaplane flies over Mattituck Aug. 22, one of several aircraft observed over a three-hour period that night. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

Three hours into an exhaustive stakeout to document the greatest threat to North Fork life — helicopter noise — I reached an inauspicious conclusion: On this night in Mattituck, the loudest noise was neither helicopter, seaplane, nor any other flying craft that pollutes our precious skies.  (more…)

08/29/14 7:00am
08/29/2014 7:00 AM
An abandoned gas station on Flanders Road just east of the Peconic Avenue circle. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

An abandoned gas station on Flanders Road just east of the Peconic Avenue circle. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Peconic Avenue has a new tenant, and locals should take notice.

Renaissance Downtowns has had a sign posted in its storefront for the past couple of months, but with a community liaison now on the ground and officially hired for the job, the for-profit company can officially get to work on charting a course for the future of Riverside.

Is it frustrating — and somewhat typical — to see another plan in the works for the beleaguered community, where making progress has for far too long been on the back burner for Southampton Town and Suffolk County leaders? Yes — but as the saying goes, nothing worth having ever came easy. And area residents have before them a great opportunity with a private company that’s financially invested in gathering public feedback — and crafting a vision for Riverside based on that information. Unlike with a government study, if the plan it ultimately develops isn’t executed, Renaissance Downtowns loses private money. Its motivations are financial, not political. That gives us hope.

However, it helps that political leaders are on board and supportive of the overall effort to lift up the area.

A public meeting will be held next month on a pedestrian bridge that could connect the hamlet with a burgeoning downtown Riverhead. A study has already been completed on the feasibility of a sewer treatment plant in Riverside, and the county seems on board to contribute funds to build one. This fall, voters townwide will go to the polls to determine if the hamlet — along with neighboring Flanders and Northampton — should get what we argue is a much-needed garbage district.

The missing link to realizing a long-term vision for Riverside is a cohesive effort from residents throughout the hamlet, not just a few politicians and civic leaders. While their support is vital, what’s paramount is feedback from those living and working there — and in downtown Riverhead — who will be most affected by long-term changes. They should stop by Renaissance Downtowns’ Peconic Avenue offices, give organizers five minutes if they drop by or, better yet, attend any upcoming meetings. Business mixers and community forums are in the works. Be there and let your thoughts be known.

08/28/14 6:00am
08/28/2014 6:00 AM
Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio at Tuesday night's Town Board meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

To the editor:

There’s more to add to Marge Acevedo’s excellent column last week that outlined the Republican’s total culpability in running up the tab at the landfill and leaving our town with a large budget deficit that can’t be closed without either a large tax hike or borrowing more money.  (more…)

08/23/14 8:00am
08/23/2014 8:00 AM
Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio at Tuesday night's Town Board meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting. (Credit: Paul Squire)

I read in your newspaper that Supervisor Sean Walter and the Riverhead Town Board are issuing warnings to taxpayers that taxes could go up 12.5 percent next year. Is this just another fear tactic — saying it will be a 12.5 percent tax jump and then only raising taxes 8 percent, so this way everyone thinks the current Town Board did a great job because they saved taxpayers 4 percent?  (more…)

08/22/14 7:00am
08/22/2014 7:00 AM

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 4.14.39 PMOver the past decade, Riverhead Town leaders in current and previous administrations have dipped into financial reserves to balance town budgets. Those funds have now run out and hard decisions have to be made in order to close a looming gap of $4 million — nearly 10 percent of the town’s general fund — next year.

Borrowing against future land sales at the Enterprise Park at Calverton — a bridge loan as it’s been called — may seem an easy way out. But the risks are great and it should be avoided. The town is already unable to meet its debt obligations on one gamble it made on future revenues: the Community Preservation Fund. It must learn from its mistakes. The idea is to pay back the bridge loan after two to three years using anticipated proceeds from selling town land at EPCAL. Aside from having to pay interest, the town’s history of selling land there speaks for itself: The last sale was 11 years ago.

Until now, Supervisor Sean Walter has candidly and unabashedly touted an all-or-nothing approach in advocating for the bridge loan: Sell the land and he’ll save taxpayers from a looming, double-digit tax increase. But if land isn’t sold, town residents face a tax increase that could be twice that much — or more over time, should the town keep taking out loans.

From a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, nothing about Mr. Walter’s plan seems conservative.

But it’s the sheer lack of creativity evidenced so far in discussions about reducing the budget gap that has been most disappointing.

Up to now, no Town Board member has proposed any detailed, out-of-the-box ideas that would plug the hole — whether by cutting, consolidating or finding new revenue sources. Considering they all approved this year’s budget, the blame lies with them just as much as with Mr. Walter.

Finding a common ground between a tax increase, cuts and limited borrowing will likely be what’s best in the end. And until the Town Board finalizes this year’s budget, nothing should be off the table.

How about 3 percent (or even 2 or 1.5 percent) cuts across all town departments? Or furloughs? What would the town’s services (and pocketbook) look like if it folded its dispatching, or even its water district or police department, into the larger Suffolk County entities? Are there any permits the town can extend to two years instead of one? Can fees be increased? Surely, with these questions and so many others as a start, that $4 million deficit can be reduced.