10/09/14 11:05am
State Senator Lee Zeldin (left) and Congressman Tim Bishop (right) took turns a podium in Polish Hall to address questions Wednesday night in Riverhead.

Republican state Senator Lee Zeldin (left) and Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop (right). (Credit: Grant Parpan)

The two major party candidates for the 1st Congressional District squared off at a contentious debate — at least, contentious between incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop and the GOP-dominated crowd — in a packed Polish Hall in Riverhead Wednesday night.

State Senator Lee Zeldin of Shirley, a Republican and Iraq War veteran who unsuccessfully ran against Mr. Bishop in 2008 before seeking office in Albany, enjoyed a political home-field advantage among the nearly 250 who showed up at the event, organized and sponsored by RiverheadLocal.com, an online news website.

RiverheadLocal co-publisher Denise Civiletti moderated.

At times during the debate, specifically when Mr. Bishop faulted Tea Party members in Congress for much of the gridlock in Washington, the crowd degenerated into shout-downs and name-calling.

“You’re a liar!” yelled one attendee, after Mr. Bishop said “compromise has become a four-letter word in Washington under Tea Party control.” (more…)

10/23/13 3:00pm
10/23/2013 3:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater on East Main Street will be the site for another round of political debates Oct. 24.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater on East Main Street will be the site for another round of political debates Oct. 24.

The Riverhead News-Review and Riverheadlocal.com media outlets are getting set to host their second night of town political debates Thursday at the Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead.

The debates start at 7 p.m. and run until about 9 p.m. The theater’s doors open at 5 p.m. and the bar and restaurant will be open at that time, but shut down during the debates.

There will be two separate debates Thursday, with the first featuring incumbent Republican Town council Candidates John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio against Democratic council challengers Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas. That will be followed by incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter facing off against Democratic challenger Angela DeVito.

There are three Town Board positions up for grabs in the at-large election Nov. 5, the supervisor seat and two council seats.

The debates will be co-moderated by Riverheadlocal editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

The first political debate event was held Aug. 26 and featured Republican, Democratic and Independence primary candidates for town council and town supervisor. More than 200 people crowded the Suffolk Theater for that event.

“After the success of primary debate, we’re now even more excited to co-host this event featuring the six general election candidates,” said Times/Review Newsgroup executive editor Grant Parpan. “The professional staff at the Suffolk Theater did a great job in setting the stage and I know a lot of people in town are looking forward to this next round of debates, as are we.”

“These debates give the public the opportunity to learn where the candidates stand on important local issues,” Ms. Civiletti said. “We’re happy to partner again with the News-Review to sponsor the debates. An informed electorate is at the very heart of the democratic process.”

All questions for the debates will be written in advance by the two moderators and the candidates will be given time to make closing statements. There will be no questions from the floor. No outside video recording of the event is allowed.

There is a suggested $5 donation at the door, with all proceeds going to support the nonprofit New Beginnings’ effort to build the Brendan House facility on Sound Avenue, which will provide 24-hour care for young adults with brain injuries.

The first debate event raised $1,045 for Brendan House.

08/27/13 11:20am
08/27/2013 11:20 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Democratic candidates (L-R) Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito.

In Monday night’s debate between Democratic supervisor candidates Angela DeVito and Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, both candidates criticized the incumbent Republican administration of Sean Walter while touching on major issues facing the town.

They also, at times, took issue with each other.

The debate, entitled “Riverhead at the Crossroads,” was sponsored by local media outlets Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com and held at the Suffolk Theater.

Ms. DeVito, the Riverhead Democratic Committee nominee, is being challenged by Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse. Both are retired and both have served as Riverhead school board presidents, a position Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse currently holds.

RELATED: See the entire video of Monday night’s debate

The winner of the Sept. 10 primary will take on incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter in the Nov. 5 general election.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse is a former Riverhead High School teacher and union president who said she has made a difference in the lives of many of the students she taught and hopes to do the same as supervisor.

“Do we want to continue with the two-party system or do we want to break from that?” she asked.

“Town government isn’t working,” said Ms. DeVito, who worked for the Long Island Building Trades Council and is a former civic association president in Jamesport.

She said there is too much bickering and cronyism in town government.

“We need a candidate who can defeat Sean Walter and I am that person,” she told the crowd of more than 200 people downtown.

Among the issues the two differed on, Ms. DeVito said she would support using eminent domain to acquire empty downtown buildings through condemnation.

“We’ve waited long enough” for buildings owned by Riverhead Enterprise to be developed or sold, she said.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she might have supported eminent domain in the past, but doesn’t think the town can afford it now.

In eminent domain, the town must convince a court it needs property for a public purpose, and the courts, if it agrees, would determine the sales price later.

The two also disagreed on the role of the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which grants tax breaks to businesses to help lure them to town.

Ms. DeVito, who served on that board a few years ago, thinks the IDA is necessary, but believes the current board has made some bad decisions.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said the IDA “has never seen a proposal they don’t love.” She said she is not opposed to tax abatements, but is opposed to giving them to companies that would have come here anyway.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said the IDA gave a 10-year, 100-percent property tax abatement to Atlantis aquarium and the Hyatt hotel when Ms DeVito was on the board. Ms. DeVito said she voted against that abatement, though later voted for a measure that allowed the building plan to move forward.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said the town needs to prioritize its spending, because it needs expensive items like sewer and infrastructure improvements in downtown and the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Ms. DeVito said Riverhead needs to partner with Southampton Town to clean up blight in neighboring Riverside.

“As long as that side of the river remains blighted, we’re going to continue to have quality of life issues in downtown Riverhead,” she said.

“We must raise revenue,” Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse responded. “We are fighting a deficit.”

She said the town needs to closely audit its operation and “look at cutting staff,” she said, adding that Republican Supervisor Sean Walter “is not supervising.”

Ms. DeVito suggested using temporary workers in some town positions to save money and trying to get the state and county to share some of the sales tax revenue generated in Riverhead.

Mr. Cotten-DeGrasse then countered she didn’t favor hiring “part-time workers,” to which Ms. DeVito said she never mentioned part-timers, only temporary workers.

On developing EPCAL, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she envisions the former Grumman plant property becoming a “Silicon Valley” of Suffolk County, adding she would form a committee of people with real estate or development backgrounds to help bring development to EPCAL.

Ms. DeVito warned the town must be wary of speculators buying key pieces of the subdivided EPCAL property in order to hike up the price of the those parcels when developments nearby need them. She also feels that the town should work with scientists at Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University to bring scientific research to EPCAL.

Both were asked about the school board’s long-alleged conducting of business in closed, executive sessions that should be public.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse denied this claim, saying school board members get a packet containing background information on matter that will come to vote several days before a meeting, and do not discuss public business behind closed doors.

Ms. DeVito disagreed, saying the public’s business is being conducted behind closed doors, and it was when she was on the school board, too.

Both candidates said they would sign pledges promising to uphold the state’s open meeting laws.

The event raised $1,045 for the Brendan House, a Sound Avenue facility that will provide 24-hour care for people people withe brain injuries.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Monday night’s debate also featured Republican council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

09/29/12 11:00am
09/29/2012 11:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall Thursday evening.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James, debated Thursday night at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

The debate, moderated by Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly, can be seen below in three parts.

09/27/12 12:00pm
09/27/2012 12:00 PM
Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Randy Altschuler, Tim Bishop, Congress

xBARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead is modeled after the Ford Theater in Washington D.C.

The first of a pair of 90-minute Times/Review Newsgroup co-sponsored debates between Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler of St. James is set for 7 p.m. tonight in downtown Riverhead.

Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly will moderate the debate at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead. Vail-Leavitt will seat up to 250 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Audience members will have an opportunity to submit questions for the candidates at both debates.

The first 45 minutes of the debate will focus specifically on health care reform, Mr. Kelly said, and then be opened to general questions.

The second debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15, at Bridgehampton School. The first 45 minutes of that debate will focus on jobs and the economy.

The Bridgehampton debate will be moderated by Joe Shaw, executive editor for The Press News Group, publishers of the Southampton Press, Southampton Press Western Edition and Easthampton Press newspapers, as well as 27east.com.

“We’re very excited to be working together to give the public more than sound bites to make a decision in this important race,” Mr. Shaw said of the partnership with Times/Review. “Our goal is to allow the candidates to more fully explore the complicated issues and give voters an opportunity to cast an informed vote.”

Both debates will be free and open to the public.

“With so much at stake, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of this race,” Mr. Kelly said. “We’re proud to be teaming up with our South Fork counterparts, The Press News Group, to bring the candidates and the issues to light.”

psquire@timesreview.com