10/01/13 9:00am
10/01/2013 9:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Candidates for open public offices across town attended Monday night's event.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Candidates for open public offices across town attended Monday night’s event.

More than a dozen candidates vying for open seats in public office to represent Riverhead and the North Fork lined up at Polish Hall Monday night to introduce themselves to voters and answer questions posed by the audience members as part of a “Meet the Candidates Night.”

The event — which was co-hosted by the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and the Long Island Farm Bureau — featured the candidates running for the offices of town supervisor, town council, assessor, highway superintendent, state assemblyman and county legislator.

Farm Bureau executive director and event moderator Joe Gergela set the tone early in the night, reminding the candidates the event wasn’t a debate and that they should only answer the questions they were asked.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Town Supervisor Sean Walter and challenger Angela DeVito chat during the event during a break in the speeches

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter and challenger Angela DeVito during a break in the speeches.

But many of the roughly 50 audience members were connected to political campaigns of the candidates in the room, and Mr. Gergela later admitted that he had to screen questions from the audience that were too inflammatory.

Some questions posed to the candidates were focused on the town’s economy, specifically concerning development at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, as well as agritourism.

Incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter said that while he was disappointed by delays in getting EPCAL developed, he was confident that pending state legislation to allow the town to fast-track developement applications would “provide an incentive like no one else has.”

“That’s a game changer, folks,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Walter, a Republican, said he was confident that by subdividing EPCAL, the town would be able to earn back enough money to balance its budget and make smart reinvestments in the town.

Both Councilwoman  Jodi Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy agreed that subdividing EPCAL would be the best way to earn revenue for the town.

“You can’t sell what you can’t subdivide,” Mr. Dunleavy said.

But Angela Devito, the Democratic challenger for supervisor, said there was still “a lot more work to be done” on getting EPCAL producing revenue for Riverhead. She warned that speculators may purchase the land but stall development, and said the town would need to invest in infrastructure at EPCAL to make it feasible for industry.

“[Developers] are not going to cover all that cost,” she said. EPCAL’s distance from major metropolitan centers also makes it difficult and not cost efficient for industries to transport goods to the site, she said.

Democractic challengers for town council, Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas, said the town could induce more industries to move to EPCAL by negotiating for lower fuel and electricity prices.

Legislature candidates Al Krupski and Albie DeKerilis were asked about balancing the need for agritourism and farmers to flourish with traffic concerns by residents.

Both Mr. Krupski, who was elected in a special election in January to complete the term left by former legislator Ed Romaine, and Mr. DeKerilis agreed farms need customers to survive and that the agritourism market is an important portion of the region’s economy and identity. But both men also said traffic is a concern.

Mr. Krupski said he’s begun working with state officials to promote the North Fork during the “shoulder seasons” like the early winter to alleviate the burden of traffic in the fall. Mr. DeKerilis said he would look into providing more trains or buses if elected to get some cars off the streets.

The Assembly candidates — Democrat John McManmon and Republican Anthony Palumbo — were asked their opinion on the state SAFE Act, a gun control law which passed by the Legislature in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Highway Superintendent George "Gio" Woodson introduces himself at Monday night's event. Mr. Woodson said he should be reelected based on his department's success despite an inadequate budget. His challenger, Michael Panchak, said the town would need to start investing in its equipment to meet emissions standards.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson introduces himself at Monday night’s event. Mr. Woodson said he should be re-elected based on his department’s success despite an inadequate budget. His challenger, Michael Panchak, said the town would need to start investing in its equipment to meet emissions standards.

Mr. Palumbo said the legislation was “certainly a political move,” and that he believes the SAFE act would not prevent another school shooting and needed to be tweaked. He also questioned whether the law was intended to boost Governor Andrew Cuomo’s potential presidential bid.

Mr. McManmon, a Riverhead High School graduate, said he would have supported the SAFE Act, noting that he knows his view may not be politically popular in the area. He argued that laws should target reducing gun violence and not focus on gun control.

Both Mr. McManmon and Mr. Palumbo said they would be interested in joining the Assembly’s education committee if election, with Mr. McManmon saying retaining Long Island’s educated youth with quality jobs was key. Mr. Palumbo said he would seek to eliminate “unfunded mandates” handed down by the state’s education department.

One question posed by the audience specifically focused on Mr. Dunleavy and the clear cutting of the Costco property on Route 58. Mr. Dunleavy pointed out that the Costco developers didn’t break the town’s code in clearing the land, saying “everything was done legally.”

Assessor candidate Greg Fischer also spoke at the event, stating his “revolutionary” plan to use the powers of the assessor’s office to assess certain businesses at a more favorable rate, to encourage “the right kind” of growth. The other candidate for assessor, incumbent Laverne Tennenberg, was unable to attend the event.

After the event, Riverhead Chamber of Commerce executive director Mary Hughes said she was pleased the candidates turned out and remained respectful throughout the event.

She also said she had hoped more residents would have attended.

“I don’t know if it’s … [because] it didn’t get promoted enough, or is it just lack of interest by the public?” she said. “I don’t know.”

psquire@timesreview.com

09/10/13 6:30pm
09/10/2013 6:30 PM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Councilwoman Jodi Giglio celebrates her primary election win with fellow Town Board members James Wooten (left) and George Gabrielsen.

Riverhead Town Democratic Committee nominee Angela DeVito beat challenger Ann Cotten-DeGrasse by 501 to 229 votes in the primary race for the Democrats’ supervisor nod Tuesday.

In the at-large Republican race for two Town Council nominations, Jodi Gilgio was the top vote-getter with 912, followed by John Dunleavy with 878 and Anthony Coates with 484, according to the county Board of Elections.

And in the Independence Party primary for Town Council, Ms. Giglio led the three-candidate pack with 68 votes, followed by Democratic nominee Bill Bianchi with 65 and Mr. Dunleaby with 37. That was also an at-large race.

The News-Review had reporters at all the candidates’ camps and reported live from 8:30 p.m. The polls closed at 9 p.m.

Click below for the live reports, including quotes, photos and reactions from the candidates and supporters.

Riverhead voters head to the polls on primary day

Brief bios on primary candidates for town office

Republican rivals square off at primary debate

Supervisor hopefuls on how they would run town

09/04/13 3:00pm
09/04/2013 3:00 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO  |  The fence that runs along Foxwood Village and the Shops at Riverhead property lines.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The fence that runs along Foxwood Village and the Shops at Riverhead property lines just north of Route 58 in Riverhead.

While Riverhead Councilman John Dunleavy has been able to avoid most of the controversy in the three-way primary for two Republican council nominations this fall, that hasn’t been the case in the past week, where he’s managed to anger some of his Foxwood Village neighbors regarding answers to questions at a recent candidate debate.

John Dunleavy of Riverhead

John Dunleavy

Those neighbors say Mr. Dunleavy was the president of the Foxwood Village Homeowners Association for two years while The Shops at Riverhead application was pending with the town, and that he should have taken a more active role in monitoring the development of the proposed shopping center next to their homes.

The Shops at Riverhead, which will feature a Costco as its anchor store, was first proposed in 2007. The developer recently cleared the trees up to the Foxwood Village property line, angering residents there.

“He was the president [of the HOA] at the time the scoping meeting was held on this development and he knew everything was coming down the pike and never told us,” said Marylee Feldman, the current Foxwood Village HOA president told the News-Review. “He didn’t protect us.”

“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Mr. Dunleavy responded.

Mr. Dunleavy said the HOA at Foxwood Village deals only with providing recreation for the residents of the community there, and the president also may relay concerns some residents have to the retirement community’s owners.

“The homeowners association is only a recreation association,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “It has nothing to do with the running of Foxwood Village.”

Not so, Ms. Feldman said.

“All things representing the homeowners are taken up with that group,” Ms. Feldman said.

Paul Spina, another Foxwood Village resident, said in an interview that current bylaws of the Homeowners Association state that the obligation of the HOA “is to safeguard the interests of the members.”

He added, “Apparently Mr. Dunleavy did not take his obligation too seriously if he only considered himself a recreation committee member.”

Mr. Dunleavy’s wife, Marie, said Mr. Dunleavy was asked by the HOA three years ago to talk to the group about town issues and he has done so.

“When they liked what he was saying, it was fine,” Ms. Dunleavy said. “Now, they don’t like what he’s saying, so it’s not fine.”

She said the couple has lived in Foxwood Village retirement community for 13 years and “until this month, there’s never been a political atmosphere here or a problem here.”

She said the residents of Foxwood Village knew all about the Costco development and the pending land clearing.

At the Sept. 16 “Riverhead at a Crossroads” candidate debate at the Suffolk Theatre, Mr. Dunleavy and fellow incumbent Republican council candidate Jodi Giglio were asked if they understood what they were voting for on April 2 when the Town Board voted to approve a clearing permit for the Shops at Riverhead, which abuts Foxwood Village.

The candidates were also asked if they understood the developer had planned to clear 11 or more acres on which there are currently no plans to build anything.

Mr. Dunleavy and Ms. Giglio are in a three-way race with challenger Anthony Coates for the two Republican council nominations, and most of the campaigning thus far had involved Mr. Coates and Ms. Giglio trading barbs.

“The problem I had was this,” Mr. Dunleavy said at the debate. “I belonged to a recreation committee at Foxwoods and they picked a fellow resident to represent the residents of Foxwood. He didn’t really know what was going on. He didn’t ask me any questions. I didn’t want to force his hand. He went to every planning board meeting.”

Mr. Dunleavy, who didn’t identify the resident by name, said the owners of Foxwood Village should have represented the  community at Planning Board meetings about the Shops at Riverhead.

“The recreation committee didn’t want to talk to me at that time because they had this representative going to every meeting,” Mr. Dunleavy continued. “First they wanted an expressway wall, then they wanted a berm, then they wanted a fence.

“They really didn’t know what they wanted.”

Those comments angered Robert Hall, the Foxwood Village resident who’s been attending meetings concerning the Shops at Riverhead development for the past four years.

Mr. Hall was the person Mr. Dunleavy was referring to, Mr. Hall later wrote in a letter to the News-Review.

“He threw Bob Hall under the bus,” Ms. Feldman said Wednesday.

Mr. Hall wrote in his letter to the editor that he wasn’t picked by a committee, he volunteered.

He also said he did seek to contact Mr. Dunleavy in July 2007 and got no response.

Mr. Spina and Ms. Feldman both said the recreation committee that Mr. Dunleavy referred to is not the homeowners association, and only deals with providing recreation for the community and has nothing to do with monitoring planning board meetings.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/29/13 2:30pm
08/29/2013 2:30 PM
ANTHONY COATES COURTESY PHOTO |  Anthony Coates

ANTHONY COATES COURTESY PHOTO | Anthony Coates

They’re worried. Yesterday, Councilman Jim Wooten sounded retreat and the Old Guard Republicans started circling the wagons because they are worried.

They are worried it might be closing time for their clubhouse.

I came to the race for Town Council vowing to shake up Town Hall and it seems there is a whole lot of shaking going on. Harry Truman said, “I never gave ‘em Hell, I told the truth and they thought it was Hell,” and that’s what’s happening here in Riverhead.

I have dared speak the truth about public officials that care more about their pensions than the public good. I have dared speak out about the constant cost overruns that are a result of Town Board mismanagement. I have dared speak out about council members that are rarely at their desks. I have dared speak out about tax breaks that are given out to the Republican Party’s friends and family network but not to you. I’ve called for term limits and for reforms to keep politics out of Town Hall. I have called for full disclosure and I’ve offered a positive plan to get this town moving forward.

You see folks, it’s all about jobs. Oh, not your job, it’s about theirs and their ability to live off the system. Councilman James Wooten is not happy that I was honest with the public when I spoke out about the odd jobs he holds in addition to the municipal pension he receives and his salary as a councilman. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio was not happy when it was uncovered that she has had avoided paying her proper property taxes for over a decade, because she failed to get permits for her home — though she owns a permit expediting business that represents developers.

Ms. Giglio was not happy when it came to light that she and her partners received every tax break under the sun and $2.4 million in taxpayer money for their subsidized housing project downtown. Those are the facts and I didn’t report them, this newspaper did. The council members didn’t like that I put a video on YouTube showing them not in their offices. The recreation department head was not happy when I made an issue of the fact that he presided over huge cost overruns at the Calverton ball fields and still got an $8,000 raise.

Mr. Wooten calls that, “Negative” I call it telling the truth.

Truth brings reform and reform worries the Old Guard because they fear change. The tired Clubhouse knows I am a reform candidate that means what he says, that I won’t take “no” for an answer and they are worried I will win; they wouldn’t be attacking me if my message were not getting through.

When I go door-to-door, I see that people are wising up to the fact that the “in” crowd at Town Hall has had it their way for about 50 years and their legacy is that Riverhead is the highest taxed, poorest and most indebted town on the East End. This town can do better.

The Old Guard sees power slipping out of the grasp of their cynical fingers and they are worried. I was the Town Board’s pal when I ran their campaigns for 10 years. I was the Town Board’s pal when they unanimously appointed me to the BID board, but now that I have spoken out about their attitude of entitlement and how they milk the system, I am a bad man and they have called me names.

I have been and I will continue to be your watchdog. I have no interest in being part of their club. They can threaten me, call me names, yell, scream, stomp their feet and hold their breath but I don’t care because I have vowed to run a different type of campaign and I am.

I’m not in it for the salary, as they are. I’m not in it for the title, as they are. I am about public service, not self service.

I am in it to represent you and they are worried because they know their time is just about up.

Mr. Coates is a downtown resident and financial adviser who is running a Republican primary for a Town Council nomination.

08/28/13 2:30pm
08/28/2013 2:30 PM
FILE PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten (left) in  Town Hall.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Councilman James Wooten (left) in Town Hall.

I have sat back and watched and listened to all the obvious political hand wringing and bullet points presented throughout this primary season.

I will say never in my life, much less my political one have I seen such dirty politics, name calling, character assassinations and blatant bully tactics.

One can only hope and vote for the people that best represent them in the community, especially in a local town such as Riverhead. This new shade of western politics has no place in our community. I have seen and listened to once committed and dedicated community leaders get caught up in the frenzy, all of a sudden there is an axe to grind with heads to roll.

It’s just plain dirty politics.

This current Town Board has worked very closely with all the different entities that make up Riverhead Town, and with noticeable results. This board has dealt with the problems facing the future of our Town, and has been working to move forward.

What really irks me is all the attention being afforded to one political strategist, Anthony Coates, who from the time he arrived in our community has created a cloud of darkness and controversy. This is a man who couldn’t give a satisfactory answer to the first question posed to him at Monday evening’s debate regarding what he’s been doing the last five years to earn a living.

He only provided a very artful dodge to the question. Yet, he was quoted in a News-Review opinion piece as having earned “oodles of money” some years back.

It seems to me to be more like noodles of money.

Over the years we have been subjected to double headed llamas, the destruction of a Republican campaign for supervisor in 2005 and most recently, a public dismissal of his own candidate for county Legislator as a shoe he could longer shine.

How can we support a candidate whose allegiance is so fickle? It’s sad, really; I know there has to be a person in there somewhere. When your whole life is built around political maneuvering it’s easy to get caught up and actually believe the rhetoric you spew.

This town has changed a lot in the last 10 years, despite its growth I sincerely hope that it never loses its charm and hometown atmosphere.

Narcissistic political advisers and animated buffoonery are not the face of Riverhead, at least not where I sit.

I can name at least 10 civic and community leaders who are far better qualified and deserving to represent the town in government, who truly have the ability and proven desire through actions already displayed, not just talked about.

Mr. Coates isn’t even close on any list, except his own. Please don’t get caught up in the hype, this town is moving forward and the team in place has set a good course for the future, lets not muddy the waters with just plain unadulterated politics at its worst.

James Wooten is a retired Riverhead Town police officer and Republican town councilman currently in his second term in office.

08/27/13 11:27am
08/27/2013 11:27 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at Monday's debate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

Republican council candidates Jodi Giglio and Anthony Coates both called into question each other’s backgrounds during Monday night’s Riverhead Town primary debates at the Suffolk Theater.

This while Councilman John Dunleavy sat in between the two bitter rivals.

At one point, Mr. Dunleavy expressed gratitude that he didn’t have to get involved in the dispute, providing a moment of levity for a crowd of more than 200 people.

Mr. Dunleavy did, however, criticize some of his neighbors and management at the Foxwood Village community, while explaining his vote to allow the developer of a Costco-anchored shopping center  to clear trees right up the property line of the retirement community where he lives.

The debate, entitled “Riverhead at the Crossroads,” was sponsored and moderated by the local media outlets Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com.

RELATED: See the entire video of Monday night’s debate

In the Republican primary, incumbent party designees Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy are facing a challenge from Mr. Coates for two available seats in an at-large election.

Mr. Coates, who has been a political adviser to incumbent Republican supervisor Sean Walter, said he “is running to bring a new voice” to the board. Mr. Coates has endorsed Mr. Dunleavy’s candidacy, and has been critical of Ms. Giglio.

Ms. Giglio has claimed — and said again at Monday night’s debate — that Mr. Coates, who changed his registration from Democrat to Republican last year, turned against her only after she voted against appointing him to a “legislative secretary” position proposed by Mr. Walter in March 2012.

Mr. Coates would have gotten paid $65,000 for one year to help lobby the state on issues at town land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL). In her closing statements, she called Mr. Coates “obsessed” and said his campaign blog mentions her 15 times while rarely mentioning important issues like jobs, taxes and public safety.

Mr. Coates said he did the EPCAL job voluntarily even after he wasn’t hired, making trips to Albany with Ms. Walter to lobby state officials on proposed, EPCAL-related legislation

Ms. Giglio claimed it wasn’t until the town hired former congressman George Hochbrueckner to lobby on EPCAL issues that “results started to happen.”

Ms. Giglio was asked about her permit expediter business, and whether she’d be willing to disclose her clients.

“Absolutely,” Ms. Giglio responded. The town requires officials to file a disclosure statement in March and that lists “all of my business affiliations,” she said.  Ms. Giglio said she has recused herself on any vote involving a former client, and that she is not doing any expeditor business in Riverhead Town.

“That’s just not accurate,” Mr. Coates said. “Your disclosure statement is a piece of swiss cheese. It says nothing.”

He said Ms. Giglio has voted for proposals involving Ray Dickhoff and Martin Sendlewski, who are her partners in the Summerwind Square county-subsidized affordable apartments and retail project on Peconic Avenue.

He also criticized her for having time to oversee the Summerwind project but not getting proper permits for construction work at her Baiting Hollow home, as has been reported.

Mr. Coates said he’s seen Ms. Giglio in Brookhaven Town Hall working with a team of engineers on a proposal there, and then “hours later, you’re the councilwoman in Riverhead, with that same team of engineers that you called co-workers in Brookhaven.”

Ms. Giglio said that’s “simply not true…It’s just another bullying tactic and a character assassination.”

She said Summerwind Square was approved before she was on the board.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to get in on this conversation,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “I don’t represent anyone but the taxpayers of the Town of Riverhead.”

“John is a retired police officer,” Ms. Giglio responded. “I am a young working person.”

The candidates also were asked about the controversial land clearing on the north side of Route 58 for The Shops at Riverhead project, which will feature a Costco Wholesale as its anchor store.

The trees were cleared up to the property line at Foxwood Village.

Mr. Dunleavy, who lives in Foxwood Village, explained that a committee at Foxwoods picked a resident there to represent the neighborhood at Planning Board meetings, saying the unnamed rep “didn’t know what was going on.”

He said the owners of the property should have represented Foxwood Village at Planning Board meetings, as was the case with the Glenwood Village development, where the owner negotiated with the Planning Board as a developer was planning an adjacent shopping center. In that case, the property owner convinced the developers to build a sound wall and to leave 30 feet of trees as a buffer.

Mr. Dunleavy said he voted for the clearing permit for the Costco project because it met the town code.

Ms. Giglio said the site plan for the Costco project was approved by the Planning Board “long before we approved the clearing permit.”

She said the Planning Board allowed the developer to clear the property and that the Town Board “is not happy” with that decision.

Mr. Coates said that if he’s elected, “I will communicate to those agencies before a crisis happens” to ensure decisions represent the will of the Town Board.

Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy both said they didn’t feel the Town Board should be imposing its will on the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals. Ms. Giglio said the Town Board’s job is to make the town code works, and that the board is proposing land-clearing legislation to ensure that the type of clearing that happened with the Costco project doesn’t happen again.

Mr. Coates also was asked about his background and what he does for as living.

As has been reported, Mr. Coates worked for John McNamara, the former Port Jefferson businessman who was convicted of defrauding General Motors out of millions of dollars in the 1980s. Mr. Coates, who ran businesses for Mr. McNamara and acted as publisher of The Record newspapers, was never charged with any wrongdoing in that case. He said he’s proud of the work he did during that time.

He said that since 2003, he’s worked as an independent investment adviser and that people can look up his qualifications with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

However, Mr. Coates is not listed on FINRA’s online broker check, which only includes licenses from the past 10 years. He has said in interviews that his current work doesn’t require a license from FINRA.

On the subject of EPCAL, Ms. Giglio said she supports the current efforts to subdivide the land into 50 small lots while Mr. Coates said the town still needs to figure out how to pay for sewer and infrastructure improvements there, which will cost more than $30 million.

Mr. Dunleavy said he and former supervisor Phil Cardinale negotiated a contract with Riverhead Resorts, the company that had proposed a “snow mountain” at EPCAL, that earned the town $7.5 million in deposits, even though the sale never occurred.

He said “everybody laughed at ski mountain,” but that the town is still using that money.

Mr. Coates said the town has been working on some issues for 10 years with no solution and “has been run by the same cast of characters for the last 50 years.”

The event raised $1,045 for the Brendan House, a Sound Avenue facility that will provide 24-hour care for people with brain injuries.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Monday night’s debate also featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito.

08/27/13 11:20am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Democratic candidates (L-R) Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito.

In Monday night’s debate between Democratic supervisor candidates Angela DeVito and Ann Cotten-DeGrasse, both candidates criticized the incumbent Republican administration of Sean Walter while touching on major issues facing the town.

They also, at times, took issue with each other.

The debate, entitled “Riverhead at the Crossroads,” was sponsored by local media outlets Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com and held at the Suffolk Theater.

Ms. DeVito, the Riverhead Democratic Committee nominee, is being challenged by Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse. Both are retired and both have served as Riverhead school board presidents, a position Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse currently holds.

RELATED: See the entire video of Monday night’s debate

The winner of the Sept. 10 primary will take on incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter in the Nov. 5 general election.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse is a former Riverhead High School teacher and union president who said she has made a difference in the lives of many of the students she taught and hopes to do the same as supervisor.

“Do we want to continue with the two-party system or do we want to break from that?” she asked.

“Town government isn’t working,” said Ms. DeVito, who worked for the Long Island Building Trades Council and is a former civic association president in Jamesport.

She said there is too much bickering and cronyism in town government.

“We need a candidate who can defeat Sean Walter and I am that person,” she told the crowd of more than 200 people downtown.

Among the issues the two differed on, Ms. DeVito said she would support using eminent domain to acquire empty downtown buildings through condemnation.

“We’ve waited long enough” for buildings owned by Riverhead Enterprise to be developed or sold, she said.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she might have supported eminent domain in the past, but doesn’t think the town can afford it now.

In eminent domain, the town must convince a court it needs property for a public purpose, and the courts, if it agrees, would determine the sales price later.

The two also disagreed on the role of the town’s Industrial Development Agency, which grants tax breaks to businesses to help lure them to town.

Ms. DeVito, who served on that board a few years ago, thinks the IDA is necessary, but believes the current board has made some bad decisions.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse said the IDA “has never seen a proposal they don’t love.” She said she is not opposed to tax abatements, but is opposed to giving them to companies that would have come here anyway.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said the IDA gave a 10-year, 100-percent property tax abatement to Atlantis aquarium and the Hyatt hotel when Ms DeVito was on the board. Ms. DeVito said she voted against that abatement, though later voted for a measure that allowed the building plan to move forward.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said the town needs to prioritize its spending, because it needs expensive items like sewer and infrastructure improvements in downtown and the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

Ms. DeVito said Riverhead needs to partner with Southampton Town to clean up blight in neighboring Riverside.

“As long as that side of the river remains blighted, we’re going to continue to have quality of life issues in downtown Riverhead,” she said.

“We must raise revenue,” Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse responded. “We are fighting a deficit.”

She said the town needs to closely audit its operation and “look at cutting staff,” she said, adding that Republican Supervisor Sean Walter “is not supervising.”

Ms. DeVito suggested using temporary workers in some town positions to save money and trying to get the state and county to share some of the sales tax revenue generated in Riverhead.

Mr. Cotten-DeGrasse then countered she didn’t favor hiring “part-time workers,” to which Ms. DeVito said she never mentioned part-timers, only temporary workers.

On developing EPCAL, Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse said she envisions the former Grumman plant property becoming a “Silicon Valley” of Suffolk County, adding she would form a committee of people with real estate or development backgrounds to help bring development to EPCAL.

Ms. DeVito warned the town must be wary of speculators buying key pieces of the subdivided EPCAL property in order to hike up the price of the those parcels when developments nearby need them. She also feels that the town should work with scientists at Brookhaven National Lab and Stony Brook University to bring scientific research to EPCAL.

Both were asked about the school board’s long-alleged conducting of business in closed, executive sessions that should be public.

Ms. Cotten-Degrasse denied this claim, saying school board members get a packet containing background information on matter that will come to vote several days before a meeting, and do not discuss public business behind closed doors.

Ms. DeVito disagreed, saying the public’s business is being conducted behind closed doors, and it was when she was on the school board, too.

Both candidates said they would sign pledges promising to uphold the state’s open meeting laws.

The event raised $1,045 for the Brendan House, a Sound Avenue facility that will provide 24-hour care for people people withe brain injuries.

tgannon@timesreview.com

Monday night’s debate also featured Republican council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

08/23/13 10:00am
08/23/2013 10:00 AM
Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater’s grand re-opening night in February.

The first of two town political debates being sponsored by local media and held at the historic Suffolk Theater will see two Democratic primary supervisor candidates square off, followed by three Republican primary hopefuls for town council.

The debate, sponsored by Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com, will start at 7 p.m. this coming Monday, Aug. 26. Doors open at 5 p.m.

There will be a suggested $5 donation at the door, with all proceeds going to Brendan House, New Beginnings.

“We’re very excited to be working together to bring these debates to the public,” said Times/Review Newsgroup executive editor Grant Parpan. “Given the current political climate in this town, there’s no doubt these events will be good shows worthy of the theater’s grand stage.”

Both debates will be moderated by Mr. Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

“Riverhead is at a crossroads,” Ms. Civiletti said. “The next town board will be making crucial decisions that will affect our future for generations to come. Voters need to know where the candidates stand on important local issues.”

Monday’s debate will feature Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela Devito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio,

The Democratic candidates will debate first, for about 45 to 50 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates. Those arriving early for the second debate may be asked to wait in the theater’s lobby area, as to not disturb the first round of candidates.

All questions for the debates have been prepared in advance, and were written by readers as well as the moderators. All candidates will be given time to make closing statements. No outside video recording of the event is allowed.

The theater’s bar and restaurant will be open at that time, but shut down during the debates, which are scheduled to run until 9 p.m.

The theater’s bar and restaurant will re-open after 9 p.m.