03/22/13 8:00am
03/22/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead native and lifelong Reeves Park resident Jeff Fuchs makes his way up the Sandy-ravaged beach’s access ramp in his SUV after hanging out late Tuesday afternoon with friends. Mr. Fuchs is confident Mother Nature will restore Reeves Beach.

Every summer, Reeves Park resident Brian Noone likes to pack his barbecue grill into the back of his truck and head down to Reeves Beach with his wife and two young children. They spend the afternoons swimming, then build campfires each night, just as Mr. Noone did with his parents and siblings when he was young.

“We live down there,” he said of the routine.

But this year may be different.

At low tide, Reeves Beach, on the north shore of Baiting Hollow, has hundreds of feet of sand stretching in both directions. But come down the ramp at some high tides and the beach is gone, completely submerged under the Long Island Sound, which now reaches up to the ramp and bluffs at the start of the beach.

Mr. Noone said it would be “devastating” to lose parts of the beach.

Reeves Beach at high tide

ERIC BIEGLER COURTESY PHOTO | A strip of Reeves Beach at high tide last week.

“That’s what this community lives for,” he said. “I think this community enjoys this beach more than any other community out there.”

The dramatic erosion that wiped out Reeves Beach is thanks to Hurricane Sandy and a series of winter storms that battered the North Fork this past year, experts said.

Now, town officials and engineers are planning to look closer at the shoreline to figure out how to manage the town’s most damaged beach before summer.

“It looks horrible right now … Reeves is by far the worst,” said Ray Coyne, the town’s recreation department head.

Mr. Coyne said the Riverhead Town beaches at Iron Pier and Wading River have “a lot of debris down there,” but the town will be able to clean and open those beaches in time for the summer season.

But Reeves Beach poses more complicated challenges, like where to put a lifeguard stand on the flooded beach.

“If we had opened it today, we couldn’t even get a lifeguard stand down during one of the [tide] cycles,” Mr. Coyne said, because the water comes right up to the bluffs at times.

He and the town engineers will assess the beach and present their findings to the Town Board in the coming weeks, he said.

Closing the beach for the summer, which would mean no town staffing and no swimming, is a last resort, he said.

“I just want to find out everything that we need to know to open this beach,” Mr. Coyne said. “[Closing the beach] really will not happen unless we have no other options left. If our backs are against the wall.”

Reeves Beach has disappeared beneath high tides in years past, said Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, which represents about 100 homeowners in the Reeves Park neighborhood near the beach.

“Every year the beach goes through a bit of a revitalization,” he said.

But this year, the beach hasn’t come back.

“This is unprecedented, in my opinion,” Mr. Biegler said. “Who knows how it’s going to correct itself?”

The civic association’s private beach, about 400 feet of shoreline west of the town beach, lost 25 feet of bluff during Sandy, Mr. Biegler said.

“We’re going to have a huge beach [this year], not because our beach came back but because our cliff got chopped off,” he said.

The new Sound shoreline in the area of Reeves Park and beyond now has areas that are completely under water during certain high tide cycles, he said. That means people traveling the beach will need to make sure they understand that their route onto the beach may be sealed off by the Sound hours later.

“You’re going to have to work through this,” Mr. Biegler said. “The whole of coastal Long Island is going to have to work through this.”

Drivers on the beach will also have to be more conscious of high and low tides. He proposed the town send messages to those who got permits to drive on the beach, warning them of the dangers of the new high tide marks.

Mr. Biegler said he was not “alarmed” yet, but he said he had concerns about the beach’s erosion and doesn’t want the town to close the beach.

“Ray [Coyne] is going to have to be creative,” Mr. Biegler said. “He can’t just close the beach … You have to adapt, you have to be flexible, you have to survive through this.

“[Reeves Beach] is a huge resource for the entire Town of Riverhead. As a community we don’t want to see the beach closed.”

The erosion of beaches, including Reeves Beach, is natural, said Stony Brook University professor Henry Bokuniewicz, who has a doctorate in geology and geophysics from Yale University.

The North Shore of Long Island is not one uniform beach, Mr. Bokuniewicz said, but rather a series of “compartments” formed by outcroppings of rocks, jetties and other underwater structures.

“It’s not like the South Shore where much of the shore is smeared together,” he said.

The area of Reeves Beach that was damaged is one such compartment, bordered by a series of rocky groins to the east and a submerged shipwreck to the west that forms a barrier to trap sand, he said.

Erosion normally occurs when rainstorms take sand off the bluffs or waves undercut them and cause large sections to collapse.

But while normal storms may also sweep sand off the beach, Sandy was by no means a normal storm, he said.

“In Sandy, many beaches went down to what’s called ‘pavement,’ ” he said. “All that was left was this hard, packed-down beach.”

Because the storm was so huge and because of nor’easters since Sandy, including February’s record-setting blizzard, the sand that was pulled out to sea hasn’t been redistributed onto the beaches yet, he said.

“If the calm conditions return, beaches can recover in six weeks, but the problem is calm conditions don’t persist,” Mr. Bokuniewicz said. “The clock is trying to get to reset, and it keeps getting pushed back and pushed back and pushed back.”

Mr. Bokuniewicz said he believes the beach will eventually return, though he couldn’t predict when.

“How fast the beach recovers depends on the sand that’s in that compartment [near Reeves Beach],” he said.

But it’s possible that when the beach recovers, it may not be the same, he said.

While some sand may have settled in the compartment, other sand may have been dumped on sand bars far offshore; that sand will likely not come back, changing the shape of the new Reeves Beach, he said.

“It’s really sort of the luck of the draw as to where the sand was redistributed after Sandy,” Mr. Bokuniewicz said. “It may come back, but it may not.”

Mr. Coyne said the town engineers will look at all possibilities, including seeing if the beach will naturally return or filling in the area with sand to restore Reeves Beach.

Mr. Biegler said he favored “a little intervention” if needed in the form of dumping new sand onto the beach, but warned the town needs to be careful.

In general, Mr. Bokuniewicz said he believes it’s “good to … put [sand] back on the beach,” but he warned that the sand may soon be eroded away if another big storm strikes, and he said the measure can be costly.

“Beach nourishment is fairly benign, environmentally, but it is a crapshoot,” he said. “It doesn’t solve the erosion problem, but it treats the problem. You never know when that next event is going to come through and push that sand to the west or push the sand to the east.

“You pay your money and take your chances.”

But not everyone is concerned about erosion.

Riverhead native and lifelong Reeves Park resident Jeff Fuchs, 43, made his way up the storm-battered beach access ramp in his GMC four-wheel drive vehicle Tuesday evening after hanging out with friends at the beach after work.

He said he’s seen the beach come and go from many storms over the years and has no doubt Reeves Beach would return.

“No matter what happens to it the beach it always comes back,” Mr. Fuchs said.


This story first appeared in the March 21 News-Review newspaper.

01/04/13 3:00pm
01/04/2013 3:00 PM
Rich Stabile, Long Island Spirits, Suffolk, Nassau, Long Island, LiV Vodka

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Rich Stabile owner of Long Island Spirits, the only micro-distillery operating in Suffolk or Nassau counties.

Long Island Spirits, the Island’s first and only vodka distillery, has been housed in a turn-of-the-century barn on Sound Avenue since 2007.

The growing distillery and tasting room is located in Baiting Hollow, where visitors can treat their taste buds to local liquor as they overlook an 80-acre potato farm.

In the past two years, Long island Spirits has gone on to produce the first local whiskey and aged brandy as well.

Those who have worked with the company say Long Island Spirits’ burgeoning success is all thanks to head honcho Richard Stabile, the News-Review’s 2012 Business Person of the Year.

“Richard got there first, period,” said manager James Silver of Peconic Bay Winery, which teamed up with Long Island Spirits to produce the island’s first brandy, Sono Rinata, just over two years ago. “He took what everyone was thinking and did it. It was a brilliant idea to put a distillery in this area — especially one rife with material to be distilled. And then he did it so unbelievably well; I don’t know anyone who wasn’t completely jealous.”

Mr. Silver, a shepherd of his own business’ success, called Mr. Stabile “a leader, and a pragmatic, thoughtful, inspired contributor” to the North Fork’s business landscape who “took a risk few would dare to and made it work.”

And he isn’t the only one singing Mr. Stabile’s praises.

Brand specialist Alicia Messina, who has worked for the distillery founder and owner for three years, said Long Island Spirits has found success not only because they have cornered the local vodka market, but because of the type of boss Mr. Stabile has been all along.

“He is greatly appreciative of his employees and constantly lets them know this,” Ms. Messina said. “Rich has created such a wonderful and friendly work environment within Long Island Spirits, and this pays off in the success he has had with his business over the years.”

The distillery employee said Mr. Stabile’s kindness is not limited to his employees, and she added that he is “always quick to help out with charitable events and fundraisers and enjoys reaching out to people in need,” including donating products to events to benefit finding cures for cancer or being involved in golf outings to support local veterans.

“Rich has brought something new to Long Island and found much success in it,” Ms. Messina said of Mr. Stabile. “LiV vodka has been in numerous blind taste-testing competitions, scoring extremely high, and has been recognized for its domesticity and being an economically friendly product.”

In March, the distillery released Pine Barrens Whiskey, the Island’s premier local whiskey, made from a commercially finished beer, instead of peated malt.

“I’ve always been a whiskey fan,” Mr. Stabile told the Long Island Wine Press earlier this year. “But we wanted to do something different with ours. Most American whiskeys are bourbon-style, made from corn, and there’s a lot of ryes out there. We wanted to do a scotch-style whiskey, single malt, but rather than develop our own peated malt, we thought it would be unique if we used a commercially finished beer. Nobody else does this, that we know of.”

For the product, Mr. Stabile teamed up with Long Island’s Blue Point Brewing Company, distilling down 850 gallons of one of their beers, Old Howling Bastard, for its first batch.

“We spent a lot of time experimenting with Blue Point before we got going,” Mr. Stabile said of the process, “but we’re just blown away with what we came up with.”


11/17/12 11:26am
11/17/2012 11:26 AM

More than seven hours after a Riverhead man who police said was driving drunk took out a utility pole in Baiting Hollow early Saturday morning a portion of Sound Avenue remained closed to traffic as the town awaits the arrival of a LIPA repair crew, police said.

Police charged Robert Weber, 26, with driving while intoxicated, according to the department. Mr. Weber was alone in the vehicle when it hit the pole at 3:30 a.m., said police. He was taken to police headquarters and held for arraignment.

Late Saturday morning Sound Avenue remained closed between Edwards and Fresh Pond Avenues with traffic diverted to Middle Country Road, said police.

10/06/12 4:00pm
10/06/2012 4:00 PM
Sound Avenue Nature Preserve, Baiting Hollow, Riverhead

BARBARELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Rudy Goodale, 6, and his brother Gavin, 4, of Calverton play at the Sound Avenue Nature Preserve Saturday. Their mother, Kathy, is on the open space committee.

Riverhead Town’s first nature preserve was officially opened to the public Saturday morning by town Councilman James Wooten, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and members of the town’s open space committee.

Improvements on the 15-acre preserve off Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow — called the Sound Avenue Nature Preserve — include about a mile of mulched trails and native shrub plantings.

Future improvements will include benches, birdhouses and educational kiosks.

A small barn on the property will be cleaned out and used for educational field trips.

The improvements to the site were funded using $75,000 from Community Preservation Fund proceeds. That money comes from a tax on real estate transfers within the town and must be used for farmland or open space preservation.

Plans for the preserve have been in the works since June 2010.

Mr. Wooten thanked all the town departments who came together to help with the project, including the engineering, highway and building and grounds departments.

“We wanted to preserve it but also to let people enjoy it for education, recreation and solitude,” Mr. Wooten said.

“A place to come to for reflection.”


Sound Avenue Nature Preserve, Riverhead, Baiting Hollow

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The chairman of the town’s open space committee, Charles Cetas (left), and other committee members and town officials Saturday at the preserve.

08/08/12 5:20pm
08/08/2012 5:20 PM

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | LiV owner Richard Stabile with casks of the company’s new single malt whiskey.

Long Island Vodka, the island’s first and only distillery, was recently awarded a double gold medal in a blind American-made vodka tasting contest hosted by thefiftybest.com, ranking them fourth out of 20 contenders.

The domestic vodkas were served blindly to 19 judges, who scored the vodkas on a one to five scoring scale with five being the best.

Long Island Vodka came in fourth, with another New York vodka, Peace, claiming the first-place spot.

Peace is made from locally grown wheat in Bethel, New York and pure Catskill mountain water.

Read more about LiV by clicking here

08/05/12 9:34am
08/05/2012 9:34 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead residents Carrie Savonije (from left), Wayne Piaskowski, and Don and Erika Miller toast to the beer sampler they were going to share in a tasting, which included beers from Long Ireland Brewery, Greenport Harbor Brewery and Southampton Publik House, in the new North Fork Tasting room Saturday afternoon. It had its grand opening party at Baiting Hollow Commons Friday evening.

There’s a new place in town for North Fork food and wine lovers.

The North Fork Tasting Room, located in the same shopping center as Lobster Roll Northside and the Gingerbread Factory in Baiting Hollow, opened its doors Saturday afternoon. Owner Fred Terry said the store is a “labor of love” that will introduce new local wines to tourists and residents alike.

“This will be particularly a conduit for wineries and future breweries that are off the beaten track, because we are on the beaten track,” Mr. Terry said.

In addition to wine sales by the glass, the store will use Lobster Roll Northside’s kitchens to make a variety of Mr. Terry’s family recipes, from huckleberry pies and other baked goods to smoked meats and fish.

“It’s something that I wanted to do since the inception of this [restaurant] and that’s more culinary arts, more food,” he said. “The
tasting room is as much food tasting as it is beverage tasting, for me.”

06/21/12 8:00pm
06/21/2012 8:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Lobster Roll Northside owner Fred Terry and his stepdaughter and assistant manager Dana Bordsen discussing what colors the tasting room walls will be painted.

Fred Terry is ready to try something new.

The restaurateur, who runs the Lobster Roll Northside and the nearby Gingerbread Factory in Baiting Hollow, said his latest project, the upcoming North Fork Tasting Room, will be as much about tasting family recipes and baked goods as it is about sampling all that the North Fork’s wineries and breweries have to offer.

But most important, Mr. Terry said, the food and drink shop will be a “labor of love.”

“It’s something that I wanted to do since the inception of this [restaurant],” he said, “and that’s more culinary arts, more food. The tasting room is as much food tasting as it is beverage tasting, for me.”

The North Fork Tasting Room, located in the same shopping area as the Lobster Roll Northside, will use the existing restaurant’s kitchens to make a variety of Mr. Terry’s family recipes, from huckleberry pies and other baked goods to smoked meats and fish.

Mr. Terry said he hopes to roll out a brand for selling some of these family recipes, some of which date back hundreds of years to Mr. Terry’s ancestors, who were among the first settlers on the North Fork.

He also wants to run small “beer and wine education” classes in the tasting room to teach people about the differences among local wines while offering them “every Long Island wine.”

Mr. Terry said the tasting room will not sell wines by the bottle but will instead refer tourists to some of the smaller wineries.

“Customers will have the opportunity to taste some of the differences,” he said. “This will be particularly a conduit for wineries and future breweries that are off the beaten track, because we are on the beaten track.”

Mr. Terry, who had been “semi-retired” from the restaurant business, said he was pulled back in after the unexpected death in 2010 of his oldest son, Frederick Terry II, who had been general manager of Lobster Roll Northside.

“I’m reminded of the picture ‘Cat Ballou,’ where the gunslinger had to do push-ups to get back in shape to be a gunslinger,” he said. “That’s where I am now. I’m doing push-ups.”

Mr. Terry said his stepdaughter, Dana, and son Sean will manage the retail shop year-round and added that he’s looking forward to dusting off old recipes to mix and match with local drinks.

“It’s more play than work,” he said. “If I felt it was going to be a huge amount of work, I probably wouldn’t be doing it.”

The North Fork Tasting Room is expected to open by mid-July.


06/12/12 6:50pm
06/12/2012 6:50 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | John King, left, and Long Island Farm Bureau president Joe Gergela at Tuesday's open house.

J. Kings Food Service Professionals hosted an open house at the company’s proposed “Grapes and Greens agricultural enterprise terminal” on Sound Avenue in Calverton, which had run into opposition when a neighbor filed a lawsuit claiming it is not permitted by zoning.

The proposed facility is located in the former Blackman’s Plumbing building on 2711 Sound Avenue in Calverton, an area sometimes called Baiting Hollow.

Whether or not it meets zoning is the subject of a Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on Thursday night at 7:15 p.m.

Company owner John King said he is in contract to buy the 108,000-square-foot building for use as a vegetable processing plant as well as for storing wine and cases of produce.

The storage area will will occupy only 8,630 square feet of the building but will enable farmers to get more value for their product, he said.

Currently, J. Kings does these functions at a facility in Bay Shore, among other things. The entire vegetable processing operation is proposed to be moved to the Calverton site in order to be nearer to local farms.

Mr. King said he doesn’t buy any farm produce from Long Island farms through the Bay Shore plant as of now, because Long Island farms lack the proper cooling and processing facilities to extend the life of the produce.

Properly cooled vegetables can extend their shelf lives by three times, he said.

This enables farmers to get more value for the products, said Joe Gergela, the executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, which supports the proposed facility.

“This is about trying to keep this industry alive on Long Island and here on the East End,” Mr. Gergela said. “It is very difficult to farm on Long Island. We want to see profits on the farms.”

Mr. King said he employs 400 people in the Bay Shore plant and has a weekly payroll of $360,000.

“That’s not [at] Kmart salaries,” he said, emphasizing the fact that his company would be bringing well-paying jobs to the East End, should the project be approved.

Work on opening the proposed plant was set back when a neighbor challenged the town building department’s issuance of a building permit for the plant, claiming it is not permitted by zoning. Neighbor Austin Warner, who owns the property next door, went to court and forced a town Zoning Board of Appeals ruling on the issue.

Councilman John Dunleavy also addressed the crowd of mostly farmers at Tuesday’s open house.

“This is going to help our economy,” he said. “We have to get behind these businesses and not try to stop them.”

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who had raised questions about the project, said she spoke with Paulette Satur of Satur Farms in Cutchogue — at the open house event — and was told Ms. Satur wanted to run an agricultural processing plant at the Blackman Plumbing building a year earlier and was told she needed to go to the ZBA.

“I think fair process should apply across the board for everybody,” Ms. Giglio said, adding that she thinks the processing plant is a “great use” for the building.

Ms. Satur said afterwards that she didn’t say exactly what Ms. Giglio said she did. She said she was not told outright she had to go to the ZBA, and that she never really got that far into the process, because she wanted to rent the building and Blackman wanted to sell.

Mr. King said the zoning permits farming, and he believes that includes processing agriculture.

Mr. Gergela said the state definition of agriculture includes marketing.