08/29/13 8:00am
08/29/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Apollo Real Estate Advisors has owned the Woolworth site since 2006 and may be in the process of getting it sold.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Woolworth site was one location Supervisor Sean Walter originally thought could work for a downtown movie theater.

Supervisor Sean Walter’s vision of a downtown Riverhead movie theater has gained little momentum as critics claim a Route 58 location would be more logical.

Mr. Walter said he still hopes to lure a movie theater downtown, but would be willing to consider alternate locations such as Route 58. He said he’s currently talking to representatives from two movie theater companies about coming to Riverhead but wasn’t optimistic.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence in getting one,” he said.

Councilmen John Dunleavy and George Gabrielsen said the idea of restricting a movie theater to only downtown Riverhead theater makes little sense.

They both said parking in downtown would be a problem. A theater would require 1,200 parking spaces, Mr. Dunleavy said, while there are only 500 currently downtown.

Mr. Gabrielsen said it’s all about location.

“We’ve really got to get that archaic idea of a downtown movie theater out of our heads,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

Mr. Walter tried to lure Regal Cinemas to the former Woolworth building on East Main Street in 2011 before the deal fell apart in early 2012. One of the companies he’s speaking with now owns the Movieland Cinema on Route 112 in Coram, he said. The other “is a spinoff of one of the large cinema groups,” he said, although he declined to identify it.

“I’m trying to bring them here, the problem is, we’re not getting a lot of traction because that business seems to be a dying business,” Mr. Walter said.

With Regal, Mr. Walter insisted on trying to get the company downtown instead of Route 58, a preferred destination for theater companies.

Now he’s softened that stance because space in downtown may be  filling up with other uses, he said.

The Woolworth building, which Mr. Walter said was ideal for a theater, is now being developed with a gym, retail stores and apartments. The supervisor said the only property left that might be big enough for a theater is the former Sears building, but apartments are also being proposed for that building.

“I would much rather it be on Main Street, but if Main Street fills up, obviously I’m not going to lock them out if someone wants to bring one to Route 58,” Mr. Walter said.

Sheldon Gordon, a principal in Riverhead Enterprises, the company that owns the Sear’s building, said they tried to contact some movie theater companies about coming downtown, but the companies haven’t gotten back to them.

Mr. Walter acknowledged it’s beneficial for a movie theater to be in a commercial shopping center.

“[Theaters] don’t generate enough money to pay what other businesses pay, but shopping center owners like movie theaters because they are anchors and they bring hordes of people to the shopping center.”

A zoning change would be required for a movie theater to open on Route 58. In 2004 the Town Board voted to eliminate movie theaters as a permitted use on Route 58 in an effort to lure a theater downtown.

Mr. Walter said none of the theater companies he’s talked to recently have insisted on going on Route 58, but if one did, “it would be something we’d have to consider,” he said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she would support a Route 58 theater if the developer agreed to put a smaller theater downtown, something a company she’s spoken with — but didn’t identify — has suggested.

Mr. Dunleavy suggested a movie theater near The All Star bowling alley, which is technically on Route 25.

One way or another, downtown wouldn’t work for a theater, Mr. Gabrielsen said.

“It’s got everything going against it,” he said. “I can’t see it happening. Unless you open up Route 58, you’re never going to get a movie theater.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/20/13 2:00pm
03/20/2013 2:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The ballfields at EPCAL will be named after two soldiers who died in Afghanistan, Jonathan Keller and Anthony Venetz Jr., both of Wading River.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The ballfields at EPCAL will be named after two soldiers who died in Afghanistan, Jonathan Keller and Anthony Venetz Jr., both of Wading River.

Riverhead Town’s long planned ballfields at the Enterprise Park at Calverton will officially open next month, according to Councilman George Gabrielsen, who issued a press release announcing the opening of the fields.

The Opening Day ceremonies at what town officials have named Veterans Memorial Park will start at 10 a.m. on April 27, and will be followed by ballgames, including opening day for Riverhead Little League.

The rain date is April 28.

Opening day participants will include the Little League, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Boy Scouts, local fire departments and other community groups, officials said.

Two of the fields at the 62-acre park will be named in honor of two local soldiers who gave their lives for their country: U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Anthony Venetz Jr, and  U.S. Army Sergeant Jonathan Keller, both of Wading River. The fields will be dedicated in their honor during the April 27 ceremonies.

The town has been planning new fields at EPCAL for more than a decade. A project estimated to cost $1.3 million in 2004 now has cost about $2.5 million to date, according to Mr. Gabrielsen.

Along the way, the fields were delayed by requirements from the county health department and the state Department of Transportation, and officials have debated issues such as whether the fields should have lights installed for night games.

Officials ultimately went with no lights, which would have added about $900,000 to the cost of the project, although they said lights can still be added in the future.

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/07/13 6:00pm
03/07/2013 6:00 PM
Sean Walter of Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter at a Town Board meeting. A new rule banned booing at meetings.

Audience members at Riverhead Town Board meetings can no longer boo — and clapping almost went with it.

A last-minute change to a set of new rules and procedures for board meetings allowed clapping to continue in Town Hall, but banned booing. This came after the head of a local civic organization suggested the new rules infringed on free speech.

But the executive director of the state Committee on Open Government said the ban on booing — which is rare at town meetings — is within the board’s right.

“The town law says the board has the ability to adopt rules to govern its own proceedings,” said Bob Freeman, the committee’s longtime executive director who helped write much of the state’s open meetings and public information laws. “The rules have to be reasonable, but certainly they have the ability to establish rules that are designed to guarantee common courtesy and the avoidance of disruption.”

Mr. Freeman said that under state law, there is no requirement that boards even allow the public to speak at meetings, but when boards do allow it, they can adopt their own rules for doing so.

This issue of the booing ban came up at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, where the town’s new rules were up for a vote.

“This says ‘no member of the public shall engage in any demonstration, booing, hand clapping or otherwise disrupt the formality of a Town Board meeting,’ ” said Dominique Mendez, the president of Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition. “I think that goes a little far, to restrict what is free expression and free speech.”

She recalled that there was clapping when the board approved money for preservation of the North Fork Preserve.

“I don’t think you objected to it,” she said.

Councilman George Gabrielsen said the hand-clapping ban could be taken out.

“It’s not a big deal,” he said.

Or is it?

“The problem we have is that for one speaker they clap, and then they clap after the next speaker, it’s a lot,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “We’re trying to keep some order here.”

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said if people clap in favor of what a speaker is saying, other people may boo as a counter.

“We’re going to have booing and clapping at the same time,” she said. “It doesn’t provide for an orderly meeting.”

Supervisor Sean Walter said he’s OK with taking the clapping out.

Ms. Mendez said the definition of “demonstration” is too broad.

She said her group has had people come with signs written on letter-sized pieces of paper expressing their opinion on issues.

“Not everyone is comfortable coming up to the microphone,” she said, and simply bringing a message on a small sign allows them to express themselves.

Mr. Walter suggested that language be changed to “disruptive demonstration,” which board members agreed with.

Town officials say they aren’t familiar with too many examples of clapping or booing at board meetings.

Mr. Walter said he anticipates the board will take a “common sense” approach toward enforcing the new regulations.

“Three members of the board could decide to suspend these rules at any time,” he said.

The board approved the new rules, with the changes, by a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Jim Wooten casting the sole no vote.

The Town Board had been discussing the new rules for weeks at its work sessions prior to bringing it to a vote last Tuesday.

Most of the rules deal with the procedures for board members proposing and seconding resolutions, and how debate among board members should be handled.

Mr. Walter said the rules were largely taken from the upstate Town of Henrietta.

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/03/13 7:00am
02/03/2013 7:00 AM
BARBARALLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  The temporary ice rink at Stotzky Park was closed after temperatures rose above freezing. But it may reopen for a few hours Sunday.

BARBARALLEN KOCH PHOTO | The temporary ice rink at Stotzky Park was closed after temperatures rose above freezing. But it may reopen for a few hours Sunday.

Riverhead residents and even some out-of-towners enjoyed five straight days of ice skating at Stotzky Park when the weather dipped below 20 degrees last week. The rink is now locked but Councilman George Gabrielsen said he was hoping that the below freezing overnight temperatures will allow the rink to reopen for a few hours Sunday.

The town’s recreation department is expected to check the ice at noon today. If frozen enough, the rink will reopen at that time.

Temperatures are forecast to hover around 32 degrees and overnight to dip in the 20s for the next five days. Mr. Gabrielsen said he will ask the fire department if necessary to spray down the surface to smooth out the ice.

Recreation Department director Ray Coyne said the rink will likely be open again once it freezes.

“It’s going to be hit or miss,” he said. “I was very impressed with the amount of people who came out to enjoy the skating.”

The department said it will provide updates via Facebook on the Riverhead Parks and Recreation page.

RELATED: Time to grab some skates and hit the ice

RELATED: Video — ‘This ice rink is so cool, I want to live here’

photo@timesreview.com

01/26/13 5:45pm
01/26/2013 5:45 PM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO  |  At Stotzky Park's new ice rink Saturday, three friends from Baiting Hollow tried out their skating skills.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | At Stotzky Park’s new ice rink Saturday, three friends from Baiting Hollow tried out their skating skills.

On the first weekend Riverhead’s new ice rink at Stotzsky Park was open, dozens of kids showed off their skating skills.

The temporary rink opened last Thursday and is free for all to enjoy, said Riverhead town councilman George Gabrielsen.

The town purchased the materials needed for the rink last year, but the climate never dropped enough for the water to freeze.

The rink will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily until the temperature rises above 32 degrees.

01/24/13 3:30pm
01/24/2013 3:30 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Georgia Gabrielssen (left) and her mother Janice were the first skaters to try out the ice rink Thursday.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Georgia Gabrielsen (left) and her mother Janice were the first skaters to try out the ice rink Thursday.

Thanks to a blustery blast of arctic air this week, the flooded roller hockey rink at Stotzky Park turned into a vast light blue field of smooth and glistening ice.

The temporary ice skating rink opened for the first time Thursday afternoon after more than a year of waiting.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Councilman George Gabrielsen's wife Janice arrives at the rink with freshly sharpened skates.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Councilman George Gabrielsen’s wife Janice arrives at the rink with freshly sharpened skates.

Recreation Department director Ray Coyne and town board members gathered at the edge of the rink this afternoon for the opening. Councilman George Gabrielsen’s wife Janice and 27-year-old daughter Georgia were the first skaters to try out the new rink.

“This is going to be the ‘George Gabrielsen Family Skating Rink,’ ” said councilman John Dunleavy.

Mrs. Gabrielsen said she’s waited 30 years for the rink.

“I’m in my glory,” she said as she slowly and cautiously maneuvered around the ice. “I just got my skates sharpened. It’s good but I just have to get used to this.”

Georgia Gabrielsen said it was only her second time on ice this year. She skated in Greenport earlier this month.

The town brought the plastic liner and PVC piping needed to convert the roller skating rink into an ice rink last year, but it never got cold enough to make ice, so the rink was never used for ice skating.

It’s free to skate, but ice skates are not provided, Mr. Coyne said.

The rink will be open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily until the temperature rises above 32 degrees, he said.

Mr. Coyne said that they have received many phone calls about the skating rink and predicted a large turnout over the weekend.

photo@timesreview.com

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Town board members (from left) John Dunleavy, George Gabrielsen, Jodi Giglio and Jim Wooten officially open the rink Thursday afternoon.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town board members (from left) John Dunleavy, George Gabrielsen, Jodi Giglio and Jim Wooten officially open the rink Thursday afternoon as Mr. Gabrielsen’s family tested out the ice.

 

09/27/12 4:00pm
09/27/2012 4:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter (left), Councilman George Gabrielsen (above) and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrated the opening of the new Miamogue Point Park Wednesday morning with neighborhood children.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter cut the ribbon with the help of neighborhood children Wednesday morning to officially celebrate the opening of Miamogue Point Park in South Jamesport.

Mr. Walter gave his thanks to the New York State Parks Department for the $350,000 grant which was used to build the neighborhood pocket park. The money fell short and the town had to kick in $20,000 to get the park finished. He also thanked the Engineering Department, Community Development Agency and Building and Grounds Department for their help in maintaining it.

“Without all the players coming together this wouldn’t have happened,” Mr. Walter said.

Councilman George Gabrielsen said that an official sign will be going up soon with “Miamogue Point Park,” which is a Native American word that translates to “a gathering place of fishermen.” He said that he hopes it will become a “gathering place of the community.”