04/30/11 8:02am
04/30/2011 8:02 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Fourth grade students at Aquebogue Elementary School raised more than $300 to help Japan by selling paper cranes during lunch.

At Aquebogue Elementary School, six fourth grade girls have been giving up their lunch and recess periods for the past few days.

But they say that does not bother them in the slightest.

That’s because the girls have been selling $1 paper cranes during that time, made by themselves and classmates in teacher Linda Borenstein’s fourth-grade class, the proceeds of which will benefit those affected by the earthquake and tsumani in Japan.

“Knowing that we’re doing something  good,”  said fourth-grader Kayla Kielbasa. “We don’t care [about giving up our free time].”

The class decided to make cranes, or tsuru in Japanese, because they are a symbol of peace. “We were reading Time Magazine for Kids and we felt that we needed to help them,” said Emily Bazarewski.

The children learned to fold the origami paper — purchased in part by class members and also provided by the school — and wrote messages of hope folded inside the cranes.

“We went online and found [directions to make the cranes] that was only seven steps,” said fourth-grader Maggie O’Connell.

The students made a few cranes at the end of the school day every day for a week, as well as on their on time. Within a  few days, the class had folded 500 paper cranes, amounting to one for every student at the elementary school.

During lunch time, students from the other grades line up and take one dollar bills out of folded white envelopes to do their part to help the Japanese people. The cranes were sold Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

The six girls, who have volunteered their time because the have a different lunch period than the rest of the fourth grade, said they had sold more than 300 cranes in just those three afternoons. The proceeds will be donated to the Red Cross.

“The idea just grew and grew,” Kayla said.

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04/30/11 7:44am

A former minor league ballplayer turned orthopedic surgeon is helping kick off Riverhead Little League’s 2011 season today.

Opening day festivities start at 2 p.m. at Stotzky Park, where Dr. Michael Ciminiello, a Smithtown native who was drafting by the Detroit Tigers but put baseball aside in favor of becoming a doctor, will be handing out first-aid kits donated by Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead.

“Growing up playing Little League baseball on Long Island, it’s an honor to be back home and to be able to make a difference in these ball players’ lives,” Dr. Ciminiello said before the event.

A Smithtown East High School an Princeton graduate, Dr. Ciminiello now performs reconstructive hip and knee surgery at Peconic Bay Medical Center.

He’s considered a leading expert in the field.

Check back at RiverheadNewsReview.com for photo coverage from opening day.

04/30/11 7:07am

The third annual Spring Tea at Hallockville Museum Farm was held in the historic Naugles Barn at the Riverhead museum Friday. The social event features a selection of sweets, savories, sandwiches and teas and patrons are encouraged to wear a favorite hat. The proceeds support Hallockville’s educational programs. Last year the event raised more than $3,000.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jennifer Munkelwitz of Hampton Bays (standing) pours water for tea for (from left) Mattie Genovese, Kathy Ramistella and Joan Guarino all of Aquebogue.

04/29/11 9:32pm
04/29/2011 9:32 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Alex McKillop stroked a single for Riverhead on this swing against Smithtown West.

SMITHTOWN — Somedays you have it, some days you don’t.

After securing back-to-back shutouts and a five-inning no-hitter, Amanda Graziano and her Riverhead High School softball teammates had high hopes of continuing her hot hand against the Smithtown West Bulls on Friday.

But Friday turned out to be one of those days when the Blue Waves didn’t have it because of one of those innings. They could not overcome a five-run first inning by Smithtown West in a 6-3 loss in a Suffolk County League III/IV crossover game.

“It’s a rough game to lose,” Riverhead Coach Bob Fox said. “Five runs in the first inning with [one] hit. We made mistakes and they capitalized.”

Graziano, a sophomore right-hander, had been pitching very well of late. She blanked North Babylon in her first shutout, 2-0, on April 20 and followed that with the first no-hitter of her career, a 14-0 triumph over Half Hollow Hills East, a game that was shortened by the mercy rule, on April 27.

“I was expecting to do a lot better than I did,” Graziano said. “Kind of put me down in the first inning when my team was making all the errors behind [me] and the few walks I had. I kept my head up and I kept trying to pull through and I did.”

The Bulls (9-2, 9-2) had something to do with that.

Fox said Smithtown West, which plays in League III, was a different class than than the other two opponents Graziano shut down.

“A lot depends on who you’re pitching shutouts against and no-hitters against,” Smithtown West Coach David Miller said. “There are teams that won’t put the ball in play as much as my kids will. It’s easy to pitch against that kind of team as opposed to a team that puts the ball in play.”

Add the fact that Graziano struggled with her control, giving up six walks. That included three in that first-inning marathon, which took almost a half-hour to complete; the rest of the game took only 70 minutes.

The Blue Waves (5-6, 5-6) scored three runs in the top of the inning, while the Bulls rallied for five runs in their half.

“There will not be an instructional video made [about] the first inning for either team,” Miller said.

Riverhead took advantage of a hit by pitch, a walk and a fielder’s choice to grab a 3-0 advantage behind Beth Zilnicki’s two-run single and Macey Reichel’s run-scoring hit against right-hander Catherine Heacox.

“I wasn’t happy when they jumped off with three,” Miller said. “What makes it even worse was a ball isn’t hit hard, another is not hit hard and all of a sudden they have a couple of runs. We got back into it by capitalizing on their miscues.”

Graziano faced nine batters in the bottom half. She walked three and her defense made four errors.

“We need to work on fielding the ball and just paying attention to what’s going on,” Zilnicki said.

After her last two outings, Graziano admitted she thought of her no-hitter.

“It actually came through my mind once: ‘Why am I not doing this good?’ ” she said with a laugh. “But I guess I got down a little on myself. That’s never the right thing to do. I put myself through it and kept my head up.”

Fox had no doubt that Graziano will rebound in her next start. “She’s a sophomore and she’s looking fine,” he said.

After the first inning, runs were hard to come by. Graziano allowed four hits the rest of the way. Heacox settled down and did not allow a hit through six innings.

Not wanting to tempt fate even with a three-run lead, Miller brought in closer Melissa Koster in the seventh. Koster struck out the first two hitters before she retired the final out on a comebacker to the mound.

“My assistants say to me, ‘Bring in Melissa after Catherine. Melissa throws a lot harder,’ ” Miller said. “All of a sudden it’s bringing in Mariano [Rivera] after somebody else is throwing junk or something else like that. She threw hard. She had a tremendous relief outing the other day against North Babylon, bases loaded, no outs in the bottom of the seventh with the score tied and she got out of it.”

04/29/11 6:51pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The selling of a bank loan could help Bowl 58 open its doors, possibly under new owners.

A private real estate development company has acquired the $7.5 million loan owed to a bank by the owners of the dormant and half-built Bowl 58 bowling center in Riverhead, the News-Review has learned.

The move could potentially help restart the project, on which no work has been done for more than a year.

The developers of the bowling center, which had been highly anticipated by residents, got much of the work completed before Bank of Smithtown foreclosed in 2010. Several contractors who worked on the project also sued, claiming they were owed money for their work.

Bowl 58’s owners, Joseph Albanese and Robert Bunt, borrowed $7.5 million for land and construction costs but subsequently had a falling out in which Mr. Bunt, a Manhattan real estate developer, pinned the blame for the project’s financial troubles on Mr. Albanese.

Mr. Albanese had run bowling centers but never built one.

Mr. Bunt told the News-Review last year, “Joe is the reason it’s not open. Nobody wants to work with him. He has no money. I have plenty of money. I could finish that project in 90 days if Joe would just let me buy him out, but he won’t.”

This week, Mr. Bunt said he is still trying to buy out Mr. Albanese, who still refuses to sell.

Neither of the men were aware the bank had sold the loan until contacted by a reporter Friday.

Mr. Albanese said he had come close to selling his interest in the project to Mr. Bunt at one point, but the deal fell apart.

Mr. Bunt said he and Mr. Albanese are each 50 percent owners of Route 58 LLC, the entity that owns the property. The court last year appointed a receiver to manage the property, meaning the owners are prohibited from being on the site or doing any further work. The court at some point could order the property to be sold at auction, but that has yet to happen.

On April 13 of this year, the $7.5 million loan owed to Bank of Smithtown, now known as People’s United Bank, was sold to Main Road Holdings LLC of Medford, a company headed by Jeffrey Rimland.

Mr. Rimland’s family owned the Rimland department store in Riverhead for many years on the site of what is now the Suffolk County Community College Culinary Institute. His company has also overseen more recent development projects in Riverhead and Southold towns.

A person answering the phone at Rimland Equities said the company would have no comment on the Bowl 58 situation.

The practice of buying loans from banks is said to be a profitable business, in which a private entity will usually buy a loan from a bank at a price less than the amount owed on the loan. The bank then gets something out of the deal and no longer is involved in owning the real estate, and the company that bought the loan can either sell the land or collect the repayment of the loan for more than they paid for it, but less than what was originally owed.

Also, the people who owed the money can end up paying less than what they owed.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said one real estate developer who asked not to be named, adding that buying loans is often more profitable than buying real estate. He said such arrangements also can speed up the process of developing foreclosed properties such as Bowl 58.

Riverhead Town Assessor Mason Haas said he toured the inside of the dormant bowling project with Mr. Rimland about two weeks ago.

“The alleys are installed and it looks good,” he said, adding that the alleys didn’t appear to have warped, as had been rumored.

He said the kitchen equipment and bathroom fixtures are on site but not installed, but the bowling alley machine that was installed is used, rather than new, and at the time was leaking oil.

The Riverhead Industrial Development Agency voted in January 2010 to give Bowl 58 a seven-year property tax break that called for a 50 percent abatement in each of the first three years, with the applicant paying 55 percent in year four, 60 percent in year five, 65 percent in year six, 70 percent in year seven, and then paying full taxes after that.

But Mr. Haas said Bowl 58’s owners never filled out the necessary paperwork with the assessor’s office, and as a result, does not receive the tax breaks.

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04/29/11 5:35pm

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Jeff Strider brought Mattituck a point at second singles, beating Riverhead's Efe Erol, 7-6 (9-7), 6-2.

The league championship is already in their hands, and pizza is on the way.

A lot was on the line when the Mattituck Tuckers played the defending league champion William Floyd Colonials on Wednesday. For one thing, the match had significant implications on the race for the Suffolk County League VIII boys tennis championship. And then there was the promise made to the Tuckers of a pizza party if they won.

Things didn’t start well for the Tuckers in the match, which saw them trailing by 3-1. On top of that, the first set of each of the remaining three individual matches went William Floyd’s way. No matter, first-place Mattituck came back and won, topping second-place William Floyd for the second time this season by a 4-3 score.

“That was amazing,” said Mattituck senior Connor Davis.

The result really shouldn’t come as a great surprise because that is what the Tuckers do. They win.

That triumph set up Mattituck’s 6-0 title-clinching victory over the Hampton Bays Baymen at Red Creek Park on Thursday (the match was stopped early because of a downpour). Mattituck Coach Mike Huey said it was his team’s first title as a League VIII team.

“Our kids stepped up big time,” he said. “It’s been a while. We had a little drought there, so it’s special to come back and win one again.”

The newly crowned league champions continued their march toward an unbeaten regular season on Friday when they scored another road win, 6-1 over the Riverhead Blue Waves. It was Mattituck’s 11th win in as many matches, overall and in the league.

“It would be cool if we went undefeated,” said Mattituck senior Joe Pfaff.

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Seth Conrad's clean play has helped him to a 7-2 record at first singles for Riverhead this season.

The Tuckers have two regular-season matches remaining: on Monday at home against the Rocky Point Eagles and on Wednesday in a non-league contest at Westhampton Beach.

Chemistry, depth and interchangeable parts have given Mattituck the stuff of champions.

“We’re just really deep,” Pfaff said. “We can move players around, and anyone can play anywhere. We match up well against all the other schools. We’ve hardly played with the same lineup.”

And it has worked. It surely did Friday.

Mattituck’s first doubles team of Davis and Pfaff prevailed in the only three-set match of the day. After dropping the first set in a 7-5 tiebreaker, they took the next two sets, 6-1, 6-1, from Patrick Carroll and Geoff Wells.

Meanwhile, Mattituck seventh-graders Garrett Malave and Parker Tuthill, each a Wunderkind in his own right, continued their fine form. Malave brought his season record to 11-0 by breezing past his third-singles opponent, John Rios, 6-0, 6-0. Tuthill (10-1), playing fourth singles, handled Christian Aguirre, 6-1, 6-1.

Jeff Strider of Mattituck was a 7-6 (9-7), 6-2 winner over Efe Erol at second singles.

Mattituck completed its sweep of the doubles matches through Kevin Reyer and Austin Tuthill (6-2, 6-1 over Parker Ellis and Andrew Plattner) and Jack Baglivi and Gram Homan (6-1, 6-1 over Bryan Chinchilla and Tim Salete).

Riverhead’s first singles player, Seth Conrad, brought the Blue Waves their only point of the day. The sophomore played a clean game in his 6-1, 6-2 defeat of Casey Ciamaricone. Conrad committed no double faults, going 12 for 12 on his second serves, and made only five unforced errors to 13 by Ciamaricone.

“That’s exactly him,” Riverhead Coach Bob Lum said of Conrad. “He’s not giving a lot of stuff away.”

Ciamaricone berated himself, once dropping his racket in disgust after a miscue. He got no help from Conrad, who raised his record to 7-2 by playing close to an error-free game with some nice shots sprinkled in.

“I think the most important thing is to be able to hit the ball inbounds where you want it,” said Conrad, who put 71 percent of his first serves in play. “If you can get to every ball and hit it where you want it, that’s all that really matters.”

Riverhead dropped to 2-8, 2-8, but Lum said he can’t complain. He said his players are “always showing improvement, so I can’t ask for more than that.”

Mattituck is closing in on an undefeated regular season, something Huey can remember his team doing only once before. In addition, the Tuckers have the playoffs to prepare for. They have finished as high as third in the county on two occasions. Their playoff seeding could say a lot about how far they go this year.

Pfaff said, “Going into the season, I didn’t think we would do this well, but we really came together as a team, and everyone’s playing good right now.”

They also have a party to look forward to. Pizza is coming.

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04/29/11 2:42pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | It took more than a week for flood waters on Horton Avenue to subside last spring. About a dozen houses were ruined.

Earlier this year, the county Legislature approved a bill that would have given victims of natural disasters — like the flood victims on Horton Avenue in Riverhead — preference for qualifying for an affordable housing program.

But then county officials realized what little good the bill would do for the displaced Riverhead families.

The measure only applied to land that was given to Riverhead Town by Suffolk County for use in affordable housing through what’s known as a 72H program, according to Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches).

“And it turns out, there are no 72H properties in Riverhead Town that are suitable for affordable housing,” Mr. Romaine said in an interview Thursday. “So we spent a year, in my view, not really moving forward at all.”

He said there are only a few such properties in town and some are already being rehabbed for other uses, while others are actually in flood zones.

In March 2010, a three-day storm inundated the Horton Avenue neighborhood with muddy brown water, soaking possessions, warping walls and creating a haven for mold in some homes. Residents were denied individual FEMA grants because not enough people in the region were affected to meet federal guidelines. So town, state and county officials had been searching for another permanent solution.

After recognizing the problems with the 72H program, a meeting was held March 25 with town and county officials and Horton Avenue flood victims. At that meeting, it was decided the county would try to work with a nonprofit housing group to buy property on which to build new homes for the Horton Avenue victims using county affordable housing money, which can be used to buy property and build infrastructure, Mr. Romaine said.

“We’re talking about five homes here,” he said. “Let’s contract with a nonprofit housing corporation and give them the money, and get them to buy the land the land and build the infrastructure, such as roads and drainage.

“From there, we would coordinate with Riverhead Town, which would subdivide the land and do the site plan.”

Under the plan, flood victims would then be eligible to buy those properties at a price below market value.

Mr. Romaine said the proposal would only address about five homes and the lots would be no bigger than a quarter acre, which is about what the Horton Avenue lots are.

So a parcel of land that is less than two acres but bigger than an acre and a half is all that would be needed, he said. The town would have to approve a downzoning since there are few areas in town where housing lots as small as a quarter-acre housing are still permitted, he said. And, the five homes would all be built on the same subdivided property so the homeowners would still live near their Horton Avenue neighbors, he said.

“All we need is approximately two acres or less in order to do this,” he said. “It’s not going to cost a lot of money.”

In addition, while the county would have to formally seek proposals from non-profit housing corporations for the job, the Long Island Housing Partnership has offered to do the work for free, Mr. Romaine said.

“I estimate that this should take between 12 and 14 months,” he said.

Mr. Romaine was hoping County Executive Steve Levy would have issued a certificate of necessity to allow the resolution outlining this proposal to be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting, but no such certificate came forward, he said. Representatives of the county executive’s office were present at the March 25 meeting, he said, and the plan at that time was to have the resolution in place for the April 26 meeting.

Without it, the resolution will have to go through the Legislature’s committee process, Mr. Romaine said. It will be discussed by the Legislature’s Labor, Workforce and Affordable Housing Committee next Thursday in Hauppauge, and barring revisions, should be on the full Legislature’s agenda on May 10, Mr. Romaine said.

“But if it gets hung up in committee and people have questions or make revisions, it could take longer,” he said.

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04/29/11 2:31pm

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Southampton Town's newly appointed police chief William Wilson.

Southampton Village Police Chief William Wilson Jr. will soon be taking the helm of the much larger Southampton Town Police Department, officials announced Friday.

“After several weeks of intensive discussion and careful deliberation, I am pleased to announce the Town Board will appoint William Wilson, Jr., said Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst. “This has been a very difficult decision for us all because we have great respect and appreciation for all of the fine officers who were considered for this position.”

Ms. Throne-Holst said she is confident the Town Board made a choice “that will provide our town with a strong, progressive vision for the future.”

Mr. Wilson is replacing James Overton, who retired April 15 after serving as chief since 1990.