Riverhead police have closed five streets across town Saturday night as biting wind sweep snow and ice over the roads. READ
Riverhead police have closed five streets across town Saturday night as biting wind sweep snow and ice over the roads. READ
A 20-year-old Riverhead man was arrested for attempting to flee the scene of a DWI crash on foot early Sunday, town police said.
“No one was more surprised in that courtroom than me.”
Not typical words coming from a defense attorney, moments after one of his client’s cases ended.
Just before potential jurors were set to enter the courtroom, a Riverhead taxi driver — 29-year-old Howard Ferebee Jr. — accused of being the getaway man in a Horton Avenue burglary last year, pleaded guilty to a lower charge Thursday afternoon in a bizarre court appearance that lasted nearly 20 minutes as the defendant peppered the judge and his attorney with questions.
There’s a unique bond formed between players on a basketball court. During a game — even in the heat of competition — players can develop a respect for one another.
It’s that thinking that led Riverhead residents Dwayne Eleazer and Larry Williams to create the Stop the Violence Basketball Tournament. Now in its seventh year, the tournament has blossomed into an annual showcase of outstanding basketball — all in the hopes of bringing the community together and curtailing future violence.
“You can come on a basketball court and play without any violence, you might see that person in the street,” Mr. Eleazer said in between games Saturday on the first day of the tournament. “I played ball with him, we can talk this out.”
The latest tournament at the Riverhead Town basketball court on Horton Avenue hit even closer to home this year. Just over six months ago, Riverhead resident Demitri Hampton was killed in a still unsolved shooting.
Mr. Hampton’s mother, Juanita Trent, ran a raffle during the tournament to raise money for the scholarship formed in her son’s honor. By midday Saturday, she already had more than $400 and was hoping to reach $1,000 by the tournament’s conclusion Sunday.
Ms. Trent said her son Jamal Davis has played in the tournament several times and did so again this year.
Players wore T-shirts with names on the back of people hurt by street violence.
The event has grown to where teams from all across the region come to compete for the nearly $2,000 prize. Teams from New York City and New Jersey participated this year.
Clarence Alonzo, a 2004 Longwood graduate, said his team was prepared to defend its title from a year ago.
“We probably have two good teams that can give us a run for our money,” Mr. Alonzo said. “Everybody else has to buckle their seatbelt up and take this ride with us.”
The biggest competition was likely a team led by 6-foot-6 J.J. Moore, a former Brentwood player who played at the University of Pittsburgh. He’s currently going into his senior year at Rutgers after transferring.
In the past, NBA player A.J. Price has even shown up to play. Organizers weren’t sure whether Mr. Price would make an appearance this year.
“He plays on one of the better teams,” said referee Cliff Rowland of Center Moriches. “He’s like one of the ringers. In the championship game, A.J. shows up.”
Mr. Williams said the event is also an opportunity to bring together the community and police officers.
“If the guy’s know the officer, and the officer’s know them, if there’s a problem you’re more apt to talk to each other,” he said.
As many as 500 people stopped by the tournament Saturday, which ran all day. There were nine teams (one dropped out) playing in a double elimination tournament. The semifinals and championship are Sunday.
A plan for Riverhead Town to use federal grant money to install flood-prevention measures on Horton Avenue has stalled after a new engineering report forced the price of the project to jump nearly five times higher.
Now town officials say unless they can secure more grant funding, the drainage plan is dead in the water.
“I think the [Town] Board is not going to be able to go forward with the second phase,” said Supervisor Sean Walter. “The money just isn’t there. We can’t print money like the federal government.”
The original proposal for $600,000 worth of drainage installation was approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency through a reimbursement grant in October 2011, more than a year after torrential rains flooded Horton Avenue, forcing out more than a dozen families whose homes were damaged by the waters.
But a new report discovered by the town’s engineering department has revealed that the amount of land that drains into the Horton Avenue area is nearly double what was originally estimated. That drove the price up to $2.9 million, town officials said.
Town engineer Drew Dillingham said a report filed by a consulting firm in 1979 shows the acreage that feeds into the watershed was “significantly higher” than the 700 acres he originally estimated.
Mr. Dillingham checked the area again and found that the acreage was closer to 1,200.
“Everything ends up there, or in the vicinity,” he said. “What that means is, you’ve got a lot more water coming to your design than you initially anticipated.”
Mr. Dillingham said he was rushed on the initial study because of tight FEMA deadlines.
“This was a slam-together, fast-estimate job,” he said. “Everything was in crisis mode.”
The original plan called for shallow channels called swales to be dug north of Reeves Avenue in a farm field, he said. But because about twice as much water flows into the area near Horton Avenue, the new design calls for moving the swales by clearing a wooded area east of Horton Avenue and replacing it with sand trenches, digging out a nearby dry pond seven feet down to groundwater and creating a man-made wetland that would catch the rainwater.
Out of the $2.9 million cost of the new project, about $2.3 million would pay for labor to remove the wooded area, with the remaining $600,000 set aside for materials and plantings, Mr. Dillingham said.
Mr. Dillingham said that because the town was forced to update the plan and increase the price, FEMA would now demand the town put more of its own money into the project.
He said Police Chief David Hegermiller, who is the town’s FEMA liaison, is trying to find other ways to fund the project.
“We are in fact looking at other grants to get this done,” he said, adding that Chief Hegermiller is also considering building a sump in the area, a cheaper alternative to the current $2.9 million proposal. Mr. Dillingham said the sump would provide more “more bang for your buck,” but he was unsure if FEMA places restrictions on what type of solutions the town could use for that area.
The man-made wetlands management project was part of a larger $3 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that let the town buy back homes from the flood victims at pre-flood values and demolish the houses.
Though the wetlands project has stalled and may be abandoned, Mr. Walter said the primary goal of the project was to get residents out of the potential flood zone.
“We moved the people out of harms way,” he said. “At this point, if it were to flood, no houses would be underwater.”
Former Horton Avenue resident Linda Hobson, who became an advocate for the flood victims after the 2010 storm and worked with politicians to get the grant approved, said she’s concerned by the way the street looks now that the homes have been demolished.
“There are still residents living up there and I’m not sure they’re going to want to live there, with what it looks like right now,” she said. “You dug out some houses and it looks like a big void.”
But she said that she is “very content” with the outcome for her and her fellow flood victims, one of whom recently closed on a new house in Center Moriches paid for by the funds she received by selling her damaged house back to the town.
“I am elated that it’s over and that I’m getting my life back together … The most important part of it was done, and that was the part that concerned people and housing,” Ms. Hobson said. “We’ll just have to move on from here.”
Two Riverhead men were arrested after they stole a television during a break-in on Horton Avenue early Sunday and tried to flee police, Riverhead Town police said.
A Horton Avenue resident told police a man kicked down the door to his house about 4 a.m., waking the resident and his mother. The resident struggled with the burglar but was knocked down, giving the intruder time to take a television from the house and run, police said.
The robber and another man drove away from the scene in a Hampton Town Taxi, the resident told police.
Riverhead police officers on patrol found the taxi driving on Flanders Road in Riverside. They pulled over the taxi and arrested the driver, 28-year-old Howard Ferebee Jr. But the passenger, 20-year-old Tremel Kelly, ran from the car and fled the area, leading police on a foot chase to the Budget Host Inn in Riverside.
A police K9 unit eventually found Mr. Kelly hiding in a room at the motel and arrested him.
This was not the first time Mr. Kelly was arrested for running from police. He was arrested last year after he led police on a car chase through Southampton and Riverhead towns, according to a police report.
Last April, Mr. Kelly allegedly stole a car in Southampton then drove north into Riverhead to escape police. Mr. Kelly then fled his vehicle on foot near the Millbrook Gables neighborhood in Riverhead, police said.
Police searched the area for more than five hours, eventually catching Mr. Kelly at 4 p.m, police said.
He was charged with fourth-degree grand larceny, resisting arrest for that incident, police said.
He had also been arrested in 2011 as part of a cocaine, cash counterfeiting and weapons trafficking ring and was allegedly connected with the “Bloods” gang, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.
Both Mr. Ferebee and Mr. Kelly were charged with second-degree burglary and robbery, police said. Mr. Kelly was also charged with third-degree criminal mischief while Mr. Ferebee faces a fourth-degree criminal facilitation charge.
Both men involved in Sunday’s incident are being held on $50,000 bail. They both requested legal aid and are due back in court Monday.
Linda Hobson stood near the edge of the street on Horton Avenue Friday afternoon, watching as an excavator lifted piles of debris into the waiting dumpster.
The house that stood on the property a few days before was gone now. The owners had left years ago, driven away after the house was damaged during the torrential rains that flooded the area more than two years ago. The house has been empty since.
Ms. Hobson, who lost her home in the disaster, began nodding her head as chunks of the house’s remains crashed into the dumpster.
“It’s all good,” Ms. Hobson said.
Demolitions began Thursday on the Horton Avenue houses damaged by the 2010 floods as part of a nearly $3 million Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to provide disaster relief to those who lost their homes in the flood.
The grant allows Riverhead Town to buy the properties from the Horton Avenue homeowners at pre-flood values, then demolish the houses once the properties are purchased and use the open space for drainage purposes to prevent future flooding, according to Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller.
Twelve houses will be torn down after workers complete asbestos abatement on the property, Cheif Hegermiller said. The last offer to buy back a home will be sent to the last resident remaining on the block this week, he added.
Those who rented homes during the flood were not covered under the grant, nor were any valuables lost during the flood.
Local government officials gathered at the site Friday to thank advocates like Ms. Hobson and praise the efforts made to help those who suffered from the disaster.
County Executive Steve Bellone said that the project was only made possible thanks to the combined efforts of the state, town, county and federal governments.
“Because of all that work, because of all that effort, I think what we have here is an example of a model of how we might be able to get things done in this region,” Mr. Bellone said.
Congressman Tim Bishop also praised the bipartisan work by government leadership.
“This is every level of government cutting across party lines to come together and do the right thing, and we all did the right thing.”
But Mr. Bishop and other officials all gave special praise to residents like Ms. Hobson and Shirley Coverdale for their continued support for the residents of Horton Avenue.
“This probably wouldn’t have happened were it not for sustained and effective citizen advocacy,” Mr. Bishop said.
Town Supervisor Sean Walter said he was glad the project was able to succeed despite the bumps in the road along the way.
“There were an awful lot of fits and starts with this thing, but luckily people like Linda Hobson just kept hammering and hammering and hammering and sometimes that’s what it takes,” he said.
Ms. Hobson said people can use this example to learn “what we can all do together when we cross party lines and stop focusing on the politics of things and start to get to what’s in the best interest of the community and the people.”
“We did not always agree, but we always were able to come to the table and come to a resolution and that’s how we got to where we are today,” she said. Ms. Hobson, who hasn’t found a new permanent home yet, will be able to buy a new home soon through an affordable housing program, she said.
Horton Avenue residents said they were glad to see the abandoned buildings go, but some expressed sadness that their neighborhood would lose the homes.
Debbie Braunskill, who lives across the street from where the houses will be demolished, said she remembered seeing rowboats up and down the road after the flood.
Ms. Braunskill said she would like to see the land used as a park or expand the playground for the neighborhoods kids.
“Hopefully with this demolition here they’ll be able to make something nice out of it,” she said. “It’s going to be nice. Nice and quiet.”
Kanice Miles, a Horton Avenue resident whose basement was flooded during the 2010 storms, stopped for a moment in her SUV Thursday morning as an excavator tossed pieces of debris into a waiting dumpster.
The neighborhood is changing, she said, and while she was glad to see the eyesores go, she said she’d miss seeing the homes that have sat along Horton Avenue since her childhood.
“It’s all over,” she said, shaking her head. “It’ll never be the same. It’s like family leaving, but I guess it’s what we have to do.”
The Riverhead Town Board approved a resolution at its meeting Tuesday night to buy back several Horton Avenue houses that were damaged during a four-day series of storms in 2010 that put much of the low-lying neighborhood underwater, forcing residents from their homes.
Most of the affected homeowners have made agreements to sell their properties to Riverhead Town in exchange for federal grant money, a key step in the process toward assisting those who lost everything during the flood.
“It’s a good feeling to be at the end of this,” said Linda Hobson, a Horton Avenue resident and advocate for the victims of the flood.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency grant will allow the town to pay storm victims nearly $3 million in exchange for their houses.
The grant permits the town to buy the properties from the residents at pre-flood values, then demolish them and use the open space for drainage purposes. Horton Avenue residents will then be able to use the money to buy or rent elsewhere.
In March, the displaced residents and government officials were waiting for an overdue batch of appraisals so the process could continue. At the time, officials said the town and county would have to “redouble [its] efforts” to meet federal deadlines, and Congressman Tim Bishop even wrote a letter urging officials to pick up the pace.
The appraiser, Maurice Perkins, eventually filed the remaining appraisals.
“Things have picked up drastically since then,” Ms. Hobson said. “Everybody’s been on board.”
Ms. Hobson said almost all the homeowners have found other places to move into, making a proposed affordable housing development to be built with help from Suffolk County that residents previously pushed for unnecessary.
“Because there’s only two residents who need dwellings, at this point we don’t feel its a necessity to build the development in Riverhead,” she said.
Ms. Hobson is one of the two residents who have yet to find a new place to live.
Read more about the efforts to assist Horton Avenue residents and what will happen next in this week’s News-Review.