03/20/13 10:14am
03/20/2013 10:14 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Reeves Park residents placed candles at a memorial for Tommy Kelly near Sound Avenue on Sept. 11.

Suffolk County on Tuesday formally closed on the acquisition of a four-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead for creation of a memorial park for Sept. 11 victims and emergency responders.

The land was owned by Kenney Barra’s EMB Enterprises and had been proposed for a 28,000-square-foot commercial development in 2003 consisting of stores and a restaurant. That plan ran into opposition from community members and town officials, who rezoned the land to residential uses, only to have that zoning later overturned in court after Mr. Barra sued.

Former county legislator Ed Romaine put in a bill to acquire the land as a park in 2010, and the Legislature approved the $1.28 million acquisition last November, at Mr. Romaine’s last meeting.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in the Reeves Park area, thanked Riverhead Town officials for their help at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I look forward to working with you guys in creating a wonderful park that Riverhead can be extremely proud of,” Mr. Biegler said.

A small 9/11 memorial has already been created at the site in memory of Thomas Kelly, a Reeves Park resident and FDNY member who died in the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. Park Road is also known as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

Thomas Kelly’s brother Bob, himself a retired New York City fire fighter and Reeves Park resident, has been calling for the creation of the memorial park.

“This land acquisition means so much more than just the purchase of open space,” Bob Kelly told county legislators in November.

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/03/13 5:00pm
02/03/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Riverhead News-Review People of the Year (clockwise from top): Civic person Georgete Keller, Educator Jeff Doroski, Overall POY Denise Lucas, Business person Rich Stabile and Public servant Ed Romaine.

The Riverhead News-Review held its annual People of the Year reception this week, honoring those who were selected in our first issue of the new year.

You can read more about our 2012 People of the Year by clicking on the links below:

Person of the Year: Denise Lucas

Public Servant of the Year: Ed Romaine

Educator of the Year: Jeff Doroski

Business Person of the Year: Rich Stabile

Civic Person of the Year: Georgette Keller

01/04/13 10:00am
01/04/2013 10:00 AM
North Fork, Riverhead, Southold,Ed Romaine, Person of the Year 2012

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Former North Fork county Legislator Ed Romaine.

2012’s Public Servant of the Year for both The Suffolk Times and the Riverhead News-Review is someone who represented both Southold and Riverhead towns over the past seven years, but who won’t be representing either in 2013.

Ed Romaine, who was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor in November, is our choice for Public Servant of the Year for his work as the North Fork’s representative in the Suffolk County Legislature from 2006 to 2012.

And a lot of people agree.

“I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving of this than Ed,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. “As supervisor, I have worked with Ed on issues ranging from stormwater mitigation to erosion control to farmland preservation. Ed has been our go-to guy on just about any issue. He’s tireless. He’s got an institutional knowledge. He’s one of those guys that just tries to make a difference every day in as nonpartisan a fashion as possible.”

“He is probably one of the few remaining true statesmen that we have left in the county,” said Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in the Reeves Park area of Riverhead. “He works across party lines, he understands the importance of community and he understands the importance of representing his constituents without concern for party affiliation or party line.”

At the request of the Reeves Park community, Mr. Romaine worked to get the county to acquire a four-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, where a shopping center had been proposed, in order to make a 9-11 Memorial there. At least two families in Reeves Park lost loved ones on Sept. 11.

“He took our cause right up to the end, at his last county legislative meeting,” when the acquisition was finally approved, Mr. Biegler said. “I couldn’t think of a better person for this award. We are sorry he is going over to Brookhaven.”

In the Legislature, Mr. Romaine and South Fork representative Jay Schneiderman were consistently outnumbered 16-2 by West End legislators.

Now it’s 16 to 1, said Mr. Schneiderman, who not only fought alongside Mr. Romaine on bills to benefit the East End, but also knew him before he entered public office.

“He was my seventh grade social studies teacher in Hauppauge,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

“Ed has been a tremendous fighter for the people of the East End,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “He’s got a great record on the environment and, for the past eight years, he’s been a great partner of mine in protecting the interests of the East End.”

Mr. Schneiderman, who was elected to the Legislature as a Republican but switched his enrollment to the Independence party, said Mr. Romaine “puts party interests aside and works for the good of the people.”

“Ed Romaine is going to be sorely missed by the Town of Riverhead,” said Mason Haas, a town assessor who has worked with Mr. Romaine on the issue of getting the homeless sex offender trailers removed from county property in Riverside and Westhampton. “He’s been a friend and advocate for us.”

Other issues Mr. Romaine worked on include getting fire wells put in the pine barrens, helping people who lost their homes to flooding on Horton Avenue in Riverhead, acquiring the North Fork Preserve in Northville for parkland, getting weekend bus service on the East End and fighting the MTA payroll tax.

Mr. Romaine’s successor will be chosen in a Jan. 15 special election between Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Southold Councilman Al Krupski.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/28/12 2:00pm
12/28/2012 2:00 PM

SUFFOLK COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE PHOTO | The proposed pool and fitness center at Suffolk County Community College’s eastern campus would be similar to this one at the Brentwood campus.

Suffolk County Community College’s proposed “Health and Wellness Center” at the Eastern Campus in Northampton, a project that would include an indoor swimming pool, will need to get an exemption from the state’s Central Pine Barrens Commission before it can move forward.

The Eastern Campus, which was built in 1977, is located within the core of the Central Pine Barrens, an area where the state’s 1993 Pine Barrens Protection Act places strict limits on new development.

But the college argues that the health and wellness center was part of a 1973 college master plan for the Eastern Campus, and that many other components of that plan have been allowed to be built by the Pine Barrens Commission.

The fitness center project, which would be similar to what the college has at its Brentwood campus, would include an eight lane indoor swimming pool, fitness center, meeting space and nursing laboratory, according to George Gatta, an executive vice president at the college.

The fitness center would include a strength training room, aerobic room, gymnasium, classroom space, office space, locker rooms and lobby, according to the county.

The Suffok County Legislature has included $17.75 million for the project in its capital budget.

The college plans to make the fitness center and pool opened for use by the general public when not being used by the college. At Brentwood, the fitness center and pool have more than 1,440 members, who pay a membership fee, and the pool is also used by local high schools and swim clubs that rent it for meets, according to Mary Lou Araneo, the college’s vice president for institutional advancement.

Mr. Gatta argued at a Dec. 21 meeting of the Pine Barrens Commission that the college’s 1973 master plan for the Eastern Campus included six buildings that the Pine Barrens Commission has allowed to be built on the campus since 1995, including the 40,000 square foot Montauk Learning Resource Center, which was formally opened last year.

In order to get an exemption to build in the Pine Barrens Core, a development must qualify as “non-development” under the guidelines of the 1993 law.

One category that the Pine Barrens law does not define as “development” is “public improvements undertaken for the health, safety and welfare of the public.”

The college is arguing that the health and fitness center falls under that category.

In 1995, the college submitted its 1993 master plan for the Eastern Campus, which included the health and wellness center in a “phase two,” and which included the Montaukett building in Phase One, to the Pine Barrens Commission.

The commission, on Jan. 3, 1995, ruled that Phase One of the master plan “constitutes non-development” under the Pine Barrens Act, but it made no mention of phase two or three of the college master plan.

“We never got an explanation why phase two and three were not included,” said Louis Petrizzo, the college’s general counsel.

“The college continued to inform the commission of its plans to implement the remaining elements of the 1973-76 and 1993 master plans, as well as the 2001 master plan update,” Mr. Gatta said. They sent letters to the commission in 2005 and 2006 and have received no response or explanation why the second and third phases of their master plan didn’t receive approval.

He said the college, “receiving no response to either communication, moved forward with the planning and contraction of the Learning Resource Center and continued to plan for the implementation of the Health and Wellness Center.”

The Pine Barrens Commission is made up of the supervisors of Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven towns, along with one representative each from Suffolk County and New York State.

“We’ve already passed judgment that this is non-development,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, alluding to the 1995 Pine Barrens ruling.

John Milazzo, the attorney for the commission, reminded him that the master plan was in three phases, and only the first one received commission approval in 1995.

“So, if the first phase was non-development, couldn’t we just pass a resolution at the next meeting saying this is non-development too?” Mr. Walter asked.

Richard Amper, the executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society (which is not part of the pine barrens commission, although Mr. Amper was instrumental in developing the Pine Barrens Act), pointed that there were amendments to the Pine Barrens Act in 2005, and that there may be different criteria now than there was in 1995.

Mr. Milazzo concurred. He also said that the presentation at the Dec. 21 meeting was just for informational purposes, and that there is currently no formal application before the commission for the college’s plans, so they couldn’t approve them yet.

Mr. Amper later criticized commissioner members during a hearing that same day on Kent Animal Shelter’s proposal for a new shelter building at its River Road location, which needs an exception to build in the Pine Barrens core.

During that hearing, Mr. Walter praised Kent, saying they are “our defacto municipal shelter” and handle 50 percent of the dog needs for the town.

Mr. Amper said that “Kent’s providing a great public service is entirely irrelevant to the application.”

He said he’s been complaining lately that the commission members are judging applications based on whether they are a good use or provide a public service, rather then whether they meet the criteria set forth of the Pine Barrens legislation.

“Even if it were a place to honor saints, that doesn’t mean it qualifies for a hardship exemption,” Mr. Amper said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

11/29/12 6:00am
11/29/2012 6:00 AM

AL KRUPSKI   and   SEAN WALTER

Thanksgiving is in the past and Christmas and Hanukkah are in the near future, so why are local politicos charged up these days?

It’s simple: There’s a one-of-a-kind election coming in January to fill the county Legislature seat Ed Romaine left following his election last month as Brookhaven’s new town supervisor.

The election is one-of-a-kind in more than just the unusual timing. It appears that Southold Democratic Councilman Al Krupski will go head to head with Riverhead Republican Supervisor Sean Walter. This may be the first time an elected official from one North Fork town has run against one from the other.

But even before the campaigning begins, there’s a dispute brewing over the election’s timing.

Democrats, who control the county executive’s office and the Legislature, are expected to move next week to schedule the vote for Jan. 15. Republicans question the rush and note that, by law, the county has 90 days from the time of Mr. Romaine’s departure to schedule the vote, which could push it back into February.

The GOP says voters should be given as much time as is available to get to know the candidates. But there’s also the concern that the North Fork is left without representation at the county level every day the seat is empty.

As is often the case, there’s more to this than meets the eye. Democrats, still basking in the glow of President Obama’s and Congressman Tim Bishop’s winning campaigns, and flush with cash, would like to get voters to the polls as soon as possible. Then again, the GOP could use more time to campaign against Mr. Krupski, who seems to have developed no political enemies in 28 years in office. A farmer of Polish lineage, the councilman also hopes to tap into both constituencies in Riverhead.

Does an earlier election give the Democrats a competitive advantage? Perhaps. But the GOP faces a greater concern in the fractious nature of the Riverhead party. Mr. Walter’s party controls the Town Board, but peace rarely seems to hold among board members. Will the GOP support him fully — a Walter victory would open Riverhead’s top spot for someone else — or will they leave him on his own?

It doesn’t seem that a month’s difference in the vote would affect that either way.

11/26/12 6:49pm
11/26/2012 6:49 PM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Suffolk Republican leaders have chosen their nominee for the 1st District seat in the County Legislature, and the last man to hold the post indicated Monday that Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter could be the choice.

Suffolk Republican leaders have chosen their nominee for the 1st District seat in the County Legislature, and the last man to hold the post indicated Monday that Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter could be the choice.

Speaking after his inauguration as Brookhaven Town Supervisor, Ed Romaine said Monday that he’s hearing party officials are giving “serious consideration” to Mr. Walter, who emerged last week as a finalist for the job. Riverhead council members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio, and Romaine aide Bill Faulk, are the other three finalists.

Suffolk County Republican Chairman John Jay LaValle confirmed Monday that a nominee has been selected by the Republican Committee and that a press release will be issued Tuesday morning, but he declined to name which of the four finalists would get the nod.

“We’ve made our decision,” Mr. LaValle said Monday afternoon. “I just can’t say who it is yet.”

Mr. Walter, Ms. Giglio and Mr. Faulk all said Monday that they had not yet heard from party officials.

Democrats have already chosen Southold Councilman Al Krupski as their nominee.

Mr. Romaine said whoever the nominee is, they’ll have a challenge going up against Mr. Krupski in just a six-week election cycle.

“I know [Mr. Krupski] and he’ll put up a good fight,” Mr. Romaine said.

Mr. Romaine confirmed that the election will likely be held Jan. 15, a date he said will be voted on at the County Legislature’s meeting next Tuesday. By law, the election must be held within 90 days of the previous Legislator leaving office.

With the Democrats having already announced their candidate, he said the Democratic majority in the Legislature would prefer to schedule the election for as early as possible.

“They’re not going to schedule it for Feb. 9,” Mr. Romaine said.

Of the four finalists for Legislature, only Ms. Giglio was absent from Mr. Romaine’s inauguration at a packed Brookhaven Town Hall Monday afternoon. Mr. Walter, who has been locked in a public battle with Ms. Giglio that has escalated in recent weeks, attended the inauguration with his political adviser, Anthony Coates, who has already announced his intention to unseat Ms. Giglio next November.

gparpan@timesreview.com

11/24/12 5:00pm
11/24/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Reeves Park residents placed candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11. A new park would be dedicated to his memory.

In North Fork County Legislator Ed Romaine’s final meeting, the Legislature voted last week to acquire a four-acre site on Sound Avenue and Park Road for use as a memorial park honoring first responders and victims of September 11.

The acquisition came more than a year after property owner Kenney Barra signed a contract to sell the land to Suffolk County and several months later than expected, Mr. Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said.

Mr. Barra had previously proposed building a shopping center at the site, which  ran into stiff opposition from locals and government officials alike.

The county paid $1,277,645, or a bit less than $305,000 per acre, for the 4.2 acre site on the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road (also known as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive). The vote was almost unanimous, but Legislator Tom Barraga (R-West Islip) voted against the acquisition and Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) was not in the room when the vote was taken.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Civic Association in the Reeves Park area, and Bob Kelly, a Reeves Park and retired New York City firefighter whose brother Tom was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, had urged the Legislature to approve the acquisition, as had Riverhead Town deputy supervisor Jill Lewis and Riverhead deputy town attorney Ann Marie Prudenti.

The town has committed $50,000 toward maintenance of the park, which will also have a reflecting pool, benches and a walking trail, according to Ms. Lewis. The $50,000 is not included in the acquisition cost, Mr. Romaine said.

“Riverhead has [little funds] available for acquisition because they were very aggressive in trying to prevent overdevelopment,” Mr. Romaine said.

The county will pay for the land through voter-approved drinking water protection money.

Mr. Biegler told the legislators last Tuesday that the value of maintaining open space farmland on the East End benefits the entire county.

“People come from all over Suffolk County to pick strawberries on the North Fork or to take tours at wineries,” he said, “This property is unique,” he said.

“This land acquisition means so much more than just the purchase of open space,” Bob Kelly told the legislators. In addition to helping maintain the area’s rural character, “it would also serve as a true hamlet park and memorial to all those who perished in Sept. 11.”

Mr. Kelly said he lost many friends that day, as well as his brother Tom, who was a firefighter in Brooklyn and responded to the Twin Towers.

“If you spoke to the families of these people, they would acknowledge that this is a special place, and they would like for this memorial park to see the light of day, in honor of my brother and all those we lost that day,” he said.

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) questioned the price per acre, which he thought was “an awful lot of money.”

But he ended up voting for the acquisition.

“While I’m somewhat offended by the price of this, I’m humbled by your description of the purpose and the meaning behind this proposal,” he said.

He and others thanked Mr. Romaine, who sponsored the bill to buy the land and was in his last meeting as a county legislator. He was elected Brookhaven Town supervisor earlier this month and will be sworn in Monday afternoon.

“I’ll miss this body,” Mr. Romaine said.

“And we will miss you,” Bill Lindsay, the presiding officer of the Legislature, told Mr. Romaine.

tgannon@timesreview.com

11/20/12 10:28am
11/20/2012 10:28 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead Town Board members John Dunleavy, Sean Walter and Jodi Giglio (top, left to right) all screened for a COunty Legislature seat Monday.

The Suffolk County Republican Party screened eight candidates — seven from Riverhead Town, including Supervisor Sean Walter and councilpeople Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy  — to run as the Republican candidate in a special election this February to fill the county Legislature seat left vacant by Ed Romaine, a party official said.

Ms. Giglio, Mr. Dunleavy and Mr. Walter met with county party leadership and the chairs and vice chairs of the Brookhaven, Riverhead and Southold town Republican committees Monday night to screen for the position, said Riverhead town GOP chairman John Galla.

Others who screened Monday include Bill Faulk, who served as an aide to Mr. Romaine during his time in the Legislature; former Conservative Committee chair James Saladino; Catherine Stark, the daughter of former town supervisor and councilman Jim Stark who now serves as chief of staff to County Legislator Jay Schniederman; Frank Seabrook; a ZBA member and conservative blogger; and Ed Densieski, a town Planning Board member and former Riverhead councilman.

“They all did exceptionally well,” Mr. Galla said of the candidates. “Everyone was on their game.”

The Republican candidate will be decided by the party and not through a primary because the vote to fill Ed Romaine’s seat will be a special election.

Mr. Faulk of Manorville was the only person who screened who resides outside the town’s limits.

No other candidates from other towns screened for the position Monday night, Mr. Galla said, though he added it wasn’t too late.

Though he could not provide a timetable for when the party would reach a decision, Mr. Galla said it would have to be soon because of the upcoming election and holiday seasons.

“We would rather do this sooner as a opposed to later,” he said. “Going into the holidays, this is an interesting dynamic. Some people are going to be out of town.”

Suffolk County Republican Party chairman John Jay LaValle could not be reached for comment.

psquire@timesreview.com

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the GOP had screened seven candidates.