06/06/14 2:00pm
06/06/2014 2:00 PM

The Second Street firehouse was obtained by Riverhead in 2011 in a land swap with the Riverhead Fire District. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

Forget about moving Town Hall to the Second Street firehouse.

The new plan is to sell that building to Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi. Which, ironically, was the old plan too.

After Town Board members hastily passed a resolution at Thursday’s work session to sell the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi without his knowledge — and at a higher price than what he had previously offered — Mr. Castaldi said Friday that he’s still interested, but he has to determine if it will make sense economically for him to do so.

The resolution passed Thursday would sell the building to Mr. Castaldi for $500,000, whereas his prior proposal — a proposal made in February that the town board seemed to embrace before three council members changed their minds — was to buy it for $375,000.

The Town Board also is planning to apply for grants to turn the firehouse into a Suffolk County Regional Agritourism Visitors Center, although the resolution to sell the building to Mr. Castaldi includes no restrictions on what he could use the building for.

“I’m looking into it to see if it’s a workable situation,” Mr. Castaldi of the agritourism proposal in an interview Friday. He was not present at Thursday’s work session where the issue was discussed, and said he didn’t even know it was being brought up until afterwards, when he got a flood of phone calls.

Town Board members had informally agreed to sell the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi in February for $375,000, which was the highest offer the town got through a request for proposals for the site.

At the time, Mr. Castaldi had proposed to lease the building to “Dino A-Live,” an interactive dinosaur theater company from Japan.

But when an engineering study on the cost of renovating the town-owned Route 58 armory building into a justice court and police headquarters found it would cost $13 million to make that conversion, three Town Board members backed off that plan and some suggested that an alternate plan might be to move Town Hall to the firehouse. In turn, the idea was to use the current Town Hall building as a justice court, with the police taking over the entirety of the building they now share with the court.

That also meant support waned for selling the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi.

During a presentation on the armory project last month, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked that a similar study be done on the cost of moving Town Hall to the firehouse and justice court to Town Hall, rather than the armory proposal. She said on Thursday the cost for such a study would be $175,000, “which we don’t have.”

That being the case, she said at Thursday’s meeting that she would now support selling the building to Mr. Castaldi, although she still thinks the $13 million armory project is too expensive. To fix space woes at the justice court, she suggested putting a modular building behind the current court for use as court space, with a sally port for transporting prisoners.

02/26/14 6:51pm
02/26/2014 6:51 PM
Barbaraellen Koch file photo | The Second Street firehouse

The Second Street firehouse. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Not so fast with those dinosaurs!

A majority of Riverhead Town Board members now say they oppose selling the Second Street firehouse, which recently was being proposed as the site of a dinosaur theater featuring people in realistic-looking dinosaur costumes that interact with audiences.


02/13/14 6:48pm
02/13/2014 6:48 PM
Bob Castaldi, left, and RIck Takemoto at Thursday's meeting. (Photo by Tim Gannon)

Bob Castaldi, left, and RIck Takemoto at Thursday’s meeting. (Photo by Tim Gannon)

After Riverhead Town Board members watched a video of a “dinosaur theater” presentation for the old Second Street firehouse on Thursday, they said they plan to move forward with selling the building.


10/29/13 1:15pm
10/29/2013 1:15 PM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The Suffolk Theater's grand ballroom during its grand re-opening gala in March.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The Suffolk Theater’s grand ballroom during its grand re-opening gala in March. Anna Maria Villa was hired as GM in July.

Roughly three months after Anna Maria Villa was hired as general manager of the Suffolk Theater, she and the theater have parted ways.

Anna Maria Villa

Anna Maria Villa

Bob Castaldi, who co-owns the theater with his wife, Dianne, said Ms. Villa, who was hired in July, no longer works at the theater as of today, Tuesday.

“We just have different visions of which direction this theater should move in,” Mr. Castaldi said of the split. “It was very amicable.”

Ms. Villa could not be immediately reached for comment.

When asked what direction the theater plans to move in, Mr. Castaldi said that was something he was evaluating “right now” and that theater officials are looking for a new general manager.

“We’ve got all our people and we’ve got a couple of meetings over the next few days,” Mr. Castaldi said. “We will find a new course if necessary.”

This is the second time in less than six months the Suffolk Theater has parted ways with a top executive. In August, after a year on the job, Bob Spiotto was released from his duties as the theater’s first executive director as part of a shift of focus from nightly events to larger, weekend events.

Prior to working at the theater, Ms. Villa was hired as the executive director of Riverhead’s Industrial Development Agency in August 2009, a position she held until September 2010, when the IDA board voted 4 — 1 to terminate her employment.

At the time, IDA chair Kathy Wojciechowski said the move was “not about Anna.”

“We decided to terminate the independent consultant agreement that we had with her and we’re going in another direction, which is to hire a full-time person,” Ms. Wojciechowski said in a 2010 interview.

The IDA offers a number of tax breaks and other incentives aimed at attracting businesses to the area. Its budget is entirely funded by feed paid by the businesses it assists.

Prior to working for the IDA, Ms. Villa, who was born in Italy and grew up in Rochester, N.Y., spent a few years running her own marketing and consulting firm, which developed marketing strategies and sales programs for small to mid-sized businesses and non-profit firms.

She has a degree in business and economics from Empire State College, and also worked as a disc jockey, a singer, a civil service investigator, as well as a television reporter in Italy.

[email protected]

03/05/13 11:04am
03/05/2013 11:04 AM
Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

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

The numbers are in, and the Suffolk Theater sold exactly 609 tickets to Saturday night’s grand opening gala in downtown Riverhead, theater officials told the News-Review Tuesday.

In fact, the “Back to the ’30s” cocktail party, which commemorated the recently renovated and reopened theater’s 1933 opening, was such a success that theater owners Bob and Dianne Castaldi are considering making it an annual anniversary event.

“I’m delighted. The overall feel and enthusiasm we’ve been able to create here is remarkable,” Bob Spiotto, the theater’s executive director, said of the event’s outcome and ticket tallies.

“It will certainly be a event that will go down in history,” he said.

Tickets sold for $125 apiece for the party, which featured 1930s-style decor inside and out, and period costumes for staffers and attendees alike.

While there was plenty of seating, the event at its peak was standing room only, theater officials said.

03/03/13 10:00am
03/03/2013 10:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The grand ballroom at Saturday's grand re-opening gala.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The Suffolk Theater’s grand ballroom at Saturday’s grand re-opening gala.

Opening night at the newly restored Suffolk Theatre in downtown Riverhead was a show stopper.

Hundreds packed the venue on Saturday to celebrate the theater’s grand reopening. The “Back to the 30’s” cocktail party marked the first time the theater has been open for business since it screened “Dirty Dancing” in 1987.

“We’re tired, but it feels great,” owner Bob Castaldi said. “This is what we’ve been waiting for.”

The theater first opened in December 1933. More than 80 years later, it remains the last large art deco theater on Long Island, theater officials say.

After buying the theater in 2005, and after litigation with the town halted progress on work, Mr. Castaldi and his wife, Dianne, have spent the last three years restoring the theatre to its former glory. Most of the fixtures and detailing are true to the original building.

Massapequa resident Jim Frost took notice. He recalled coming to the theater as a young boy. On grand opening night — a night two swiveling spotlights shot light back and forth off the clouds, and Main Street was lined with vintage cars —  he took his wife, Mimi, to enjoy the celebration and reminisce.

“It’s wonderful,” Frost said. “We bought tickets right away. I haven’t been this excited about an event in a long time.”

There was no stone left unturned, right down to the ragtime music gracing the stage. The party came to life with the help of Vince Giordano’s band, The Night Hawks. The ensemble won a 2012 best compilation soundtrack Grammy for its work on HBO’s prohibition-era series Boardwalk Empire.

Party guests indulged in the era. They dressed for the occasion and were sure to hit the dance floor.

“This has been something I’ve been talking about since I was 10,” explained Erin McKenna, whose mother has volunteered during the restoration. Ms. McKenna now lives in New York City but made a special trip to support the theater.

Many believe the theater is going to help the long-beleaguered downtown area start attracting much more people and businesses.

“It’s finally here,” Ms. McKenna said. “This is so important for Riverhead.”

The grand opening gala officially ended about9 p.m., but not many noticed. The party continued well into the night, as DJ Aly Di Nas kept guests dancing at the after party that featured signature cocktails.

In the upcoming weeks and months, the Suffolk Theatre will showcase a variety of classic movies, hold live concerts and dance parties and even a couple of magic shows.

To check out the full list of upcoming events, log on to www.suffolktheater.com

03/01/13 12:48pm
03/01/2013 12:48 PM
Newsies at Suffolk Theater

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Newsies Nicholas Inzerillo and Shane Westphelan, both of Manorville, hand out theater programs at Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.

More than 100 people turned out Friday morning for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at downtown Riverhead’s newly renovated Suffolk Theater.

The area of East Main Street outside the theater had been shut to traffic for most of the morning, as crowds gathered to listen to period music from Bob Barta and the Sunnyland Jazz Band, which performed on a red carpet under the theater’s digital marquis — as bubbles rained from the sky.

Theater ownes Bob and Dianne Castaldi and theater executive director Bob Spiotto were joined by town officials, county lawmakers and representatives of county Executive Steve Bellone and New York Governor Andew Cuomo.

Officials agreed the theater will help in the continued revival of downtown and act as a magnet to attract new business.