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03/22/16 6:00am
03/22/2016 6:00 AM
An artist rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center's recreational and other facilities.

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

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter is right when he said First Baptist Church’s Family Community Life Center “is about to change Riverhead for decades to come.” READ

03/16/16 6:42am
03/16/2016 6:42 AM
Rev. Charles Coverdale, center, and Assistant Pastor Cynthia Liggon line up behind attorney Guy Germano at the podium Tuesday.

Rev. Charles Coverdale, center, and Assistant Pastor Cynthia Liggon line up behind attorney Guy Germano at the podium Tuesday.

A proposed Community Benefit Zoning District was greeted with almost unanimous support at a standing room only public hearing at Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting, as was the Family Community Life Center, First Baptist Church’s long-planned multi-use project that would need the new zoning to be enacted in order to move forward. READ

06/23/15 5:42pm
06/23/2015 5:42 PM
(Photo by Stephen Melkisethian/flickr)

All the across the country, people are mourning and holding vigils like this one in Washington, D.C. A local vigil is planned for Monday in Greenport. (Photo by Stephen Melkisethian/flickr)

Lela Heyward received a phone call at midnight last Wednesday from her hometown of Charleston, S.C. She couldn’t believe the news.

Although her nephew didn’t belong to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, he knew many people there and had just paid a visit the week before.

He called to say there had been a mass shooting at the historic black church and that he was devastated. The church’s pastor was among the dead.

Ms. Heyward, whose husband, the Rev. Nathaniel Heyward, is pastor at Clinton Memorial AME Zion Church in Greenport, said that although she grew up with segregation and left Charleston after high school in 1961, her hometown and its Baptist church have never left her heart.

“I went through the struggles — I had to go out the back door, drink from a separate water fountain and sit at the back of the bus,” she said Monday. “I never felt threatened in church. I always thought of it as a safe place. I’m really hurt and can’t believe it.”

(more…)

03/02/15 10:59am
03/02/2015 10:59 AM
An artist’s rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

A rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s planned rec center.

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to some thoughts on drug arrests found in both a recent News-Review editorial and a follow-up letter from Richard Park. I agree that we can’t arrest our way out of a gang problem.

More convictions aren’t the answer. As a community, we need to provide our youth with alternatives to drugs and gangs. As the News-Review pointed out, Riverhead has no YMCA or large recreation center. We need to offer a safe place for our teens to hang out and have fun, one with structure and supervision. The town’s answer is that we can’t afford anything like that now. (more…)

02/21/15 4:12pm
02/21/2015 4:12 PM
A pair of hearses lead a lenghty funeral procession into Washington Memorial Park in Coram. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

A pair of hearses lead a lenghty funeral procession into Washington Memorial Park in Coram. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Tanya Lawrence was described as a giving person at her funeral Saturday, someone who cared for even the most distant of strangers.

Her daughter, Danielle, whose body filled the casket alongside hers, was said to be a shy teenager who brightened up while performing on a stage.

Hundreds crowded First Baptist Church for the joint funeral, saying goodbye to the mother and daughter, as a community begins to heal from the tragic shooting at the family’s home in Wading River last Sunday.  (more…)

01/20/14 5:17pm
01/20/2014 5:17 PM
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorofChange.org, speaks at Monday's Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorofChange.org, speaks at Monday’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast.

When Riverhead native and civil rights advocate Rashad Robinson took to the podium Monday at the 29th annual Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Wind-Watch Hotel in Hauppauge to deliver his keynote address, he didn’t mince words about his views on the current state of race relations in the United States. (more…)

12/19/13 4:00pm
12/19/2013 4:00 PM
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.

The Riverhead Town Board doesn’t have a three-vote majority in support of even scheduling a public hearing on the proposed Community Benefit Use District, which is needed for First Baptist Church’s proposed Family Community Life Center on Northville Turnpike — and, unless something changes, the board doesn’t plan on discussing it any further.

Board members George Gabrielsen and John Dunleavy said at Thursday’s Town Board work session that they oppose the proposed 132-unit affordable apartments planned for the FCLC, and they oppose the fact that it would be tax exempt, since it is proposed for the church’s already tax-exempt property.

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten supported going to a hearing on the proposed overlay zone, and Mr. Walter said at one point the project will be vital to development at Enterprise Park at Calverton, as the affordable housing units will provide much needed inventory to Riverhead’s limited rental housing stock.

“I’m saying if you want EPCAL to work, this is part of making EPCAL work,” the supervisor said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who had been opposed to scheduling a hearing, has missed several recent meetings due to a family emergency and was absent on Thursday.

The board has discussed the proposed overlay zone many times, so far arriving at no conclusion. The church has been proposing the community center since the 1980s and has added the affordable apartments in recent years as a means of deriving income to support the community center. In October, County Executive Steve Bellone expressed support for the project, offering to utilize a county transfer of development rights program in order to help move the project along. And in November, supporters of the project packed town hall at a public hearing on a prior version of the zoning.

But at this point, Mr. Gabrielsen and Mr. Dunleavy stated before the board’s discussion even began on Thursday that they would not support scheduling a hearing on the zone.

“There’s no benefit in continuing this,” Mr. Walter told First Baptist Pastor Charles Coverdale at the end of the discussion. “You have your work cut out for you. I don’t want to keep torturing this.”

The Rev. Coverdale declined comment at the meeting, and seemed visibly upset by the board’s action.

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11/21/13 2:16pm
11/21/2013 2:16 PM
An artist’s rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

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

The proposed “Community Benefit” overlay zone needed for First Baptist Church’s Family Community Life Center will soon be revised since it doesn’t have the support of a majority of Riverhead Town Board members in its current form.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilmen George Gabrielsen and John Dunleavy said at Thursday’s Town Board work session that they could not support the proposed zoning as currently written.

Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jim Wooten did support it at Thursday’s work session, where the proposed overlay zone was discussed with representatives of the church, which has proposed building 132 affordable apartment units intended as “work force housing” for the area.

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Mr. Gabrielsen opposed the requirement in the zoning that a project have 800 feet of road frontage on a state or county road in order to qualify for the overlay zone.

First Baptist’s Northville Turnpike property has 807 feet of frontage on a county road.

“That just seems like it was site specific,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

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Mr. Walter said the proposal will need to be revised to meet Mr. Gabrielsen’s concerns so that a new public hearing can be held in early January.

Another change Mr. Gabrielsen proposed is a requirement for a 50-foot vegetative buffer between the project and neighboring homes, instead of the 25 feet in the proposed code.

“When you have something this dense and this high, I think neighbors have the right to a 50-foot buffer,” he said.

Ms. Giglio said the proposed 10 units per acre of residential housing is too dense, and she also feels the project should not be exempt from taxes, and should pay either taxes or payments in lieu of taxes.

Mr. Dunleavy agreed with the concerns of his fellow council members.

Mr. Walter, who has consistently supported the project, said he thinks Mr. Gabrielsen’s requests “are reasonable and they are doable,” but the tax issues raised by Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy probably cannot be addressed.

Ms. Giglio also raised the question of what other properties in town would meet the criteria of the proposed zone.

A map produced by town planning and building administrator Jeff Murphree shows about five other properties.

“A couple are owned by the county, and one has an approved site plan on it, so the way I’m looking at this is that there is only one other piece of property in the town that could possibly benefit from this zoning,” Ms. Giglio said.

The proposed overlay zone, which will now be rewritten, would have allowed a community center and workforce housing on land that meets certain criteria, including having 10 or more acres of land with at least 800 feet of frontage on a county or state highway, as well as public water and sewer connections.

The proposed Family Community Life Center would include an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, a 25-seat theater and media center and 24-hour adult and child day care services. The proposal also includes an indoor walking track, gymnasium, fitness center and classroom space.

It would be located on the 12-acre church property on Northville Turnpike. The Rev. Charles Coverdale has said the income from the apartments is needed to subsidize the rest of the project, which would be open to the community.

The allowed number of housing units would be one per acre, but the proposed zone would allow additional units with the purchase or either transferred development rights from farms, or open space development credits from Suffolk County, which are dedicated for use in affordable housing and would be made available to such projects at no charge.

The church is hoping for the latter and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has publicly pledged support for the project.

The Family Community Life Center project, which has been in the works for more than 20 years, received overwhelming support from speakers at a Nov. 6 public hearing.

Reached for comment after the meeting, Mr. Coverdale said, “We have to go through the process. We want things to be right.”

[email protected]