01/18/14 10:00am
01/18/2014 10:00 AM
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Weight Watchers leader Rhonda Frisone, left, conducts an orientation for new members Friday morning in downtown Riverhead.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTOS | Weight Watchers leader Rhonda Frisone, left, conducts an orientation for new members Friday morning in downtown Riverhead.

Weight Watchers has moved into temporary digs in an empty space on East Main Street, next door to Riverhead Diner & Grill, while it waits for paperwork on a permanent location in downtown Riverhead to finalize.

“We’re looking to settle in somewhere down here,” said Lucia Ferraro, the weight loss company’s Eastern Suffolk County territory manager. The company relocated Wednesday to downtown Riverhead from its previous location on Route 58 in the former Walmart shopping center, she said.

“The shopping center wasn’t inviting for people to come in and feel comfortable,” Ms. Ferraro said. “I feel like we lost a lot of our membership as a result of that.”
WeightWatchersWP3

She said Weight Watchers plans to operate from its new location for the next few months, until a lease in an undisclosed space elsewhere on East Main Street is finalized.

In the meantime, Ms. Ferraro said, Weight Watchers is happy to be downtown.

“We wanted to support the community with our services and we see [downtown Riverhead] is starting to grow and develop into someplace with a nice, homey feel,” she said.

ryoung@timesreview.com

01/15/14 8:42pm
01/15/2014 8:42 PM
Andrea storm Riverhead

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Heidi Behr Way in downtown Riverhead’s riverfront park.

A proposal to have a barbecue cooking contest and blues festival along the Peconic River on Labor Day weekend got a chilly reception from the president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District’s management association Wednesday.

John Barci, who identified himself as being from Absolute Webb Advertising, is pitching a plan for a Blues, Brew Barbecue and Bacon Festival to be held in downtown Riverhead along the waterfront on Aug. 30-31.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Salon owner Ray Pickersgill (left) hears a pitch for a barbecue contest and music festival from John Barci at Wednesday night's BID management association meeting.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Salon owner Ray Pickersgill (left) hears a pitch for a barbecue contest from John Barci.

The local event would be part of the annual Empire State Barbecue Championship circuit and Mr. Barci hopes it can join with existing barbecue contests in Manorville and Brentwood to form a “triple crown” of Suffolk County barbecue contests.

The idea didn’t sit well with BID president Ray Pickersgill, who said that downtown events like the Blues Festival previously held in Riverhead don’t help businesses there.

“As a business owner, when you have a two-day event, I have to shut my business for two days,” Mr. Pickersgill said.

He said businesses that sell beer or food will be particularly angered by this proposal because it will compete with their businesses.

“I can tell you right now, they are going to scream and yell and carry on,” he said with the restaurateurs.

Mr. Pickersgill said the Riverhead Blue Festival that had been held downtown for many years was not popular with merchants there.

He suggested Mr. Barci consider a different location, like Polish Town, land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton or a large farm property like Martha Clara.

Mr. Barci said he didn’t consider other spots because he wanted to bring the festival to downtown Riverhead. He said he thought it would help businesses there.

“I think it’s a good event for Riverhead,” said BID board member Isabelle Gonzalez.

“I’ve always thought downtown events were positive,” said BID member Martin Sendlewski, who is an architect, though said he doesn’t own a restaurant or the type of business that would be effected by a big festival.

“Would you want to shut your business down and lose $3,000 a day?” Mr. Pickersgill, who owns Robert James Salon, asked.

“I’d figure out something to sell and make money off it,” Mr. Sendlewski responded.

“I tried that. It didn’t work,” Mr. Pickersgill said. He said one year he stayed open during the Country Fair and two older ladies had to walk all the way from the Suffolk County National Bank parking lot on Second Street to get their hair done at his Robert James Salon & Spa on East Main Street.

BID members advised Mr. Barci to speak with some downtown restaurant owners to get feedback from them.

tgannon@timesreview.com

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