02/27/15 1:50pm
02/27/2015 1:50 PM

Dallas Wiese walks up Route 58 about once a week to meet his mother after her shift at Stop & Shop ends. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

Many Riverhead taxpayers have made clear from time to time — whether it’s at public meetings, through correspondence or conversations with newspaper staff or even in our online comments section — that they think lots of big businesses in town have it too easy.

Whether the reason is the tax breaks given by the Industrial Development Agency, the terms of a final site plan approval by the Planning Board or — most recently and quite obviously — lax code enforcement over shoveling sidewalks on Route 58, the public’s perception sometimes is that the town overlooks average taxpayers in favor of of business owners.

Related: Riverhead issues $10K in tickets for uncleared Route 58 sidewalks

Those perceptions could be argued: The town’s code enforcement resources are limited and businesses do generate jobs and tax dollars. If they don’t get some kind of breaks here, they will just get them elsewhere.

But for a family earning the town’s median household income of $62,144 — or the 43 percent of families bringing in less than $50,000 — those arguments can understandably fall on deaf ears. And frequently the people walking up and down Route 58 in need of sidewalks are earning on the lower end of the income scale and rely on public transit to get from place to place.

It should go without saying that enforcing the town’s code is the right thing to do. Unfortunately it took nearly until March for tickets to be issued — far too long for those forced to walk along a busy thoroughfare in below-freezing weather, not to mention the drivers who nearly hit defenseless pedestrians.

The fine for failing to clear sidewalks — $250 — is rather paltry in relation to the size of the town’s budget, but the rules are the rules. Hopefully, the town will keep up with enforcement and will press the issue harder next winter should similar circumstances arise.

If businesses continue to choose not to comply, perhaps the fine should be increased.

02/24/15 1:40pm
02/24/2015 1:40 PM
A woman makes her way up Route 58 on Tuesday morning before stepping into a parking lot. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

A woman makes her way up Route 58 on Tuesday morning before stepping into a parking lot. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

Winter is getting old for pretty much everyone at this point: record-lows have been recorded in the tri-state area on multiple occasions in February.

Week after week, more snow seems to be in the forecast.

But for those walking along Route 58 to get to a bus stop, or to work, the cold isn’t all that’s getting old. The winter can be a dangerous time for a pedestrian walking Route 58; many property owners along the busy corridor have not shoveled their sidewalks, as per town regulations, leaving pedestrians to either maneuver over ice and snow or just walk on the road itself. (more…)

09/25/14 12:00pm
09/25/2014 12:00 PM
Code enforcement officer Richard Downs goes through some of the files stored in metal cabinets inside the department's office. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Code enforcement officer Richard Downs goes through some of the files stored in metal cabinets inside the department’s office. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Inside the metal filing cabinets stacked against the wall in Riverhead Town’s tiny code enforcement office are dozens of manila folders, each marked with a property address and filled with legal documents, site plans and notes.

The town attorney’s office is home to dozens more filing cabinets filled with cases; code enforcement doesn’t have room for them all, nor the room for the handful of new complaints that pour into the office each week.  (more…)

01/10/14 5:30pm
01/10/2014 5:30 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This property on Hamilton Avenue was raided by town code enforcement officials Friday morning.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This property on Hamilton Avenue was raided by town code enforcement officials Friday morning.

Authorities say at least 18 men were living inside an overcrowded Hamilton Avenue house targeted in a code enforcement raid Friday morning.

In addition to numerous fire and town code violations, Riverhead Town officials found some of the residents were living in an unfinished cellar that had been divided into makeshift living spaces, as well as evidence that an unheated garage was also being used for housing, town officials said.

“These are unsafe conditions,” said Supervisor Sean Walter. “They put people’s lives at risk. These landlords need to be stopped and the town is doing everything in their power to stop them.”

After getting complaints from neighbors, Riverhead Town police, fire marshals and members of the town attorney’s office carried out a search warrant at the house at 331 Hamilton Avenue, a single family residence owned by Rickey Taylor of Southampton, according to a town press release.

Mr. Taylor couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Inside the Polish Town residence, authorities allegedly found at least five occupants were living in the house’s unfinished basement that was split into four living areas containing “personal belongings, mattresses and bedroom furnishings,” the release reads.

The men living in the basement had been sleeping on beds close to exposed wiring, insulation, and heating and boiler equipment, authorities said.

Town officials said the raid revealed a shortage of smoke detectors, inadequate egress, exposed wiring, “excessive” littering, and evidence that inhabitable space had been converted into living areas without building permits or certificates of occupancy, according to the town’s statement.

Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate was called to help find the residents of the allegedly overcrowded home new places to live, town officials said.

The house was one of four that had been targeted for enforcement last March, when the Town Board passed a resolution authorizing Supreme Court action against the property. Friday’s raid was a part of the enforcement action plan against that property, Mr. Walter said.

“Unfortunately it takes longer to build a case than we’d like sometimes,” he said. “We have the facts we need to restrain them from occupying that house at this point.”

Town attorneys will now seek a temporary restraining order preventing residents from returning to the house, Mr. Walter said.

“We can’t let people run roughshod over the town housing code,” he said.

While neighbors said that while they weren’t familiar with the property targeted Friday, one resident said she’s aware of overcrowded homes.

“If I work outside I see people and they say hello to me when they go by,” the woman, who asked not to have her name printed, said. “No one’s bothered me. I stay to myself.”

The resident, who’s lived on the block for nearly 60 years, said the neighborhood has “gotten worse” in that time.

“You knew all the people before on the street,” she said. “Once those people sold those homes, that’s when it started going down.”

Correction: A photo accompanied with this story earlier pictured a house on Sweezy Avenue.

[email protected]