11/17/13 8:00am
11/17/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Vines & Hops and TWS Hobby Center opened up on Main Street within the past year.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Vines & Hops and TWS Hobby Center opened up on Main Street within the past year.

It’s a lamentable story that locals are all too familiar with: downtown Riverhead was a veritable ghost town just a few years ago, with empty storefronts dotting large stretches of East Main Street.

To help counteract the sense of glum particularly felt during the holidays, East End Arts launched a campaign in 2010 that gave locals the opportunity to decorate the windows of vacant storefronts with festive scenes. The nonprofit has held a Holiday Window Decorating contest each of the past three years.

Click here to see photos from last year’s contest

But now, thanks to the recent influx of businesses to downtown Riverhead, none of that will be happening this year: Pat Snyder, the executive director of East End Arts, said the most of the storefronts she and other members of the Council would have decorated are, to the relief of many in the community, now occupied.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Nancy Reyer, left, and Allison Pressler, right, at a window display made to recognize Reyer's son, Michael.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Nancy Reyer, left, and Allison Pressler, right, at a window display made during last year’s contest to recognize Reyer’s son, Michael.

“It was our gift to the community to fill up the space, make it look nice during the holidays and encourage people to come downtown,” Ms. Snyder said. “There were vacant windows and the town we loved needed love. The windows we typically would have used are now mostly occupied by businesses, so that’s a good thing.”

Mattituck resident Mark Sisson, whose group “People for the Ethical Treatment of Elves” took second place honors in last year’s Holiday Window Decorating contest, called the change a sort of “double-edged sword.”

“On one hand, it’s great stores are filling up in downtown Riverhead,” he said. “But on the other, it’s too bad that we don’t get a chance to have this fun thing for the holidays.”

A few of the once-vacant storefronts locals used to decorate are now occupied by stores include Twin Forks Bicycles, game shop TheWarStore.com, and Vines and Hops Café, Ms. Snyder said. Twin Forks Bicycles moved into downtown Riverhead in February 2012; TheWarStore.com and Vines and Hops Café both opened their doors this year.

The former Woolworth building on East Main Street, which Ms. Snyder said also used to get the decorative window treatment, will soon bustle with activity itself. Ultimate on Main is expected to open a large gym on the building’s ground floor by the end of the year, and another tenant, Goldberg’s Famous Bagels, plans to open its doors in an adjoining space by the start of 2014.

“There’s nothing like a live, animated storefront with people inside,” Vines and Hops Café co-owner Jeff McKay said. “Having that storefront come alive with patrons – it’s a great feeling.”


11/10/13 3:07pm
11/10/2013 3:07 PM
BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead High School rowers at the Snowflake Regatta Sunday.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead High School rowers at the Snowflake Regatta Sunday.

Hundreds of rowing enthusiasts descend on the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead Sunday for what has become a fall tradition — the annual Snowflake Regatta hosted by East End Rowing Institute.

Teams from both Riverhead and Bishop McGann-Mercy high schools participated in races along the 3,500 meter course Sunday.

View photos from the event below:

10/31/13 3:40pm
10/31/2013 3:40 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | A traffic study stated that Peconic Avenue in downtown Riverhead should be one way.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A traffic study stated that Peconic Avenue in downtown Riverhead should be one way.

Peconic Avenue should be a one-way road heading north into downtown Riverhead.

That’s a recommendation of a traffic study for downtown Riverhead that was done as part of the $567,000 Brownfield Opportunities Area grant from the state Department of State.

The study was discussed at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session.

The intersections of Route 25 (Main Street) with Roanoke Avenue and Peconic Avenue is the worst intersection in the study area, according to consultant Charles Voorhis of Nelson, Pope and Voorhis, the planning firm handling the study.

“The majority of the other spots are working pretty well,” he said at the work session.

The study area stretches from Tanger Outlets in the east to Hubbard Avenue in the west, and runs along Route 25. The traffic analysis shows that the traffic flow rating in the middle of downtown is an “F” for cars turning west onto Main Street from Peconic Avenue, as well as for cars turning south from Main Street onto Peconic Avenue, Mr. Voorhis told the Town Board.

Traffic heading west on Route 25 — either heading straight or turning north onto Roanoke Avenue — also received an “F” rating, as did traffic flowing east along Route 25 (eastbound traffic heading east and turning left, or north, onto Roanoke Avenue got a “B” grade.)

The proposed solution, which Town Board members seemed to agree with, would be to make Peconic Avenue a one-way, two-lane road with traffic only heading north onto Main Street.

The consultants also recommend two eastbound lanes on West Main Street heading into the Peconic Avenue and Roanoke Avenue intersection,  and two westbound lanes from Roanoke Avenue to Griffing Avenue.

Vehicles heading south on Roanoke Avenue would be allowed to make right turns-only onto Route 25, as is currently the case, and motorists intent on leaving town would be instead directed to Court Street, where cars could then take the small bridge over the Peconic River to Nugent Drive in Southampton Town.

The study recommends reducing the size of the concrete island at this intersection to better align court street with the bridge. It also recommends making Court Street two lanes heading south between Osborn Avenue and West Main Street. The bridge would continue to accommodate two-way traffic, with the third lane designated for northbound traffic.

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“This is a pretty common sense approach and seems to work,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

The current southbound lane on Peconic Avenue would become an emergency vehicle lane, so those vehicles could continue to use the road to head south, consultant Kathryn Eiseman said at the work session.

The BOA study is guided by a steering committee made up of Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill, Tanger Outlets general manager Janine Nebons, Long Island Aquarium general manager Bryan DeLuca, Dark Horse restaurant owner Dee Muma and Dennis McDermott, the owner of The Riverhead Project restaurant.

The County Department of Public Works is also planning changes to the Riverside traffic circle in neighboring Southampton Town, and has discussed making that a two-lane roundabout.

In order to make Peconic Lane a one-way road, the plan would require approval from state and county agencies, as Peconic Lane is a county road and Route 25 is owned by New York State.

“We will need to follow up and coordinate with the board, because you’re going to want to approach [the state] as soon as possible if that’s the scenario that you want to pursue,” Mr. Voorhis said.

Meanwnile, Southampton Town has also received a BOA grant as well, just last week, good for $236,000 in state funding to study Riverside.

A survey about downtown Riverhead was recently conducted by the Riverhead BOA study, and more than 700 responses were received, Ms. Voorhis said. He added that the recommendation for a one-way Peconic Lane is one area they would like to get public feedback on.

Additional information on the Riverhead BOA study can be found on Sustainable Long Island’s website, at http://sustainableli.org/.

That group is also working on the study.

Think a two-lane, one-way Peconic Lane would help traffic flow downtown? Let us know in the comments.

10/24/13 6:45pm
10/24/2013 6:45 PM
Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The historic Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead.

The News-Review reported live from tonight’s political debates between six candidates seeking three open seats on the Riverhead Town Board, including the supervisor seat.

The first debate featured incumbent Republican Town council candidates John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio against Democratic council challengers Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas. That was followed by incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter facing off against Democratic challenger Angela DeVito.

Click below to follow a recap:

10/22/13 9:00am
10/22/2013 9:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Spinners (front row from left) Liz McBurnie of Speonk, Devon Annabel of Cutchogue and Devora Walker of Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Spinners (front row from left) Liz McBurnie of Speonk, Devon Annabel of Cutchogue and Devora Walker of Riverhead.

“I work fast.”

So says April Yakaboski, who since 2009 has now opened up three health and fitness locations in downtown Riverhead with the launch of Spin-sanity, a spin cycle room on West Main street.

The studio opened the second week of October in space previously occupied by The Hamptons Furniture Co. on West Main Street, and features 29 RealRyder stationary bikes, which she purchased from a Westhampton Beach fitness studio that closed its doors recently.

Going for a “very Manhattan” feel, mocking the design of an urban street inside its walls, the studio will add to Yakaboski’s Aerial Fitness studio, and hot yoga studio, each of which are also located on West Main Street within a stone’s throw of Spin-sanity. All three businesses – in addition to stand-up paddleboard courses she started offering as well – cater to a niche audience, looking for something a little different when they step up get in shape, Yakaboski said.

“I try to do what the bigger gyms aren’t doing,” she said recently. With Ultimate Fitness opening a new 20,000 square-foot gym downtown, she added, “I hope they don’t try and do it.”

High Gear Fit in Westhampton closed up shop in mid-September, opening the doors for Yakaboski to capitalize on some secondhand goods that still offered high value to her customers. RealRyder-style stationary bikes, says Spin-sanity instructor Roland Walker, “offers more of a core and upper body workout.” The bikes – which go for about $2,000 a piece – pivot from side to side, offering a more real-life experience, he said.

“It takes power to take the bike over to the right or left,” said Walker, a Riverhead resident and state parks policeman who also teaches at a Real Ryder studio in Amagansett. ” You have to engage your core just to get the handlebars straight.”

Courses at Spin-sanity go for $22 a piece just to drop in, and Yakaboski said group rates for 10 to 30 courses can drop the per-course price down to $12.50. In addition, she said, a limited number of six-month memberships will be available starting in November.

10/21/13 1:46pm
10/21/2013 1:46 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Plans for a new consignment shop on East Main Street fell through this week.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Plans for a new consignment shop on East Main Street fell through this week.

“Red” or “Blue,” there won’t be a new consignment shop on East Main Street after all.

Plans for a proposed consignment shop called “The Blue Collection” to take the place of a shuttered shop in the same space fell through this week after the numbers just didn’t add up, said Michael Mahon, who was planning to run the store.

Last week, Mr. Mahon announced he would open a new consignment shop to replace “The Red Collection,” which closed last month. But now Mr. Mahon, the co-owner of the 73 Main boutique store across the street, said the cost of utilities in the vacant space make it impossible for him to move. Financing to fund the initial move also fell through, he said.

“For me to try to go from a small to medium business, [the cost] is very prohibitive,” he said.

Mr. Mahon said he was “eating humble pie” after realizing the plan wouldn’t work out.

“You can’t embrace the world all at once,” he said.

Instead, Mr. Mahon said 73 Main will transition into doing more consignments to pick up the Red Collection’s former customers. A new sign posted to the door of the empty “Red Collection” storefront instructs customers to visit the “new consignment shop 73 Main across the street.”


10/16/13 5:00pm
10/16/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Supervisor candidate Angela DeVito was joined downtown Tuesday afternoon by town council candidate Bill Bianchi (left) and supporters. Ms. DeVito said the private sector is responsible for downtown’s resurgence, not politicians. Supervisor Sean Walter, in office since 2010, said he welcomes the criticism.

Democrats running for Riverhead Town Board seats say the incumbent Republicans don’t deserve credit for revitalizing downtown Riverhead, something Supervisor Sean Walter has frequently touted in his previous – and current – bid for re-election.

“The Sean Walter administration has made scant progress in efforts to improve downtown Riverhead,” Democratic supervisor candidate Angela DeVito said at a press conference Tuesday outside the former site of the Red Collection, which went out of business a couple of weeks ago. “What little progress has been made should be credited to town business leaders and not town government.”

Ms. DeVito was joined at the press conference by running mate Bill Bianchi, who is seeking a seat on the Town Board, and several supporters.

In a statement handed out at the event, Ms. DeVito said that “the opening of The Riverhead Project, reopening of the Suffolk Theater and the promotional activities of the Business Improvement District are the work of entrepreneurial business leaders and not Sean Walter or the lackluster Town Board.”

Mr. Walter saw it differently.

“If that’s what they want to campaign on, I welcome it,” he said in an interview. “Business owners are very happy with the help they got from my office to move things forward.”

He suggested talking to business owners such as Bob Castaldi of the Suffolk Theater, John Mantzopoulos of Athens Grill and Dennis McDermott of The Riverhead Project. All three have opened – or, in Mr. Mantzopolous’ case are reopening – since 2010, when Mr. Walter stepped into Town Hall.

“That’s nonsense,” Mr. Castaldi said of the Democrat’s claims. “When Cardinale was here, we went nowhere. When Walter came in, it was like somebody lifted a wet blanket off the town. There’s no question about it in my mind. When Cardinale was here we spun our wheels for three years.”

Former Democratic Supervisor Phil Cardinale had attempted to take back the Suffolk Theater through a reverter clause in the sales contract between the town and Mr. Castaldi. Mr. Castaldi then sued, the issue was tied up in court for several years and the restoration stalled.

Mr. Mantzopoulos, whose restaurant was badly damaged in a fire in July, said that a Town Board resolution to waive building fees for Athens Grill and the Rendezvous, which had a fire the same week, was approved by the Town Board — but not unanimously, as Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman Jim Wooten did not support the measure.

“There was a little opposition from two people, so I don’t know if you can put them all in the same box,” Mr. Mantzopoulos said in an interview Tuesday. “But overall, my personal experience is that the town government has been good to me. If there are state grants that I’m eligible for, they’ll notify me. I can’t really complain about Town Hall in the last four years.”

Mr. Mantzopoulos said he’s known Ms. DeVito for nine years and Mr. Walter for four.

“At the end of the day, they’re both good people and I wish them both luck,” he said.

Ms. DeVito said at the press conference that the Town Board should concentrate on things such as public safety and the condition of downtown sidewalks and businesses will come. She said the town still has police officers stationed outside the Suffolk Theater after shows and said town zoning allows areas such as Route 58 to kill downtown businesses.

“We need someone who is going to clean up Second and Third streets, and work with Southampton Town to clean up Riverside,” she said.

Mr. Bianchi said the revitalization of downtown “has a long way to go.”


10/13/13 3:46pm
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The 38th Annual Riverhead Country Fair was held on the Peconic Riverfront Sunday morning.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The 38th Annual Riverhead Country Fair was held on the Peconic Riverfront Sunday morning.

Despite overcast skies and chilly breezes, the 38th annual Riverhead Country Fair drew thousands of people to the downtown area on Sunday.

One of the largest festivals in New York State, the fair celebrates Riverhead’s agricultural heritage and features displays and competitions, live music, vendors and family-friendly entertainment.

See the photos at northforker.com