11/15/13 11:00am
11/15/2013 11:00 AM
An artist rendering of the First Baptist Church (far left) and the community center.

An artist rendering of the First Baptist Church (far left) and the community center.

To the editor:

The Rev. Charles Coverdale and Shirley Cloverdale have my admiration for their dedication to their church and community. But the Riverhead Town Board must consider the impact on the whole town before it approves zoning that would allow a high-density housing project exempt from property taxes, which will add millions of dollars to our school budgets.

The town’s auditors have warned of a “catastrophic” tax increase and our schools are bursting at the seams — with 200 more kids than expected this year alone. With the cost to educate a student upwards of $16,000 per child in the Riverhead district, just one student per household in the proposed, 132-unit complex would add $2.1 million per year to the school budget.

The claim that there is a compelling need for work force housing is belied by the limited success of another government subsidized project — Summerwind Square, which is still not fully rented.

The Rev. Coverdale has flatly rejected payment of school taxes because his organization is tax-exempt — the effect of which is to have the rest of Riverhead’s already strapped taxpayers subsidize his ambitious project by a likely double-digit increase in property taxes. When added to a catastrophic increase in town taxes, the burden that would be created by a tax-exempt project is far too much for our citizens to bear.

Ron Hariri, Aquebogue

08/31/13 12:00pm
08/31/2013 12:00 PM
MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Shirley Covedale at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead property, where she’s long pushed to get an apartment complex and community center built to provide affordable housing and other services, such as 24-hour child care, to East End residents.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Shirley Covedale at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead property, where she’s long pushed to get an apartment complex and community center built to provide affordable housing and other services, such as 24-hour child care, to East End residents.

The Suffolk County Democratic Committee announced this month the creation of a Black and Hispanic Democratic Committee that will operate within the party.

The new group’s co-chairs will sit on the Democrats’ newly expanded executive committee, up to 43 members from 41. This way, party officials explained, Democrats from Suffolk County’s black and Hispanic communities are guaranteed a stronger voice in the party when it comes to choosing and supporting candidates moving forward.

Shirley Coverdale of Riverhead was named as one of those co-chairs. The other is Dafny Irizarry of East Islip, president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association.

For 31 years, Ms. Coverdale has served in varying capacities with First Baptist Church of Riverhead, where her husband, the Rev. Charles Cover-dale, is the pastor. She’s the executive director of the Family Community Life Center, an affordable housing and recreation center long planned for the church’s property on Northville Turnpike. She also sits on the boards of the Long Island Organizing Network, a nonprofit community advocacy group, and Long Island Housing Partnership, an affordable housing agency.

Ms. Coverdale sat with the News-Review to discuss the role of the new committee.

Q: How did you come to get involved?

A: I was contacted, as were other community leaders. This came out of concerns within these two communities, which essentially have the same agenda. The idea was to come together and get more traction in terms of their political voices being heard. Assemblyman Phil Ramos, party leader Rich Schaefer and County Executive Steve Bellone also thought this would be a good idea. So a group of us got together and it was decided internally, before we had really done much of anything, to select a co-chair from each community. The really nice thing about it is Rich Schaefer has recognized it as an offi cial extension of the county party. So both co-chairs will sit on the executive committee.

Q: What are some of the biggest issues facing the black and Hispanic communities today?

A: One fairly obvious one is the disparities in our schools. The resources that are distributed across schools systems are clearly uneven. I’ve been outspoken about the fact that we can go back to the ’50s and talk about Brown vs. Board of Education and we’re also supposed to be getting an equal education from the public schools but that’s just woefully untrue. It will take people lifting their voices to make a difference with that. Perhaps through more diversity that better refl ects [the black and Hispanic] populations in Albany, to have a more meaningful discussion on how to implement more meaningful, regional kinds of solutions. Right now, it’s not even a discussion.

Q: This is where the work of committee steps in?

A: It’s about being able to be fairly represented. We’ll be looking at minority candidates running for offi ces and non-minority candidates running where there are significant minority populations, to make sure that people’s needs are fairly represented, that the agendas espoused by the would-be elected official is what we need in our communities. Some of the poorest districts on Long Island, largely minority districts, pay some of the highest property taxes and get far fewer resources for what they’re putting in. Someone’s got to look at that and hold people accountable for that kind of discrepancy.

Q: How do the challenges differ between the two groups, and geographically, between the East End and western Suffolk?

A: This economy out here in eastern Suffolk is extremely dependent on the [Hispanic] immigrant population. Our farming and fi shing industries generate over $1 billion to the GDP of New York State. We don’t get a fair share of that money back. And if it were not for those workers, who’s doing the work? We can see a shift in the population and if we’re not dealing with the reality that the world is changing then we’re always going to be at odds with one another. And for what? But at the end of the day, everybody wants a safe, healthy environment in which to raise their families and decent jobs that allow them to do so. Whether it’s a rural community — though Riverhead is hardly the outpost it used to be — or a more urban one, the dynamics are pretty much the same.

Q: Where do you see the committee in five years?

A: If we’ve done our job, then we will have districts that have more diverse representation, not just among elected offi cials, but hopefully through employment opportunities. Not opportunities that are just window dressing. Whether it is in our schools, among administrators and teachers and so on. If this group is doing what it’s supposed to do, you’ll see change refl ected in that way. Across Suffolk County, the black and Latino populations constitute about 23 percent of the population and there are many areas where those percentages are much higher. In some cases, they’re the majority but that’s not refl ected through jobs that affect people’s lives.

mwhite@timesreview.com

03/16/13 1:32pm
03/16/2013 1:32 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | First Baptist Church of Riverhead Sunday School director Mary Miles during the prayer vigil Saturday morning. Pastors (from left) Rev. Marvin Dozier of Unity Baptist Church in Mattituck, Rev. Henry Faison Jr. of First Baptist Church of Southampton, Rev. Charles Coverdale of First Baptist Church of Riverhead and Shirley Coverdale First Baptist Church of Riverhead joined the vigil.’

On this cold, cloudy Saturday morning, about 100 supporters — kids, families and even a few furry friends — gathered at The First Baptist Church of Riverhead for a prayer vigil, asking for help in pushing the Church’s vision of a Family Community Life Center forward.

The center has been in the planning stages, in one form or another, for more than 20 years, and is seeking town board and zoning approval.

The Rev. Charles Coverdale, of the First Baptist Church, led the group in prayer, along with several other local pastors and members of the center’s planning board. They have started a petition, asking for the community’s help in gathering 2,000 signatures supporting the Family Community Life Center to present to the town board.

They hope to get those signatures within the next 10 days.

“Families are the heart of this community,” said Shirley Coverdale, the wife of Rev. Coverdale, commenting on the benefits such a center would bring to the neighborhood, including elder care and a place for young children “who have nowhere to go.”

“This is a project of giving,” Rev. Coverdale said. “What the church did is give us the land,” to use it to benefit the community, he said.

The proposed center would be built on the church’s 12-acre Northville Turnpike campus — and would include a gym, indoor pool, fitness center, community center and 132 “workforce housing” apartment units, among other things.

“The vision is inspiring,” said Riverhead town Supervisor Sean Walter, who voiced his support of the project.

“I want you all to come to town board meetings to speak about this,” Mr. Walter said to the crowd. “This is going to happen,” he said, placing his hand on a Bible.

“It seems like we have lost the YMCA,” Mr. Walter said after the vigil. “This would fill that niche. The young folks, we need more for them here.”

Curtis Highsmith Jr., vice-chair of the Southampton Community Housing and Development Corp. and Riverhead High School graduate, told supporters about a recent field trip he took with Southampton, Riverhead, and Central Islip youths.

“I have heard the stories about kids that said institutions [like this] saved their lives,” because they offer an opportunity to “see the future past their own circumstances,” he said.

“There are men who don’t know how to tie a proper tie,” Mr. Highsmith said. “When you have an organization like this, we can mentor them and enable them, show them that there are opportunities.”

Mr. Walter said he is going reach out to YMCA donors, “and see if it can happen.”

“We need this [center] to be able to galvanize, and have a place to connect,” said Rev. Marvin Dozier of Unity Baptist Church in Mattituck. “We can connect our generations and have a place to learn, play, worship, and grow together.”

“Can’t you see the building,” said Mary Miles, Sunday School director for the First Baptist Church, standing on the land set aside for the proposed Center. “Look behind me, it’s there.”

Rev. Michael Jackson of Triune Baptist Church Sag Harbor, Rev. Henry Faison Jr. of First Baptist Church of Southampton, Rev. Frank Bryant of First Baptist Church of Bridgehampton, and Asst. Pastor Cynthia Liggon of First Baptist Church of Riverhead also offered words of hope.

The project was discussed before the Town Board last year, where board members raised concerns about the number of housing units proposed and whether the project would be tax exempt.

cmiller@timesreview.com

Previous Coverage: Prayer vigil planned to help push Community Life Center forward

08/19/12 5:00pm
08/19/2012 5:00 PM

Hundreds of parishioners, friends and family attended the annual picnic at Riverhead’s First Baptist Church Sunday afternoon.

The picnic, held each year on the third Sunday in August for more than 30 years, is a way for the community to catch up and relax for a few hours on a hot summer afternoon, organizers said. This year, the picnic kicked off right after services were over, and featured basketball, hula-hoops, tables of food, checkers, chess and other games for adults and kids alike to play.

“[The best part is] definitely the fellowship, people getting together and enjoying each other’s company,” said Shirley Coverdale, wife of the Rev. Charles Coverdale.

Riverhead resident Thelma White said she’s been attending the picnic every year.

“It’s wonderful people,” she said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTOS | 1-year-old Kyndall plays basketball with the other kids at Sunday’s picnic.

Hundreds turned out to the annual picnic at the First Baptist Church on Northville Turnpike Sunday afternoon.

(L-R) Deon Miles, 9, and Jordan Gladney, 6, plot their next moves during the picnic’s checkers tournament. Deon would go on to win the game.

Even the adults got into the fun. Brian Lewis showed off his hula-hoop moves after lunch was over.

05/03/12 10:00am
05/03/2012 10:00 AM

An artist rendering of the main atrium at the proposed Family Community Life Center's recreational and other facilities.

The Riverhead First Baptist Church’s long-planned First Community Life Center on Northville Turnpike can have nine units per acre of rental apartments, Riverhead Town Board members said on Wednesday during a work session discussion.

That’s three less than the 12 units per acre the church initially proposed, and one less than the 10 units per unit that they had told Supervisor Sean Walter was needed to make the project financially viable.

Reverend Charles Coverdale, the church’s pastor, said he doesn’t know if the project will work financially at nine units per acre. No one from the church was present at the work session.

“Our figures showed 12, and the compromise I thought we agreed was 10,” he said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t know if it will work or not. I’ll have to go back to the engineering people who have the financial papers to see if it will work. It would be sorrowful if it didn’t.”

Mr. Walter said he had discussed the issue with the church and arrived at the 10 compromise, which a majority of the board did not support at a work session on Wednesday.

First Baptist has been working on the First Community Life Center since the 1980s.

Its current plan calls for 132 units of rentals that meet “workforce housing” guidelines, although the 132 units was when the project had 12 units per acre. At nine units per acre it would be more like 99 units.

Reverend Coverdale says all of the units would be affordable.

Other features of the proposal include a recreation center, a child care facility, office suites and a performing arts theater.

Town Board members on Wednesday also asked Town Attorney Bob Kozkakiewicz to investigate whether there are ways to require tax payments on the property.

The church’s 12-acre property on Northville Turnpike is tax exempt and the First Community Life Center is a non-profit organization.

“Non-profits are not taxable,” Reverend Coverdale said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

Mr. Walter said the Town Board doesn’t have the ability to require payments in lieu of taxes, something Councilwoman Jodi Giglio had suggested. He said that’s something only the town Industrial Development Agency can do.

The Town Board also agreed to allow the office suite building proposed in the First Community Life Center project to be 50 feet high, which is higher than the 35 feet limit in the Town Code, but lower than the 70 feet the church originally proposed.

The church also will have to hook up to the town’s sewer district, which Mr. Walter said could cost about $2 million.

Councilman John Dunleavy said he’s concerned about the impact the houses will have on school and town services, and the fact that the site is tax exempt.

“Twenty five percent of the town is off the tax roll,” he said.

The councilman also expressed concern that allowing nine units per acre for this project could set a precedent.

Ms. Giglio also said that even eight units per acre is twice what the town normally allows for projects that have purchased development rights off farmland.

“If the board is not willing to do this, they (the church) have asked me to go back and tell them,” Mr. Walter said during Wednesday’s work session discussion, in which each issue was voted on by an informal straw poll in order to see if there was board support for the entire project. “They have to build this in a way that makes financial sense.”

Reverend Coverdale said he wasn’t aware of the board’s decisions before hearing it from a reporter Wednesday afternoon, and he expressed some frustration with those decisions.

“We’re trying to build something for the kids, and for the people that work at the hospital and in the fire department who need housing,” he said. “I’m trying to do my best to help folks out. I wish I was making some money off this stuff. I’m not.”

He said all the money goes back into the project.

“I think we in the community keep getting confused about what we want and what we need,” he said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/16/12 2:59pm

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Frederick Brewington (center), civil rights attorney and community advocate, was the keynote speaker at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead's 27th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast.

After Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he attended many press conferences, Frederick Brewington, a civil rights attorney and community advocate, said to more than 600 people in the ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Wind-Watch Hotel in Hauppauge Monday.

The question he was most often asked, Mr. Brewington said, was “what now?”

“That question looms large for us now,” he said. “I say to this room, from pillar to corner: what now?”

Mr. Brewington, the keynote speaker at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead’s 27th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast, urged audience members to fight racism and work for justice.

“It was he that made a clear difference. He said a single person can make a change, but you have to take a stance,” Mr. Brewington said, with many in the crowd passionately saying “that’s right” in response.

“Dr. King had to be clear that he stood for peace,” Mr. Brewington said. “He stood for justice. He stood for something.”

Mr. Brewington also pointed to the disproportionate number of black men in prison compared to their white counterparts and impelled the audience to find solutions.

Samuel Quauie, a math teacher at Riverhead School District, said remembering Dr. King’s legacy is important for reducing racism and solving issues of injustice against racial minorities. The event, he said, also serves to bond the community.

“It brings people of all difference races together,” he said.

Also at the event, Riverhead High School senior Kristin Peragine was presented with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Meritorious Award for her extensive community service.

Ms. Peragine, a Girl Scout, has counseled younger students on environmental sustainability and the dangers of drugs and alcohol. An active member of her church’s youth group, she has participated in a breast cancer fundraiser, Peconic Bay Medical Center’s Polar Plunge and a 30-hour fast for World Vision, a non-profit organization that fights childhood poverty.

Riverhead High School principal David Wicks, who nominated Ms. Peragine for the award, said she’s always given her time to her family, school district and community.

“She embodies what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was trying to do with his life,” he said.

sbrix@timesreview.com

 

01/17/11 10:57pm
01/17/2011 10:57 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | Keynote speaker the Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts III

If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would be 82.

If Dr. King could have spoken at the 26th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Hauppauge Monday morning, he would have hailed the progress the country has made toward racial equality, but he’d insist more had to be done.

So believes the Rev. Charles Coverdale of First Baptist Church of Riverhead, which sponsored the breakfast. He was one of several community leaders and elected officials who addressed an audience of about 700 on the need for racial harmony and respect among all people.

Among those attending was John White, the Miller Place man convicted of manslaughter in the death of Daniel Cicciaro during a confrontation in front of Mr. White’s home in August 2006. Gov. David Paterson commuted Mr. White’s sentence in December, less than six months after he had begun serving time.

The Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, president of SUNY/Old Westbury and senior pastor at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, was keynote speaker and gave a passionate speech to the elated, supportive crowd, praising Dr. King for devoting his life to the fight for justice.

Many whites and blacks, Dr. Butts said, face the same challenges — poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, lack of health insurance — and Dr. King worked to improve the lives of all people regardless of color.

He denounced the profiling and stereotyping of Muslims. “People are so worried about Muslim terrorists. What is wrong with America?” Dr. Butts asked. He said he was “a man who recognized terrorism and it did not come with a name that sounded Middle Eastern … somebody who remembers terrorism that came with white sheets and a cross burning.”

In his speech, Congressman Steve Israel cited the recent shootings in Tucson, Ariz., in which 13 people were injured and six killed, and said the country needs to work toward a climate of peacefulness and togetherness.

“It is time to stop hating each other,” said Mr. Israel, drawing a round of loud applause from the audience. “It is time to stop violating each other. It is time to stop the cycle of them versus us, of Fox versus MSNBC, of blue versus red, of rich versus poor.”
County Executive Steve Levy also emphasized the need to eradicate racial injustice.

“If you are calling to buy a house, if you have an Anglo-sounding name, you are far more likely to get a return call than if you have an ethnic-sounding name,” Mr. Levy said.

Proceeds from the breakfast will benefit the Family Life Community Center in Riverhead.

samantha@northshoresun.com