04/08/14 10:00am
04/08/2014 10:00 AM
Peconic Bay in Riverhead

The entrance to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead. (Credit: file photo)

Peconic Bay Medical Center has eliminated 12 administrative positions as a result of declining patient admissions, a hospital spokesman said this week.

Another 40 vacant positions will also be eliminated from the health care facility’s budget, according to vice president of External Affairs Demetrios Kadenas.

A hospital press release said the decrease in patient volume is “likely attributable to the implementation of elements of the Affordable Care Act, the extreme winter and insurance changes across the region.”

Read more in the April 10 News-Review newspaper.

For the period of January to February 2014, Long Island hospitals saw a decline of nearly 3,600 admissions, a trend felt on the East End, according to the release.

At the same time, PBMC Health saw significant increases in certain new services, including its Urgent Care Center on the Feil Campus in Manorville — which is currently operating at a level 80 percent higher than originally anticipated, Mr. Kadenas said.

“Clearly, there is a shift from inpatient care to outpatient services in certain instances,” he said.

Over the course of the coming months, Mr. Kadenas said hospital officials will evaluate the impact of lost positions and what is required to fulfill the services they pertain to.

cmiller@timesreview.com

11/15/11 7:55am
11/15/2011 7:55 AM
Long Island fishing

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Ed Densieski of Riverhead harvests scallops in Orient Harbor last Monday. A plan to replenish bay scallops is among economic revitalization recommendations of the Long Island Regional Development Council.

Many regions throughout the U.S. have a cooperatively owned place where farmers can freeze their crops for easier shipping and long-term storage.

But not on Long Island.

That’s why a plan for a cooperatively owned agriculture freezer at Calverton Enterprise Park, as well as a plan to replenish bay scallops, are among 13 recommendations by the Long Island Regional Development Council, which has applied for $40 million in state aid to help pursue some of the ideas.

The island is vying to be one of four New York regions to receive a $25 million state grant and $15 million in tax credits. The remaining six regions will share $40 million, for a total of $200 million in state assistance. The state’s winners will be announced by Governor Andrew Cuomo in mid-December.

“The idea is to create a cold storage facility, for the farmers, owned cooperatively and run by Cornell Cooperative Extension,” said council board member and North Fork farm owner, Paulette Satur of Satur Farms in Cutchogue.

Ms. Satur said the lack of a cooling facility makes it difficult for Long Island farmers to compete nationally due in part to U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations.

“Things need to be done in a professional manner,” she explained. “And these facilities are very expensive.”

She said the plan, dubbed an “agripark,” is based on similar models in Hawaii and in other states, adding that it is in the development stage.

Both Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy approached the council at a meeting in October to stress the need for development at EPCAL, according to the meeting’s minutes.

The scallop replenishment plan, Ms. Satur said, would be modeled after the oyster restoration plan implemented several years ago and would include a large-scale feeding program.

Both those initiatives came from the suggestion of the Long Island Regional Economic Council’s natural assets committee, which Ms. Satur is a part of, she said.

The 10 New York state regional councils have been charged by the governor with identifying opportunities and projects that are best positioned to create jobs, according to the council’s website.

“The regional council approach is a shift to a community-based, performance-driven model for economic development and job creations,” said Austin Shafran, a spokesperson for Empire State Development, the primary state agency for economic development.

If the money is awarded to Long Island, the council would then decide how to divvy the money among the projects.

Other Island-wide projects that the council is seeking funding for include a Ronkonkoma-MacArthur Airport Transit Hub, sewer improvements for Hempstead Village and a plan to graduate more engineering majors from Long Island universities.

Officials said the projects would create a combined 42,421 jobs for Long Island.

vchinese@timesreview.com

09/12/11 4:14am
09/12/2011 4:14 AM

For the past several years, Times/Review Newspapers have carried numerous stories about the effects of the Great Recession on various business segments.

We would like to personalize the issue and tell readers’ stories. Have you lost a job; been threatened with or experienced foreclosure on your home; had your salary frozen; had to drop out of college for lack of tuition? What steps have you taken to survive this economy and how have fluctuating gas prices affected your life? What are you doing to make ends meet and what are you doing without because you can’t afford to buy what you need?

If you’re willing to tell your story, send a brief e-mail quickly recapping your experiences and providing your telephone number and e-mail address. Your comments should be sent to jlane@timesreview.com.

12/01/10 10:07am
12/01/2010 10:07 AM

JENNETT MERIDEN RUSSELL PHOTO | A federally funded program that provides free fuel oil and other heating help to low-income households throughout New York is in a heap of trouble. Known as the New York State Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, the program is being chilled by a lack of federal funding.

A federally funded program that provides free fuel oil and other heating help to low-income households throughout New York is in a heap of trouble. Known as the New York State Home Energy Assistance Program, or HEAP, the program is being chilled by a lack of federal funding.

Last season, the state received $549 million in federal funding for HEAP. This year, that’s down by more than half ­— 62 percent, in fact — to $207 million, according to Gregory Blass, commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services.

The number, which Mr. Blass said is 75 percent of what the federal government promised New York in HEAP aid this heating season, should go up a bit. He said he expected that the state will see another $70 million through the heating season, as well as an additional $59 million in contingency funds from the feds, bringing the total to $336 million in HEAP aid for the 2010-11 winter. But that’s still 38 percent less than last season.

Those cold-hard numbers are especially bad news considering the number of those in need of HEAP aid is rising even as funding shrinks, Mr. Blass said.

Roughly 44,000 Suffolk County residents applied for HEAP last season. Mr. Blass said it was impossible to calculate a total for this year because there are more people who would not normally look for help and applications are rapidly on the rise.

“It’s just spiraling out of control,” Mr. Blass said. “People who think the recession is over should look at the lines in our offices.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” he said. “This is the same difficulty we’re having with not enough shelters for people who are homeless. It’s the same frustration at not having sufficient supplies in our food pantries. We’re just having a very serious strain on limited resources.”

The current season’s HEAP aid will likely last only until February and that’s only if the state receives all the money from the feds for HEAP, according to Mr. Blass.

Locally, there is a glimmer of warmth amid the chilling news about HEAP. Linda Ortiz, director of Community Action of Southold Town, which helps hundreds of low-income people in crisis each year, said several North Fork oil delivery companies are helping local residents facing hard times.

Burt’s Reliable and Falkowski-Smith Plumbing, Heating and Fuels, both in Southold, as well as Hands Fuel Company in Orient have donated fuel oil and services, according to Ms. Ortiz.

John Romanelli, president of Burt’s Reliable, said it’s all about being a good neighbor.

“It’s a small community and in years past I’ve had local customers of mine donate money and oil to CAST to help pay for deliveries in the wintertime,” Mr. Romanelli said. “How much we donate varies from year to year. One year we had a very generous customer donate a thousand gallons and we matched him along the way — for every 100 gallons he put in, we put in 100 gallons. It’s just what this community does.”

HEAP was created in 1981 after the federal government consolidated a number of temporary energy assistance programs that were set up because of an oil embargo at the time by OPEC, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. The embargo led to fuel shortages and spiking prices.

Now, under the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, the federal government annually allocates funds on a state-by-state basis to assist eligible households. To qualify for HEAP, applicants must have an income below a specified maximum.

For example, a single individual cannot make more than $2,129 a month to qualify. A household of four cannot make more than $4,049 a month, while a family of 10 must make less than $5,896.

The program usually makes payments directly to the client’s utility company. Because the HEAP program provides support on a first-come, first-served basis, it’s important to apply as early as possible, because some states provide no further support once federal funding has run out, noted Suffolk County Legislator Edward Romaine.

“Here’s the problem with HEAP,” Mr. Romaine said. “Lots of people qualify, but there’s a limited amount money, so the fact that you qualify doesn’t mean you’re going to get it.”

People looking to receive HEAP benefits must apply for the program each year. To apply for a benefit, residents must go in person to the county Department of Social Services office in Riverhead.

Those who receive food stamps, temporary assistance or supplemental security income are also eligible for HEAP aid. People living in government subsidized housing or a group home setting with heat included in their rent are also eligible.
HEAP benefits are broken down into two categories: regular and emergency. Under the HEAP regular benefit, low-income New Yorkers are assisted with the cost of heating their homes. HEAP emergency benefits help out low-income New Yorkers who are facing a heat or heat-related energy emergency, such as a broken oil or gas burner or severely low home fuel reserves.

Regular HEAP benefits are based on income, the primary heating source and the presence of a household member under age 6, age 60 or older or permanently disabled.

Emergency HEAP benefits are based on income, available resources, the number of household members and the primary fuel type. In order to qualify for emergency HEAP, an applicant’s electric or gas heat has to have been shut off or be scheduled for shut off by a provider.

Both HEAP programs became effective for the winter of 2010-11 on Nov. 1, and thousands of Suffolk County residents have already signed up for the program, according to Mr. Romaine.

Those who have broken heating equipment, are out of fuel or are in danger of running out of fuel also qualify for emergency HEAP aid. Approved applicants can receive up to $600, depending on the nature of the emergency.
HEAP Heating Equipment Repair and Replacement funds are available to help eligible low-income homeowners repair or replace furnaces, boilers and other heating components necessary to keep the home’s primary heating source functional.

Benefit amounts up to $6,000 are based on the actual cost incurred to replace or repair furnaces, boilers and/or other essential heating equipment necessary to keep the primary heating source in the applicant’s home operational.
Among those who have benefited from HEAP aid is Katria Nieves, who ironically makes a living helping people facing tough times. The 25-year-old social worker is an office manager with CAST.

The Mattituck resident, who makes $12.50 an hour, qualified for HEAP aid last year. Ms. Nieves still has a $500 credit from last winter that she can apply this season, so she said she won’t be applying for more HEAP aid. That will give someone else a chance to receive a HEAP of helping, she said.

“I’ve been on my own for a couple of years,” said Ms. Nieves. “To be able to have the HEAP program at my hands is really a great, great, great help.”

To learn more about HEAP, call 853-8820 or the HEAP emergency services hotline at 854-9100 or 866-494-6873. Those who are over age 60 or disabled should contact the Suffolk County Office for the Aging at 853-8326. Applicants can also complete a HEAP pre-screening online at mybenefits.ny.gov/.

10/31/10 6:30pm
10/31/2010 6:30 PM

Assemblyman Marc Alessi (D-Shoreham) has introduced two bills aimed at job creation on Long Island.

The first would increase tax credits for start-up companies. His second bill, if it were to become law, would give tax credits to investors as an incentive to invest in companies in the state, and would also give tax credits to companies for expenses such as testing, prototyping, designing, lab equipment, product promotion, market research and licensing fees.

Mr. Alessi argued that New York State lacks the business ecosystem to foster innovation, but has a wealth of potential jobs looming due to the state’s many assets, including the workforce, research and patents. The state is currently losing jobs to places with similar tax issues, he said, such as Boston, Mass., Silicon Valley, Calif., and Houston, Texas.

Mr. Alessi, who chairs the Assembly’s subcommittee on the emerging workforce, said the state needs to offer assistance in business planning and, most importantly, provide incentives for investors to grow small businesses in the state. His recommendations come after a year of researching New York’s assets, the findings of which he published in a report released Monday.

“We have more engineers and researchers per capita in our area than most other areas in the U.S.,” he said at a press event in Shoreham. “With that intellectual quotient, we should be doing a whole lot more in terms of creating new products and creating new jobs.”

The goal of both bills is help facilitate the process of turning concepts into products.

“This is the new model for creating jobs in New York State,” he said. “The old model of throwing tax money at a target to bring retail jobs to New York State — those jobs are coming anyway, and it’s a waste of our tax dollars.

“These targeted tax credits will make a difference and will create good-paying jobs right here in our community,” Mr. Alessi said.

samantha@northshoresun.com


This post was originally published Oct. 13

10/27/10 2:08pm
10/27/2010 2:08 PM



KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO Handyman Ernie Fox checks equipment on a boat at Sea Tow in Southold, where, after a brief hiccup in 2008 that required workers to accept a pay cut to save jobs, salary levels were soon restored and the company continues to grow. Local business owners’ outlook on the future balances optimism with caution.

A sampling of North Fork business owners shows they are more optimistic than pessimistic about the regional job market.

Some admit the economic downturn has resulted in some layoffs or loss of jobs through attrition. And they agree some jobs won’t be recovered because remaining personnel will cover the bases.

ATLANTIS MARINE WORLD

The most optimistic picture was drawn by Atlantis Marine World general manager Brian DeLuca. Because the company is in the process of building a 100-room Hyatt Place hotel, banquet center and exhibit space adjacent to the Riverhead aquarium, it has been a year for creating construction jobs.

Mr. DeLuca estimated that 150 construction workers are employed at the site. He’s already hiring staff for the hotel, banquet center and exhibit space, anticipating that 75 to 125 permanent jobs will be created. Although still about eight months away from opening, Mr. DeLuca wants them to be ready to hit the ground running on opening day.

As for Atlantis Marine World’s ongoing operation, off season, about 150 people are employed off-season and about 250 during the summer. Many summer workers are students who return to school in the fall.

While this summer’s business wasn’t the best, it remained steady, Mr. DeLuca said. Sunny weekends brought a lot of people to the North Fork, but because of the heat, many spent their days at the beach instead of in downtown Riverhead, he said.

“Nonetheless, we are tremendously optimistic,” Mr. DeLuca said.

SEA TOW INTERNATIONAL

“We’re a little unique,” said Capt. Joseph Frohnhoefer of Southold-based Sea Tow International. His company not only serves boaters in distress, but also assists in situations like the recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Sea Tow has also diversified into building pontoon boats to work on at oil spill sites, he said. His workers are also involved in reseeding oyster beds in southern states, he added.

When the stock market crashed and companies began laying off workers in 2008-09, Capt. Frohnhoefer asked his staff to take a 5 percent pay cut to save jobs. They agreed and, within a few months, Sea Tow was able to restore the pay cut, he said.

Because the company has operations around the world, it continues to grow, which means job opportunities are growing too, he said. Even on the North Fork, where he employs about 50 workers, he continues to hire staff and is always looking for good people, he said. During the summer, Sea Tow employes between 500 and 600 workers worldwide, he said.

Business was about 30 percent better this summer than last, Capt. Frohnhoefer said. People who kept their boats in port last year were more inclined to take them out on the water this summer as gasoline prices declined. Still, with all the optimism about Sea Tow’s business, the captain saw a very slow recovery from the Great Recession.

He is skeptical about other businesses adding staff and believes there are questions about how health care reform is going to affect small businesses.

“Small business is going to hurt. But maybe the East End is a little recession-proof,” Capt. Frohnhoefer said.

“You can’t stand still,” he added. “You have to keep moving.”

STIDD SYSTEMS

Walter Gezari of STIDD Systems in Greenport takes a philosophical approach to the economy.

“Every job begins with a purchase order,” Mr. Gezari said. His company has been a longtime government contractor, fabricating boat seats and other marine parts, but also serves luxury yacht owners.

Those who place orders with him now aren’t so much customers of the past as people who have come into money — largely Wall Street money — and are looking to spend.

As for people who find too much month left after their paychecks are spent, they can’t cut spending to get out of the red, Mr. Gezari said. “The only solution is to make more money,” he said.

His quick answer for how to do that in a jobless economy: open a hamburger stand. It’s a business that has never failed in the United States, he said.

“The first thing that you’ve got to ditch is the whole idea of security,” Mr. Gezari said. He sees the recession as a natural part of a cycle and isn’t sure anyone can shorten it.

When consumers were buying high-ticket items manufactured abroad, they weren’t thinking about how their purchases were promoting jobs offshore, not at home, Mr. Gezari said.

At STIDD, about 90 percent of the positions that existed at the beginning of the Great Recession are still filled. The other 10 percent evaporated, but only as people left the company. By cross-training remaining personnel, Mr. Gezari said he was able to keep his manufacturing arm functioning without hiring replacements.

RIVERHEAD BUILDING SUPPLY

With nine stores, including those in Riverhead and Greenport, Edgar Goodale has seen a downturn in his business as people delay construction work in the tight economy. He said he can’t quantify it, but there have been some layoffs and he’s not hiring until business picks up.

The winter months are never the best for his business, he said. Whether or not next spring will see an upswing remains to be seen.

“I’m not that terribly pessimistic, but I’m not optimistic either,” he said. He’s taking a “wait and see” stance, but predicting that it will be years before the economy achieves a full recovery.

jlane@timesreview.com

10/06/10 5:02pm
10/06/2010 5:02 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Hilton Garden Inn general manager Ed Carroll and front desk associate Julie Mundell greet guest Eileen Kilgallen of Kings Park Friday afternoon. Ms. Kilgallen was staying in Riverhead to attend a wedding on the North Fork.

The economy may not have recovered fully, but North Fork hotel operators reported a decent summer and most remain optimistic that their businesses will prosper in the year ahead.
The local experience corresponds with data recently released by the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association in Albany indicating that 71 percent of hotel owners reported the summer of 2010 was as good or better than the previous summer. Figures for hotel occupancy from January to the end of July were up statewide by 8.4 percent, according to Smith Travel, a nationally recognized source of historical hotel performance data.
What’s critical on Long Island, according to Cindy Morrison, director of sales at Riverhead’s Holiday Inn Express and Hotel Indigo East End, is that more activities and events have been scheduled to keep visitors coming in during the off season.
To expand off-season business, her managers are working with the Long Island Wine Council and other tourist groups to find new ways to encourage people to visit the East End, she said.
“It’s exciting to see the growth potential,” Ms. Morrison said.
The East End is easily accessible for visitors from New York City, New Jersey and New England, and it’s an ideal “staycation” venue for people whose pocketbooks don’t allow them to take more exotic vacations, she said.
“We are still in a recession,” but occupancy rates were good this summer, Ms. Morrison said. She couldn’t release any specific data that management considers proprietary, she said.
Ed Carroll, general manager of Riverhead’s Hilton Garden Inn, said occupancy was up more than 11 percent over the summer of 2009 and the average daily rate for rooms was about 15 percent higher, he said. Rates averaged $139 per night.
“People are starting to loosen up a little” with spending, he said.
Ellen Wiederlight at Greenport’s Soundview Inn, said her July and August bookings improved over last year, but visitors booked shorter stays. In past years, visitors often booked for a week or more. This summer, they were booking rooms for a few nights.
“I think people are still price resistant,” she said.
June was quirky for her. She had better June numbers in 2009 than she did this year even though June 2009 was marked by persistent rain.
“I’ve seen other down seasons,” Ms. Wiederlight said, noting that she’s been in the business for 40 years. “I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic,” she said. “I’m just rolling with it.
Weddings and other group reservations helped to sustain business at the Soundview this summer, she said.
During the just-ended high summer season, visitors got hit with a higher Suffolk County hotel tax, which rose from .75 percent to 3 percent and brought overall taxes on a room to 11.62 percent, Ms. Wiederlight said. Although the county Legislature promised that the anticipated $5.1 million in revenues from that increase would be used to promote tourism, East End hotel operators weren’t optimistic they would see much of that money spent on promoting their businesses.
That concern was voiced this week by Deborah Rivera, who operates the Greenporter with her husband, Bill Pittorino. All the “I Love New York” commercials and advertisements focus on upstate locations, she complained, not eastern Long Island.
“There’s tons to offer here and we’ve just got to get the focus,” Ms. Rivera said.
She joined Ms. Morrison in seeing off-season activities as a way to keep tourists coming to the East End. It’s important to retain momentum throughout the harvest season, she said.
Numbers were definitely up at the Greenporter from last year, Ms. Rivera said.
“But that’s not saying a lot,” she added, referring to the difficult summer of 2009.
Ms. Rivera held steady on room pricing, saying there was no way her upscale hotel could or should try to compete with the low rates offered by some hotels and cruise lines. Her rates ranged from $169 a night for a superior queen room Sundays through Thursdays to $339 for a deluxe king room on weekends.
The advantage of an East End vacation is that visitors don’t have to spend hours getting to airports and have the convenience of being able to drive here, Ms. Rivera said.
jlane@timesreview.com

10/05/10 4:37pm
10/05/2010 4:37 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO This Rolling Woods, Riverhead, house in foreclosure was scheduled to be sold on the steps of Town Hall last Friday. The auction was canceled and the house still has not been sold.

Announcements of foreclosure sales for properties in Riverhead have peppered the legal notices in recent weeks, and although Southold’s foreclosed properties are comparatively few and far between, the statistics on people here who are behind on their mortgages and in danger of losing their homes are staggering.
As of last week, 208 people in Southold Town and 430 people in Riverhead were at least 30 days behind on their mortgages, according to Kristopher Pilles, owner of East End REOs, which specializes in distressed real estate. He says that these figures make him worry that foreclosures will soon be on the rise, even in areas like Southold, which once seemed immune to foreclosure.
“That’s a huge number,” said Mr. Pilles. “I’m just hammered. The North Fork has fared better than the Hamptons but it looks like it’s going to be catching up this winter.”
He estimated that, in a healthy market, only 15 to 20 percent of that number of people in both towns would be behind on their mortgages. Though 30 days behind is a very early stage — before default or foreclosure — mortgages in that condition, known as lis pendens, are the best available statistical indicator of the foreclosure market.
The Multiple Listing Service shows nine houses in foreclosure this week in Flanders, but only one in Riverhead and none on the North Fork. Bank-owned properties do not always appear on MLS, depending on the bank’s strategy for selling the property. The outstanding mortgages on the Flanders properties listed on MLS range from $292,500 to $600,000, well above the bottom end of asking prices in Flanders, where the lowest priced house this week was a two bedroom, one bath for $90,000, less than the loan on it was worth.
“People had a lot of expectations that didn’t pan out” in Flanders and Riverside, said Mr. Pilles. “The value was not what people expected. The whole region was driven by greed and ignorance.”
In Southold, a four-bedroom historic house in foreclosure on the Main Road was initially listed for $247,000 and sold for $220,000 earlier this month, an indicator that even banks are testing the market’s floor.
Kathy Rosenbaum of Lloyd’s Realty in Greenport, which sold the Southold house, said this week that price reductions on foreclosures are not uncommon.
“If they’re getting appraisals from someone who’s not from the area, they could tend to price them higher” than is realistic, Ms. Rosenbaum said. “Sometimes they want to see what they can get” for the property.
She pointed out one example — a three bedroom, two bath foreclosed property on Meday Avenue in Mattituck — that initially listed in May at $319,000 and is now offered at $269,000. Another property, next door to the Blue Dolphin Resort in East Marion, was listed in foreclosure at $450,000 earlier this year and has since been reduced to $362,000, with with no takers yet, she said.
“It will be coming back on the market with a different broker,” she said. “That’s an example of an out-of-the-area broker.”
Mr. Pilles said The Blue Dolphin itself is bank-owned, and several buildings surrounding the motel that are owned by the same company but were financed with different banks are in various stages of foreclosure. He said he sees numerous reports that show commercial properties on the North Fork with owners who are falling farther and farther behind on their mortgages.
“There are some really big assets in Greenport, Cutchogue and Mattituck,” he said, adding that many business owners have been operating on equity lines of credit and will soon be unable to pay their bills.
“If you look at the fact that some people owe $3 million on something they paid half a million dollars for, that explains the situation,” he said.
Though buyers historically needed to pay cash for foreclosures, banks have been willing to finance them in recent years.
“People are looking for what’s cheap,” said Ms. Rosenbaum. “A lot of people don’t understand the process. They need more education on how it works. It’s easier if you have the cash but the banks will also lend money out. It depends on the condition of the property. If the house has been trashed, it may be more difficult to finance.”
“The long-term stability of the region is great,” said Mr. Pilles. “We’ve got to get values back in check. On the North Fork, once properties hit the $300,000 price range, they sell quickly. That’s a really good underlying value of real estate here. It’s a great buying opportunity. In areas in Riverhead, there are a lot of people who rent who could easily afford to own. It’s a matter of knowing that buying a house is possible.”
byoung@timesreview.com