10/25/13 12:51pm
10/25/2013 12:51 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sean Walter and Angela DeVito on the Suffolk Theater stage.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sean Walter and Angela DeVito on the Suffolk Theater stage.

Riverhead supervisor candidates Sean Walter, the incumbent Republican, and Angela DeVito, the challenging Democrat, took the stage on Thursday night at the Suffolk Theater for a debate co-sponsored by the Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLocal.

The two answered questions about downtown, Enterprise Park at Calverton, Route 58 and more, even getting the chance to ask each other a question during the debate.

Check out their responses recorded here. And check back with us to check out video from the town board debate.

Candidates answer questions individually tailored to them:

Candidates speak about their vision for EPCAL: 

Candidates speak about their plans for avoiding a tax hike in coming years: 

Candidates on their plans for downtown: 

Closing statements: 

10/16/13 5:00pm
10/16/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Supervisor candidate Angela DeVito was joined downtown Tuesday afternoon by town council candidate Bill Bianchi (left) and supporters. Ms. DeVito said the private sector is responsible for downtown’s resurgence, not politicians. Supervisor Sean Walter, in office since 2010, said he welcomes the criticism.

Democrats running for Riverhead Town Board seats say the incumbent Republicans don’t deserve credit for revitalizing downtown Riverhead, something Supervisor Sean Walter has frequently touted in his previous – and current – bid for re-election.

“The Sean Walter administration has made scant progress in efforts to improve downtown Riverhead,” Democratic supervisor candidate Angela DeVito said at a press conference Tuesday outside the former site of the Red Collection, which went out of business a couple of weeks ago. “What little progress has been made should be credited to town business leaders and not town government.”

Ms. DeVito was joined at the press conference by running mate Bill Bianchi, who is seeking a seat on the Town Board, and several supporters.

In a statement handed out at the event, Ms. DeVito said that “the opening of The Riverhead Project, reopening of the Suffolk Theater and the promotional activities of the Business Improvement District are the work of entrepreneurial business leaders and not Sean Walter or the lackluster Town Board.”

Mr. Walter saw it differently.

“If that’s what they want to campaign on, I welcome it,” he said in an interview. “Business owners are very happy with the help they got from my office to move things forward.”

He suggested talking to business owners such as Bob Castaldi of the Suffolk Theater, John Mantzopoulos of Athens Grill and Dennis McDermott of The Riverhead Project. All three have opened – or, in Mr. Mantzopolous’ case are reopening – since 2010, when Mr. Walter stepped into Town Hall.

“That’s nonsense,” Mr. Castaldi said of the Democrat’s claims. “When Cardinale was here, we went nowhere. When Walter came in, it was like somebody lifted a wet blanket off the town. There’s no question about it in my mind. When Cardinale was here we spun our wheels for three years.”

Former Democratic Supervisor Phil Cardinale had attempted to take back the Suffolk Theater through a reverter clause in the sales contract between the town and Mr. Castaldi. Mr. Castaldi then sued, the issue was tied up in court for several years and the restoration stalled.

Mr. Mantzopoulos, whose restaurant was badly damaged in a fire in July, said that a Town Board resolution to waive building fees for Athens Grill and the Rendezvous, which had a fire the same week, was approved by the Town Board — but not unanimously, as Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman Jim Wooten did not support the measure.

“There was a little opposition from two people, so I don’t know if you can put them all in the same box,” Mr. Mantzopoulos said in an interview Tuesday. “But overall, my personal experience is that the town government has been good to me. If there are state grants that I’m eligible for, they’ll notify me. I can’t really complain about Town Hall in the last four years.”

Mr. Mantzopoulos said he’s known Ms. DeVito for nine years and Mr. Walter for four.

“At the end of the day, they’re both good people and I wish them both luck,” he said.

Ms. DeVito said at the press conference that the Town Board should concentrate on things such as public safety and the condition of downtown sidewalks and businesses will come. She said the town still has police officers stationed outside the Suffolk Theater after shows and said town zoning allows areas such as Route 58 to kill downtown businesses.

“We need someone who is going to clean up Second and Third streets, and work with Southampton Town to clean up Riverside,” she said.

Mr. Bianchi said the revitalization of downtown “has a long way to go.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

10/10/13 4:30pm
10/10/2013 4:30 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, left and challenger Angela DeVito with moderator Sid Bail.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, left and challenger Angela DeVito with moderator Sid Bail.

When it came to issues like town finances, Route 58 planning, Town Board bickering, and redevelopment downtown and at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, Republican incumbents largely saw the glass half full at a candidates forum held in Calverton Wednesday night.

The Democratic challengers? Well, they saw the glass half empty.

The Greater Calverton Civic Association and the Wading River Civic Association sponsored the event at the Riley Avenue school in Calverton. Sid Bail of the Wading River Civic Association served as moderator.

Incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter and council members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio are being opposed by Democratic supervisor challenger Angela DeVito and council candidates Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas.

Mr. Dunleavy was not present, due to a previously planned vacation.

Here’s what the rest of the candidates had to say about the issues:

TOWN FINANCES 

Mr. Walter said that when he took office four years ago, the town’s annual audits were many years behind. The town was bonding items that should have been funded by the general fund, it had no budget for road paving, and taxes were rising due to the debt associated with a failed landfill reclamation project, which has accounted for more than $4 million in debt service each year, he said.

Since then, he said the town has drastically cut its spending, the audits are caught up and the town is closing in on a plan to be able to sell land at EPCAL, which he feels will provide tax relief in the future.

“The revenue streams are trending in the right direction,” he said.

But Ms. DeVito said the town has been offsetting taxes with the use of about $3 million in surplus funds each year, and that money is close to running out.

She pointed out that a recent audit states that unless the town gets a big infusion of money by 2014, this approach “will result in a catastrophic tax increase in the next few years,” she said.

Mr. Walter said the landfill debt, which was accumulated by the previous administration, is the main reason for the town’s tax increases.

Ms. Thomas disagreed with the supervisor’s assessment of town financing.

“As far as I know, the town’s broke,” she said, adding that while downtown is improving it still needs to be revitalized.

Ms. Giglio says she’s saved the town $2 million by insisting that its garbage contract be put out to bid, and she initiated a phone audit that gained the town $75,000.

EPCAL

Ms. DeVito and the Democratic candidates said that while the EPCAL subdivision is close to happening, the redevelopment of EPCAL won’t bring the town any money until the land is actually sold.

“EPCAL still is pie in the sky until that first shovel goes in the ground,” Ms. DeVito said. “It could still blow up in our faces.”

Mr. Bianchi said he believes the town still needs to upgrade the sewer system and infrastructure at EPCAL, which could cost $40 million, and he says the industrial park at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton already has infrastructure and still hasn’t attracted many businesses.

Mr. Walter said he’s confident the lots at EPCAL will sell once the subdivision is approved. He said the town doesn’t need to sell all of the lots at once, since selling one or two per year will provide enough revenue to offset tax increases.

The state legislature has approved a proposal for development applications at EPCAL to be fast-tracked, so long as they meet criteria spelled out in the legislation, said Mr. Walter, who added that no other municipality in the state has such legislation.

But Ms. DeVito pointed out that the EPCAL legislation has not yet been signed into law by the governor.

TOWN BOARD BICKERING

Mr. Walter said people have criticized the all-Republican board for its infighting, but “the proof is in the pudding.” He said EPCAL, downtown and the town finances are improving under the current board, despite the fighting. The supervisor said that when Ms. Giglio first suggested trying to lure the Federal Aviation Administration’s new air traffic control center to EPCAL, he opposed it, but he says now it could be a reality.

“Don’t worry about us fighting,” he said. “It makes for good TV.”

Ms. DeVito said she’s heard from many people who don’t participate in government because “they are made to feel unwelcome and they don’t like the environment.”

Ms. Giglio, also said the board does fight a lot, but that they are a “spirited board” whose members come from diverse backgrounds. She said the board communicates with each other, debates issues and compromises.

ROUTE 58

The current condition of Route 58, where four large commercial projects have resulted in hundreds of acres of trees being cleared, was a topic where the Republicans acknowledged there were mistakes made, but vowed to correct them.

Democrats went on the attack.

“Route 58 looks like a war zone,” said Mr. Bianchi, who served 22 years in the state Assembly when he lived in Bellport. “It looks like Saudi Arabia, just a sea of sand.”

He said residents in Foxwood Village found their lives “partially destroyed” by the clearing near their homes.

“How anyone on the Town Board can allow that to happen boggles the mind,” Mr. Bianchi said. “Do you think East Hampton or Southampton would allow that to happen?”

Ms. Thomas said the town doesn’t need all the big box stores on Route 58, which are providing “minimum wage jobs” and not even increasing as much taxes as they should.

Mr. Walter and Ms. Giglio both argued that Route 58 does generate a lot of taxes for the town, and people’s tax bills would be a lot higher without that money.

Ms. DeVito said Route 58 stores are a major source of income tax revenue for Suffolk County, and the town doesn’t get any of that money. She feels the town should fight to get a bigger share of the income tax revenue it generates.

The town generates about $30 million in income tax revenue for the county, Mr. Walter said. But he feels it would be “pie in the sky” to think the county would give up that money.

As for the recent clearing on Route 58, the supervisor said the town Planning Board made a mistake and will fix it. But he said those boards are autonomous, and the Town Board can talk to them, but can’t tell them what to do.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/10/13 6:30pm
09/10/2013 6:30 PM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

Riverhead Town Democratic Committee nominee Angela DeVito beat challenger Ann Cotten-DeGrasse by 501 to 229 votes in the primary race for the Democrats’ supervisor nod Tuesday.

In the at-large Republican race for two Town Council nominations, Jodi Gilgio was the top vote-getter with 912, followed by John Dunleavy with 878 and Anthony Coates with 484, according to the county Board of Elections.

And in the Independence Party primary for Town Council, Ms. Giglio led the three-candidate pack with 68 votes, followed by Democratic nominee Bill Bianchi with 65 and Mr. Dunleaby with 37. That was also an at-large race.

The News-Review had reporters at all the candidates’ camps and reported live from 8:30 p.m. The polls closed at 9 p.m.

Click below for the live reports, including quotes, photos and reactions from the candidates and supporters.

Riverhead voters head to the polls on primary day

Brief bios on primary candidates for town office

Republican rivals square off at primary debate

Supervisor hopefuls on how they would run town

09/09/13 8:00am
09/09/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at Monday's debate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at an Aug. 26 debate

Voters in Riverhead Town who are registered with the Republican, Democratic or Independence parties will head to the polls on Tuesday for primary day.

Below is a brief biography of each of the candidates.

TOWN SUPERVISOR

Angela DeVito

Angela DeVito

Hamlet: South Jamesport

Occupation: Retired

Primary Race: Democratic

Angela DeVito, 65, is the committee nominee for supervisor. She is a longtime workplace safety advocate with related degrees from Columbia University and the University of Utah School of Medicine. She retired in 2000 from a NYS health department occupational medicine program at SUNY/Stony Brook and then served as director of workforce development for the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk counties. She is an active civic leader who has served on the town Industrial Development Agency and the Riverhead school board.

Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse

Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse

Hamlet: Jamesport

Occupation: Retired teacher

Primary Race: Democratic

Supervisor hopeful Ellen A. Cotten-DeGrasse, 70, also known as Ann, taught at Riverhead High School for 32 years before retiring in 1997. During her time in the district she served as the head of the teacher’s union, Riverhead Central Faculty Association, from 1992 to 1997. She is the current president of the Riverhead Board of Education, to which she was first elected in 2008. She’s also a co-founder of the North Forth Breast Health Coalition, a charity and advocacy group that assists breast cancer patients.

TOWN COUNCIL

John Dunleavy

John Dunleavy

Hamlet: Calverton

Occupation: Retired police officer

Primary Race: Republican, Independence

Republican incumbent and committee nominee John Dunleavy, 72, is running for a third four-year term as a town councilman. Mr. Dunleavy is a U.S. Navy veteran and former Grumman Corporation employee who later joined the Riverhead Town police department where he came to head the department’s juvenile aid bureau for 15 years before retiring in 1988. He then worked in banking until 2007. Mr. Dunleavy was first elected councilman in 2006.

Jodi Giglio

Jodi Giglio

Hamlet: Baiting Hollow

Occupation: Owner of Bennett Enterprises

Primary Race: Republican, Independence

Republican incumbent and committee nominee Jodi Giglio, 45, is running for her second four-year term as a town councilwoman. Ms. Giglio has a business background, which includes relocating corporate executives for United Van Lines and serving as an on-site construction superintendent for a Long Island townhouse project. She owns and runs Bennett Enterprises, which assists landowners with residential and commercial applications.

Anthony Coates

Anthony Coates

Hamlet: Riverhead

Occupation: Investment consultant

Primary Race: Republican

Republican challenger Anthony Coates, 52, is seeking his first term in public office. He’s been active in public service since age 16, when he was an aide to a county legislator. He helped run a home heating oil company and is a former publisher of the Record newspapers, which were based in Port Jefferson. He’s also been a political adviser to local and nationally elected officials and worked as a financial portfolio manager.

Bill Bianchi

Bill Bianchi

Hamlet: Riverhead

Occupation: Owner of Bianchi-Davis Greenhouses

Primary Race: Independence

Democratic committee nominee Bill Bianchi, 82, is a former Bellport resident who served as a state assemblyman from 1972 to 1994. Mr. Bianchi got started in public service as a South Country school board member and president. He then was part of a lawsuit that effectively ended the county’s Board of Supervisors in favor of a Legislature. He’s worked continually in the orchid business and co-owns orchid greenhouses off Doctors Path.

*Sources: the candidates

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Supervisor hopefuls on how they‘d run town

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Republican rivals square off at primary debate

08/27/13 11:20am
08/27/2013 11:20 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Democratic candidates (L-R) Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito.

In Monday night’s debate between Democratic supervisor candidates Angela DeVito and Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, both candidates criticized the incumbent Republican administration of Sean Walter while touching on major issues facing the town.

They also, at times, took issue with each other.

The debate, entitled “Riverhead at the Crossroads,” was sponsored by local media outlets Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com and held at the Suffolk Theater.

Ms. DeVito, the Riverhead Democratic Committee nominee, is being challenged by Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse. Both are retired and both have served as Riverhead school board presidents, a position Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse currently holds.

RELATED: See the entire video of Monday night’s debate

The winner of the Sept. 10 primary will take on incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter in the Nov. 5 general election.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse is a former Riverhead High School teacher and union president who said she has made a difference in the lives of many of the students she taught and hopes to do the same as supervisor.

“Do we want to continue with the two-party system or do we want to break from that?” she asked.

“Town government isn’t working,” said Ms. DeVito, who worked for the Long Island Building Trades Council and is a former civic association president in Jamesport.

She said there is too much bickering and cronyism in town government.

“We need a candidate who can defeat Sean Walter and I am that person,” she told the crowd of more than 200 people downtown.

Among the issues the two differed on, Ms. DeVito said she would support using eminent domain to acquire empty downtown buildings through condemnation.

“We’ve waited long enough” for buildings owned by Riverhead Enterprise to be developed or sold, she said.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she might have supported eminent domain in the past, but doesn’t think the town can afford it now.

In eminent domain, the town must convince a court it needs property for a public purpose, and the courts, if it agrees, would determine the sales price later.

The two also disagreed on the role of the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which grants tax breaks to businesses to help lure them to town.

Ms. DeVito, who served on that board a few years ago, thinks the IDA is necessary, but believes the current board has made some bad decisions.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said the IDA “has never seen a proposal they don’t love.” She said she is not opposed to tax abatements, but is opposed to giving them to companies that would have come here anyway.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said the IDA gave a 10-year, 100-percent property tax abatement to Atlantis aquarium and the Hyatt hotel when Ms DeVito was on the board. Ms. DeVito said she voted against that abatement, though later voted for a measure that allowed the building plan to move forward.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said the town needs to prioritize its spending, because it needs expensive items like sewer and infrastructure improvements in downtown and the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Ms. DeVito said Riverhead needs to partner with Southampton Town to clean up blight in neighboring Riverside.

“As long as that side of the river remains blighted, we’re going to continue to have quality of life issues in downtown Riverhead,” she said.

“We must raise revenue,” Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse responded. “We are fighting a deficit.”

She said the town needs to closely audit its operation and “look at cutting staff,” she said, adding that Republican Supervisor Sean Walter “is not supervising.”

Ms. DeVito suggested using temporary workers in some town positions to save money and trying to get the state and county to share some of the sales tax revenue generated in Riverhead.

Mr. Cotten-DeGrasse then countered she didn’t favor hiring “part-time workers,” to which Ms. DeVito said she never mentioned part-timers, only temporary workers.

On developing EPCAL, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she envisions the former Grumman plant property becoming a “Silicon Valley” of Suffolk County, adding she would form a committee of people with real estate or development backgrounds to help bring development to EPCAL.

Ms. DeVito warned the town must be wary of speculators buying key pieces of the subdivided EPCAL property in order to hike up the price of the those parcels when developments nearby need them. She also feels that the town should work with scientists at Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University to bring scientific research to EPCAL.

Both were asked about the school board’s long-alleged conducting of business in closed, executive sessions that should be public.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse denied this claim, saying school board members get a packet containing background information on matter that will come to vote several days before a meeting, and do not discuss public business behind closed doors.

Ms. DeVito disagreed, saying the public’s business is being conducted behind closed doors, and it was when she was on the school board, too.

Both candidates said they would sign pledges promising to uphold the state’s open meeting laws.

The event raised $1,045 for the Brendan House, a Sound Avenue facility that will provide 24-hour care for people people withe brain injuries.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Monday night’s debate also featured Republican council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

08/27/13 9:00am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town Board candidate Anthony Coates, from left, and Town board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio address the moderators at Monday's debate at the Suffolk Theater.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town Board candidate Anthony Coates, from left, and Town board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio address the moderators at Monday’s debate at the Suffolk Theater.

The first of two town political debates sponsored by local media took place at the historic Suffolk Theater Monday night.

Monday’s first debate featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

The debates were moderated by News-Review executive editor Grant Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

The Democratic candidates debated first, for about 45 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates.

The debate can be rewatched at the link below. The Democrats start at the 7-minute mark; Republicans begin one hour, 20 minutes in.

08/26/13 10:00am
08/26/2013 10:00 AM
Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater’s grand re-opening night in February.

The first of two town political debates being sponsored by local media and held at the historic Suffolk Theater tonight will see two Democratic primary supervisor candidates square off, followed by three Republican primary hopefuls for town council.

The debate, sponsored by Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com, will start at 7 p.m.

There will be a suggested $5 donation at the door, with all proceeds going to Brendan House, New Beginnings.

“We’re very excited to be working together to bring these debates to the public,” said Times/Review Newsgroup executive editor Grant Parpan. “Given the current political climate in this town, there’s no doubt these events will be good shows worthy of the theater’s grand stage.”

Both debates will be moderated by Mr. Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

“Riverhead is at a crossroads,” Ms. Civiletti said. “The next town board will be making crucial decisions that will affect our future for generations to come. Voters need to know where the candidates stand on important local issues.”

Monday’s debate will feature Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio,

The Democratic candidates will debate first, for about 45 to 50 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates. Those arriving early for the second debate may be asked to wait in the theater’s lobby area, as to not disturb the first round of candidates.

All questions for the debates have been prepared in advance, and were written by readers as well as the moderators. All candidates will be given time to make closing statements. No outside video recording of the event is allowed.

Doors open at 5 p.m. and the theater’s bar and restaurant will be open at that time, but shut down during the debates, which are scheduled to run until 9 p.m.

The theater’s bar and restaurant will re-open after 9 p.m.