11/30/10 11:34pm
11/30/2010 11:34 PM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Matt Stetler, below, is one of three seniors who will not get to wrestle for Bishop McGann-Mercy this season.

The Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School wrestling program has been dumped.

The school’s athletic director, Paula Nickerson, recently informed the Monarchs’ longtime coach, Jeff Gatz, that the program has been dropped after only five wrestlers showed an interest in the program.

“This was not a monetary issue,” Nickerson said. “Section XI has a minimum number of wrestlers [six] you have to have on the team and we did not have enough interest.”

McGann-Mercy did not win a match last season, going 0-9 overall and in Suffolk County League VII.

Gatz, who has coached the Monarchs for the past 13 seasons, said he was “disappointed” with the decision.

McGann-Mercy has historically had a difficult time putting enough wrestlers on the mat to have a competitive team.

“We’ve always had between six and 12 wrestlers,” Gatz said. “I felt we could have fielded enough weight classes, but I have no say in this.”

Gatz said he is especially disappointed for his three seniors — Matt Stetler (125 pounds), Ryan Heimroth (152) and Matt Delandro (161).

“These are three kids that were supposed to place this year,” Gatz said. “The parents are upset.”

Nickerson said she took a survey and there was more interest in the newly added boys winter track program than in wrestling. She said, “We didn’t expect this.”

Gatz said it would be difficult to bring the wrestling program back in the future.

“It will be hard to get this reinstated,” he said. “With no program, it is hard to attract kids. If we do get reinstated, we start back at the junior varsity level for a year, then move up to varsity. Right now, we’re a little upset.”

11/30/10 11:11pm

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Gabe Rice, right, was a league champion last season.

The Riverhead Blue Waves wrestling team was hit hard by graduation. Very hard. But any team that takes the defending Suffolk County League IV champions lightly this season is in for a rude awakening.

“Yes, we lost a lot of good kids and other teams may take us for granted, but we have a nice nucleus to work with,” Riverhead Coach Wade “Rocky” Davey said. “We should be competitive.”

Riverhead, which went 14-3 overall and 7-0 in League IV last season, returns eight wrestlers who placed in the top three in the league tournament. Seniors Christian Krumbiegel (125 pounds) and Gabe Rice (145) were league champions last season. Junior Anthony Infantolino (112) and senior Joe Menna (160) placed second, while sophomores Kevin Thomas (96) and Keith Miles (103), along with junior Shawn Yarborough (285) and senior Patrick Thomas (125) all came in third place.

In addition to the returning core of wrestlers, senior Mario Carrera (171) and sophomore Evan Primm (117) will also see plenty of action. Davey said that Carrera, after a good sophomore year, didn’t wrestle last season. He returns to the mat and Davey said, “He has looked real good.”

There are two new mandatory weight classes, 96 and 285 pounds, for dual meets this season. Riverhead will fill those classes with new and inexperienced wrestlers.

Davey said the West Babylon Eagles and North Babylon Bulldogs will be “tough to beat.” The key to the Blue Waves being successful, Davey said, “is with the demands so high, it is hard not to burn out. We have to keep our drive alive the whole year.”

Riverhead will open the season in the East Hampton Tournament on Dec. 11.

Davey is optimistic about the coming season.

“I am always optimistic, but the kids have to prove themselves,” he said. “We have something to work with. It should be fun. It will be nice to see what the kids can do.”

11/30/10 10:44pm

This is the season they have all been waiting for.

The Riverhead Blue Waves boys bowling team finished third in Suffolk County League III last year with 240.5 points, trailing only the Sachem East Flaming Arrows (290.5) and Longwood Lions (243.5). This season the Blue Waves return the exact same team, and Coach Scott Hackal believes his veteran bowlers are ready to make some noise.

Riverhead will be led by four seniors in Elliot Jones, Adam Vail, Travis Walker, John Horton and Anthony Trent.

Jones had a 227 average, which was second-highest in the county. He rolled a high game of 288 and made the all-state team.

“Elliot is a very accurate bowler,” Hackal said. “He throws a lot of strikes. He doesn’t miss by much, so his spares are all good. He throws a good first ball.”

Walker had a 198 average, followed by Vail at 195, Trent at 191 and Horton at 182.

Hackal said the team’s experience will pay dividends this season.

“Many of these kids have been on the team since the seventh grade, and with another year of experience, we could finish in the top three in our league,” he said. “We could even finish higher if things go our way.”

Hackal said Sachem East, Longwood, the Connetquot Thunderbirds and Patchogue-Medford Raiders will all be tough to beat, but he believes his team is up for the challenge.

“It is all up to them how much they want to put into it,” he said. “We’ve got to perform.”

It is always tough to win on the road, but Hackal said: “We are getting better at adjusting to the different lanes. Many of our guys have been bowling in different leagues throughout the year, which is helping to improve their game.”

Hackal knows this could be a special season for his team.

“A number of things could happen,” he said. “This could be really good. It should be interesting.”

11/30/10 8:35pm

The town supervisor is budget officer and chief financial officer of the town. As a former supervisor, I prepared several budgets that I submitted to the Town Board. Over my lifetime in Riverhead, I’ve watched supervisors before and after me do the same. But never before has the town seen a show like that put on this year by Supervisor Sean Walter and this Town Board.

Act I began Sept. 30 with the presentation of the supervisor’s budget, which called for the dismissal of 13 employees yet included a $70,000 increase to the supervisor’s personnel budget to insure continued employment of the supervisor’s campaign manager. The supervisor’s budget also included $170,000 in deferred compensation for elected officials, political appointees and department heads, items not disclosed in posted salaries.

Yet, Mr. Walter somehow failed to include in his budget $150,000 in mandated expenses for step increases required by contract for civil service employees and also failed to include over $200,000 for dispatcher salaries and benefits mandated by last years’ referendum. Despite his omission of these required expenses, the supervisor’s budget featured, in the midst of a painful recession, the highest tax increase of any town on Long Island.

Act II opened with the budget tragedy descending into farce. Between Sept. 30 and Nov. 20, many contentious budget meetings were held by the Town Board. Most noteworthy was the incivility of Town Board members to each other and to town employees pleading for their jobs. The highlight came when Mr. Walter refused to permit the president of the employee union, Bill Walsh, to speak at a public meeting. Here is where tragedy became farce when Mr. Walsh declared that Mr. Walter was a “Chickensh– for not allowing me to speak,” as reported by the News-Review.

Act III commenced as the all-Republican Town Board voted 4-1 against the supervisor’s budget but then failed to muster the necessary three votes to make any change to it. Months of budget meetings came to no purpose.

After the failed budget vote, the supervisor’s original budget became by default the town’s 2011 final budget. This budget is now law and features: (1) a missing $350,000 in mandated expenses ($150,000 for step increases; $200,000 for dispatchers); (2) $240,000 in unnecessary discretionary spending ($70,000 for the supervisor’s campaign manager and $170,000 in deferred compensation for elected officials, political appointees and department heads); (3) termination of employment for 13 town employees; (4) uncut salaries for elected officials, political appointees and department heads; (5) Long Island’s highest tax increase. Grievances and lawsuits are already under way.

Lingering tension among Town Board members continues, as reflected in Mr. Walter’s parting comment at the budget vote. “This was just a media circus,” he said. “This was a show put on by some council members just for the media.”

If this budget folly was indeed a show, as Mr. Walter suggests, it was one sorry performance for which our residents and 13 fired employees will pay dearly.

How about this for an alternative, happier ending? A budget without unnecessary spending, with mandated expenses included, 13 of our neighbors’ jobs saved, Long Island’s highest tax increase avoided and voluntary salary givebacks from elected officials, political appointees and department heads. (Recall that former supervisor Phil Cardinale gave $17,000 of his salary back to the town.)

There is a better way.

Mr. Villella is a former Riverhead Town supervisor and chairman of the town Democratic Committee.

11/30/10 7:55pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The 179 year-old Grange Hall on Sound Avenue in Northville is in serious need of repair.

Northville’s Grange Hall has served as a school, church, theater, homeless shelter, art gallery, Masonic Lodge and farmers’ meeting house over its 179-year history.

But the building is now in serious need of repair and its owner, First Parish Church of the United Church of Christ just across Sound Avenue, is planning to invite the community next spring to help revitalize the building and rethink how it should be used.

On January 11, First Parish Church Pastor Dianne Rodriguez will host a meeting with representatives of three other local UCC churches to discuss plans for the hall. She hopes to roll out a public campaign then to fix up the building next spring. She explained she thought of it after Maureen’s Haven officials told her they wanted to bring in the fire marshall to inspect the facility because of safety concerns.

Maureen’s Haven is a non-profit group that houses homeless people in a different congregation on the East End each night, relying on volunteers, space and kitchen facilities from the host churches.

When the small First Parish Church congregation first set up its shelter last year, it didn’t have enough volunteers in to staff the shelter, said Pastor Rodriguez. Baiting Hollow Congregational Church provided money to heat the Grange for the homeless shelter, while volunteers from Old Steeple Community Church agreed to help staff the once-a-week shelter. Riverhead First Congregational Church agreed to help, too, and Orient Congregational Church donated an industrial stove.

But money is so tight for the tiny First Parish Church that it doesn’t have the resources to bring the stove to Northville. It’s sitting in the Orient firehouse.

The Grange’s 80-year-old kitchen is only one aspect of the building that needs updating. The old steam heat system works, but heat is quickly dispersed through the building’s tin downstairs interior walls, which aren’t insulated. There is no bathroom on the second floor, which is used as a sleeping area for the men who stay at Maureen’s Haven. When the building is used as a shelter, the church places a porta-potty outside and the men take the fire escape if they need to use the bathroom at night.

The second story floor is warped, but its problems pale compared to the former first story floor, which the congregation replaced last year at a cost of $40,000 in order to make the space habitable for Maureen’s Haven.

The Grange Hall was built in 1831 on the corner of Doctor’s Path and Route 25 in Riverhead as a church for the UCC congregation, said Richard Wines, the chairman of Riverhead’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, whose family has long been involved with the church.

He said the building was moved to its current site just across from Church Lane in Northville in 1834 after the congregation split; one group stayed in Riverhead and the other took the building with them. It served as First Parish Church until another church was built across the street in 1860. It then became Northville Academy, a private secondary school. The new church building burned down in 1877, and in 1901 so did another one built to replace it. In one case the building was struck by lightning, said Mr. Wines, and the cause of the other fire was a mystery. The current First Parish Church is the third one built on the site across from the old original structure.

In the 1870s, the old structure became a community meeting hall and in the early 20th century, the Grange, a farmer’s association, began meeting there, giving the building its name.

“They never owned the building, they just met there,” said Mr. Wines.

Since then, the building has served a number of community functions. In the late 1990s, it was a meeting place for North Fork Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and it’s been used by theater groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, a quilting group, and, most recently, for organic gardening classes offered by The Nature Lyceum based in Westhampton. There is a piano and an organ and a stage and pews in the upstairs room, which have also seen ample use.

Pastor Rodriguez hopes to use the building for a literary club and art exhibition space in the near future. She said that it has a history of use by literary groups.

Though she is well aware of the building’s rich and varied history, she believes the building will best be preserved if the community at large, and local UCC congregations, decide how it can best serve the community’s needs in the 21st century.

“We want to stay away from making it a historic site. We don’t see our ministry as preserving history. We want to preserve the building for the community’s needs in the future,” she said.

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11/30/10 7:48pm

COURTESY PHOTO | U.S. Geological Survey map showing the location of Tuesday's earthquake beneath the ocean floor south of Southampton

Feel something shaking Tuesday morning? It was an earthquake registering 3.9 on the Richter Scale deep under the ocean floor south of Southampton.

The quake struck at 10:45 a.m. 79 miles south-southeast of Southampton more than four miles below the ocean’s surface, the Lamont-Doherty Cooperative Seismographic Network reported. Tremors were felt across the East End.

“I was reading and all of a sudden the house started to rattle,” said Jack McGreevy of Mattituck. “It felt like I was back in Brooklyn when the coal trucks used to rumble by.”

The tremors lasted no more than five seconds “but it was very noticeable,” he said. “It got my attention.”

His house was undamaged and nothing fell off his shelves.

The Riverhead and Southold police report receiving no earthquake-related calls.

11/30/10 7:18pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The three-acre Grangebel Park, closed late last year for renovations, will likely be open to the public by Christmas Day.

Walking through Riverhead’s renovated Grangebel Park — though the temperature might be frigid this time of year — one can imagine the Montauk daisies, black-eyed Susans and weeping willow trees that will be in full bloom come spring.

A new stage, a rebuilt fish ramp for alewives, and new paths for walking and bicycling all hint at the activity that will surely ebb and flow once again through the scenic downtown park.

The three-acre park, closed late last year for renovations, will likely be open to the public by Christmas Day.

“I think it’s going to be the crown jewel of Riverhead,” said town engineer Ken Testa.

Electricians were hard at work Monday morning installing lamps that Mr. Testa said should be fully functional in about a week. He said only a few finishing touches, such as placing railings along a bridge and the fish passage, are needed before the town can take down the fence that has surrounded the park since it was closed.

Riverhead-based Terry Contracting, which rebuilt the fish passage, made bulkhead repairs as well as aesthetic improvements, finished the fish ramp and spillways last March. Mr. Testa said the entire project was originally expected to be completed by November, but heavy snowfall last winter stalled construction.

The site improvements cost about $1.37 million and the fish passage construction cost about $750,000. Community development director Christine Kempner said over $1 million in federal, state, county and town funding was allocated for the fish passage — including preliminary studies and analysis — and the work came in under budget.

Although exact figures were not available, Mr. Testa estimated that the entire park overhaul cost about $5 million, including renovations made in the 1990s to the western portion of the park, including bulkheading and creation of a pedestrian footbridge.

The paths in the park are gravel over mesh, which Mr. Testa said is more environmentally friendly than asphalt.
“Water can drain through a mesh walkway,” he explained.

Two small islands near the park have not been upgraded due to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation regulations, Mr. Testa said.

The park will be maintained by the town’s buildings and grounds department. Riverhead’s recreation department will oversee concerts and performances on the stage.

Parking will be available east of Peconic Avenue along the north side of the Peconic River, Mr. Testa said. The town will construct a crosswalk on Peconic Avenue ­— as mandated by Suffolk County because it is a county road — to connect the parking lot to the park for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Ray Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, said his organization had pledged $8,600 toward construction of the crosswalk.

“We hope it will bring more people downtown,” he said of the park. “It came out beautiful.”

He added that the BID will install holiday lights and other decorations in the park and other sections of the district.

Mr. Pickersgill said the BID will vote at its next meeting on whether or not to donate money every year to replant some of the vegetation that adorned the park in the early 1900s, adding that the board is in favor of doing so.

Grangebel Park was purchased about 120 years ago by wealthy Riverhead attorney Timothy Griffing and was named after his daughters, Grace, Angeline and Mabel.

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11/30/10 7:11pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Suburban Exterminating supervisor Joe Delutri uses a steam machine that generates heat of up to 300 degrees to kill bedbugs.

A week after Riverhead Free Library was treated with heat application and a natural pesticide after a single bedbug was found inside, the library appeared to be pest-free.

Library director Lisa Jacobs is asking patrons to stay vigilant and report it if they spot the parasite. There is a question and answer sheet about bedbugs inside the library and on its website, she noted.

She said that attendance has been down this week, though she attributed that to the holiday weekend rather than a bedbug scare.

“People seem to be taking it in stride,” she said, adding that the library generally hosts about 1,200 patrons a day.

Last Tuesday , simply as a precaution, the library brought in a bug-sniffing dog because reports of bedbugs in public buildings had increased. Ms. Jacobs said other libraries in the county had taken similar steps after bedbugs had been found at libraries in Huntington and Central Islip.

The dog did give a positive response for the presence of bedbugs, and the library was immediately closed to the public last Tuesday and Wednesday.

Suburban Exterminators visually inspected the building last Tuesday and found no bedbugs inside. Exterminators also laid out 30 dry ice bedbug traps Tuesday afternoon and, on Wednesday, entomologists discovered a single bedbug.

The library has since been treated using a combination of heat and the all-natural pesticide Topia, which Ms. Jacobs said she hopes will be successful. The building reopened Friday.

“Let’s hope we can put this behind us,” she said.

Lynn Frank, an entomologist with Suburban Exterminators who treated the building, said that short of quarantining the library for several days, placing a tarp over it and pumping it full of harmful chemicals, there was no surefire way to be certain the building was pest-free. However, he said the treatment used in the library is extremely effective.

Mr. Frank said there is a bedbug epidemic in the northeastern U.S., with the worst problem in New York City. He said bedbugs are affecting all levels of society in the region.

“This is not an insect that favors the poor,” he said. “Everyone is susceptible to bedbugs. I’ve gone into mansions that are worth tens of millions of dollars … that have bedbugs.”

He stressed that bedbugs do not transmit disease though their bites, but the bites do itch and they can cause psychological trauma. Bedbugs nest in beds and other furniture and feed on the blood of warm-blooded mammals including humans as they sleep.

Mr. Frank said if anyone spots a bedbug in their home, it’s best to call an exterminator right away because an infestation is easier to treat in the early stages.

Despite last week’s discovery, patrons outside the library Tuesday morning appeared unfazed about the prospect of bedbugs.

Anita Checkijian of Riverhead said she could not let herself worry about every report of bedbugs because they had become so common in public places.

“It wouldn’t effect me,” she said, even though “They’re all over.”

Riverhead resident Ed Rolko said he would continue to visit the library two to three times a week. “I haven’t had any problems,” he said.

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