09/11/13 8:57pm
09/11/2013 8:57 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The procession walks along Park Road in Reeves Park toward the new 9/11 Memorial at the corner of Park and Sound Avenue Wednesday night.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The procession walks along Park Road in Reeves Park toward the new 9/11 Memorial at the corner of Park and Sound Avenue Wednesday night.

Hundreds marched down Park Road in Reeves Park Wednesday night, joined by uniformed members of the Riverhead Fire Department, the Wading River Boy Scouts troop and other groups, to pay their respects to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The procession ended at the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road, at the new 9/11 Memorial Park dedicated to the first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, as well as all those who’ve been killed in the line of duty in Riverhead Town.

While residents of Reeves Park have held the memorial walk annually, led by the surviving relatives of fallen FDNY firefighter Thomas Kelly,  this year marked the first for the newly completed memorial.

The park was built on land that had been slated for development in 2003. Reeves Park residents had fought for years to convince town and county officials to acquire the property and preserve it as a memorial park, with the final acquisition only happening in late 2012.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.

He later marveled at the work done by Riverhead Town employees in getting the new park ready for the 9/11 march.

“There’s love in what they did here,” he told a reporter. “Once they got up here and started working and people stopped by and patted them on the back, or gave them the thumbs up as they drove by, they just put their hearts into it.”

“I don’t recall ever seeing this tree before,” said Chris Kelly, a retired New York Police officer, as he admired the work that was done in clearing the site, moving the already placed large rock with a Sept. 11 Memorial on it, and installing benches, a flag pole and landscaping.

Chris Kelly is a cousin of Thomas Kelly, who died in the World Trade Center.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Mr. Kelly said of the park and the ceremony, at which he read a poem he had written about his cousin.

Chris Kelly spent time himself at Ground Zero and was working on Sept. 11, 2001, as was Thomas Kelly’s brothers Jim, also a retired city police officer, and Bob, who was a city firefighter at the time and is now retired.

Monday evening, Jim and Bob pushed the wheelchairs of their elderly parents, Emmett and Sue, to the ceremony. The procession started on Marine Street in Reeves Park and progressed south along Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive to the park.

“It was great to see the whole community come out,” Bob Kelly said after the event. “I think they get it. It’s still hard for me to believe this is physically here. It’s part of the whole town now.

“It’s going to be here for everybody, for generations to come.”

View Larger Map

09/11/13 8:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The newly built 9/11 memorial park on Sound Avenue is dedicated to the first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, as well as all those who’ve been killed in the line of duty in Riverhead Town. A memorial march and vigil will be held Wednesday night.

On the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack today, the Reeves Park community will remember and honor the victims at a new memorial park that was years in the making.

A 9/11 Remembrance Walk will begin at 6 p.m. today at the corner of Marine Street and Park Road — known as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive — followed by a walk to the memorial at 6:30 p.m., said Eric Biegler, the president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park.

The Reeves Park area has a strong connection to Sept. 11 in addition to Thomas Kelly, a New York City firefighter from Reeves Park who was killed on 9/11 fighting the blaze at the World Trade Center.

Mr. Kelly’s brother Bob Kelly also was a New York firefighter on 9/11 and his brother Jim was a New York City police officer at the time. They both own homes in Reeves Park as well, and a small memorial for Tom Kelly was placed on a stone at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road several years ago.

Mr. Biegler said the Riverhead Town Buildings and Grounds department did an “outstanding job” in developing the park and getting it ready in time for Sept. 11.

He urged people to participate in the memorial Wednesday.

“Please make time to come down that night,” he said. “Walk with us. Take time out to reflect on what happened a few miles west of us so many years ago that changed all our lives.”

Another FDNY member who died on 9/11 was Jonathan Ielpi, whose family owns property in Reeves park. His father Lee is retired from the FDNY and also a former president of the September 11th Families’ Association, which founded the World Trade Center Visitors Center near Ground Zero in 2006.

The 4.2 acre memorial park site had been the subject of a commercial development proposal filed in 2003 by EMB Enterprises, which is led by Inn at East Wind owner Kenney Barra. That development proposal ran into community opposition and residents and officials eventually convinced Suffolk County to buy the land in 2012 for $1.27 million for use as a memorial park honoring first responders and victims of the Sept. 11

Riverhead Town agreed to develop the park, while the county bought the land.

[email protected]

03/20/13 10:14am
03/20/2013 10:14 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Reeves Park residents placed candles at a memorial for Tommy Kelly near Sound Avenue on Sept. 11.

Suffolk County on Tuesday formally closed on the acquisition of a four-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead for creation of a memorial park for Sept. 11 victims and emergency responders.

The land was owned by Kenney Barra’s EMB Enterprises and had been proposed for a 28,000-square-foot commercial development in 2003 consisting of stores and a restaurant. That plan ran into opposition from community members and town officials, who rezoned the land to residential uses, only to have that zoning later overturned in court after Mr. Barra sued.

Former county legislator Ed Romaine put in a bill to acquire the land as a park in 2010, and the Legislature approved the $1.28 million acquisition last November, at Mr. Romaine’s last meeting.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in the Reeves Park area, thanked Riverhead Town officials for their help at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I look forward to working with you guys in creating a wonderful park that Riverhead can be extremely proud of,” Mr. Biegler said.

A small 9/11 memorial has already been created at the site in memory of Thomas Kelly, a Reeves Park resident and FDNY member who died in the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. Park Road is also known as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

Thomas Kelly’s brother Bob, himself a retired New York City fire fighter and Reeves Park resident, has been calling for the creation of the memorial park.

“This land acquisition means so much more than just the purchase of open space,” Bob Kelly told county legislators in November.

[email protected]

10/27/12 8:00am
10/27/2012 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Reeves Park residents place candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11.

Riverhead Town Board members discussed Thursday the prospects of naming the Riverhead Ambulance barn after Heidi Behr, the Riverhead volunteer who was killed when the ambulance she was in crashed in May 2005.

Another volunteer, Bill Stone of Ridge, also died in that crash. Both were in the back of the ambulance caring for a cardiac patient when the ambulance hit a tree on Route 25 in Aquebogue.

And Councilman Jim Wooten said the town recreation department has been planning to create a new handicapped accessible playground at Stotzky Park and name that after Heidi, who’s son Jared is disabled. The recreation department doesn’t have the money to do that park yet, Mr. Wooten said.

Recently, there have been a number of proposals to name things in honor of Ms. Behr and other volunteers in town.

Bob Kelly of Riverhead recently suggested that the 9/11 Memorial Park slated for a four-acre site on Park Road and Sound Avenue have an area honoring emergency services volunteers like Ms. Behr and Mr. Stone.

The Park Road park already has a small monument in honor of Bob Kelly’s brother, Tom, a New York City firefighter who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Heidi Behr’s mother, June, said she and her husband, John, discussed that offer and she said they would accept it.

June Behr originally said she didn’t want to take away from the monument to Tom Kelly and that she wanted to discuss it with her husband. She said her husband had the same concerns, but both agreed when told it was Bob Kelly suggesting that an area at the proposed park be named for Heidi.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he has heard people like former Supervisor Jim Stark and Bruce Tria of WRIV 1390 radio criticize the town for not doing anything to honor Ms. Behr.

“I would like to have seen the ambulance corps come to us and say we’d like you to do something in memory of Heidi Behr, and they haven’t done that,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Wooten said “there is something afoot.”

Officials from the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance corps could not be immediately be reached for comment.

“That’s what I was thinking about, naming the ambulance barn after Heidi Behr,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “The easiest thing for us to do right now is name the ambulance barn after Heidi Behr. It would only cost us a sign and the dedication of it and we can do it immediately.”

Mr. Wooten said that when he first took office, he wanted to establish a handicapped accessible playground at Stotzky Park for Jared, because there are currently no handicapped accessible playgrounds in the town.

Mr. Walter said he supports the idea of naming the ambulance barn after Ms. Behr but that he wanted to first get feedback from the ambulance corps.

[email protected]