01/09/14 9:46am
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Glass on the rear parking lot behind the Treasure Cove Marina and Hyatt Hotel.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Glass on the rear parking lot behind the Treasure Cove Marina and Hyatt Hotel.

Update, 12:00 p.m.: Hyatt executive director Bryan DeLuca confirmed that the teenager reportedly shot at Wednesday night was not a registered guest at the hotel.

Update, 10:30 a.m.: Hyatt general manager Steve Shauger said Thursday morning that he was unsure if the Bellport man reportedly involved in a Wednesday night shooting downtown was staying at the hotel as the teen had told police.

Shauger added in the morning that while the shooting was seen by witnesses at the hotel, and the man involved said he was at the hotel parking lot when it took place, the incident itself took place in the Treasure Cove parking lot.

“It was a shock when I heard about it this morning. The hotel hasn’t had any kinds of problems like this in the past,” he said.

The general manager added that security is on throughout the night guarding “the campus” between Hyatt Place, the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center. In addition, one desk agent is working at the front of the hotel during the night shift. Though he added that the employee didn’t hear anything until police showed up.

Original story: A shooting in downtown Riverhead Wednesday night left a Bellport teenager with a broken car window as he fled the scene near the Hyatt Hotel, Riverhead Town police said. No injuries were reported.

Police pulled over a car driving erratically on East Main Street about 11:15 p.m. last night and officers noticed the driver’s side window was broken. Jerome Eleazer, 19, told police that two masked people approached his car and one fired shots toward his vehicle in the rear parking lot of the Hyatt Hotel, where he had been staying, police said.

The suspects approached the car and ordered him out of the vehicle, police said. When he didn’t get out, one of the suspects fired into the car as Mr. Eleazer fled the scene, police said. Police do not currently suspect it was a random act. Mr. Eleazer, who was uninjured, told police he didn’t want to pursue the incident further.

Police reported that several witnesses at Hyatt Hotel saw the incident occur. Witnesses reported the suspects fired at the building and then fled with two other people in a car, police said.

The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information is asked to contact Riverhead police at (631) 727-4500.

According to court records, Mr. Eleazer pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of drugs in November 2011. He was also arrested on a charge of fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance last October. Court records show he missed his Jan. 7 court appearance and is due back in court Feb. 4.

WITH JOE PINCIARO

01/02/14 3:00pm
01/02/2014 3:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | April Yakaboski (second from left) leads a ‘hot yoga’ class at her West Main Street studio in Riverhead.

April Yakaboski is building an empire on West Main Street — and the 2001 Riverhead High School graduate is doing it one inspired, in-shape fitness student at a time.

Ms. Yakaboski opened her Aerial Fitness studio in June 2009 with the idea that she would offer her clientele experiences they couldn’t get at any other area gym. She did so first through aerial silks. Her students, also called aerialists, use the silks to suspend themselves from the ceiling and use their muscles to stretch, spin, bounce and flip to music.

She’s since opened two more health and fitness locations nearby. Her Hot Yoga studio occupies the second floor of the WRIV building — and gained regional media attention for its “Broga” classes for men. The latest addition, Spin-Sanity, opened in October in space previously occupied by The Hamptons Furniture Co. The spin cycle studio features 29 RealRyder stationary bikes, which she purchased from a Westhampton Beach fitness studio that had recently closed its doors.

For her creativity, business acumen and help in rebuilding a once-beleagured area, Ms. Yakaboski is the News-Review’s 2013 Business Person of the Year.

She also runs a paddleboard business on the Peconic River during the warmer months with friend and studio employee Rachel Goodale, offering locals as well as visitors to Riverhead’s East End Hyatt Place hotel a peaceful place to unwind on the water.

“She really wants to give clients what they want, so everything is based on what she gets back from clients,” said Ms. Goodale. “She has people of all ages, that’s the best part. She has as 73-year-old client who looks like she’s 50 because she works out every day. It’s an awesome place to work. I love going there and I love working there.”

She described Ms. Yakaboski as someone who’s “always thinking outside the box.”

Downtown Riverhead is also seeing the benefits of foot traffic, as the studios attract hundreds of people to the area each week.

“I try to do what the bigger gyms aren’t doing,” Ms. Yakaboski told the News-Review recently.

Even the spin cycles at Spin-Sanity are available at only four other locations on Long Island, said Roland Walker, who teaches a Sunday morning class in Riverhead. RealRyder-style stationary bikes “offers more of a core and upper body workout,” he said. The bikes – which go for about $2,000 a piece – pivot from side to side, offering a more real-life experience.

“There’s very few in the U.S., period,” he said. “She recruited me because she knew that I knew about that type of bike. They are very few instructors that are certified at teaching those bikes.

“It’s a big gamble, no doubt,” Mr. Walker said.

To hedge her bets, Ms. Yakaboski will seek certification for the unique bikes in January, along with Ms. Goodale and others.

For those involved, working in Ms. Yakaboski’s businesses doesn’t feel much like work.

The 200-plus clients are more like family, Ms. Goodale said, coming together daily for positive reasons.

“People see results quicker when they come to her studios,” she said. “People will say, ‘I was sick of going to the gym and doing the same routine.’ Everyone’s getting results and it’s fun. We look forward to seeing each other; everyone’s become friends.”

mwhite@timesreview.com

12/20/13 10:00am
12/20/2013 10:00 AM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Tom Mielnicki of Riverhead hopes to convert this vacant building on West Main Street in Riverhead into a restaurant called Simple Table.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Tom Mielnicki of Riverhead hopes to convert this vacant building on West Main Street in Riverhead into a restaurant called Simple Table.

Simple Table, a new restaurant proposed on West Main Street along the banks of the Peconic River, received site plan approval from the Riverhead Town Planning Board on Thursday.

The proposed 40-seat restaurant on 305 West Street, across from Concern for Independent Living, is expected to be open by April at best and Memorial Day at the latest, according to Tom Mielnicki, who bought the property earlier this year and plans to run the restaurant with his 23-year-old daughter, Ariana, a culinary student at Suffolk County Community College.

The Mielnickis have described the proposed restaurant as offering “comfort food served family style.”

Mr. Mielnicki, who is vice president of the Polish Town Civic Association, will be the executive chef at the new restaurant.

“This is another vacant store downtown that’s gonna be filled up with a good use,” said Planning Board member Ed Densieski in casting his vote in favor of the site plan. “I’m looking forward to it.”

The application has approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the town architectural review board, and the state Wild, Scenic and Recreational Rivers Act, which limits what can be built along the Peconic River.

“We’ll also have a kayak launching area on the river,” Mr. Mielnicki said following the approval. He said the state DEC recommended that.

The proposal calls for converting a vacant building on the site into an office and building an 18-foot addition addition on the building.

Mr. Mielnicki said he still has some paperwork and some construction to do on the property, which measures .31 of an acre.

The property currently includes three buildings, including the one designated for the proposed restaurant. One of the smaller structures is currently used as an office, and Mr. Mielnicki has said he plans to build a small addition to connect two buildings that are just eight inches apart, giving the restaurant a total of roughly 2,300 square feet. The third building will remain freestanding.

12/18/13 9:35am
12/18/2013 9:35 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street downtown.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street downtown.

Plans to install a security camera system in downtown Riverhead have run into another setback, with the Riverhead Town Board now extending the deadline for bid submissions from Dec. 18 to Jan. 21.

Board members said several bidders had asked for the extension so the bidders would have more time to submit a bid.

The board had rejected an earlier round of proposals when it received only one response.

The town is seeking proposals for an internet protocol wireless video security system, with cameras installed at eight specific locations in downtown Riverhead.

12/14/13 7:38pm
12/14/2013 7:38 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTOS | The Riverhead BID's 14th annual holiday bonfire was held Saturday.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTOS | The Riverhead BID’s 14th annual holiday bonfire was held Saturday.

There were two new additions to this year’s 14th annual Holiday bonfire held in downtown Riverhead Saturday night: floating fire pits and snow.

Riverhead BID president Ray Pickersgill said he believes Saturday night’s bonfire was the first time in the annual event’s history that it snowed. The BID also tested floating firepits in the Peconic River and is considering purchasing dozens more for future events, he said.

Santa arrived by boat shortly after nightfall and later settled into a gingerbread house where kids waited on line eager to tell him how good they’ve been this year.

The bonfire — sponsored by the downtown Business Improvement District’s management association, Suffolk County National Bank and Blue Duck Bakery — featured free hot chocolate with whipped cream and cookies. The event was the brainchild of former councilman Ed Densieski.

Mr. Pickergill said Saturday bonfire was dedicated to the memory of Loretta Trojanowski, who died in August.

jennifer@timesreview.com

12/14/13 3:19pm
JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

When Vince Taldone saw the state had given an $88,875 Economic Development Council grant for the pedestrian walkway he has been pushing for on the Peconic River in Riverside, he wasn’t sure what to think.

“I thought, how do they expect us to build a bridge for $88,000?” said Mr. Taldone, who is the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Southampton Town, on behalf of FRNCA, has submitted a grant application seeking $1.145 million for the pedestrian bridge project.

But upon closer inspection, it turns out that the $88,875 was specifically meant for the planning and design of the bridge.

Mr. Taldone said they had submitted the grant application quickly in order to make the deadline for submissions, and had not done any engineering or design of the proposed bridge, which would allow people to walk over the river from county parkland in Riverside to the parking lot in downtown Riverhead.

“I thought they were missing a zero,” Mr. Taldone said. “But they made it clear they weren’t saying no and they weren’t expecting us to build a bridge for $88,000.”

Mr. Taldone and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has been involved in a number of Riverside revitalization plans and who proposed the pedestrian bridge at a FRNCA meeting, both said in interviews Friday that they fully understand why the state would want to commit money to the design of the bridge before committing money to constructing it.

“They put their stamp of approval on the concept,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “That’s big. The fact that they put $88,000 into the design of it anticipates that they will also fund the construction of it.”

He said he believes the design work can easily be done in time to submit additional grant applications for the construction work next summer.

“Obviously I was hoping to get the whole thing funded in the first round, but I’m not disappointed,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I’d be disappointed if we got nothing.”

Southampton Town recently received a $15,000 county grant for walking trails through the parkland leading to the likely location of the pedestrian bridge, and the town currently has a number of revitalization efforts underway in Riverside, which has traditionally been an area with little commercial development and high amounts of blight.

Included in these efforts is a recently awarded contract with Renaissance Downtowns to be a “master developer” of Riverside, a county study on the feasibility of establishing a Riverside sewer district, a study to redesign the Riverside traffic circle as a two-lane roundabout, and a recently awarded $236,900 state Brownfield Opportunity Area grant to study ways to redevelop areas in Riverside that may have had contamination in the past.

Read the pitch from Riverside’s new master developer

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/09/13 11:00am
12/09/2013 11:00 AM
FLICKR PHOTO/thurdl01 | Riverhead could soon see its own incarnation of Water Fire, as pictured in Providence.

FLICKR PHOTO/thurdl01 | Riverhead could soon see its own incarnation of Water Fire, as pictured in Providence.

Floating fire pits could soon light up the Peconic River near Grangebel Park under a proposal being put forward by the East End Tourism Alliance and the Riverhead Business Improvement District.

Bryan DeLuca of EETA and Ray Pickersgill of BID pitched the idea of bringing “River Fire” to the Peconic River at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session, saying he believes it can be an attraction that drives people downtown.

The idea is based on the successful “Water Fire” program that has been done in Providence, RI for the past 10 years and which is now done in other areas throughout the nation.

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“It’s an absolute tourist attraction and we strongly believe it’s a great opportunity for Riverhead,” Mr. DeLuca, who also is executive director of the Long Island Aquarium and Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead, told the Town Board on Thursday. “It would be the only one on Long Island.”

The floating pits have firewood in them and don’t use an accelerant, Mr. DeLuca said.

Pat Snyder of East End Arts has suggested that an artists’ contest could be help to design some of the floating pits. Mr. DeLuca would like to see every fifth fire pit be an “artisan” one.

In Providence, Water Fire – run by a nonprofit arts organization of the same name – has almost one “water fire” display per month and uses about 90 floating fire pits. Mr. DeLuca said he’s hoping Riverhead can have three or four per year.

Mr. DeLuca is seeking grants for the project and got informal Town Board approval to have Chris Kempner, the town’s community development director, apply for some grants for the project.

The costs of the pits can range from $2,000 to $4,000 apiece, although the BID had one designed for $1,000, with a price estimate of about $600 for each additional one.

They are hoping to start with about 10 to 20 fire pits, Mr. DeLuca said. They also would need money to purchase the wood, and volunteers to stoke the fires.

In addition, some of the fire pots could also be on land, he said.

The ones in the water can be easily removed if needed, Mr. DeLuca said.

Councilman John Dunleavy expressed concerns about the cost of policing for such an event, as well as whether the fire marshal would need to be involved.

“That should be the least of our concerns, Mr. DeLuca said on the police issue. “We’re talking about driving traffic downtown.”

12/04/13 10:37am
12/04/2013 10:37 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Michael Butler, center, who heads Woolworth Revitalization LLC, at a press conference on Tuesday to announce grants the project will get from county and state levels of government.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Michael Butler, center, who heads Woolworth Revitalization LLC, at a press conference on Tuesday to announce grants the project will get from county and state levels of government.

It was a good week for Woolworth Revitalization LLC, the company that’s renovating the former Woolworth building in downtown Riverhead into new stores, a gym and 19 affordable apartments.

On Monday, the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency voted to give the mixed-use development a 75 percent property tax exemption on the improvements to be made to the property.

On Tuesday, a bill was filed in the county Legislature to allocate $250,000 toward the project to offset infrastructure and utility costs, and County Executive Steve Bellone held a press conference to announce the county’s support for the project.

“We’re hear to announce that, thanks to a resolution introduced today by Legislator Al Krupski, $250,000 in funding support for this critical project will be provided by Suffolk County to offset some of the infrastructure costs associated with the project, helping to make the project possible,” Mr. Bellone said.

The IDA property tax exemption will apply to the tax bills that will go out this month and will only apply to new construction at the site, and not to the existing land value.

The 75 percent figure was attained through a tiered set of benchmarks that the IDA approved for the project in February in an attempt to base the rate of exceptions on how close the project is to completion.

Woolworth Revitalization, headed by Michael Butler of Sag Harbor, still can reach the 100 percent tax exemption next year, and likely will, according to IDA executive director Tracy Stark James. The exemption lasts 10 years, meaning that it can be 75 percent for the first year, but 100 percent for the next nine years.

IDA members said that while Mr. Butler hadn’t met all of the benchmarks required for the 75 percent exemption, he had met all of the requirements for the 100 percent exemption, so they voted to give him a 75 percent exception.

The exemptions only apply to town, county, school and fire district taxes, and not to other special taxing districts like water and sewer.

Mr. Butler purchased the Woolworth building in February for $2.2 million and has undertaken a project to build 19 affordable apartments on the second floor, a 20,000-square foot gym on the first floor and small stores fronting Main Street on the eastern portion of the building.

“Based on what our intent was, which was to benchmark the start of the building and it’s progress… 75 percent probably makes sense,” said IDA chairman Tom Cruso, who had toured the building, in casting his vote Monday.

“I was impressed,” IDA member Paul Thompson said. “I think they kept their word. They stated what they wanted to do and I think they accomplished it.”

The IDA approved the 75 percent exemption by a 4-0 vote, with IDA member Carl Gabrielsen absent.

Mr. Butler said he expects most of the downstairs part of the project to be done by the end of January.

“The gym wants to move in as fast as possible,” he said, referring to Ultimate Fitness, which left its Route 58 location in the former Pergament building earlier this year and has been using the former Blockbuster Video store on Route 58 on a temporary basis until the Woolworth site is ready. It will now be a Maximus Health and Fitness gym, run by the same people, Mr. Butler said.

Goldberg’s Famous Bagels is expected to move into one of the storefronts early next year, and there is still about 3,000 square feet that is yet to be leased.

Of the 19 apartments slated for the second floor of the building, Mr. Butler said 11 will be for people whose incomes are 50 to 60 percent of the Long Island median income, while the other eight will be for people whose income is 80 percent of the median income. He is working with the Long Island Housing Partnership to market the apartments.

The IDA on Tuesday also approved a $4.35 million figure for financing for the project, which is different that the $5.7 million financing estimate used when the IDA hearing on the project took place in February. This number is used in determining the amount of mortgage recording tax that the project will be exempt from, which in this case, is $45,675.

In addition to the partial property tax exemption, the IDA also grants exemptions on mortgage recording tax and sales taxes on building materials used in the construction.

Earlier this year, the county also announced that 11 of the affordable units would be funded with Federal HOME Investment Partnership program funds in the amount of $550,000, and that project will receive $75,000 through the NY Main Street Program for revitalization.