10/31/10 8:36pm
10/31/2010 8:36 PM

A proposal to locate a school to train bomb-sniffing dogs on a farm off Herricks Lane in Jamesport was not popular with neighbors who showed at Town Hall Tuesday. During a public hearing, they cited concerns about noise from the dogs as well as the fact that 16 pounds of explosives would be kept on site.

Michael Stapleton Associates is seeking a special permit to convert a 1,152-square-foot horse stall on Aliperti Lane in Jamesport into a dog kennel operation where dogs would be trained to detect bombs for Homeland Security.

“Explosives in a residential area could cause a problem,” said Dominique Mendez of the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition civic group.

“No one can control barking dogs,” said Herricks Lane resident Bob Napoli.

“My kids drive a golf cart by a fence where 16 pounds of explosives will be kept,” said Dan Zaweski, who owns an adjacent farm.

Residents also said they didn’t believe the proposed use fits the definition of a dog kennel, and is thus not permitted by the zoning.

John Harvey of Michael Stapleton Associations said the dogs are all lab retrievers and that there will always be someone on site if dogs start barking. He said there will be more than eight dogs or eight cars on the site at any one time.

The Town Board held the public hearing open for written comments until Oct. 29 at 4:30 p.m.

tgannon@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 21, 2010

10/31/10 8:32pm

TIM GANNON PHOTO Riverhead fire chief Nick Luparella and other firefighters urged the town to avoid cutting a fire marshal position Tuesday night.

Members of the Riverhead and neighboring fire departments turned out in force Tuesday night to urge the Riverhead Town Board not to eliminate a fire marshal position, as proposed in Supervisor Sean Walter’s tentative 2011 town budget.

Several of the six other full-time employees whose positions are slated to be cut also spoke in an attempt to save their jobs.

As with previous meetings, town Civil Service Employees Association members also showed, wearing red shirts and protesting any layoffs.

The firefighters showed up in uniform at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting and even parked several fire trucks outside Town Hall with their light flashing to protest the proposed elimination of town fire marshal Craig Zitek’s position. Riverhead Fire Chief Nick Luparella and others pointed out that by checking that sprinklers work, pathways are clear and buildings meet codes, fire marshals often ensure that firefighters don’t get trapped in burning buildings.

“Public safety is not the area to be cutting,” Mr. Luparella told the Town Board.

Animal Control Officer Sean McCabe, site plan reviewer Theresa Masin, Juvenile Aid Bureau secretary Cheryl Behr, Community Development department program technician Liz Plouff and Mr. Zitek also made their cases as to why they believed their jobs should not be cut, as the supervisor has proposed.

Mr. McCabe noted taht he is one of only two Animal Control Officers in the town. As for Ms. Masin, she said town officials had pledged to streamline the review process when they took office, and that eliminating a planning position will do the opposite. She said applications she has reviewed that have been approved also generated about $150,000 in fees for the town. Ms. Plouff said she has been responsible for obtaining and managing grant money for the town, while Ms. Behr said her position also is vital to maintaining grants obtained by the JAB.

Councilman John Dunleavy and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio both publicly stated support for restoring the fire marshal position.

tgannon@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 20, 2010

10/31/10 8:12pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO Voters in the Riverhead Fire District authorized the district to sell the former Riverhead Building Supply properties on Ostrander and Union Avenues for $1.3 million Tuesday.

Voters in the Riverhead Fire District authorized the district to sell the former Riverhead Building Supply properties on Ostrander and Union avenues for $1.3 million.

There were 35 votes in favor, four opposed and one vote that was challenged, according to fire district secretary Bob Zaweski.

Meanwhile, another land exchange involving the Riverhead Fire District took a step forward at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, when the board voted to let Supervisor Sean Walter execute all documents required to transfer town-owned land off Route 58 to the fire district in exchange for the former fire headquarters on Second Street.

The fire district has a contract to sell the Ostrander Avenue property — which was donated to the fire district in 2000 by Riverhead Building Supply — for $1.3 million to Atlantis Marine World, which is hoping to use it for parking, according to Dennis Hamill, chairman of the Riverhead Board of Fire Commissioners. The property encompasses seven tax map parcels and is about four acres total, he said.

By law, voter approval is needed to sell fire district property, Mr. Hamill said. With the approval in hand, that deal can now move forward, he said.

In addition to the $1.3 million, the district will begin to collect tax payments on the property as it once again becomes privately owned, Mr. Hamill noted. “It’s a win-win situation,” he added.

“The generosity of the Goodale family should be acknowledged,” Mr. Hamill said, referring to the owners of Riverhead Building Supply.

Initially, the fire district intended to build a new fire headquarters on the property, but later determined that traffic in that area was not suitable for a firehouse. The district instead got voter approval in 2007 to build a new $14.7 million fire headquarters on Roanoke Avenue.

A fire in August 2009 destroyed one of the Ostrander Avenue buildings and the fire district subsequently demolished all of the structures on the seven parcels and put the land up for sale.

Atlantis has been using one of the Ostrander Avenue lots for parking for several years under an agreement with the fire district.

The other deal involves land the town owns that has been leased to the fire district for years. It is used as a firematic training site, as well as for annual motorized drill competitions. The district has sought to acquire the land for years. It has access of Route 58 and also abuts town land at Stotzky Park.

The land was technically owned by the town-run Riverhead Water District, and the Town Board on Tuesday passed a resolution transferring ownership to the town.

The Second Street firehouse was replaced by the new Roanoke Avenue headquarters and the district has been trying to sell it. Town Board members have said they would like to use the facility for the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, even though ambulance officials have repeatedly said they don’t want it because it’s not in a good location for an ambulance barn.

tgannon@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 19, 2010

10/31/10 8:08pm

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO A 10,000-square-foot archery arena opened in Calverton, offering 3-D, life-sized animal targets for advanced shooters only.

A

brand-new, “3-D target” indoor archery arena opened in Calverton on Oct. 1, the first day of hunting season.

The 10,000-square-foot facility called Thrill of the Hunt offers 30 life-size animals made of dense rubber as targets and five stations to shoot from, with six color-coded and numbered targets to shoot per station. Each round costs $18 and a competition costs $25.

Art Binder, a former horse trainer who owns the arena, said the construction of the facility began in early June and cost about $1 million.

He said the shooting range is not for the faint of heart. The arena only allows advanced shooters who have had experience at professional archery clubs.

“These aren’t toys,” he said, pointing to two compound bows with elliptical wheels displayed on the wall.

The arrows travel at a speed of 280 feet per second. The bows are made with an aluminum riser and a laminated rim. Cables and a string are attached between limbs on the top and bottom of the bow, creating leverage to release the arrow, he said.

And shooting requires pinpoint accuracy.

“It requires 100 percent concentration,” he said. “Ninety-five percent isn’t good enough.”

The indoor facility has a natural, outdoor feel, with a rolling terrain of dirt and different elevations. The animal targets include a fox, bobcat, turkey, mongoose, bear and deer in different positions. Circular targets are drawn on each animal’s vital area so that, as in hunting, the animal is shot and killed instantly and is not tortured with a slow, painful death.

Mr. Binder said archery shooters are not necessarily hunters, but both sports involve a respect for animal life.

“We don’t kill animals; we harvest them,” he said.

Mr. Binder, a 22-year Calverton resident, said archery is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country and expects business to pick up when hunting season on Long Island ends in January. Archery is one of the safest sports, he said, contending that there are more injuries in pingpong than in archery.

Wounded veterans can shoot at Thrill of the Hunt for free, and Mr. Binder is planning a Wounded Warrior charity event where he’ll hold a competition shoot and 50 percent of his earnings will be donated to the Wounded Warrior foundation.

One of the arena’s first shooters was Thomas Slawinski, who has shot at at least 150 archery ranges across the country. He counts Thrill of the Hunt as one of the top 10 arenas he’s ever visited.

He cited the large space of the facility and the fact that it has big mounds, a dirt ground and different elevations as reasons that make it stand out among others.

“[Mr. Binder] has a lot of potential to do different types of shooting positions and he can set up the course a different way any time he wants.” said Mr. Slawinski, a carpenter who says he shoots every weekend.

Currently, Mr. Slawinski holds the highest score at Thrill of the Hunt, raking in 304 points out of a possible 400.

Mr. Slawinski likens archery to golf.

“I enjoy the hobby of being in the outdoors, walking through the woods and trying to shoot your best score,” he said.

samantha@northshoresun.com


This post was originally published Oct. 19, 2010

10/31/10 8:03pm

COURTESY PHOTO Elmer Miranda-Depaz

A Flanders man is being held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside after failing to post $100,000 bail for stabbing and critically injuring a Riverhead man during an altercation at Casa Rica Restaurant and Sports Bar on East Main Street in Riverhead early Tuesday morning.

Elmer Miranda-Depaz, 28, appeared before Town Justice Richard Ehlers this morning wearing a white paper jumpsuit and yellow paper covering on his feet. Riverhead Detective Sergeant Robert Loggia said police took Mr. Miranda-Depaz clothes for evidence.

An attorney representing Mr. Miranda-Depaz requested a lower bail explaining that his client worked construction jobs and would not have the money needed. Mr. Miranda-Depaz is due back in court Wednesday.

The victim, identified as 35-year-old Hugo Alberto, was taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center for treatment of his injuries. He is listed in critical condition.

Police said the two men, who were acquaintances, got into an altercation shortly before 2 a.m. at the restaurant when Mr. Miranda-Depaz pulled out an 8-inch knife and stabbed Mr. Alberto in the upper torso several times. Police could not say how many times Mr. Alberto was stabbed. Det. Sgt. Loggia said police did not know what sparked the fight because they have not yet spoken to the victim.

Following the stabbing, witnesses then followed Mr. Miranda-Depaz out of the bar and were able to point him out to police, authorities said.

A cleaning crew was spotted outside the bar about 8 a.m. this morning, according to Raymond Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District and owner of the nearby Robert James Salon.

Mr. Pickersgill said he is fed up with the bar and the recurrent crime it brings downtown.

“I would love to see them move,” he said. “It’s not right for here. It just brings a bad element.”

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter was reportedly at the scene this morning and had vowed to report the establishment to the New York State Liquor Authority. Mr. Walter did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

In August, the State liquor authority raided Casa Rica and charged owner Carlos Moreno-Bonilla for not conforming to government regulations regarding security guards and also for failing to adhere to building codes and fire regulations.

Mr. Morena-Bonilla was also arrested for employing unlicensed security guards in June.

In addition to the stabbing, Riverhead Police responded to Casa Rica several other times over the weekend.

On Saturday, Hugo Vargas, 21, of Riverhead was arrested there about 1 a.m. and charged with third-degree robbery, town police said. No additional information was available. On Sunday, town police said Hermelindo Mayan-Carias, 41, of Flanders was arrested near the restaurant about 1 a.m. and charged with public urination.

Police were called to the establishment for disturbances three additional times on Sunday night, though no arrests were made.

vchinese@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 19, 2010

10/31/10 8:01pm


BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOA stabbing at Casa Rica Restaurant and Sports Bar Tuesday morning has renewed a call to close the establishment.


A 28-year-old Flanders man was arrested early Tuesday for allegedly stabbing an acquaintance multiple times during a fight that broke out inside the bathroom at Casa Rica Restaurant and Sports Bar in downtown Riverhead, authorities said.

The second knife attack in as many years at the troubled establishment has renewed calls to have Casa Rica shut down. When the stabbing victim stumbled outside the East Main Street bar and was found by Riverhead police about 2 a.m. Tuesday, it marked the fifth time officers had been called there in a 72-hour period.

The alleged stabber, Elmer Miranda-Depaz, is being held at the Suffolk County jail on $100,000 bail. He appeared before Riverhead Town Justice Richard Ehlers Tuesday morning wearing a white paper jumpsuit and yellow paper coverings on his feet. Riverhead Police Detective Sergeant Robert Loggia said investigators had taken Mr. Miranda-Depaz’ clothes for evidence.

At the hearing, a lawyer representing Mr. Miranda-Depaz requested lower bail, explaining that his client worked construction jobs and would not have the money. Mr. Miranda-Depaz is due back in court Friday.

Meanwhile, the victim, identified as 35-year-old Hugo Alberto, was listed in critical condition at Stony Brook University Medical Center Tuesday. Prosecutors said he lost a substantial amount of blood during the fight and had undergone surgery Tuesday morning.

Police said the two men got into an argument during which Mr. Miranda-Depaz pulled out an eight-inch knife and stabbed Mr. Alberto several times in the upper torso. Police could not say how many times Mr. Alberto was stabbed. Det. Sgt. Loggia said police did not know what sparked the fight because they had not yet spoken to the victim.

After the stabbing, police said, witnesses followed Mr. Miranda-Depaz out of the bar and pointed him out to police.

Mr. Alberto was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead and then transferred to Stony Brook due to the severity of his wounds.

A cleaning crew was spotted outside the bar hours later as other businesses along East Main Street were beginning to open for business Tuesday, said Raymond Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District and owner of the neighboring Robert James Salon and Spa.

Mr. Pickersgill said he is fed up with the bar and the recurrent crime it brings downtown.

“I would love to see them move,” he said. “It’s not right for here. It just brings a bad element.” In addition to the stabbing, Riverhead Police responded to Casa Rica several other times over the weekend.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter vowed in Town Hall Tuesday to pressure the New York State Liquor Authority to shut down the establishment, which keeps late hours and caters to a Latino clientele.

In a radio interview Tuesday on WRIV 1390 AM, Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said police have been called to the bar about 70 times since it opened less than two years ago.

Mr. Walter told the News-Review he has directed town attorneys to investigate the possibility of requiring Riverhead restaurants that also have liquor licenses to obtain a special permit from the town. He said that way the town can revoke the permit and shut down a business without having to consult the State Liquor Authority.

Mr. Alberto was the second person critically injured in a knifing at Casa Rica in as many years. In July 2009, a 38-year-old Riverhead man attacked someone with a machete in a 3 a.m. fight that spilled off the bar’s rear deck and into the parking lot. The victim, also a Flanders man, suffered deep wounds to his arm and neck.

This August, the State Liquor Authority raided Casa Rica and charged owner Carlos Moreno-Bonilla for not conforming to government regulations regarding security guards and also for failing to adhere to building codes and fire regulations.

In June, Mr. Moreno-Bonilla was charged with employing unlicensed security guards.

In regard to those charges, the State Liquor Authority has scheduled a hearing in connection with proceedings to suspend, cancel or revoke Casa Rica’s liquor license. That hearing is scheduled for Dec. 3 at 11:30 a.m. in the Nassau County Supreme Court building on 100 Supreme Court Driving in Mineola.

The stabbing early Tuesday actually marked the fifth time police had been called to the bar since Saturday, when Hugo Vargas, 21, of Riverhead was arrested there on robbery charges. Riverhead Police were called there four times on Sunday. During those visits they charged one man with public urination.

The owner of the building, East Hampton developer Richard Gherardi, could not be reached for comment.

vchinese@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 20, 2010

10/31/10 7:59pm

T

he plan to build a YMCA near Stotzky Park, a short jog from Riverhead’s downtown, appears to be in doubt.

The Riverhead Town Board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday “to express support for the establishment of a YMCA at Enterprise Park at Calverton property adjoining the town’s park.”

But Joe Van de Wetering of Peconic YMCA says his group still considers the county property to be its first choice for a YMCA site. The Calverton site is more of a backup plan, he explained.

“It’s something that’s been discussed, but it’s not necessarily what we desire,” said Mr. Van de Wetering. “But we want to make sure there’s always an option.”

Peconic YMCA has been seeking a site in Riverhead for more than 10 years.

Fritz Trinklein of the YMCA of Long Island said the volunteers and contributors to the Peconic YMCA project are eager to get work started quickly, while construction prices are low, but the process of establishing a YMCA on the county land is taking longer than hoped. Currently, he said, the issue of what agency approves what on the project is being reviewed by attorneys for the county.

A proposed land swap between the county and Riverhead Town, which Mr. Trinklein had hoped could get the project moving sooner, was rejected by Town Board members earlier this year.

In the past, Peconic YMCA has opposed the idea of building a facility at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, saying the former Navy land is too far from the center of town.

Mr. Van de Wetering said that is still a drawback of the Calverton location, as is the lack of a public sewer system there.

Riverhead Councilman George Gabrielsen noted the Southampton Youth Association in North Sea is also far from the center of town, but employs an aggressive busing system to get kids to the facility. He believes a similar arrangement could be worked out in Riverhead, since the school district has expressed interest in using the proposed YMCA pool.

Mr. Gabrielsen said the town has designated a portion of a town park in Calverton for a community recreation complex, and the YMCA could fill that role. The town has eight acres of land there that it could make available just east of the existing softball fields and east of some proposed soccer fields, he said.

“We’re encouraged by this positive signal from the town,” Mr. Trinklein said. Peconic YMCA is “willing to pursue all options” and may end up going with whichever plan can be implemented fastest, he said.

“We’ll get there,” Mr. Van de Wetering said. “We are extremely patient.”

tgannon@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 19, 2010

10/31/10 7:58pm

Where could new sewers be built in Suffolk County? How much would they cost? And, perhaps most importantly, where would the money come from?

Those were among several questions pondered by environmentalists, economic development agencies and elected officials at Suffolk County’s second so-called “sewer summit” at Suffolk Community College last Thursday.

County Executive Steve Levy, who hosted the summit, told a crowd of 120 that sewers improve water quality and boost economic development. “We want to get the word out that sewer is not a dirty word,” Mr. Levy said.

He wants to preserve the “treasured” undeveloped land in Suffolk, Mr. Levy said, but also expand current sewer districts.

“We want to improve our environment and provide for and promote properly-planned development that will help us move into the next century,” he said.

Since the first sewer summit in 2008, Suffolk County has dedicated $5.6 million to study the effects of potential sewers in 22 communities, including Riverside and Flanders, as well as Rocky Point.

One thing the studies are all finding: sewage isn’t cheap, at least the processing of it. A new sewage treatment plant at any of the studied communities would cost about $50 million.

Tom Isles, director of the Suffolk County Department of Planning, presented some ideas to help pay for the projects. For example, the county could use tax revenue from development projects to pay bonds issued to fund infrastructure, he said, or create an infrastructure bank.

The Southwest Sewer District, a pocket of the county with a high number of sewers, was funded through government subsidies which are no longer available.

David Calone, chair of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, recognized that some balk at the cost of building more sewers, but said “failing to protect the quality of our drinking water would be far more costly.”

Mr. Levy emphasized the need for everyone in the county to get on the same page in a collaborative, cooperative effort.

Currently, one-third of Suffolk County is sewered with 184 sewage treatment plants and 23 more in the planning stage.

samantha@northshoresun.com