Thanksgiving came early at the Riverhead Town Senior Center. READ
Thanksgiving came early at the Riverhead Town Senior Center. READ
The Combined Veterans Committee hosted its annual Veterans Day ceremony on Tuesday morning at the First World War Memorial on West Main Street, honoring those who have served and are currently serving in the United States’ armed forces.
Comprised of the local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, the committee welcomed Councilman John Dunleavy — himself a Vietnam veteran — to speak at the ceremony.
Below is an excerpt from his speech. Click through for more photos from the ceremony.
“Today is truly an American holiday. It’s the day we recognize the men and women who have fought and worked to ensure our freedom as citizens of this great country. These veterans have played crucial roles in over 20 major military conflicts throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Future veterans are currently engaged in action throughout the world. These men and women wake up each day with one mission — to protect the interests of the United State of America and to ensure the freedoms we enjoy daily to remain protected now and in the future.”
After explaining over the past week how closed-door political caucuses are necessary to prevent Riverhead Town Board members from fighting with each other in public, the members spent much of Thursday’s work session doing just that. (more…)
In June 2012, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio filed a harassment complaint against Supervisor Sean Walter.
Months later, Mr. Walter put out a political hit on Ms. Giglio, which came in the form of a primary challenge from the supervisor’s friend and longtime political adviser, Anthony Coates.
During that contentious primary, Councilman John Dunleavy — perhaps sensing momentum building behind Mr. Coates — was continually found to be out campaigning without his committee-designated team, joining Mr. Coates in door-knocking efforts.
But blood is thicker than water, the saying goes, and as the outcome of the Riverhead Town elections began to crystallize before the family of Riverhead Republicans Tuesday night, judging by the hugs, kisses and high-fives — bygones were bygones. Despite their differences, the three incumbents on the Town Board had all won re-election.
“I’ve been involved in Riverhead politics for 14 years and I have never seen the Republican committee come together the way it has this summer and this fall,” Mr. Walter told a jubilant crowd of supporters at Cody’s BBQ & Grill.
Mr. Walter later said he believed the issue of in-fighting on the board was more media driven than anything.
“I think the residents didn’t focus on the fights or they wouldn’t have re-elected us,” he said. “They focused on the results, and if everybody got along all the time, I don’t think we’d have had the results that we had. We all add something to this mixture.”
But it wasn’t just the media. The Riverhead Democrats had been smelling Republican blood in the water for some time because of the in-fighting. Democratic challenger Angela DeVito’s campaign slogan, “Respect Riverhead,” was built on the promise she would bring courtesy and respect back to Riverhead Town Hall after four years of Mr. Walter and an all-Republican Town Board.
The voters favored staying the course.
Mr. Walter defeated Ms. DeVito with 56 percent of the vote, or 3,917 to 3,090, according to Suffolk County Board of Elections figures.
Ms. Giglio, who earned a second term, and two-term Republican Councilman John Dunleavy tallied 3,634 and 3,495 votes respectively, over Democrats Bill Bianchi, with 3,141 votes, and Millie Thomas, with 3,045, in the at-large election for two seats.
As it began to look like the election results weren’t going to break her way, Ms. DeVito — who led a team that came much closer than their Democratic counterparts in the 2009 and 2011 races for Town Board seats — told her supporters “we are still winners.”
She also said there’s still work to be done for the Democratic Party to make the sure the towns government, ruled by Republicans, is heading in the right direction and working for the people of Riverhead.
“Just because we aren’t in the driver’s seat, that doesn’t mean we can’t be passengers in the bus,” Ms. DeVito said from Democratic headquarters in a storefront behind the Riverhead Diner & Grill — and a short walk from Cody’s on East Main Street.
She then took that short walk, entering Cody’s back door and making her way through the crowd to congratulate Mr. Walter. The two candidates hugged and exchanged words as music pumped through the speakers. Ms. DeVito was also joined by campaign advisor Keisha Washington Dean.
Mr. Walter and party leaders attributed the Republican victories to a largely positive campaign.
“This town is moving in the right direction, no matter what Angela DeVito and Bill Bianchi say,” Mr. Walter said.
“I believe we’ve gotten our message across,” said Republican Committee Chairman Mason Haas, “which is that the town is moving in the right direction.”
In other town races, incumbent Republican assessor Laverne Tennenberg beat Democratic challenger Greg Fischer, 4,343 to 2,396, and Democratic highway superintendent George (Gio) Woodson beat Conservative challenger Michael Panchak by vote of 4,936 to 1,269.
Mr. Woodson and Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm are the only Democrats to hold an elected office in Riverhead Town.
A moral victory, so to speak, for Democrats in the town races came with the respectable showing of the council candidates.
The votes were much more evenly split than in the past two local elections, with Ms. Thomas, a Wading River realtor, earning 24 percent of the vote and Mr. Bianchi, a former state Assemblyman from the Bellport area, capturing 23 percent of the vote.
Ms. Giglio led the pack with 27 percent followed by Mr. Dunleavy with 26.
By comparison, in 2009, Democratic council candidate Kathy Berezny tallied 20 percent of the final vote for two seats, with 19 percent for Shirley Coverdale.
The Democratic council candidates fared even worse in 2011, when Marlando Williams got 16 percent of the vote and Matt Van Glad received 15 percent in an at-large race against incumbent Republicans James Wooten and George Gabrielsen for two open seats.
This election season, the Democrats also tried to capitalize on residents’ displeasure with the clearing of several properties along Route 58 to make way for commercial shopping centers. They had joined residents in a rally at the Costco Wholesale site, which was clear-cut right up to neighboring properties, and held their own press conference there, faulting the Town Board for granting an excavation permit for the project.
Mr. Dunleavy, who lives in Foxwood Village, one of the affected communities, also took heat from his neighbors during the campaign — not only for the clearing itself but for deflecting blame onto neighbors he said weren’t paying attention and attending town meetings.
He later apologized at a Town Board debate, saying no one was to blame.
On Election Day, even the election district that includes Foxwood Village voted for Republicans, including Mr. Dunleavy, according to numbers posted at Republican headquarters — though not yet available through the county — Mr. Dunleavy received 215 votes, with Ms. Giglio leading with 222 in Election District 11. Ms. Thomas earned 200 in ED11 and Mr. Bianchi, who came out on the attack against Mr. Dunleavy at the Oct. 24 debate, finished last in that district, with 196 votes.
“The few people that thought I was the sole person [responsible for the clear-cutting] for the Costco project, they were wrong, and the people that believed in me, voted for me,” Mr. Dunleavy said after the results came in and he was awarded a third four-year term.
For her part, Ms. Giglio told WRIV radio show host Bruce Tria that the election outcome could offer a renewed opportunity for the Republicans, who will now have to work together for at least another two years, the length of supervisor terms in Riverhead Town.
“We have to put things behind us and move forward,” she said, adding that she would reach out to Mr. Walter to perhaps talk over lunch.
Mr. Walter later told the News-Review he would be willing to sit with Ms. Giglio over lunch.
Four-year term, part time
About him: Mr. Dunleavy, 72, is running for a third four-year term as a town councilman. He is a U.S. Navy veteran and former Grumman Corporation employee who later joined the Riverhead Police Department, where he came to head the 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. He was born in Brooklyn and lived in Rockaway, Queens, before his family moved to East Islip. He joined the Navy in 1957.
His pitch: Mr. Dunleavy says he’s helped bring $8 million into town coffers, a number that includes $7.5 million in down payments for the Riverhead Resorts project that never happened. He helped negotiate a cell tower contract that has brought in $300,000 in fees and has saved $250,000 in salaries and benefits by heading the municipal garage, he says. He also lists two police dogs and an ATV obtained through the DA’s office, as well as a natural gas vehicle donated for senior use, as items he’s helped bring to the town at no cost.
In his words: “These are some of the examples of the work I’ve done and will continue to do if re-elected.”
About her: Ms. Giglio, 45, is running for her second four-year term as a town councilwoman. She 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. Ms. Giglio was born in Syosset and grew up in Wantagh and California before moving back to New York at age 19.
Her pitch: Ms. Giglio says she’s made good on several promises to the taxpayer since first running for office in 2009. Among them, she says, she’s looked out for how tax dollars are being spent while finding innovative ways to improve on quality of life in town. As a businessperson, she says her work and expertise in Town Hall are instrumental in identifying problems within the town code that can stifle businesses and job creation.
In her words: “I know that with your support, I will have even more to offer our great town.”
About him: Mr. Bianchi, 82, is a former Bellport resident who served as a state assemblyman from 1972 to 1994. He got started in public service as a South Country School District Board of Education 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.
His pitch: Mr. Bianchi touts his experience in the Assembly, during which time he said it was necessary to work with both parties, and believes he can bring a certain depth of knowledge and government experience to Riverhead Town. Mr. Bianchi says he is most proud of legislation he got passed in Albany that preserves the county’s four major rivers. He was also chairman of the Assembly’s agricultural and local government committees and a member of its ways and means committee.
In his words: “I always worked well with both parties.”
About her: Ms. Thomas, 63, has been a licensed realtor for 21 years. She owns Landmark Realty as well as a commercial building in Wading River. She is a past president of the Long Island Board of Realtors/North Shore Chapter and secretary of the Wading River-Shoreham Chamber of Commerce. She currently has 31 agents and two administrative assistants working for her company. She was born in Brooklyn and moved to Rocky Point in 1978. She moved to Baiting Hollow in 2002.
Her pitch: Ms. Thomas points to her success in navigating her real estate business through the recent economic downtown as proof she would be a good steward of the town’s finances. She says her business in Wading River not only stayed afloat but thrived during one of the worst housing markets in years. She knows how to squeeze a budget, she says, and will be fiscally responsible and accountable to taxpayers. She favors well-planned development but wants to work protect the area’s way of life.
In her words: “We should fight for revenue from large commercial developers who take from our town and should give back. We also need to make Riverhead a safer, better place through increased code enforcement.”
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.
Hamlet: South Jamesport
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
Riverhead Town’s Democrats and Republicans will host their candidate nominating conventions at the same time in Polish Town later this month.
The Republican convention will be held at 7 p.m. May 23 in Polish Hall on Marcy Avenue, according to committee chairman John Galla. The Democrats will be at the VFW hall on Parkway Street, where it intersects with Hamilton Avenue, according to Democratic chair Marge Acevedo.
“It’s like the Yankees and Mets having home games on the same night,” Mr. Galla said.
The Repubicans hold all five Town Board seats but those incumbents are being challenged from within. Councilman James Wooten and town assessor Mason Haas are both challenging incumbent Sean Walter for the supervisor nomination, and incumbent council members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio are being challenged by Anthony Coates, who has been an advisor to Mr. Walter. Mr. Coates has publicly supported Mr. Dunleavy, while criticizing Ms. Giglio.
The Democrats, meanwhile, have not released the names of any of the people they’ve screened, although some names have leaked out. In the supervisor race, Ann Cotten-Degrasse, the current president of the Riverhead Board of Education and a retired teacher and union president, has confirmed that she has screened for the position. Former Riverhead school board president Angela DeVito has already set up a campaign committee for her supervisor run.
In other town races, incumbent Democratic Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson is up for reelection this fall, and the Republicans have screened Mike Panchak, who owns an asphalt company. He and Mr. Woodson are members of the Riverhead Fire Department.
The only other town seat up for reelection is the assessor seat currently held by Republican Laverne Tennenberg.