01/01/14 9:00am
01/01/2014 9:00 AM
Blizzard of 2013 in Wading River, NY

MELANIE DROZD FILE PHOTO | Sound Avenue in Wading River behind EastWind Caterers during this year’s blizzard.

A record-setting blizzard dumped more than two feet of snow on parts of Riverhead Town in February, shuttering businesses and schools, clogging roads and trapping some residents in their homes for days.

The nor’easter struck the night of Feb. 8 into that weekend, dumping the most snow on the west side of town. Baiting Hollow recorded the most snowfall with 26 inches, while downtown Riverhead endured more than a foot-and-a-half of snow.

Towns west of Riverhead fared even worse, with Brookhaven seeing more than 30 inches.

More than 100 people became trapped in their cars on the Long Island Expressway as the storm hit. Local firefighters, ambulance volunteers and police answered dozens of calls during the blizzard, and at least two police cars and an ambulance became trapped in the storm.

Town highway crews immediately got to work clearing roads, but the sheer volume of the snow slowed efforts.

Weather experts said the storm — which strengthened rapidly when two branches of the jet stream combined west of Long Island — will be remembered as one of the biggest blizzards to hit Long Island in recorded history.

Click here for a complete list of our 2013 top news stories.

12/31/13 11:00am
12/31/2013 11:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO  |  Demitri Hampton's memory was honored Saturday at a fundraiser for a scholarship in his name.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Demitri Hampton’s memory was honored Saturday at a fundraiser for a scholarship in his name.

A beloved local college student and Riverhead High School graduate was gunned down in a botched home invasion at his cousin’s Riverside home in January, stunning the close-knit school communities that later rallied around his grieving family.

Demitri Hampton, 21, was staying with his girlfriend at a cousin’s house when two masked men stormed into the home about 3 a.m. on Jan. 27.

Mr. Hampton, who was awake playing video games in the basement at the time of the break-in, rushed upstairs and confronted the armed men. He tried to fight them off in the kitchen but was shot in the chest.

The two men quickly fled the scene and Mr. Hampton was rushed to a hospital, where he died.

Nearly a year after his death, no arrests have been made. Suffolk County police say homicide detectives are still investigating the case.

“I’m praying for justice,” his mother, Juanita Trent, said in July. “I just want this closure for so many people, not just myself. For my children, for his friends.”

He had been a member of the Blue Waves basketball team, and was part of the high school’s anti-gang program. He was studying at Suffolk Community where he volunteered in a mentoring program for young men.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/30/13 1:00pm
12/30/2013 1:00 PM
Calverton EPCAL sign

MICHAEL WHITE FILE PHOTO | One of two signs marking the EPCAL entrance along Route 25 in Calverton.

Two years ago, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter proposed the establishment of an EPCAL “fast-track” process to ensure that projects can be built there without running into government red tape. But the proposal itself couldn’t secure approval in the state Legislature.

This year, he tried again. And it worked. The state bill creating the 2,124-acre EPCAL Reuse and Revitalization Area was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in October and will take effect once the town completes an environmental study and subdivision of its land at EPCAL.

The Grumman Corporation left the Calverton Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in 1995. Riverhead Town took title to the property, courtesy of the federal government, in 1998. In 2001, the town sold the approximately 500-acre industrial core of that property, which has since become home to a number of large companies.

But beyond that, the land now called Enterprise Park at Calverton has seen a series of big proposals over the years that come, draw a lot of attention, and then go away without anything being built.

“This is probably one of the most monumental pieces of legislation that will hit the East End,” Mr. Walter has said of the “fast-track” measure.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/29/13 9:00am
12/29/2013 9:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Michael Hubbard and mon, Nancy Reyer, in his room at Peconic Bay Medical Center's skilled nursing facility Thursday afternoon.

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Michael Hubbard and mon, Nancy Reyer, in his room at Peconic Bay Medical Center’s skilled nursing facility.

After years of rehabilitation upstate, a local teenager who was severely injured in a gel candle explosion two years ago came home this June, just as a nonprofit organization is readying a long-term home for him and other young people suffering from traumatic brain injuries.

Michael Hubbard was 15 when he suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body after being burned by a gel candle that exploded in his backyard May 28, 2011.

He went into cardiac arrest a week later, causing traumatic brain injury as well as kidney failure and lung distress. Originally taken to Stony Brook University Medical Center, Michael was moved that September to Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Westchester County.

He had been recuperating slowly, learning to speak again, but the hospital could no longer accommodate him. That’s when Peconic Bay Medical Center officials called his mother, Nancy Reyer.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Ms. Reyer said of the opportunity to move her son back to Riverhead.

Michael will remain at PBMC until a home currently under development on Sound Avenue is completed. The facility, called Brendan House, is being built the nonprofit New Beginnings.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/28/13 9:00am
12/28/2013 9:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Riverhead Republicans celebrate their victorious sweep Tuesday nignt in downtown Riverhead. From left: committee chairman Mason Haas, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy. Mr. Walter said the team tried to stay positive during the campaign. He believes that approach resonated with voters.

BARBARAELLEN FILE KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Republicans celebrating their victorious sweep in downtown Riverhead. From left: committee chairman Mason Haas, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy.

At the beginning of 2012, the all-Republican Riverhead Town Board appeared to be facing some daunting challenges from within as well as from the outside. But mostly from within.

Supervisor Sean Walter threw his support behind his campaign adviser Anthony Coates in a primary race against incumbent Republican Jodi Giglio. Councilman John Dunleavy also, at times, seemed to support Mr. Coates, while councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen came out firmly in support of Ms. Giglio.

But when the primary results were in, Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy were the top vote-getters, and Mr. Coates finished a distant third.

The Democratic candidates largely waited until after the primary to make any noise and voters overwhelmingly supported incumbent Republicans in November’s general election, meaning the all-Republican Town Board will remain intact for another two years.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/27/13 9:00am
12/27/2013 9:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The trailer for homeless sex offenders on the Suffolk County jail property in Riverside.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The trailer for homeless sex offenders on the Suffolk County jail property in Riverside was removed in May.

2013 was the year the homeless sex offender trailers went away.

For six years, the Suffolk County Department of Social Services kept two trailers on the East End as housing for homeless sex offenders — even though most of them were from western Suffolk. One trailer was kept in the parking lot of the Suffolk County jail in Riverside. The other was on county property in Westhampton.

When they were first introduced in 2007, the plan was that the trailers would be moved from community to community but that never happened and they stayed on the East End, much to the frustration of Riverhead, Riverside and Westhampton residents. Proposals to move or close the trailers were frequently shot down in county government, as legislators from western Suffolk feared seeing the trailers moved to their districts.

County Executive Steve Bellone, who inherited the problem when he took office in 2012, promised to discontinue use of the trailers by the end of 2012 but had to eat crow when that didn’t happen. It finally happened in May.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/26/13 9:00am
12/26/2013 9:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at Tuesday night's forum.

CARRIE MILLER FILE PHOTO | Education commissioner John King and state Board of Regents Meryl Tisch listening to a parade of speakers at recent forum.

This year marked the first time New York public school students took state assessments based on new curriculum known as Common Core.

The Common Core State Standards is designed to raise academic achievements inside the classroom and help prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century, state officials have said. The nationwide initiative primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and rigorous math to students at a younger age.

While state officials have claimed implementation of Common Core aims to better prepare students for the future, many parents and educators have criticized the move because they believe teachers are being forced to abandon true learning for what is known as “teaching to the test.”

The results of the new assessments are also expected to be tied to the APPR plan, which stands for Annual Professional Performance Review. This teacher evaluation requirement originated in 2010 after New York was awarded a grant of nearly $700 million under the federal Race to the Top program. For individual school districts to qualify for part of the grant, the state required each to implement its own APPR program this year.

In August, the state Department of Education released the results of math and English Language Arts assessments that students in grades 3 through 8 took in April. Those scores were significantly lower compared to the previous school year, which state and school officials had predicted.

Statistics statewide for New York schools in which students took the assessments showed 69 percent failed to meet proficiency levels in math and 68.9 percent in ELA. School districts in Suffolk County generally fared better than the state overall, with 66.8 percent failing math and 63.7 percent failing ELA.

After scores were released, local districts passed resolutions calling on state and federal officials to overhaul the current method of standardized testing tied to teacher evaluations.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/25/13 9:00am
12/25/2013 9:00 AM
DEC COURTESY PHOTO |  Sandy-damaged cars parked on grasslands at EPCAL in early January.

DEC COURTESY PHOTO | Sandy-damaged cars parked on grasslands at EPCAL in early January.

First came the storm, then came the storm-damaged cars. By the tens of thousands.

The Enterprise Park at Calverton found itself in the national spotlight as the most expansive storage site for storm-damaged cars in the Northeast. The images were startling, as cars stretched as far as the eye could see, made all the more impressive by aerial shots from news choppers and state agencies. Controversy swirled around the arrangement, with most complaints coming from environmentalists concerned that fluids would leak from the vehicles and pollute groundwater.

Officials in Riverhead Town, which netted about $2 million in fees from leases, argued that cars parked on town land were restricted to impervious runways. But private property owners at EPCAL were also found to be leasing undeveloped space for car storage. State Department of Environmental Conservation officials took issue with those arrangements, ticketing property owners for cars parked on grass.

By late June, all the cars had disappeared.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 news stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.