07/02/13 4:00pm
07/02/2013 4:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | HIghway department workers Ed Reeve (center) and Chris Bugee install a street sign Tuesday morning along the Peconic River in memory of fallen ambulance volunteer Heidi Behr, as the Behr family — Heidi’s grandmother Dorothy, mother June, father John and sister Dana look on. Jim Stark of the ‘Heidi’s Helping Angels’ group and Highway Superintendent George ‘Gio’ Woodson were also on hand.

The road running along the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead is now officially known as Heidi Behr Way, honoring a Riverhead ambulance volunteer who died at the age of 23 in a tragic ambulance crash in May of 2005.

Town highway department workers installed the sign Tuesday morning as Heidi’s parents, June and John, her sister Dana, and her grandmother Dorothy, looked on.

The non-profit group Heidi’s Helping Angels had urged the Town Board to name the road after Heidi in April, and the board approved the measure in May.

“It’s nice to have her remembered,” John Behr told The News-Review at the time. “We grew up on the river over on Riverside Drive, so she used to walk there a lot. It’s a tribute to her.”

Heidi’s Helping Angels paid for the two signs, one at Peconic Avenue and one at McDermott Avenue, and donated them to the town highway department, according to Jim Stark of Heidi’s Helping Angels.

“Part of our mission statement is to memorialize Heidi’s memory for the sacrifice she made to the community,” Mr. Stark said. ”One of the things that the Behr family has always wanted was something named after Heidi, to show the community that our first responders are very important.”

Heidi was one of two emergency medical technicians that died in the 2005 ambulance crash, which happened as they were transporting an elderly patient to the hospital on Main Road in Aquebogue.

Bill Stone, who was a paid EMT and lived in Ridge, also died in the crash.

Heidi Behr left behind her son, Jared, who was just 13 months old at the time and has severe disabilities. He has been raised by the Behr family since then.


06/18/13 4:13pm
06/18/2013 4:13 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO |  The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance headquarters will be named after both Heidi Behr and Bill Stone.

Earlier this year, the Riverhead Town Board voted to name a section of road in downtown’s riverfront parking lot after Heidi Behr, a Riverhead ambulance volunteer who died in an ambulance crash in May 2005 while responding to a call.

Board members also agreed to name the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance headquarters after Ms. Behr, who was one of two emergency medical technicians who died in the 2005 crash. The other, Bill Stone of Ridge, was a paid EMT. But members of the ambulance board said last week that after speaking with the families of both Ms. Behr and Mr. Stone, they believe both should be honored.

“The ambulance corps is very insistent it be named for Bill and Heidi, not just Heidi,” board president Bruce Talmage told the Town Board last Thursday.

“I have no problem with that,” Supervisor Sean Walter responded. The proposal was met with no opposition from Town Board members.

The ambulance board suggested putting the name on an electronic sign with a rolling message board, although Town Board members said those are not permitted by the town’s sign code. Town officials agreed to let the ambulance board come up with the language and design for the sign and to bring it back at a future meeting for discussion.


05/07/13 2:00pm
05/07/2013 2:00 PM


The Riverhead Town Board on Tuesday unanimously voted on a resolution to authorize the board to adopt its development plans for the Enterprise Park at Calverton.

The plans include a proposed 50-lot subdivision map, marketing study and new zoning recommendations, all of which are being developed through a $500,000 contract the town signed with VHB Engineering two years ago.

The resolution will effectively start the state environmental impact study of the subdivision map, a process that’s expected to take more than a year to complete.

The board also approved a resolution to name a road that runs along the Peconic River from Peconic Avenue to McDermott Avenue downtown in honor of Heidi Behr, a Riverhead ambulance volunteer who died in a May 2005 ambulance crash while helping a heart attack patient in an ambulance.

Board members also heard some opposition to a proposal to put restrictions on houseboats in town, and adopted increased fees for the Riverhead Water District.

Click below to read the recap from reporter Tim Gannon’s live blog of the meeting. The full agenda and resolution packet are below.


May_7,_2013_-_Agenda by rnews_review


May_7,_2013_-_Packet by rnews_review

05/02/13 9:25am
05/02/2013 9:25 AM


The Riverhead Town Board on Thursday unanimously approved the Survival Race 10K planned for this Saturday, and the Zombie Race scheduled for Sunday, both at the Dorothy P. Flint 4-H Camp in Baiting Hollow.

Board members also separately approved an agreement with the race promotors to provide two uniformed town police officers for traffic control at the events from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. The town will be reimbursed $3,745 for the police service.

The approval for the events went right down to the wire, as town officials had said the applications should have been submitted much earlier. The Survival Race was held at the 4H Camp last fall, and another is already scheduled for this fall. The Zombie Race, in which runners must avoid actors dressed as zombies, is new to Riverhead, but has been done elsewhere.

The Town Board also informally agreed to name a stretch of road  that runs along the Peconic River from Peconic Avenue to McDermott Avenue after Heidi Behr, a Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps member who died in a May 2005 ambulance crash in Aquebogue.

Board members and other town officials said last week the road was slated to be named for the late James Bissett, who co-owned downtown’s East End Hyatt and Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, but Mr. Bissett’s name wasn’t mentioned.

The board also discussed applying for federal COPS grants to pay for 75 percent of the cost of hiring five new police officers. The discussion started out with officials contemplating hiring three new officers with the grant money, but officials eventually decided to try for five new officers.

The News-Review reported live from the meeting.

Click below to read our recap to find out what else happened at Thursday’s Town Board work session.


May_2,_2013_-_Agenda by rnews_review

04/25/13 3:05pm
04/25/2013 3:05 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Runners trek doen the unnamed road in Riverhead that could soon share a name with either Heidi Behr or James Bissett.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Runners trek doen the unnamed road in Riverhead that could soon share a name with both Heidi Behr and James Bissett.

Councilman John Dunleavy says he has a Solomon-like solution to the debate over whether to name the riverfront drive in downtown Riverhead after Heidi Behr or Jim Bissett.

Do both.

There has been a movement recently to name the road leading along the Peconic River after Heidi Behr, the 23-year-old emergency medical technician from Riverhead who died in a May 2005 accident while she was volunteering with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance. That proposal calls for naming the road that runs perpendicular to the river from Peconic Avenue to McDermott Avenue after Ms. Behr.

[Previous Coverage: Will downtown road be named for Bissett or Behr?]

But the Riverhead Business Improvement District management association and the Parking District advisory committee had both previously voted for resolutions calling for the riverfront road to be named after Jim Bissett, the late co-founder of the Long Island Aquarium and Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead.

Mr. Dunleavy, who could not be reached for comment in an article about this subject on Wednesday, said in an interview on Thursday morning that he has proposed naming only the unnamed road that runs in between the Subway store and the Salvation Army and goes west to McDermott Avenue after Ms. Bissett. That road, which is an entrance to the town’s parking lot by the Peconic River, also runs adjacent to the aquarium property.

The councilman said the section of the riverfront drive from McDermott Avenue west to Peconic Avenue can still be named after Ms. Behr, and then both would have a portion of the roadway named after them.

“There’s no controversy,” he said.

Supervisor Sean Walter said the Town Board will likely discuss the issue at its work session next week.


04/24/13 5:36pm
04/24/2013 5:36 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Runners trek down the unnamed road in Riverhead that could soon share a name with either Heidi Behr or Jim Bissett.

The unnamed road that runs along the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead may soon have a name.

But which name?

One proposal calls for the section of road from Peconic Avenue to McDermott Avenue be named after Heidi Behr, the 23-year-old Riverhead woman who died in a May 2005 accident while she was volunteering with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio mentioned the proposal to name the riverfront street after Ms. Behr during an interview with Bruce Tria on WRIV radio Wednesday morning, saying more details would be coming soon.

“She was a volunteer and she lost her life going to save somebody else’s,” she said on the air. “It’s something that needs to be done, sooner than later.”

But another proposal calls for naming it after Jim Bissett, the late co-founder of the Long Island Aquarium and the adjacent Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead. Mr. Bissett died in December 2011 at the age of 48 in an apparent suicide. Mr. Bissett is often credited with helping to revive downtown Riverhead through the aquarium.

Supervisor Sean Walter said on Wednesday that the proposal to name the road after Ms. Behr will likely be discussed by the Town Board next week, but he added that the Business Improvement District Management Association and the Parking District advisory committee have already discussed naming something downtown for Mr. Bissett.

“That’s one of the things we have to look at,” Mr. Walter said. “We have to sort that out.”

Ray Pickersgill, the president of the BID and a member of the Parking District advisory committee, said both boards had voted several months ago in support of naming the road along the river “Jim Bissett Way.”

“Nobody had done more for this town than Jim Bissett,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “We’re the only Main Street in Suffolk County that has a name brand hotel on it, and it’s made a big difference. He brought the aquarium to Riverhead as well. I can’t even tell you how many other things he was involved in, but anytime I would go to Jimmy and ask him to get involved in something, he’d be right on it.”

Mr. Walter said they decided not to put the street naming discussing on Thursday’s work session agenda because there is a state Department of Transportation workshop on the subject of downtown sidewalks scheduled at 10 a.m., and that discussion may take a long time.

Mr. Walter said he didn’t know the specifics of the proposals.

“I haven’t even really been told what it is yet,” Mr. Walter said of the plan to name the street after Heidi Behr. “I remember at one point we were going to name the ambulance barn after her.”

Councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen said they have no opposition to naming the riverfront drive after Ms. Behr. Mr. Wooten said he is also hoping to name a planned handicap accessible playground at Stotzky Park after her.

Councilman John Dunleavy couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Behr volunteered with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance for three years but also worked for a paid ambulance company.

She and another emergency medical technician, Bill Stone, 30, of Ridge, who was a paid member of the Riverhead department, died when the ambulance they were in hit a tree in Aquebogue while it was transporting a Jamesport man to a hospital on May 3, 2005.

Ms. Behr left behind her then-13-month-old son, Jared, who has severe disabilities and is being raised by Ms. Behr’s family.

The group planning a Sept. 11 memorial at the recently acquired parkland on the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead also is likely to have a memorial in honor of Heidi Behr and other emergency service volunteers, according to Bob Kelly, a retired New York City firefighter from the Reeves Park area who made the suggestion.

The park already has a small memorial in honor of Ms. Kelly’s brother, Thomas, a New York City firefighter who died while fighting the World Trade Center fires on Sept. 11, 2001. Park Road also is named in honor of Thomas Kelly.


10/27/12 8:00am
10/27/2012 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Reeves Park residents place candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11.

Riverhead Town Board members discussed Thursday the prospects of naming the Riverhead Ambulance barn after Heidi Behr, the Riverhead volunteer who was killed when the ambulance she was in crashed in May 2005.

Another volunteer, Bill Stone of Ridge, also died in that crash. Both were in the back of the ambulance caring for a cardiac patient when the ambulance hit a tree on Route 25 in Aquebogue.

And Councilman Jim Wooten said the town recreation department has been planning to create a new handicapped accessible playground at Stotzky Park and name that after Heidi, who’s son Jared is disabled. The recreation department doesn’t have the money to do that park yet, Mr. Wooten said.

Recently, there have been a number of proposals to name things in honor of Ms. Behr and other volunteers in town.

Bob Kelly of Riverhead recently suggested that the 9/11 Memorial Park slated for a four-acre site on Park Road and Sound Avenue have an area honoring emergency services volunteers like Ms. Behr and Mr. Stone.

The Park Road park already has a small monument in honor of Bob Kelly’s brother, Tom, a New York City firefighter who died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Heidi Behr’s mother, June, said she and her husband, John, discussed that offer and she said they would accept it.

June Behr originally said she didn’t want to take away from the monument to Tom Kelly and that she wanted to discuss it with her husband. She said her husband had the same concerns, but both agreed when told it was Bob Kelly suggesting that an area at the proposed park be named for Heidi.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he has heard people like former Supervisor Jim Stark and Bruce Tria of WRIV 1390 radio criticize the town for not doing anything to honor Ms. Behr.

“I would like to have seen the ambulance corps come to us and say we’d like you to do something in memory of Heidi Behr, and they haven’t done that,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Wooten said “there is something afoot.”

Officials from the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance corps could not be immediately be reached for comment.

“That’s what I was thinking about, naming the ambulance barn after Heidi Behr,” Councilman John Dunleavy said. “The easiest thing for us to do right now is name the ambulance barn after Heidi Behr. It would only cost us a sign and the dedication of it and we can do it immediately.”

Mr. Wooten said that when he first took office, he wanted to establish a handicapped accessible playground at Stotzky Park for Jared, because there are currently no handicapped accessible playgrounds in the town.

Mr. Walter said he supports the idea of naming the ambulance barn after Ms. Behr but that he wanted to first get feedback from the ambulance corps.


09/14/12 8:00am
09/14/2012 8:00 AM
Heidi Behr, Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The future Heidi Behr Memorial Park & Boardwalk?

It’s heroes week in the United States, as it is every year around the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

TV, newspapers and Facebook abound with images and remembrances of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, with a spotlight on the men and women who ran to their deaths to save others.

Sept. 11 has become a sort of de facto memorial day for the country’s much-deserving emergency responders.

So there may be no better time than now to remark on one of Riverhead’s greatest fallen heroes — volunteer EMT Heidi Behr — and how we could best honor her memory.

Heidi was killed in an ambulance crash while responding to a call in May 2005. William Stone, a paramedic from Rocky Point, was also killed in the crash.

They were part of a crew rushing a heart attack victim to the hospital when their ambulance struck a tree on Main Road in Aquebogue.

Heidi, only 23 at the time, left behind a 13-month-old son, Jared, who is blind and suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy and brain damage. Ever since the crash, he’s been raised by Heidi’s parents, John and June, with the help of their other daughter, Dana.

The outpouring of support this family has received from fellow ambulance and fire volunteers and others since Heidi’s death has been awe-inspiring.

When it was becoming nearly impossible for the Behrs to continue raising Jared, who cannot walk, in their modest 800-square-foot house on Riverside Drive, a group of local people and businesses donated time and money to rebuild the Cutchogue home of June Behr’s late parents and make it fully handicapped accessible.

It’s now a place where Jared can grow — with plenty of room for his necessary support equipment — as his grandparents age.

And through the effort to rebuild that house, the Heidi’s Helping Angels community support group was born.

Volunteers with Heidi’s Helping Angels are at work every year now, mostly raising money for scholarships for Riverhead and Mercy high school students in Heidi’s name. In fact, next Thursday night is the group’s annual steak dinner fundraiser at Polish Hall. At last year’s event, Peconic Bay Medical Center pledged an annual $5,000 donation to the Heidi Behr Memorial Scholarship Fund.

These examples of one community’s outpouring of support are why I always tell people that if they ever, God forbid, found themselves facing some life-threatening injury or otherwise in need of help after a tragedy, they would be so lucky to live in Riverhead.

This is a community that rallies like no other I’ve witnessed on Long Island.

Which is why it’s beyond my understanding that more than seven years after her death, no government property has been named in Heidi Behr’s honor. I can’t think of a more deserving person to have a highway or bridge named after her.

In town and in the schools we have dozens of places and structures, big and small, named for people. Think of all the parks named after politicians, including Stotzky Memorial Park, Milton L. Burns Park and Lombardi Park.

Yet nothing for Heidi Behr.

Here was a volunteer, a 23-year-old single mother, who died in the line of duty trying to save another person’s life. And she wasn’t just an ambulance member; she was one of the best. Heidi had received “Top Responder” and “Corpsman of the Year” awards with the ambulance corps.

She may be the town’s greatest fallen hero outside of Medal of Honor recipient Garfield Langhorn.

While we live in a world full of complainers, young and old alike, dwelling on what they haven’t got, this young women gave herself — not only to her son and her family, but to her community.

Imagine just a playground named for Heidi. Children across Riverhead might then be asking who she was.

She was one of the best our community has ever produced, parents would answer. She was a true role model.

I’ll float one bold idea right here. The riverfront boardwalk park downtown is in need of a namesake. It should be named the Heidi Behr Memorial Park & Boardwalk. Throughout most of the year, the park is a quiet, tranquil place, with the placid Peconic River as its centerpiece. It’s a place many of us stop to sit and reflect. It would be fitting.

Heidi Behr grew up just a short walk from the Peconic River as a kid. A young hero in the making.

Michael White is the editor of the News-Review. He can be reached at mwhite@timesreview.com or 631-298-3200, ext. 152.