03/31/11 9:12pm
03/31/2011 9:12 PM

Riverhead Police arrested three Manorville teens late Thursday for allegedly swiping goods from cars parked in Wading River, authorities said.

Police had increased their presence in the hamlet recently after getting several complaints of people snapping door handles at night while looking for open cars from which to swipe change, electronics and anything else of value.

And at about 11:15 p.m. Thursday, the department received a call for another car caper and sent plainclothes and uniformed officers to the area, where they soon rounded up and arrested the three suspects — Andrew Gelman, 17, Alan Lockel, 17, Anthony Waage, 18 — on larceny charges, police said.

Investigators then paid a visit to Mr. Gelman’s Manor Hills Drive home on a search warrant and found goods believed to be from prior larcenies, police said.

Mr. Waage is also facing an unlawful possession of a noxious material charge for allegedly carrying a can of Mace spray, officials said.

Police say the investigation is not over and more charges are expected.

03/31/11 7:39pm

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Meghan Donnelly of Bishop McGann-Mercy won the triple jump with a distance of 28 feet 2 1/2 inches.

The Suffolk County League VII girls track and field meet on Thursday at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School offered something of a surprise. Cold rain was one thing, wind was another, but how about some hail on the last day of March?

And then there was something that wasn’t surprising at all: another win for the Monarchs.

That’s just what they do.

The Monarchs didn’t allow nasty weather or the Center Moriches Red Devils to prevent them from continuing their winning ways. With their 92-37 season-opening victory, the Monarchs extended their dual-meet win streak to 20. Their last loss was to the Port Jefferson Royals on April 15, 2008.

“It’s a lot more motivation,” said McGann-Mercy senior Kayleigh Macchirole, who has never experienced a team loss in her three years with the Monarchs. “That’s a reason why I give everything I have at dual meets, because I want to win the dual meets, keep the winning streak alive.”

Winning has become as much a part of McGann-Mercy’s program as the equipment and the athletes, so much so that when one of the team’s throwers, Catherine Andes, was asked if the result was what she expected on Thursday, she replied: “Of course I expected it. Why wouldn’t I?”

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Bishop McGann-Mercy triple jumper Michelle Borge came in second place at 24 feet 2 1/2 inches.

Defending league champion McGann-Mercy, which went 7-0 last year, was led by Sasa Vann, who won three events. The junior finished first in the long jump (15 feet 7 inches), the 100 meters (13.5 seconds) and the 200 (28.2).

Two seniors, Kayleigh Macchirole and Olivia Schumann, won two events each for the Monarchs. Macchirole led a sweep in the shot put with a throw of 28-4 and breezed in the 400 with a time of 1:02.9. Schumann took first in the high jump at 4-2 and the 400 intermediate hurdles in 1:12.2.

What wasn’t entirely expected, however, was the weather. The meet was contested in difficult conditions to say the least.

“There was hail, there was sleet, there was wind, there was rain, a little bit of everything,” said Tricia Nunez, who is in her second year as McGann-Mercy’s coach.

Macchirole called the weather conditions the worst she has ever experienced while competing in a track meet. “They were horrible,” she said.

In light of the weather, athletes were permitted to compete in warmup suits and, since they had no bearing on the final result, the three scheduled relay races were not run.

Having lost only four athletes from last year’s team, McGann-Mercy remains a squad to be taken seriously. “They’re a great group of kids who are so committed and they’re very, very hard working,” Nunez said. “When you have that combination, there are all sorts of possibilities.”

Andes did well, winning the discus with a throw of 63-0 and taking second in the shot put at 22-10. Other Monarchs came though with winning performances. Meghan Donnelly’s triple jump of 28-2 1/2 landed her in first place. Emily Venesina was the first to cross the finish line in the 1,500 with a time of 5:44.2. Delina Auciello clocked 2:45.2 in the 800. Isabella Franz took second to no one in the 3,000 with her 12:06.1. In consideration of the inclement weather, the 1,500 race walk was shortened to 800 meters; Lindsay Gelling of McGann-Mercy was the first finisher in 4:34.5, beating out teammate Colleen Edwards by 2.8 seconds.

It was a convincing showing across the board.

“I knew they were going to be good, but I didn’t think they were going to be as good as they were,” Center Moriches Coach Dan Fournier said. “What makes a good team is working together and being consistent. They had some good athletes out there today.”

Last year McGann-Mercy capped its dual-meet season with a four-point win over rival Port Jefferson. The schedule-maker apparently has a sense for drama. Once again those two teams will face each other in the final dual meet of the year in Port Jefferson on May 11.

Hail is not in the forecast.

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03/31/11 4:00pm

The Riverhead Central School District will see $593,309 more in state aid next school year than district officials had anticipated, according to figures provided by the state Legislature when compared with the governor’s proposed budget in February.

Statewide, the adopted state budget restored some $272 million in school aid from the $1.5 billion in cuts Governor Andrew Cuomo had proposed.

“We’re very grateful and thankful for the hard work of our legislators,” Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney said of the money. “That’s more than we were expecting.”

Although Ms. Carney said “reducing the tax levy will most likely be a priority,” she added that it was too soon to say exactly how the $593,309 would be used.

“At the next Board of Education meeting we’ll be discussing the impact of that legislation,” she said. “It’s up to the board.”

The Riverhead district was set to lose about $2.95 million from this school year’s $19 million aid package, which includes some federal stimulus money, that won’t be available next school year, according to Mr. Cuomo’s proposed budget released in February.

Riverhead officials have already held several public meetings in consideration of a proposed $110.3 million budget for the 2011-12 school year that eliminates 38 full-time positions, including 15 teachers. A final budget proposal goes to voters on May 17.

The draft budget (not yet accounting for the extra $593,309) proposes a spending increase of about 2 percent from the previous year but the tax levy — the amount of cash the district collects from taxpayers — would go up 5.7 percent for 2011-12, which is $5.2 million, due to the loss of state and federal aid.

The smaller Shoreham-Wading River School District learned last Thursday that $33,510 in aid cuts was being restored from Mr. Cuomo’s proposed budget, according to News-Review calculations from those same state-supplied figures.

The superintendent there, Harriet Copel, said that amount is not enough to make much of an impact.

“$33,510 is a very small portion of our total aid,” Dr. Copel explained. “Although it certainly is a welcome additional revenue.”

“We always would like to get more, but we take what we can get, and this is good,” she added.

Shoreham-Wading River, which is proposing a $60 million budget, will be losing $820,000 from this year’s aid package, according to the newspaper’s calculations.

The state has passed cuts in all areas of its budget in an attempt to reduce a $10 billion budget deficit.

In his proposed budget, Mr. Cuomo had called for cutting 11 percent worth of state aid to Nassau and Suffolk counties, New York City would have lost just under 8 percent with the state losing about 9.3 percent as a whole, officials said.

After weeks of outcry from Long Island superintendents and lawmakers alike, legislators were able to boost those numbers — and narrow the gap — to about 9 percent for L.I., 7 percent for NYC and just over 8 percent statewide.

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03/31/11 1:05pm

Cars heading north on Riverhead’s Kroemer Avenue would be prohibited from turning left onto Route 58 under a traffic plan being considered by the Town Board.

Suffolk County Department of Public Works is suggesting the plan as a way to deal with the large number vehicles expected to be heading in and out of what will soon be a massive super Walmart store on the north side of Route 58, across from Tanger Outlets. Once built, the Walmart would use the same access road that currently feeds the Applebee’s restaurant. That access road aligns with an existing traffic light at Route 58 and Kroemer Avenue.

Bill Hillman, a county engineer, recommended in a letter to town officials last month that left turns onto Route 58 be banned. He also suggested no left turns onto Route 58 from what will be a newly constructed western exit at the WalMart property.

The land slated for the Walmart is located between Applebee’s and the New York State Department of Transportation yard on Route 58.

“The DPW is requesting this to keep the flow of traffic on Route 58,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said during Thursday’s pubic Town Board work session, at which officials considered the plan. “There is going to be two lanes of traffic coming out of Walmart to make a right turn [onto 58] and you’re not going to be able to time the light for two lanes of traffic making a right and still allow traffic from Kroemer Avenue to make a left.”

Mr. Walter said he was told allowing left turns onto Route 58 from Kroemer Avenue “would mess up the timing on the all the other traffic lights to the east.”

The Town Board has tentatively planned a 7:20 p.m. April 20 public hearing in Town Hall on the Kroemer left turn ban proposal.

Mr. Hillman said traffic counts showed relatively few drivers looking to head west from Kroemer Avenue onto Route 58, and that the drivers that do want to head in that direction can do so from Route 25 which also intersects with Kroemer Avenue just to the south.

Councilman John Dunleavy reminded that the state DOT still is planning to put a traffic light at the Route 25 and Kroemer Avenue intersection, for which the Walmart developer, New Jersey-based Headriver LLC., is required to pay.

“I don’t like it,” Councilman Jim Wooten said flatly of the left turn ban. “If they can put a left turn signal by Home Depot they can do it here.”

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03/31/11 12:27pm

There were 248 cases on the docket in Riverhead Town Justice Richard Ehlers’ court, March 21-23. The following were among those adjudicated.

• Edvin Garcia, 22, of Route 25 in Southold pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and was sentenced to 30 days in jail and fined $205.

• Thomas Connor, 32, address unavailable, pleaded guilty to driving while ability impaired, reduced from DWI and was fined $500 and given a 90-day suspension of his license.

• Michael Almonte, 22, of Katherine Path in Middle Island pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, reduced from petit larceny, and was fined $300.

• Tracy Collie Jr., 30, of Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, reduced from petit larceny, and was fined $300.

• Carrie Loper, 49, of Middle Road in Blue Point pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, reduced from seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, and was fined $300.

• Adriel Williams, 35, of Blueberry Commons in Riverhead pleaded guilty to third-degree unlawfully fleeing police in a motor vehicle and was fined $205 and sentenced to three years’ probation.

03/31/11 10:35am

It’s 60 degrees for the first time in what feels like four months. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, 5 o’clock in the afternoon in the heart of Manhattan. People are bathed in green and booze and I’m frolicking around Rockefeller Plaza dressed in an $8,000 blackbird outfit. And I’m having the time of my life!

No, really. The anonymity, the undying attention from young and old and the license to be a total buffoon all led to an exhilarating turn as the Long Island University Blackbird, which — by the way — included an appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

The story of how I came across such good fortune starts on an icy Mattituck day two Decembers ago. On that chilly morning, I told my publisher and fellow staffers that after a whirlwind year as an editor at Times/Review Newspapers and a fulfilling 18 years in journalism I had accepted a job as public relations director of Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus.

I settled in pretty quickly at my new post, publicizing such key events as the campus’ commencement ceremonies and the George Polk Awards in Journalism, which are administered by the university. During the winter of 2010, the men’s basketball team, the Blackbirds, struggled to win as many games as they lost. March Madness seemed light years away from downtown Brooklyn.

But when the wins started to pile up for LIU this year, I took notice. I started attending games. I brought my kids, and my wife. Heck, even my teenage daughter’s boyfriend came to Brooklyn for a game.

When LIU earned a berth in the NCAA tournament for the first time in 14 years, the school bathed in free publicity. The biggest media coup may have been Jimmy Fallon’s adoption of LIU as his 2011 NCAA tournament team. The Blackbirds were featured in “Late Night” skits for three straight nights, leading up to the Blackbirds’ second-round game against North Carolina in Charlotte. I made it my mission to get the school’s mascot on the show.

Convincing Fallon’s producers to invite the bird was an easy sell, though they said it needed to happen Thursday night. This presented a bit of a logistical nightmare, considering the costume needed to be in Charlotte on Friday and the student who wears the costume was in Orlando, Fla., until Friday. The understudy Blackbird was somewhere in Myrtle Beach for spring break.

“The Blackbird has a reputation to uphold. We can’t just let anyone wear it,” an LIU associate athletic director told me, before suggesting, “You might laugh, Brian. But do you want to do it?”

Roughly five minutes later, my DVR was set to record Channel 4 at 12:30 a.m. Friday. It was all a “go” after Pete Tymus, a campus administrator and diehard Blackbirds fan, committed to meeting me after the show and driving the suit to Charlotte to meet its rightful wearer for the big game.

Before I knew it, it was mid-afternoon Thursday and I was in a “Late Night” dressing room, struggling to squeeze into the Blackbird. Aside from the giant feet, the body part of the suit was tolerable.

It was the mascot’s giant head that posed the problem. Peripheral vision was, well, not very peripheral, while not really being able to see up or down was clearly going to be an issue due to the fact that I had to jog up the studio stairs high-fiving audience members.

An hour later, I was in full gear, standing in the dark behind a giant curtain and waiting for my cue to hit the stage. In my skit, three contestants from the audience were playing a game in which one of the prizes was a high-five from the LIU Blackbird. “You’re on! Go to No. 2! No. 2!” shouted the director backstage, after Fallon excitedly told Contestant No. 2 it was her lucky day.

I bounded into the studio and became awash in bright light. Spreading my black wings, I waved to the audience and hopped around a bit before remembering I had to find “No. 2.”

I looked right, spotted her and hurried over, but just before our high-five, the ground shifted under one of my feet. In order to avoid a complete flop, the high-five became a hang-on for dear life. I held the woman’s hand high for a moment as I regained my bearings. After letting go and locating the stairs, I tilted my beak up, gazed into the crowd and decided to slow down the pace, for I had never seen so many people so happy to see me. The high-fives evolved into hugs. Near the top of the steps, I became trapped in a delirious group hug.

I broke away before doing a quick little dance at the top of the stairs, and then I was gone.


But taping the Fallon show was merely Act I of my Blackbird odyssey. A Daily News photographer was waiting outside NBC Studios to take my picture in Rockefeller Plaza.

Once outside, I wasn’t hard to find. I was the giant Blackbird posing for a picture between the two blondes from France, then standing alongside a brunette with sparkly shamrock tattoos on her cheeks. Youngsters wanted to meet me, too, and a grandmother with a Spanish accent.

After a dozen or so impromptu photo shoots, it was time to turn back into Brian. The Blackbird had a date in Charlotte and his ride was parked on 50th Street.

Lucky for me, I was going to Charlotte, too, flying south to watch the real-life Blackbirds take on mighty North Carolina. Despite playing with tremendous grit and heart, undersized LIU fell to the Tar Heels 102-87.

I hadn’t had such fun with the NCAA tournament since 2009, when I ran the office pool at Times/Review in Mattituck. That year, I drafted a newsletter after each round, noting who was winning and assigning silly nicknames to the participants. Some names were related to basketball, i.e. Julie “Three Seconds in the” Lane, The Suffolk Times reporter who won the pool that year. Others were hardly related to hoops, namely “Pardon me, sir. Do you have any” Grant Parpan, now the company’s web editor.

Going back to running office pools during the tournament will be bittersweet. I already miss being the Blackbird.

Brian Harmon is a former Times/Review managing editor and Suffolk Times editor. He lives in Medford.

03/31/11 7:14am

JOHN NEELY FILE PHOTO Two Hispanic men watching last year’s Memorial Day parade from their home on Roanoke Avenue.

Riverhead Town’s population grew by 21 percent in the last decade, according to the 2010 census, parts of which were released last week.

That’s the largest percentage increase by far of any town in Suffolk County. It’s also a drastically larger percentage increase than occurred in either the county as a whole or New York State, where populations increased by 2 percent and 5 percent, respectively, during the same period.

Riverhead’s 2010 population is listed as 33,506, compared to 27,680 in the 2000 census.

The second largest percentage increase in Suffolk occurred in East Hampton Town, which saw a 9.2 percent population increase, although the biggest increase in actual population was in Brookhaven Town, which gained 38,020 residents between 2000 and 2010.

One of the biggest increases in Riverhead, at least by percentage, was in the Hispanic population, which new census figures shows grew by 77 percent, from 1,678 to 4,649 over the 10 years. That figure amounts to 14 percent of the town’s population.

Countywide the proportion of Hispanic residents has increased by 56 percent since the 2000 census, now accounting for 15 percent of the population.

The black population in Riverhead Town, on the other hand, decreased in the last decade, from 2,913 to 2,579, according to the census, while the white population increased by 17.5 percent, from 23,593 to 27,726.

Both census results and recent Riverhead school district statistics released by the state Department of Education show more Hispanics than blacks in Riverhead, although Hispanic is not considered a race, and it’s possible to be both black and Hispanic, so the numbers aren’t really comparable.

No one seemed too surprised by Riverhead’s population growth or the expansion of its Hispanic population.

Sister Margaret Smyth, who heads the Spanish Apostolate for the Catholic Church on the North Fork, an outreach organization, said she’s not surprised by the large numbers of Hispanics but thinks the count in the 2000 census was too low.

This time around, she said, she and others worked with the Census Bureau to ensure that Hispanics were more accurately counted. “We sent out teams of people, ahead of time, to inform people that the census workers were coming and explain why it was so important to be counted,” Sister Margaret said, adding that she then directed the census workers to Sunday masses, where they spoke with Hispanic community members. She also informed the census workers of places they likely missed.

Sister Margaret said she tries to push the Hispanic population to be more active in the community, especially given its growing size. One has only to look at the Sunday Spanish language masses at St. John’s R.C. Church in Riverhead to know there’s a large Hispanic population here.

“Last Sunday night, we were jammed,” she said. “There were people standing all around the walls and into the vestibule.”

Sister Margaret said that while the Hispanic population is rising across Long Island, Riverhead is an especially popular destination because it has access to public transportation, stores, affordable housing and jobs.

“It’s a hub,” she said.

The Hispanic population on the South Fork is largely from South America and Puerto Rico, particularly Colombia, while Hispanic immigrants on the North Fork come primarily from Central America and Mexico, particularly Guatemala, she said.

“The question I always ask myself is: How do we take all of these different groups and form a cohesive unit that’s working toward the enhancement of Riverhead?” she said.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter also wasn’t surprised by the census results showing Riverhead with the biggest percentage population growth.

“Riverhead is the place where everybody wants to be,” he said. “It’s a great town.”

The town’s 2003 master plan predicts a maximum town population of 43,225 if its zoning recommendations are followed.

Mr. Walter said he doesn’t think the town will ever exceed that number, and may not even get near it.

“Our job is to create a balance with growth and the protection of farmlands and open space,” he said. “We’ve preserved thousands of acres of farms in Riverhead. Given the amount of land preserved already, I think Riverhead will never become like Nassau County. It will always be rural.”

Mr. Walter also agreed with Sister Margaret’s assessment that the 2000 census probably under-counted the Hispanic population.

The Long Island Power Authority does an annual population survey for Long Island towns in non-census years, and those surveys had also shown population growing at a greater pace in Riverhead than in other towns for most of the past decade. But that growth rate slowed recently, with increases under 1 percent in each of the last two years. The town’s population grew by more than 7 percent in 2001 and increased by more than 3 percent every year from 2000 to 2005, according to LIPA.


The 2010 census was largely focused on statistics about population and race or ethnicity.

However, additional statistics were gathered through the American Community Survey, which is affiliated with the U.S. Census Bureau and provides data every year, rather than every 10 years.

For a town Riverhead’s size, however, the data isn’t exactly available every year. Instead, the most recent ACS stats for Riverhead come from a 2005-2009 survey, containing information gathered over that five-year period.

Those statistics reveal that the median value of property in Riverhead Town is $401,600; the median monthly housing cost for homeowners with a mortgage is $2,380; and median monthly housing costs for homeowners without a mortgage is $817.

The average residential rent in Riverhead Town is $1,109.

For 48 percent of the town’s tenants, rent costs eat up more than 35 percent of their income.

The biggest employment fields in Riverhead were “educational services and health care and social assistance,” which employ 3,957 people, followed by retail trade, with 2,571. By contrast, farming and fishing occupy only 250.

The average household income was $85,149, but the median household income was $68,928. The average per-person income was $34,455.

Did someone say Polish Town? More like Polish Census Designated Place. The most prevalent ancestries in Riverhead Town were Irish (8,256), Italian (7,668) and German (5,818), with Polish coming in fourth, with 4,988,

But in the Riverhead Census Designated Place, which doesn’t include Calverton, Wading River, Aquebogue or Jamesport, Polish was the number one ancestry, claimed by 2,502 people, according to the census.

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03/31/11 7:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The front entrance of the new veterans clinic at the County Center.

UPDATE: The East End Veterans Clinic’s mental health offices will open Monday, May 2, and the primary care offices will open Wednesday, May 4, county officials said Thursday.


A state-of-the-art medical clinic operated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is expected to open at the County Center in Riverside next month, officials said. The new center will help local veterans cut down on trips to the Northport VA Medical Center, the region’s only full-service veteran’s hospital.

The $1 million facility, called the East End Veterans Clinic, will provide care for physical and mental conditions.
The 4,400-square-foot clinic will be located in the second floor of the county office building at 300 Center Drive off Route 51 and consist of six exam rooms, two counseling rooms, space to process paperwork and a lobby, officials said.

“Many veterans live on the East End of Suffolk County, and providing this satellite clinic will afford many veterans easier access to the care and benefits they deserve without the inconvenience of a long commute,” said County Executive Steve Levy. “The services offered by the VA can be life-altering.”

An elevator has also been installed, and a shuttle van will be provided for those who require transportation, officials said. The project cost the county $500,000. Another $500,000 in renovations and materials was funded by a state grant.

“The county apparently has finished all the work and renovation it committed to; now the VA is doing some finishing work,” said county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches), who had pushed for a clinic at Peconic Bay Medical Center.

He said Mr. Levy rejected his idea, causing the project to take longer to come to fruition.

Mr. Romaine’s spokesman, Bill Faulk, said the clinic will be open six days a week and may also have evening hours.

The county Legislature in August 2010 authorized the county executive to execute a lease for 10 years with Veterans Affairs, which will staff and equip the clinic. Mr. Levy said he likes the County Center location because of “the added convenience of being in the same building as the many other Suffolk County offices.”

MRIs and CT scans will not be available at the East End clinic, officials said.

VA officials have not yet committed to an opening date.

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