09/30/10 12:00am
09/30/2010 12:00 AM

The Riverhead school board on Tuesday voted to slightly expand the scope of power for the district’s superintendent.

Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney can now sign off on professional service contracts for under $100,000 without board approval. School board member Angela DeVito explained that allowing the superintendent to sign off on projects will facilitate the process and prevent work from being performed when no official contract is in place.

The board also approved a second reading of a revised policy that, if adopted, would allow the superintendent to approve budget transfers of up to $1 million without board approval. The resolution will need to be voted before adoption by the school board. The board voted five to zero to adopt the reading. Board member Tim Griffing was absent and Kathy Berezny abstained, citing the need for more information.


The board also voted to refinance $9.5 million in debt held by the school. Assistant superintendent for finance and operations Michael Ivanoff noted that by refinancing the bond the school would be paying a lower interest rate.

“Net savings will be about $30,000 to $40,000 per year,” he said.


School board member Amelia Lantz proposed examining whether or not to remove peanut butter from the school lunch menu to accommodate students with peanut allergies.

She noted that she is vigilant about what foods she sends in with her own children and wanted to investigate making it a district-wide policy.

“We can’t control [students with allergies],” she said. “We can control the menu.”


Riverhead Free Library director and Rotary Club of Riverhead member Lisa Jacobs announced the donation of a dictionary for every fourth-grade student throughout Riverhead schools.

“We’ll be pleased to improve the literacy of the fourth-graders in the district,” Ms. Jacobs said.

[email protected]

09/30/10 12:00am

“All your life is Channel 13. Sesame Street. What does it mean?”

To Billy Joel, those lyrics from his 1982 song “Pressure” were part of his description of the stresses of everyday living. But throughout the New York area, Channel 13 ¬­– and on Long Island Channel 21 as well — are a more welcome part of everyday life and represent the world of public broadcasting. Millions of viewers rely on that programming as an essential alternative to the mindless drivel, squawking cable commentators and sleazy reality shows that pass for news and entertainment. It’s hard to imagine television without “Sesame Street,” the “NewsHour” or specials such as Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.”

It’s not all about TV, of course, and millions of listeners happily include National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” in their weekday routine, at home, work or while driving. Here on the East End, Long Island University’s WLIU, formerly WPBX, was the Channel 13 of radio and Long Island’s only locally based NPR affiliate. For more than two decades, the school broadcast from Southampton College. But in 2006, SUNY/Stony Brook bought the campus and WLIU became a paying tenant in its own studio. Last year, Long Island University put the station on the market, and the future of East End public radio was very much in doubt.

Enter Peconic Public Broadcasting, a group of LIU veterans and supporters that stepped in to run the station with the hope of purchasing it outright. The $2.4 million sale price for the license and equipment includes $850,000 in cash plus technical support for LIU’s Brookville station. That’s a daunting sum for a non commercial station run by many former WLIU staffers, who previously made a $213,000 down payment and obtained multiple extensions on the $637,000 final payment due June 30.

But now, through donations and a loan from Bridgehampton National Bank, PPB can close the deal and keep local public radio on the air.

Yes, the East End is served by a variety of commercial stations, many with deep community roots. But WLIU stands apart, and always has, and the silencing of that local signal would have been a significant loss.

All things considered, the lack of a morning edition would have been the talk of the nation.

09/30/10 12:00am

Town officials are hoping to move the Riverhead police department and justice court into the State Armory building on Route 58, if they can acquire the property free from the state. National Guard soliders will soon no longer be housed in the building.

A decision may be coming soon on whether Riverhead will acquire the state armory building on Route 58, according to State Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Mr. LaValle said he wrote Governor Paterson this week and also spoke with him, seeking his assistance in getting the building turned over to the town.

The procedure for disposing of surplus state property is handled through the Commissioner of General Services, John Egan, who was appointed by the governor. Mr. LaValle said he has had many conversations with Mr. Egan about turning the armory over to Riverhead, and Mr. Egan seems to support the idea.

The building is being declared surplus by the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs, which is planning to close all armories on Long Island next year in favor of a centralized Armed Forces Reserve Center at Republic Airport in Farmingdale,

Built in 1957, the Riverhead armory is home to the 133rd Quartermaster Company of the New York Army National Guard.

Riverhead Town officials are hoping to use the building to house the police department and justice court. Doing so would free up space in the existing police headquarters on Howell Avenue so that other town offices could be relocated to that building, officials say.

Mr. LaValle said he hopes to get the building turned over to the town at no cost, since the town gave the property to the state in 1953 for a nominal fee of $500.

“The Town of Riverhead is eager to secure and use this important community asset,” the senator wrote in his letter to the governor. “I would appreciate your assistance in facilitating this transfer of property.”

The basement of the building is believed to be contaminated with lead because it had been used as a shooting range, according to Mr. LaValle. He said the cost of any cleanup of the contamination would have to be bourne by the town if it were given the building.

[email protected]

09/30/10 12:00am

A boater approaches the mouth of East Creek on Saturday.

Supervisor Sean Walter will present his tentative 2011 Riverhead Town budget Thursday, Sept. 30, at 2 p.m. in Town Hall.

The supervisor has said he cut more than $2.8 million from the budget in preparation for unveiling his tentative budget, which must be presented before Oct. 1, under state law. He said the tax rate would have increased by more than 20 percent otherwise.

Mr. Walter has frequently cited a budget deficit of more than $6 million, which he claims was left by his predecessor, Phil Cardinale, who served from 2004 to 2009. He said the town offset tax increases during those years by using one-shot revenues from things like the sale of land at Calverton Enterprise Park, and that the 2010 budget included some unrealistic revenue projections.

Mr. Cardinale, in turn, said in a column in the News-Review last week that the town had an $8 million fund balance when he left office, while other towns had deficits. And he claims that most of the added spending in this year’s budget was because of the $1 million cost of retaining town dispatchers, which Mr. Walter supported and he opposed.

State law requires the supervisor to submit a budget proposal first, and then the entire Town Board reviews that budget and can make changes before it submits it for a public hearing. Traditionally, that public hearing is held the day after Election Day. The full Town Board is required to adopt a final budget by Nov. 20.

Creek dredging planned

Suffolk County is looking to dredge three creeks in Riverhead Town, but first it wants the town to sign indemnification agreements protecting it from liability.

The creeks in question are Miamogue Lagoon, Hawk’s Creek and East Creek, all in Jamesport. The indemnification agreement would mean that if something happened during the dredging, like a bulkhead falling down, the town, not the county, would be responsible for the cost, Mr. Walter said.

Dredging of creeks is traditionally done by the county Department of Public Works. Town officials said the county asked for a similar arrangement last year that was rejected.

“But if we want these creeks open for our residents, the county is saying we must have this indemnification agreement,” Mr. Walter said during a recent work session. “They really have us between the proverbial rock and a hard place.”

Several years ago, a bulkhead fell apart during a dredging project and the residents in the area sued the county, officials said.

Board members asked for an engineering study of bulkheads near those creeks to determine their condition.

Public water at the club?

The Town Board has scheduled an Oct. 19 public hearing on a proposal to extend the Riverhead Water District to the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club.

The $500,000 cost of the extension will be paid entirely by the U.S. Navy, with no funding coming from the Riverhead Water District or from the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club.

One drinking water well at the club has already been fitted with a filter because of a plume of contaminated groundwater south of the former Grumman site.

The pollution is believed to have occurred while the Navy owned the land and leased it to the Grumman Corporation, which assembled fighter planes on the property for more than 30 years.

Some hunting club staff members, including one with young children, live at the site and use the water there.

[email protected]

09/30/10 12:00am

Sometimes you don’t know what you had till it’s gone. That’s what people everywhere are discovering about their downtowns and trying to bring them back. Here in Riverhead, when our downtown was disappearing, we felt some regret as the natural forces of decay and ruin set in. Then we felt shame and despair and fear at the very sight of downtown, an admission that Riverhead is a town to be hated.

Even now, as so many are working so hard to restore downtown Riverhead to its former glory, we doubt ourselves. There’s something wrong with Riverhead, some say, but no one can quite put a finger on it. It’s all been tried, it just can’t be done, others cry. Capital doesn’t seem to bring dividends. Under pressure, we lay blame and point fingers. Many of us steer clear of the whole thing. Maybe it would be better if downtown weren’t there anymore, then we could put it behind us and move on, some wonder privately. Have we no choice but to resign ourselves to defeat?

Meanwhile, you love downtown Riverhead. Come on, you know you do! You still believe in its potential. You want it to be amazing. You want to go down there all the time and find it hopping, meet up with people you know, find something good to eat, experience something new. You want to find work downtown. You want your kids to find lots to do downtown. You want to be proud of downtown. Admit it, you want downtown Riverhead back in your life.

When you came this summer and lined its riverfront as an admiring spectator; when you drove through downtown and nodded approvingly at the liveliness; when you made a point to visit a shop and make a purchase; when you were strolling downtown; you made downtown’s spirit soar.

After a glorious summer, but with fall setting in, it’s clear that downtown still needs our focused attention. The same entities that led in their own way this summer are keeping the ball rolling, including the Town of Riverhead, Business Improvement District, East End Arts Council, Chamber of Commerce, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Riverhead Free Library, Atlantis Marine World, Long Island Science Center, Suffolk County Historical Society, Art Sites Gallery, Polish Town, Townscape, the Riverhead Rotary Club, the SCCC Culinary Arts Institute, the restaurants, and so many others.

You will have places to go, things to do, and people to see! Progress is a slow thing. You will have to be patient, courageous, generous, steadfast, forgiving and kind to see it through. You will have to show restraint, humility and endurance. In short, we will be sorely tested. Many of us will fail, and often. That makes for good humor. Yet so many fail to see the humor.

The public is very discerning when it comes to matters of character and initiative. And we appreciate a good joke as well as the next person. That is why we must have more public participation downtown. So, if you live or work in the greater Riverhead area, please select among the following efforts under way to take action on soon:

* Occupancy of vacant buildings, mentioned first by anyone you ask: the large vacant buildings in the center of town remain a major detraction. We’d like to turn them into major attractions, but in the meantime it does bear repeating how ghastly those buildings are. Don’t you think?

* Traffic and pedestrian safety improvement: preventing the public from enjoying downtown are zany traffic patterns, death-defying street crossings, jutting sidewalks, and a irrationally high perception of crime. As thrilling as all that is for some of us, we should speak up on behalf of those who prefer a safer experience.

* More shops, restaurants, theaters, farmers market: we all want more, more, more! Any puritan worth his salt will ask, “How can you want more when you’re not using what you’ve got?” Give downtown businesses a shot at your business. Foot traffic gives businesses confidence to locate or expand downtown. Find something you really like downtown? Tell your friends!

* Turn and face the river: our downtown waterfront is a precious thing with great powers of attraction, and it’s been cleaned up in recent years, thanks to the work of those pesky environmentalists! Let’s enjoy the river.

Downtown needs us. Folks have a rightful claim and stake in downtown — at least a small parcel here and there. A playground, a community garden, a park, a community center or other amenity for community activity would draw town people downtown year round.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been here all of your life or if you just got here, and you don’t need anything but common sense. You have an open invitation to insert yourself wherever you like. I have.

Ms. Swett is a Jamesport resident and founder of the iloveriverhead group, whose focus is on revitalizing downtown.

09/30/10 12:00am

Riverhead Police are on the hunt for two men (pictured at right), who pulled off a smash-and-grab burglary at Paul’s Cleaners in Riverhead last month — and they need the public’s help in finding them.

Officials on Tuesday released two photographs taken from surveillance cameras during the Aug. 31 heist. The two men, one in a black hoodie, one in a white hoodie, smashed a glass door at the Route 58 cleaner’s, ransacked the business and made off with cash and change from two registers, police said.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers is offering a $5,000 cash reward for any information that helps lead to an arrest. Call 800-220-TIPS.

All calls will be kept confidential.

* Santos Vasquez-Chaves, 23, of Westhampton was arrested at Casa Rica Restaurant and Sports Bar on East Main Street in Riverhead about 2 a.m. Sunday and charged with exposure of a person, town police said. No additional information was available.

* Guilio Riccobono, 38, of Riverhead was arrested after he was spotted breaking the driver’s side window of a car, but first he led police on a foot chase that ended at Digger O’Dell’s Irish Pub and Restaurant on West Main Street, authorities said. Mr. Riccobono was charged with criminal mischief, town police said.

* Joseph Caridi, 27, of Miller Place was arrested at police headquarters about 11:45 a.m. last Tuesday and charged with failing to register as a sex offender, police said.

* Matthew More, 16, was caught trying to break into a car on Maidstone Lane in Wading River Saturday, town police said. Mr. More, who cops said had marijuana, narcotics and an assortment of electronics on him, was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of marijuana and petit larceny, officials said.

* Meketa Sutton, 35, of Riverhead was arrested about 1:45 a.m. last Wednesday and charged with second-degree harassment, officials said. Mr. Sutton is accused of violating an order of protection secured by a female acquaintance, police said.

* A 14-year-old girl said she was beaten up by three unknown men near Riverhead High School about 8 p.m. Saturday. No arrests have been made and no further information was available.

* Michael Gaines, 33, of Southampton was arrested about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday on Lewis Street in Riverhead and charged with false personation, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and was also found to be wanted on outstanding warrants from the New York State Division of Parole, town police said. No additional information was available.

* Someone driving a 1995 Plymouth Suburban on Riley Avenue in Calverton hit another car about 7:30 p.m. Sunday and fled the scene on foot, town police said. No arrests have been made.

Those who are named in police reports have not been convicted of any crime or violation. The charges against them may later be reduced or withdrawn, or they may be found innocent.

09/30/10 12:00am

* St. Isidore School in Riverhead received a $500 grant from George Papagianopoulos, owner of the Allstate Insurance agency in Forest Hills. The grant, awarded to Mr. Papagianopoulos to be used in a youth program when he was named an Agent Hero by Allstate’s New York region, will be used for school supplies.