07/31/12 8:00pm
07/31/2012 8:00 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The NOFO Rock & Folk Fest at Peconic Bay Winery was one attempt to bring live music to the North Fork.

At the risk of stirring up some of those old “Troy has South Fork envy” complaints that arose many years ago when I compared downtown Greenport unfavorably to downtown Sag Harbor, this week I wish to discuss the distinct differences between Long Island’s two forks when it comes to presenting live music.

At its most elemental level, it comes down to this: How come the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center is so vital but Riverhead’s Suffolk Theatre remains stuck in neutral several decades after it was first proposed as a performing arts center?

Or why does East Hampton’s Stephen Talkhouse nightclub consistently attract nationally acclaimed performers while North Fork venues present mostly local talent.

Call me negative, but when I think of live music here I think mostly of what might have been. Like the several hundred hearty souls who attended the East End Arts Council’s Delbert McClinton concert at the Talmage farm on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow.

Or the disappointing turnouts (to me, at least) at the first two NOFO Music Festivals at Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue — although festival organizer Josh Horton has a more upbeat interpretation of that experience, as expressed in his comments below. Or the suspension for one year of the Riverhead Blues Festival, followed by a 2012 resumption that left the sponsor, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, thousands of dollars in the red.

There have been some limited successes, of course. Like the short-lived rock and roll shows promoter Preston Powell once brought to the movie theater in Greenport. Or the generally low-key musical performances that have become standard at North Fork vineyards. (Said one wag I surveyed on this question: “It’s just that those bands all work for less than $200.”)

Or the live music offerings of The Arts in Southold Town — although even that volunteer-based organization was forced to disband in part because of the rigors of presenting.

Also on the plus side of the ledger, says East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder, is “the success of Winterfest Jazz on the Vine, which drew an estimated 7,500 people to the North Fork in the dead of winter. Even though vineyards were not built for performance,” she continues, “we make the best of it (along with a really good glass of wine) and enjoy world-class music. Last winter we had at least six Grammy-winning or -nominated musicians. The audience came from well beyond the Suffolk County borders. I believe it’s a matter of knowing who we are as an area and leveraging those qualities.”

What it comes down to — most of the people I’ve spoken to seem to agree — is geography and demographics.

Geographically speaking, Westhampton is much more accessible to the hundreds of thousands of potential customers who live in Brookhaven and Southampton towns. What’s more, as another friend points out, somewhat defensively, “While North Forkers will readily go to the South Side for stuff, those people often feel like they’re taking their lives in their own hands to come north.”

Demographically speaking, there’s significantly more wealth and a younger audience on the South Fork. The kind of wealth, in the form of corporate sponsorships and individual donations, that can help underwrite operating losses at the performing arts center in Westhampton.

And the kind of audience that most likely will sell out upcoming shows for such big name acts as Rufus Wainwright, Joe Walsh, Pat Metheny and k.d. lang. And with ticket prices ranging from just under $100 to just under $150!

Price resistance is definitely a factor here on the North Fork. One-day passes to the NOFO Fest approached $50, and even at that comparatively low level there appeared to be resistance. That’s one of the reasons why NOFO will be reconstituted this summer as a concert series instead of a multiple-day festival.

Still, organizer Josh Horton chooses to place a more upbeat spin on the change of plans, saying it’s “not grounded in the difficulty of producing live music initiatives.” Nor was he discouraged by the response to the first two festivals.

Instead, he says, “There’s a tremendous opportunity and demand for quality live music. That’s what we experienced with the first two NOFO festivals in 2010 and ’11. But this year, we’re taking a slightly different approach. Instead of being all things to all people over the course of two days,” he said, NOFO will become a concert series that presents national acts in a “more intimate setting.” And at a significantly reduced price.

Case in point: the just-announced tribute to Levon Helm, the recently departed founding member of The Band, scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 19, on the main lawn at Peconic Bay Winery. It will feature Helm’s daughter, Amy Helm, and the Dirt Farmer Band, which backed up Levon Helm on two award-winning albums. And tickets will be priced at just $20 in advance, $25 at the gate.

So instead of needing to sell 1,000 tickets, as they did with the larger festival, Josh said, they’ll need to sell 200 to 300.

“We want to make sure the focus is on the music,” he said, noting how the “time and focus spent on vendors and additional activities became a large part of the festival and diminished the focus on the music.”

So, North Fork music fans, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. Let’s start small, with the purchase of a ticket or two for the Levon Helm show. And if that works out, we can start to think bigger, say the purchase and remodeling of the old Greenport Auditorium into a live contemporary music venue that makes the ghost of Stephen Talkhouse wish his Native American tribe had relocated to the North Fork.

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07/31/12 5:56pm

MIKE CUEVLAS FILE PHOTO | A photo taken from a video recording by Mr. Cuevas of the helicopter landing in a field behind his house in Baiting Hollow.

A Calverton man who Riverhead officials took to court in 2008 for illegally using his property to land and launch his private helicopter has agreed not to do so unless he gets a special permit from the town, which is not possible under the site’s current zoning.

Walter Gezari, his wife, Debbie Ma, and his company, Inter-Archipelago Airways, agreed in a July 2 settlement with Riverhead Town not to use their property on Deep Hole Road in Calverton for helicopter takeoffs and landings unless they get a special permit from the Town Board allowing that use.

The settlement also calls for Mr. Gezari to plead guilty to a charge of operating an airport without a permit and to pay a $350 fine, in exchange for a conditional discharge of the code violations for which the town cited him.

Mr. Gezari said Tuesday that he has not been landing or taking off from his Calverton property since the town obtained a preliminary injunction in 2008 barring him from doing so. As for applying for a special permit, he said he has not decided what he will do.

“I haven’t really thought about it yet,” he said. “I basically am flying in my normal way and not landing in Calverton. I’m functioning perfectly well without this capability.”

Richard Craven, who lives near the area where Mr. Gezari had been landing his helicopter, said he hasn’t noticed the helicopter since the injunction was issued.

“Apparently he has adhered to it,” Mr. Craven said.

The town took Mr. Gezari to court in 2008 following complaints from neighbors about the helicopter.

The settlement bars Mr. Gezari from using his property for helicopter landings or takeoffs unless he obtains a special permit from the Town Board and site plan approval from the Planning Board. The settlement also prohibits further appeals of the court case.

Despite the language of the settlement, it was unclear if Mr. Gezari could even get a special permit if he applied for one without amendments being made to the zoning.

The town had defined the landing of a helicopter as an “airport” use and maintained that the property’s zoning, Agricultural Protection zone, doesn’t allow airports as a permitted, special permit or accessory use.

The code also states that “no airport facility or accessory building, structure or use shall be constructed, expanded, installed, used, maintained, arranged or designed to be used, erected, reconstructed or altered in any use district except when authorized by special permit from the Town Board.”

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07/31/12 4:00pm

A little more than a month after the Riverhead Town Board adopted a new zoning category aimed at allowing assisted living facilities in the town, the Melville company that has been planning such a facility on Mill Road has submitted an application to change the zoning on that property to the new category.

Genrac Associates, doing business as The Concordia Senior Community, on Tuesday submitted a zone change application seeking to rezone 25 acres on the east side of Mill Road, south of Middle Road and north of Home Depot, to the new Retirement Community zoning.

The company plans to build an assisted living retirement community and generic continuing care retirement community on that site, their application states.

Ronald DeVito of Corcordia Senior Communities in Melville first presented his plan publicly in early 2010 at a Riverhead Industrial Development Agency meeting, where he asked about potential tax incentives for the project. However, officials say it has been discussed privately with town officials for some time prior to that.

The main problem facing the project at the time was the town’s zoning code, which wouldn’t have permited the type of multi-faceted facility Mr. DeVito sought.

The Town Board then opted to create a new “floating zone,” that would allow assisted living facilities on any properties in town that meet the criteria set forth in the zone. Normally, zoning is site specific.

The Town Board spent about three years devising the new zone before finally adopting it at their June 19 meeting.

The 25-acre site off Mill Road is currently zoned Agricultural Protection Zone and is mostly vacant land.

The proposed development would add 225,000 square feet of building, according to the application.

The zone change is subject to Town Board approval.

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07/31/12 1:58pm

Addie Louise Edwards of Riverhead died July 24 at Stony Brook University Medical Center. She was 81.

Born Nov. 20, 1930, in Aurora, N.C., to Elva Gertrude Wiggins and Herman Edwards, she worked at Strebel’s Laundry Inc. in Quiogue.

Predeceased by her son Jonathan in 1988, Ms. Edwards is survived by her sons Willie Marcellus, Steven and Daryl; her brothers, Arlinla Sr. and Floyd Sr.; and her sisters, Melvine Roberts and Elva Mitchell.

A service was held July 28 at Reginald H. Tuthill Funeral Home in Riverhead, the Rev. A. Charles McElroy officiating. Interment was at Riverhead Cemetery.

07/31/12 1:54pm

Randy Altschuler, left, and Tim Bishop

In an email to campaign supporters Tuesday, congressional hopeful Randy Altschuler said new polling numbers show Congressman Tim Bishop is in “BIG trouble.”

But Bishop’s camp likened Mr. Altschuler’s poll to little more than a BIG joke.

The poll, which was conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, shows Altschuler leading by four points, with 47 percent of likely voters in support of the Republican businessman from St. James and 43 percent in favor of the Southampton Democrat. Ten percent are undecided, the poll shows.

“We just came out of the field with my first poll of the general election and the results confirm what we are all feeling on the ground,” Mr. Altschuler said in his email. “Career politician Tim Bishop is in BIG trouble.”

Bobby Pierce, Communications Director for Bishop for Congress, called the poll a do-it-yourself operation, and he pointed to a New York Times blog post that labeled Pulse Opinon Research polls as “bias and inaccurate.”

Mr. Pierce urged Altschuler’s camp to release polls he said were conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, an international polling and research firm. Campaign finances show that Mr. Altschuler’s campaign has spent more than $50,000 to McLaughlin & Associates since July 2011, including nearly $17,000 in April.

“We haven’t seen them release any poll from them,” Mr. Pierce said. “That’s a real polling company.”

Mr. Pierce said the most recent third-party poll conducted in the race, which many media outlets have pegged as one of the key races around the country this year, shows Mr. Bishop ahead 24 points.

“Randy saw that poll and figured he better buy his own poll,” he said. “You’d think he would buy a little more than a four-point lead.”

Altschuler spokesman Chris Russell said that poll was conducted by the House Majority PAC. “That is effectively an arm of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” he said.

Mr. Pierce said the Bishop campaign hasn’t done its own poll since March, but that survey, conducted by Global Strategy Group, had the Congressman ahead by 17 points.

This is not Mr. Altschuler’s first attempt to unseat Mr. Bishop. He lost to an incumbent Mr. Bishop by just 593 votes two years ago, in a vote count that stretched out over several days.

In his email to supporters Tuesday, Mr. Altschuler said he believes the majority of the voting public is on his side this time around.

“After nearly ten years of voting for trillions in higher taxes, more spending and irresponsible debt that has helped to drive more than 30,000 jobs off of Long Island, the people of Suffolk County are tiring of Tim Bishop,” he wrote.

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07/31/12 1:31pm

Jack E. McDaniels of Riverhead died July 12 at Southampton Hospital. He was 63 years old.

He was born March 22, 1949, in Brooklyn, to Fred and Isabella (Moreno) McDaniel and was a graduate of Salem State College in Massachusetts. He had been a counselor with Danvers Outreach Program in Danvers, Mass.

He is survived by his companion, James Ameden, and his siblings Leslie, Charlene, Rose, Denise, Renee, Robert, Andre, Julia Sabatel and Robert Davis. He was predeceased by his siblings Angelo, Gloria and Philip.

The family received friends July 17 at DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Home in Southold, where homegoing services were conducted by Minster Jimmie Smiley. Interment was July 18 at St. Agnes R.C. Church cemetery in Greenport.

07/31/12 12:53pm

Robert E. Romanowski of East Moriches, N.Y., died July 22, 2012, at the age of 74.

He is survived by his beloved wife, Janice; sons, Robert, James (JoAnn) and Thomas; his daughter, Donna DeLong (John); his sister, Arlene Mojeski; and three cherished grandchildren, John, Michael and Elizabeth.

Bob was a member of the East Moriches Fire Department from 1969 to 2012, serving as department secretary from 1972 to 2010 and as Hose Co. #2 Captain. He was Fireman of the Year in 1974 and 1989.
He was also a lifetime member of East Moriches Community Ambulance; secretary of Brookhaven Town Fire Chiefs Council; a member of the board of directors of the Riverhead Polish Independent Club; and an active member of St. John the Evangelist R.C. Church. He was retired from Romanowski Duck Farm.

Visiting hours were held July 25 and 26 at Sinnickson’s Moriches Funeral Home in Center Moriches, with firematic services held in the evening on July 26. A celebration of the Mass of Christian Burial was July 27 at St. John the Evangelist R.C. Church, followed by interment at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, both in Center Moriches.

This is a paid notice.

07/31/12 12:46pm

William Leo Sledzieski passed away peacefully at home in Oxford, Conn., on July 29, 2012 at the age of 72 after a long battle with cancer.

William Leo Sledieski

He was predeceased by his parents, Leo and Mary Sledzieski of Mattituck, N.Y. Bill is survived by his wife of 50 years, Mary (Pelc) Sledzieski, and his two children and their spouses, Kathy (Sledzieski) Iannazzo and her husband, Steve, of Norwalk, Conn., and Ron Sledzieski and his wife, Nana, of Southbury, Conn. Bill is also survived by his brother, Robert Sledzieski, and his wife, Patricia, of Riverhead, N.Y. He was blessed with five grandchildren, Nicholas and Melissa Iannazzo and Samuel, Sydney and Summer Sledzieski.

Bill was born in Greenport, N.Y., on June 9, 1940, where as a child he helped out on the family farm. He attended Mattituck High School and the University of Georgia, where he graduated with a degree in food chemistry. He married Mary Pelc in 1963. Bill eventually began working for Standard Brands in Stamford, Conn., where he was issued several patents. His foundational co-invention of low-fat, butter-flavored spread became Fleischmann’s margarine and has been referenced by 17 subsequent patents, two as recent as 2008. Bill continued his career with Nabisco and eventually retired from the Joseph E. Seagram company.

Bill enjoyed golfing, bowling, playing cards with his friends and visiting The Villages in Florida. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends for his optimism, faith, and the loving care of his family.

A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated on Friday, Aug. 3, 2012, at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, 733 Oxford Road, in Oxford, Conn., at 10 a.m. Relatives and friends may call Thursday, Aug. 2, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Munson-Lovetere Funeral home, 235 Main Street North, Southbury, Conn. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to The Connecticut Hospice (hospice.com). Online condolences may be made through munsonloveterefuneralhome.com.

This is a paid notice.