08/26/10 12:00am
08/26/2010 12:00 AM

Brenna LaTour (obscured) and Marisa Danowski play flower hoop
girls in the traditional Polish wedding event, which is
performed each year at the Street Fair & Polka Festival in
Polish Town.

The streets of Riverhead’s Polish Town overflowed on Saturday as
visitors from near and far came to celebrate the 36th annual Polish
Town Street Fair and Polka Festival. Vendors sold everything from
crafts to delicious ethnic foods and children enjoyed carnival rides
and a petting zoo. Live music, dancing and a re-enactment of a
traditional Polish wedding made the festival a true Polish experience.

08/26/10 12:00am

The Suffolk County Democratic Party has selected Jennifer Maertz of Rocky Point (right) to take on incumbent GOP state Senator Kenneth LaValle in the fall. Ms. Maertz had been a campaign worker for Regina Calcaterra (left) the party’s original choice, who was knocked off the ballot for failing to meet state residency requirement.

Democrat Regina Calcaterra’s state Senate candidacy has come to an end, but the legal squabbling over whether her party can field an alternate candidate against GOP incumbent Ken LaValle has just begun.

A hearing is to take place in state Supreme Court today, Thursday, on whether Democrats can replace Ms. Calcaterra with Jennifer Maertz, a Rocky Point attorney who worked on Ms. Calcaterra’s campaign staff. The Democrats and the Working Families Party made the switch last Friday after a state appeals court upheld a lower court ruling that found Ms. Calcaterra ineligible to run. The courts agreed with a claim filed by two Brookhaven Republicans who said Ms. Calcaterra cannot take on Mr. LaValle because she has not lived within the state for the last five consecutive years. Ms. Calcaterra, an attorney who lives in New Suffolk, had a home in Pennsylvania several years ago.

The county GOP now claims the two Calcaterra rulings preclude the Democrats from fielding any candidate. In seeking to have Ms. Maertz tossed off the ballot, too, the GOP claim the courts have invalidated Ms. Calcaterra’s nominating petitions, the legal foundation of every run for political office. Without valid petitions, no one can secure a ballot position.

Democrats counter that the courts ruled on Ms. Calcaterra’s eligibility, not on her petitions, and so that party can follow standard election procedure by filling the vacancy.

The case will be heard before Justice Thomas Whelan in Riverhead.

In a separate move, the Democrats have asked for a clarification from the appellate division of the Second Department regarding its decision against Ms. Calcaterra. The appeals court ruled that the lower court made the correct decision when it invalidated “the designating petitions.” But Democrats argue that the original Aug. 9 decision by Justice John Bivona centered on Ms. Calcaterra’s residency and made no mention of her nominating petitions. (See Ms. Calcaterra’s letter to the editor on page 8.)

The first press release issued by the Maertz campaign called on Mr. LaValle to tell his supporters to end the “sure-to-fail legal action aimed at preventing voters from having a choice this year.”

Suffolk GOP chairman John Jay LaValle said Democrats “are talking out of both sides of their mouths,” given that Ms. Maertz unsuccessfully challenged Mr. LaValle’s petitions earlier this summer. In addition to being active in civic groups, Ms. Maertz serves as vice chair of the Brookhaven Democratic Committee.

“The law is the law,” said Mr. LaValle, who is the senator’s cousin. He added that he has known Ms. Calcaterra since the seventh grade and went to high school with her. “They screwed up. It’s their error. We didn’t bring up the issue, [Calverton Democrat] Greg Fischer did, although I’m glad he did.”

The Republicans’ challenge “shows they will do anything to knock her out,” said Suffolk Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer.

“If they think Ken LaValle is so great, why are they working so hard to see that he is unopposed?” Mr. Schaffer said.

He conceded that by entering the race so late and lacking a campaign war chest, Ms. Maertz is definitely the underdog. “But this is a year any incumbent needs to worry,” Mr. Schaffer said. “There’s a very strong feeling out there that people are looking for a change, no matter who the incumbent is. I wouldn’t count anybody out this year.

With control of the state Senate up for grabs, both major parties are fighting particularly hard this year for the Suffolk seats held by Mr. LaValle and Democrat Brian Foley of Blue Point. The Democrats currently hold a slim majority, 32 to 30. Last year the GOP temporarily gained control when two Democrats joined Republicans in a leadership coup.

The GOP controlled the Senate for decades before losing the majority in 2008. Democrats hold a super-majority in the Assembly and that is not expected to change this year. In the gubernatorial contest, Democratic state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo appears to lead Republican Rick Lazio of Nassau, who faces a September primary.

Should the Democrats hold on to the governor’s seat, whoever controls the Senate will either advance or limit the next governor’s agenda.

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08/26/10 12:00am

Dan Kujawski’s court coverage helped Di Angela Leather to its fourth North Side-Out Beach Volleyball League Tournament title in seven years.

Moments after Di Angela Leather had clinched its second straight North Side-Out Beach Volleyball League Tournament title, Dan Kujawski sent a text message to one of his absent teammates, Patty Millman. To Millman, who was in possession of the volleyball that serves as the league’s perpetual trophy, he typed, “Keep the trophy.”

As Geoff Penny and Kujawski, teammates on a shorthanded Di Angela Leather team, watched the early-round action in the tournament swirl all around them at the Breakwater Beach courts in Mattituck on Saturday, the two longtime veterans sat back and reflected on what they needed to do to be successful.

“We just need more court coverage,” Penny said. “You have to trust your teammates more to cover the shot.”

Kujawski joked, “We don’t have any energy to conserve.”

But while Penny, Kujawski and teammate Missy Weiss were later bothered by cramping, Di Angela Leather won a 21-15, 21-18 final over Woodside Orchards’ Ryan Wilsberg and Jonathan Polistena to successfully defend their title. It was Di Angela’s fourth tournament title in seven years.

With teammates Kelly Urbanik and Bob Gammon away, Wilsberg and Polistena also had more court to cover playing doubles in a coed fours tournament. “It was tough,” Wilsberg said. “We ran the gauntlet. Di Angela just had the experience on us.”

Polistena said he “didn’t expect to make it this far.”

But it was a riveting final that saw many of the players cramp up. Di Angela had to take a timeout when Penny’s hamstring tightened up. Weiss had cramps in her toes.

The stirring title match truly was survival of the fittest. Nonetheless, with Penny hitting his patented feathery touch shots that consistently found the open corners of the court, Di Angela persevered to win the championship.

When it was finally over, Penny said he was “shocked. Early on we were bad, but we played better as the match went on.”

Weiss, who did a tremendous job setting up Penny and Kujawski, called the win “awesome. We did it!”

Going into the tournament, Di Angela Leather (33-5) and Woodside Orchards (33-5) had the best records in the league (Di Angela was seeded first based on head-to-head play against Woodside), followed closely by Zuhoski Landscaping (26-13), the American Exterior and Interior Eagles (24-15), Founders Tavern (22-18) and Beachwood Sand and Gravel (20-19).

On a day when a number of teams were missing players and the tournament appeared to be wide open, it was ironic that it produced a rematch of last year’s finals.

In the round-robin pool play, Founders Tavern and Zuhoski Landscaping were both playing extremely well. Frank Polistena, the league director, said that with its “young and athletic team, Zuhoski was going to give the other teams a run for their money.”

Di Angela Leather, Woodside Orchards, Founders Tavern and Zuhoski Landscaping advanced to the semifinals. Di Angela topped the Founders Tavern team of Dan Hagerman, Carl Ruthinoski and Heather Sterling, 21-18, 21-8. Woodside outlasted the Zuhoski Landscaping team of Haley Willumsen, Ian Zuhoski, Brian McFarland and Tim Bialeski, 21-19, 21-18, to reach the finals.

Zuhoski Landscaping beat Founders Tavern in the consolation match to finish in third place.

The Peconic Home Inspection team, led by George Aldcroft, Andrew Cappelino, Cindy Belt and Joe Warren, won the “B” bracket championship.

Frank Polistena said he was pleased with how the season played out.

“We had a lot of new, young players and we squeezed in 18 teams,” he said. “I couldn’t be more pleased with the behavior, skill and competition level. Beach volleyball is such a unique sport. The players play with passion and it is sociable at the same time. No matter what kind of player you are, you can have certain characteristics and still compete. It is an exhilarating feeling when you are in the zone.”

Di Angela Leather knows the feeling.

08/26/10 12:00am

Elaine C. McPherson of Riverhead died suddenly Aug. 22. She was 53.

Family members will receive visitors at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 28, at Galilee Church of God in Christ in Riverhead. Funeral services will follow at 11 a.m.

A complete obituary will appear in a future edition of the News-Review.

08/26/10 12:00am

Friedrick John Eimers of Wading River died Aug. 19 at Riverhead Care Center. He was 90.

Private arrangements and cremation were handled by Alexander-Tuthill Funeral Home in Wading River.

A complete obituary will appear in a future edition of the News-Review.

08/26/10 12:00am

There’s a lot of suspect legislation introduced in the county Legislature, as with all lawmaking bodies, drawn up for no other purposes than to grab headlines or pander to voters.

A bill crafted by Legislator Jon Cooper of Lloyd Harbor that would create a countywide public registry of convicted animal abusers doesn’t fall into that category. While it may please plenty of constituents, the potential outcomes of such a law would help better our communities in Suffolk County, where each month it seems a resident is hauled away in cuffs for gross abuse or neglect of animals — be it dogs, horses or exotic pets.

Under the proposal, the names of those found guilty of abuse would forever be listed on a public registry, much like the state’s sex offender registry, along with the offenders’ photos and addresses.

However, unlike the popular sex offender registry — the effectiveness of which is still being debated, as the vast majority of sex abuse victims are targeted by people they know — the lives of animal abusers won’t be utterly ruined if their names are listed publicly. Unless a convicted offender were going to adopt a pet or, say, work with animals, he or she would likely still be able to find a job or housing in Suffolk while trying to move on after serving time.

But the risk of ongoing public shame might give potential animal abusers pause before starting or continuing abusive actions toward a cat, dog or any creature. And that could help the potential abuser, as well as other members of our communities. Consider what we’ve reported this week: that a 2005 study in the Journal of Community Health found that pet abuse was one of five factors that predicted other abusive behaviors.

Provided the Suffolk County SPCA can fund the program, with help from fees paid by convicted abusers, our county lawmakers and executive should approve this bill, which could be voted on as soon as this fall. Such a measure would be the first in any municipality in the U.S. That’s a distinction Suffolk County should be known for.

08/26/10 12:00am

Chris Rizopoulos, front, with Rick Shalvoy and Ryan Cuddihy partially obstructed behind him, and Chris Cuddihy, taking the photo, approach the Manhattan Bridge in the East River before the worst of a storm last Monday. The four men raised more than $4,000 for wounded soldiers in an attempt to row around Long Island.

Imagine rowing through ocean waves so high your boat occasionally flies freely through the air while lightning bolts are continually striking the salt water all around you. It’s nighttime, so your eyes are continually struggling to make the adjustments between utter darkness and blinding light.

That was the experience last week of four daring men who set out to row non-stop around Long Island to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit group that helps wounded American soldiers.

The four

08/26/10 12:00am

Reeves Park residents refuse to say die when it comes to fighting plans for a shopping center at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue.

They’ve hired an attorney who says the property should be considered zoned residential, which would bar a shopping center there.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter disagrees, citing a court ruling from earlier this year that rejected the town’s 2004 rezoning of the property to residential use and deemed the application approved, subject to environmental review. The lawsuit was brought against the town by the property owner, EMB Enterprises, owned by Kenn Barra.

The supervisor hopes to convene a meeting with Mr. Barra and his attorney to discuss options, which Mr. Walter said could include the town’s acquiring the site.

“We might want to make it into a park,” he said in an interview.

EMB Enterprises bought the property for $1 million in July 2004.

Carolyn Zenk, an attorney hired by some Reeves Park residents, said in a letter to town officials last week that she believes the residential zoning on the property is valid, which would prohibit the commercial development.

Ms. Zenk, a former Southampton Town councilwoman who is also legal counsel for the Group for the East End, an environmental organization, said that while the courts had ruled in 2007 that the town had illegally rezoned the property to residential in 2004, the town later went back and rezoned the property legally in 2007. No court decision, she said, had any effect on that later zone change.

“Because the courts have invalidated the original zone change to a residential/agricultural use does not mean that your subsequent, properly enacted zone change to a residential/agricultural use is not valid,” Ms. Zenk wrote.

She argued that the town should not change the zoning back to commercial because the second rezoning was correct.

Mr. Walter disagreed. “I understand her position, but the appellate court decision says the site plan is approved, subject to SEQRA,” he said.

The supervisor said he believed the current zoning on the property is residential, but that it doesn’t apply to this project because of the court ruling.

“We can’t fight this any further,” Mr. Walter said of any effort to oppose the project. “We lost the lawsuit and the appellate court approved the site plan pending [environmental] review.”

Some Reeves Park residents say the project doesn’t belong in the rural residential area and fear it will clog their neighborhood with traffic.

“I feel with this development, plus the residential development set for the northwest side, the rural nature of Sound Avenue and the community of Reeves Park will change forever,” Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, wrote in a letter to residents. “If you think traffic is bad on our corner now, wait till this goes in… It is the beginning of the domino effect that will turn Sound Avenue into another Route 58,” he wrote.

EMB Enterprises intends to build three retail buildings and one 100-seat restaurant on the 4.1-acre property. The total square footage of the project would be about 28,000, with a 7,680-square-foot retail building that would be divided into four smaller stores; an 8,200-square-foot structure shown on the site plan as being one “dry store”; an 8,400-square-foot building, also divided into four smaller retail spaces; and a 3,800-square-foot restaurant.

Mr. Barra’s EMB Enterprises — he also owns East Wind Caterers — first proposed the retail and restaurant complex in 2003 for the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, before actually purchasing the site. It was zoned for commercial use at the time. Soon after, Boom Development, a company headed by Southampton developer Ed Broidy, proposed another commercial development on the northwest corner of the same intersection, although Mr. Broidy has since discussed building houses on his land.

Facing opposition from the Reeves Park community, the Town Board in 2004 changed the zoning of both parcels — along with that of property on the south side of the intersection — from commercial to residential.

A lawsuit challenging the rezoning was filed by EMB Enterprises, and in 2007, a state Supreme Court judge sided with EMB.

The Town Board that year voted again to change the zoning to residential, intending to cover any technical problems that may have led to the ruling against the 2004 vote. At the same time, the town appealed the ruling, again under pressure from Reeves Park residents.

In February of this year, the state appellate division again backed EMB, saying the Town Board had rezoned their property improperly in 2004, and deeming the site plan approved, once it was subject to an environmental review under the state environmental quality review act, or SEQRA. “The town has no legal recourse,” Mr. Walter said in an interview this week. “We have to process this application.”

The last resort would be to ask the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, to review the case, but Mr. Walter said the town isn’t going to do that because there is no question of law at issue and the court would refuse to hear the case.

“The litigation is done,” he said. “The town would have been better off to negotiate with Mr. Barra while the lawsuit was still active and try to get some compromise.”

He said Mr. Barra had agreed to remove one of the 2,000-square-foot stores from the project.

“If the Reeves Park residents want to bring a lawsuit, they’re free to do so, but the appellate court decision is clear,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Barra could not be reached for comment.

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