06/30/11 4:30am
06/30/2011 4:30 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Wally Broege (left) with President of the SCHS Board of Directors, Robert Barauskas of Riverhead.

More than three decades ago, Wally Broege, who hails from upstate New York and studied marine science in college, never imagined himself heading the Suffolk County Historical Society. Or any historical society, for that matter.

But in the mid-1970s he took a part-time job with the Riverhead-based organization and in 1979 applied to be its first full-time director. The historical society, established in 1886, had previously been run by a volunteer board of directors.

Mr. Broege was selected for the job.

“I can’t say in high school an interest in history was instilled in me,” he said. “But my interest in Suffolk County history grew as I worked here.”

Now, more than 30 years later, Mr. Broege will be stepping down from his post as the society’s first director at the end of July.

In that time he has put together more than 30 annual budgets, helped develop hundreds of exhibits and overseen the construction of a climate-controlled area built for archives inside the West Main Street building, now added to the National Register of Historic Places.

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Of his favorite exhibits are “Barren and Waste Land: Long Islanders and the Pine Barrens” and  “Patriots Come Forward: Suffolk County’s Role in the Civil War” (2009) featuring cannonballs, rifles with deadly bayonets still attached to their barrels and pistols of all sizes that were used by Long Islanders serving in the union army among other artifacts. Some of the more complex exhibits take about three years from conception to implementation, Mr. Broege said.

The most enjoyable aspect of the job for him has been working with a dedicated staff and creating exhibitions.

“The best memories I am going to have are the people,” he said. “I’ve worked with people that took pride in their work.”

He will be succeeded by Kathryn Curran, the historical society’s former part-time public programs director.

“She makes exhibitions look easy,” Mr. Broege said as Ms. Curran worked in a gallery cluttered with supplies just three days before the opening of the museum’s latest exhibit, “Private Place, Public Space.”

“How many times can we bother you in a month,” Ms. Curran said, promising to seek Mr. Broege’s advice frequently.

Ms. Curran said she would like to see school groups visit the museum again, something that stopped in 2007 when the organization eliminated its education coordinator position. Ms. Curran said she’d like to bring back the position on a volunteer basis.

“I’d love to mine the resources of retired teachers,” she said.

For Mr. Broege, one of the hardest part of retirement will be no longer having a hand in the many exhibits that commemorate Suffolk County’s rich history.

“I’m going to leave some of the projects undone,” he said. “It’s a little bit difficult to let go of things.”

vchinese@timesreview.com

06/30/11 4:23am

After a close and painful election loss in November 2009, what I thought I needed most was to withdraw from the limelight and avoid comment about town matters. I did that for more than a year. I stopped talking, but I couldn’t stop listening. And what I heard from my successor disturbed me.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
I thought about that and about what I had tried to do during my six years as Riverhead Town supervisor — much of which was being undone by my successor.

I discovered Riverhead’s future still did matter to me, and I was sure there was a better way for Riverhead.

I’d come full circle. I stopped being silent. Around the first day of spring this year I decided to run.

What is a better way for Riverhead? A town government that’s honest, open, fair and prudent. It’s what we don’t have and badly need. It’s why I’m running and why I’m asking the questions that follow.

HONEST

How is it honest for a supervisor to announce after his election that he will continue his law practice and work part-time at that while accepting a full-time salary from the town?

How is it honest for a supervisor to credit himself with the work of his predecessor and others downtown, where virtually every project now under way was started before he came into office?

How is it honest for a supervisor to claim the town is nearly in an all-out fiscal crisis when the town actually has over $7 million in reserve funds and its highest credit rating ever?

Dishonesty steals our better future.  Honesty is a better way for Riverhead.

Open

How is it open for our supervisor to disregard town ethics law and refuse to identify law clients he represented before town agencies?

How is it open for the Town Board to repeatedly discuss in closed executive session topics that the open meetings law requires be discussed in public?

How is it open to repeatedly fail to program Channel 22, leaving silent and black the government public access channel?

How is it open to schedule for the same time public hearings on proposed actions and the actual votes on those actions — telegraphing the Town Board’s disregard for public input?

How is it open to take months to respond to Freedom of Information Law requests, which must by law be answered within five days?

How is it open to announce a taxpayer-financed investigation of possible criminal wrongdoing by town workers, and then refuse to discuss the investigation or disclose its results or refer the matter to the Suffolk County District Attorney?

Information is the lifeblood of democracy. Open government is a better way for Riverhead.

Fair

How is it fair for our supervisor to disregard the Master Plan and the zoning laws passed after years of public participation as “a load of crap”?

How is it fair for the Town Board to look the other way, fail to protect our neighborhoods and disregard the laws governing land use in order to benefit political supporters?

How is it fair for the town to treat some town residents differently than others?

The rule of law applies to all of us. Enforce the law equally. No special rules for special people. That’s a better way for Riverhead.

Prudent

How is it prudent for our supervisor to refuse to even consider comprehensive redevelopment and condemnation downtown when virtually the entire south side of Main Street is empty?

How is it prudent to lay off a fire marshal, jeopardizing public safety?

How is it prudent for our supervisor to refuse to even consider purchase offers at the Grumman property, leaving the land off the tax rolls indefinitely while spending more than $500,000 on another unnecessary study?

How is it prudent for our supervisor to use our tax dollars to play real estate developer at the Grumman property, wasting years of time, spending millions of dollars and taking enormous risks with taxpayer money?

Prudence is a better way for Riverhead.

To find that “A Better Way for Riverhead” we must talk to each other, not through each other. In that spirit and with that hope, Ibegin my run for supervisor.

Mr. Cardinale, of Jamesport, is the Democratic candidate for town supervisor. He is a lawyer and former Riverhead Town supervisor.

06/29/11 8:41pm
06/29/2011 8:41 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Vince Tria outside Riverhead Town Hall during happier times. Mr. Tria served the town as a volunteer downtown ombudsman under former supervisor Phil Cardinale.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Vince Tria outside Riverhead Town Hall during happier times. Mr. Tria served the town as a volunteer downtown ombudsman under former supervisor Phil Cardinale.

Former Business Improvement District management association president Vince Tria has filed a lawsuit against Riverhead Town Board members seeking $10 million in damages resulting from his removal last year as BID president.

Mr. Tria, who owns the WRIV radio station in Riverhead and was an assistant to former Democratic Supervisor Phil Cardinale, was removed as the unpaid BID president in early 2010 by the newly elected Republican majority, and he claims the town is retaliating against him for “whistleblowing activities.”

Mr. Tria had filed a notice of claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, in March 2010 making similar claims and seeking the same $10 million in damages, but he hadn’t filed suit until now. The two-page summons was served to town officials Tuesday, although it says it was filed March 1.

Mr. Tria names as defendants Supervisor Sean Walter and Council members Jim Wooten, Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen, both individually and as members of the Town Board.

Councilman John Dunleavy, who was absent from the 2010 vote in which the board replaced Mr. Tria as a BID board member, was not named in the lawsuit.

“This is an action for declaratory relief and recovery of monetary damages by reason of defendants’ wrongful termination of plaintiff as president of the BID in violation of required procedure and in retaliation for whistleblowing activities and exercise of his constitutional rights,” the summons states. “Defendants have failed to comply with proper procedure and due process and their intent was to chill plaintiff’s exercise of his federal and state constitutional rights. Plaintiff seeks recovery of damages for defamation and infliction of emotional distress.”

Mr. Tria, who seeks $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages, Mr. did not returned phone calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Mr. Walter was not amused by news of the lawsuit.

“This is nothing more than a political stunt,” he said. “He filed the lawsuit on March 1 and he had 120 days to serve it. Yesterday was the last day. He tried to drag this as far into the election season as he could to help Phil Cardinale and now, if he doesn’t serve the notice, his lawsuit will become null and void.”

Mr. Walter said Mr. Tria waited until the last minute to file the lawsuit, as he had a year to do so after filing the notice of claim, and he waited until the last minute to serve.

“It will cost the taxpayers thousands of dollars to defend this frivolous lawsuit,” Mr. Walter said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/29/11 8:36pm

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead town supervisor Sean Walter speaks at a celebration Wednesday for the completion of the Peconic River fish passage project.

The fish passage at Grangebel Park had a big party in its honor Wednesday morning, as local, state and federal officials gathered to celebrate the receipt of the Coastal America award for the Peconic River Fishway Partnership Team.

The fish passage project, which was about 10 years in the making, replaced an old dam that was built many years ago and was blocking alewives from traveling from the salt water portion of the river to the fresh water part, where they spawn.

The alewives are born in the fresh water and live in the bay, but return to the fresh water to spawn. The dam was replaced with a rock passageway that the fish can navigate on their own.

“Over the years, when places like this were built, we didn’t know what we were doing, necessarily,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said. “We never really understood the damage to the environment.”

Mr. Walter said it’s nice to know that such environmental damage can be undone.

“One of my proudest moments as town supervisor was when that seal was chasing the alewives up the fish passage in Grangebel Park last year, because that means that we did the right thing and we corrected something that was wrong, and we repaired the environment,” he said.

Coastal America is a nationwide partnership of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private organizations “that work together to restore and protect our coastal marine environment,” said Virginia Tippie, the group’s director.

Two private corporations that are Coastal America members, National Grid and Specra Energy Partners, came up with the money to allow the project to move forward at a time when it looked like government funding would fall about $40,000 short, she said.

“This fish passage project has turned a stretch of the Peconic River back into the important fish habitat it once was,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck, who was present Wednesday. “The rock ramp for fish in Grangebel Park will be vital to re-establishing populations of American eel and alewife, both of which have dramatically declined in recent years.”

Shortly after it was constructed last spring, the fish ramp was dedicated in remembrance of Bob Conklin, the former Riverhead biology teacher who was the driving force behind the project. Around 1998, Mr. Conklin began organizing spaghetti dinners and knocking on doors at area businesses to try to raise cash for a solution to help the alewives travel upstream, a problem that had gnawed at him for years.

He later recruited Jim Miller of the Calverton-based Miller Environmental Group for help, and their efforts raised some $25,000 for an aluminum fish ladder that was installed each spring for about a decade.

As the years went by, grant money came in from various agencies to fund the permanent and more effective structure.

Mr. Conklin died at age 71 in December, just three months before construction of the passage was completed.

The $1.37 million fish passage project was part of an overhaul upgrade of Grangebel Park that includes restoring the bulkheads and pedestrian footbridges and building a new bandstand and lights. Town officials have estimated that more than $5 million in renovations have been made at the park over the past 10 years.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/29/11 3:35pm

We know gay people. They are not strangers to us. They are part of life on the North Fork — but even making such as comment is ridiculous. People are people. They’re all over the place.

The idea that the state should deny any of our friends, neighbors, co-workers or relatives the legal protections of marriage is as abhorrent as any form of prejudice against anybody. We are all created equal. We all deserve equal rights. A government that singles out any group for discrimination is a dangerous government.

Demagogues, as well as reasonable politicians and good citizens, have opposed gay marriage on moral and religious grounds. Homosexuality is a sin, or at least unnatural, they say, and the law should not legitimize it. Nature created homosexuality, not some demon working down in hell. It is part of life.

For some, it may have been less about morality than politics and keeping the support of social conservatives. How ironic it is that the people who claim to believe so vehemently in freedom and private rights are the first to shout who should be allowed to do what in their private lives.

The federal and state constitutions forbid legislation that restricts religious freedom; it follows that neither level of government should legislate on the basis of religious, rather than legal, principles.

Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo, promised in his campaign to oppose same-sex marriage. But according to The New York Times, he told his colleagues on the evening of Friday’s dramatic New York Senate vote that he had been wrong.

“I apologize for those who feel offended,” Mr. Grisanti said, clearly addressing constituents who had agreed with his original position on same-sex marriage, but “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York, and those people who make this the great state that it is the same rights that I have with my wife,” he said.

What a courageous and decent man.

Each of Long Island’s nine Senators voted in opposition to the bill. Of the North Fork’s representatives in Albany, Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) both voted against the bill, which passed the Assembly last week and which Gov. Mario Cuomo signed into law soon after the Senate’s approval Friday.

“How does it feel?” Gov. Cuomo asked one upstate Republican who also had changed his mind and voted for the bill. “Feels good, doesn’t it?”

How do our legislators feel? Neither of the men who represent the North Fork and Shelter Island in Albany issued a public statement after their votes, as historic and important as they were.

06/29/11 3:16pm

Denny’s and I started out on the right foot, but that was only because they bribed me.

I was about 10 years old when my mother decided it would be a good idea for her and me and my uncle and his four kids and mother-in-law to pack into a Ford Econoline van and head to Florida together in August. It took only until the first New Jersey rest stop for my mom to get so aggravated she started chasing me around the van with a shoe in her hand. In a cartoonish sort of manner, I scurried up the Econoline’s rear ladder and onto the roof for safety. I forget what happened when I got down; just another repressed memory, I guess.

During that interminable trip it seemed we ate at Denny’s at least once each day, sometimes more. And I loved it. Not so much for the food — I’m sure a grilled cheese sandwich tastes the same everywhere — but for the Flintstones toy figures, which were top-quality, not that flimsy Happy Meal stuff. The toys were good for the parents, too, as they kept all us kids quiet for a few minutes after returning to the van. Denny’s: Good with kids. But bad with food, I would later find.

My next Denny’s experience came some 11 years later, after college and at the end of a bad date in Maryland, during which the young woman ­— a colleague of mine at the time — drank too much, said too much, and somehow got me to agree to go with her to a Mormon wedding six weeks later in Salt Lake City. (I thought she would forget the conversation but she booked the tickets the next morning!)

Things were going uncomfortably wrong that whole night, but I was expecting some decent food at Denny’s for some reason, given my positive associations with the place from childhood. Plus, it was 2 a.m., after several hours out that involved a Capitals hockey game and beer. What could taste bad at that point?

What I got was an omelette that looked exactly as it did in the picture, like a piece of plastic. It was as if the thing had been prepared — supposedly grilled, though I didn’t see any flaky brown evidence of a grill — on an assembly line hundreds of miles away, then reheated here in 40 seconds. This way-too-yellow-to-be-a-real-egg concoction was seriously horrendous. Indeed, the whole place was awful for anyone accustomed to eating in a Greek or Turkish diner. And it was in a Denny’s booth that I idiotically agreed to go to this person’s cousin’s wedding. I thought she would flip or burst into tears if I said no, and I was about an hour from my home. (I actually went to the wedding; but that column is for another day.) I haven’t thought much about Denny’s since.

Fast-forward 11 more years. Now comes news from a government source that Denny’s wants to come to Riverhead. I’m not sure if the corporation has noticed, but Long Island is the diner capital of the world. And right here we have some really good ones, the Peconic Bay and Greek Island diners. I actually can’t imagine any Denny’s doing well anywhere in Suffolk or Nassau, but then again, Long Island is home to three Olive Gardens.

Here is my own selfish reason for not wanting a Denny’s here, aside from my dislike of the food and atmosphere: The place just isn’t any fun.

I’m not completely averse to corporately run restaurants, but I’ve been opining for years that Riverhead, mainly downtown, needs some fun and some action. Even on Route 58, Denny’s would just be stealing space from a possible Miller Ale House or Buffalo Wild Wings or even a Texas Roadhouse. Sure, these places also have that manufactured feel to them, but they’re always abuzz, seem to strive for top-quality food and good prices and are great meeting places for sports and birthdays and other friend- and family-oriented events. Denny’s? Snoooozer!

And it could be catastrophic if such a place should come downtown. It would fly in the face of everything being envisioned for Main Street, which is an eclectic mix of family-run mom-and-pop shops and restaurants. The anti-Route 58, if you will. Denny’s could stifle such a movement.

Ed Tuccio, owner of Tweed’s downtown, even told the News-Review he’s heard Denny’s could be looking for tax abatements from the town — as if such a restaurant could offer some one-of-a-kind, job-creating and blight-busting boon to the area. To me, Denny’s is a blight. If representatives of the Spartanburg, S.C.-based Denny’s Corporation actually come to ask for tax breaks, town officials shouldn’t think twice about giving them an old-fashioned fuggedaboudit! (They won’t know the difference between Brooklyn and Riverhead.) And tell them to pay up, or get lost.

Denny’s bribes us. We don’t bribe Denny’s.

Michael White is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at 631-298-3200, ext. 152. Or at mwhite@timesreview.com.

06/29/11 2:11pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Assemblyman Dan Losquadro at his desk in Calverton. He will soon move his local office to downtown Riverhead.

As Assemblyman Dan Losquadro winds down from his first session in Albany, he told Times/Review Newsgroup he plans to turn his focus to local issues this summer, while still preparing to pick-up where he left off next year by pushing for school district relief from state mandates.

Mr. Losquadro (R-Shoreham) said in an interview that he had a “very productive” first session, because he believed Governor Andrew Cuomo “pushed the same agenda” as the freshman assemblyman and other representatives did in passing a balanced budget on-time and to control spending.

The final vote Mr. Losquadro cast after midnight Friday was in favor of a 2 percent property tax cap bill, which the governor proposed and passed in both houses. Included was about $125 million in mandate relief, a measure Mr. Losquadro described as “a good start.”

“I thought the governor gave in far too easily on the mandate relief issue,” Mr. Losquadro said. He believes key driving costs in school districts and local governments — Medicaid and pensions — will be more thoroughly addressed next year.

While Mr. Losquadro’s first session was consumed by hot-button issues such as tackling a $10 billion budget deficit and same-sex marriage legislation — which he said he voted in opposition because of his Catholic beliefs — Mr. Losquadro said he was pleased with his bills addressing local issues passed during his freshman year.

Some of those pieces of legislation include repealing the state’s saltwater fishing licence fee and restoring promotional funding to wineries.

“Tourism is such an important part of our economy,” he said. “Quality of life and the character of our communities is very important to keep.”

Mr. Losquadro, who defeated incumbent Democrat Marc Alessi in November, said that while he plans to meet with residents this summer to address their concerns and create a plan-of-action for next year, he believes some of his constituents won’t be in his district for long.

Redistricting occurs every decade following the completion of the U.S. Census. The 2010 census data shows Mr. Losquadro represents a population of nearly 149,000 residents, making his Assembly district the largest in the state.

“How that’s going to go is anyone’s guess, but it’s going to happen,” Mr. Losquadro said of redistricting process.

Another change for Mr. Losquadro will be his office, which he plans to move next week from Calverton to downtown Riverhead.

“It’s smaller, has greater access and it used to be Patty Acampora’s office,” he said, referring to the 400 West Main Street office of the former assemblywoman. Mr. Losquadro said he’ll move by Aug. 1.

While Mr. Losquadro said he’ll miss his long drives to Albany, during which he listened to Pulse on satellite radio, he’s looking forward to spending the summer with his 17-month-old son.

“That aspect of it is difficult, but the fact is everyone up there is in the same boat,” he said. “Everyone is stuck away from home. Everyone is stuck away families. So there’s a great camaraderie [and] a great friendship that you build with people.”

jennifer@northshoresun.com