12/31/12 8:00am
12/31/2012 8:00 AM

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Giant sas lines at Hess in Riverhead in the days following Superstorm Sandy.

While Superstorm Sandy — a combination of a massive hurricane out of the south and upper level trough out of the Midwest — spared the Riverhead area its worst, houses in several coastal hamlets were damaged by wind and flood waters during the storm. And several beaches were severely eroded.

Thousands of local residents went without power for days, even over a week after Sandy, whose surge struck the region Monday, Oct. 29. Some stayed with friends and relatives. Others were forced to shelters set up in Riverhead and Southampton towns.

A subsequent gas shortage compounded the already stressful situation. Many were still without power with temperatures reaching near-freezing levels and generators running dry of precious gas.

And tensions were running high on some lines.

“People don’t know how to adapt without the luxuries they’re used to,” Calverton resident Judy Torrieri said at a Hess station line. “They’re willing to go out and get what they need and siphon out your gas. Any means necessary.”

Perhaps the lasting local image from Sandy was that of downtown Riverhead’s southern side, much of which was under water on the Monday morning before the storm’s full brunt was even close to being felt. Features of downtown’s Grangebel Park, like railings and foot bridges, became indiscernible as the tides rose to record levels and a gazebo in the riverfront park to the east was lifted up and deposited elsewhere in the park.

Upon realizing that points to the west and south of Long Island suffered much more damage, our communities, led by our fire departments, rallied by collecting goods and money to be distributed in Mastic, Shirley and other places.

Many in Wading River, Aquebogue, Jamesport and Flanders said they’d never seen the bay or Sound waters so high.

Linda Heller, who’s lived on Creek Road in Wading River for 16 years, returned home to discover that so much land had been wiped away behind her home, almost the entire cesspool was exposed, she told the News-Review that week.

“I was very surprised to say the least,” she said. “You don’t expect to see your cesspool.”

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12/27/12 7:30am
12/27/2012 7:30 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Riverhead Raceway indian statue is once again intact after being cut in two during Superstorm Sandy Oct. 29.

Two months after being cut off at the waist by strong winds from Superstorm Sandy, the indian statue at Riverhead Raceway is once again fully intact.

Raceway owners Jim and Barbara Cromarty had vowed at a Chamber of Commerce dinner earlier this month that “The Indian” would be back on his feet by Christmas. They were right.

The iconic statue, which was brought to Riverhead in 1980 from the old Danbury Fair in Connecticut, was split in two in the late afternoon of Oct. 29. “The Indian” once appeared in an episode of HBO’s hit television drama “The Sopranos.”

12/23/12 12:00pm
12/23/2012 12:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | One of the large FEMA-funded trucks at the town’s refuse and recyling center in Cutchogue collects storm debris for disposal in Brookhaven.

Just in time for Christmas, Riverhead and Southold towns have received a sizable gift from Uncle Sam.The many tons of tree limbs, tree trunks and other debris left behind by Hurricane Sandy no longer sit in huge piles, thanks to Suffolk County and the Federal Emergency Management Agency .

Smooth and speedy coordination among the town, county and federal governments resulted in the removal of 60,000 cubic yards of debris from the North Fork by way of tandem trucks at no cost to local taxpayers, said Jim Bunchuck, Southold’s solid waste coordinator.

“It was really perfect,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “This was all part of FEMA’s aid to the town. We didn’t even have to provide a payloader or anything to get the debris into the trucks because the trucks had their own great big shovels to load themselves.”

The trucks, which belong to a Missouri company, were contracted to take storm debris to the Brookhaven landfill, where FEMA has staged incinerators to burn the debris.

“We didn’t initially feel we would need help with the brush because we have our own compost area, but the amount of debris that came in ended up being overwhelmingly large,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “We processed a year’s worth of debris just in the month of November and we still have a lot of processed wood chips leftover from Irene.”

Although Southold Town has room to store the debris at the Cutchogue waste transfer station, Mr. Bunchuck said processing it would have taken a year.

“Normally brush can’t be burned, but because of the emergency declaration, burning it up in Brookhaven is allowed,” he said. “That’s saved us a big headache and allowed us to keep on top of the situation. It’s been a great benefit.”

Jack Naylor, director of utilities in Greenport Village , said Southold learned help was available from Riverhead Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson.

Mr. Woodson said his crews calculated that 20,000 cubic tons of debris was trucked away from Riverhead Town alone.

“We had meetings with the county recovery team in Yaphank every day after the storm and they were the ones who initially gave us the choice to get our debris either ground up or trucked out to Brookhaven to be burned,” Mr. Woodson said. “I chose to have it trucked out, which took about three weeks.”

Just as the company finished in Riverhead, Mr. Bunchuck said he contacted Mr. Woodson to learn if Southold Town could benefit from their services.

“The trucks mobilized within 24 hours of being contacted,” Mr. Bunchuck said.

Mr. Naylor said he had a similar experience with the contractors, who arrived within hours of being contacted.

“I called at 9:30 a.m. on Friday and they were here at 12:30,” Mr. Naylor said. “They were here Friday, Saturday and Sunday and now they’re done. We saved a ton of money. It hasn’t cost us a dime.”

He said after the trucks completed their work in Greenport, they headed off to remove debris in Huntington.

“It’s been one of those things, like, serendipity,” Mr. Naylor said. “Someone made a call to Riverhead, then we found out and started making calls, too. It’s just been great coordination between the towns and the county.”

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12/21/12 10:35am
12/21/2012 10:35 AM

COURTESY PHOTO | Cars stored on the runway at the Enterprise Park in Calverton.

A number of area environmental organizations, led by Richard Amper of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, are asking the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take action on the storage of Superstorm Sandy-damaged cars in the Pine Barrens and other designated groundwater protection areas.

“Gasoline, oil, anti-freeze, lubricants and the interaction of salt water with auto parts pose a threat to Long Island’s Sole Source Aquifer,” a Dec. 18 letter the groups sent to DEC commissioner Joseph Martens states. “To date, your Department has not been effective in remedying this problem.”

A total of 20 East End environmental or civic groups signed the letter.

Since Sandy flooded much of Long Island, a number of “total loss” cars wrecked by the water have been acquired by insurance companies, which make arrangements with companies that auction the wrecked cars off to licensed recyclers. The cars are being stored at numerous sites throughout the island.

The Dec. 18 letter comes a day before the state’s Central Pine Barrens Commission voted to prosecute people who store these cars within the core of the Pine Barrens, but not within the compatible growth area.

The core is the section of the Pine Barrens where new development is largely prohibited, while the compatible growth area does allow some development with approval from the commission.

Mr. Amper had urged the commission to prosecute the storing of cars in the compatible growth areas as well.

The commission on Wednesday debated the issue, with Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter opposed to having the Pine Barrens Commission get involved in enforcing the car storage issue, which is already, in some cases, being enforced by the DEC. The supervisors of Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven towns, along with a state and county representative, comprise the commission’s members.

Riverhead Town is itself leasing the runways and taxiways at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to a company storing Sandy-soaked cars, and stands to make close to $2 million from doing so. The DEC has said it has no problems with that, because it’s on pavement, but the DEC has issued violations to another company storing cars on grasslands at EPCAL.

“I don’t see the purpose of bringing the Pine Barrens into it,” Mr. Walter said. The supervisor said he’s been “trying to not have” the battle of section 9.2 of the Pine Barrens land use plan, and he said involving the Pine Barrens commission in the car storage issue would trigger that debate again.

Riverhead Town believes that “economic development” at EPCAL is exempt from review by the Pine Barrens Commission, as set forth in section 9.2 of the land use plan. Riverhead Town officials in the mid 1990s refused to support the Pine Barrens law unless that exemption was included.

However, there is no mention of that exemption in the actual Pine Barrens law, which was adopted by the state legislature two years earlier than the land use plan.

“That (exemption) has no legal standing because it contradicts the statute,” said Mr. Amper said at Wednesday’s meeting. He said it’s “always better to have both” the Pine Barrens Commission and the DEC enforcing things.

Mr. Walter said the commission will be less likely to get temporary restraining orders from judges in car storage cases without Riverhead’s support.

The commission then went into executive session, emerged a few minutes later and voted to prosecute only car storage in the EPCAL core.  The runways at EPCAL are in the compatible growth area of the Pine Barrens, but not in the core.

Mr. Amper disagrees with the DEC’s decision to allow the cars to be stored on paved areas in EPCAL.

“The notion that there is no threat to the water supply because cars are parked on pavement is incorrect.

The cars at EPCAL could remain for six months to a year.

The letter adds, “Worse still, is the suggestion on the part of (DEC) Region One officials that the Department lacks authority to protect these vital natural resources.

There have been inquiries about storing cars in closed sand mines, such as the Calverton Industries sand mine site on Route 25 in Calverton, according to Mr. Walter.

When asked about the potential for cars to be stored in a closed, inactive sand mine, DEC spokesperson Aphrodite Montalvo wrote, “DEC does not have jurisdiction in former mine sites where the site mine permit is closed and no additional environmental concerns (wetlands, protected species) exist.  Any active mines wishing to use their property for vehicle storage will require a permit modification for change of use from DEC.”

DEC has also said it has no problem with cars being stored on paved areas.

But DEC has issued a set of guidelines where permits may be needed for storing cars.

These include areas within 300 feet of tidal wetlands or 100 feet of freshwater wetlands; areas that have threatened or endangered species’ habitats; regulated mining facility or landfills, and registered solid waste facilities.

In addition to the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, the letter to the DEC also was signed by representatives from the Group for the East End, the North Fork Environmental Council, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, the Friends of the Bay, the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum, the Nature Conservancy, the North Fork Audubon Society, the Southampton Town Civic Coalition, and the North Fork Clean Water Coalition, among others.

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12/13/12 11:55am
12/13/2012 11:55 AM
DEC COURTESY PHOTO | Hurricane Sandy damaged cars parked on the grasslands at EPCAL.

DEC COURTESY PHOTO | Hurricane Sandy damaged cars parked on the grasslands at EPCAL.

Last month, the state Department of Environmental Conservation ordered cars to be removed from property at the Enterprise Park at Calverton owned by Jan Burman.

But DEC officials say those cars are still there.

An auto auction company called Copart has been storing cars damaged in Hurricane Sandy on Mr. Burman’s property, just south of the eastern runway at EPCAL.

While Riverhead Town has an arrangement with a different auto auction company to store storm-damaged cars on town-owned property at EPCAL, the state DEC targeted only the Burman/Copart arrangement because those cars are being kept on grass, raising environmental concerns, while the town property involved is all paved runways and taxiways.

But DEC officials say Copart and Mr. Burman have not removed the cars.

“DEC has engaged both parties [Copart and Mr. Burman] regarding the issue of the vehicles that have not been removed from the property as ordered. DEC is currently evaluating potential next steps to initiate vehicle removal,” said DEC spokesperson Aphrodite Montalvo.

Asked how many cars were removed and how many remain, she responded, “To DEC’s knowledge, no cars have yet been removed from the site. An exact amount of vehicles on the site has not been calculated, but given the amount of acreage being utilized, DEC suspects vehicles ranging in the thousands.”

A News-Review reporter did report seeing cars being taken from the site Nov. 28, with a private security guard also saying the cars were being removed.

Mr. Burman did not respond to a call seeking comment and Copart did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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12/12/12 11:30am
12/12/2012 11:30 AM

JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES | A U.S. Navy honor guard salutes over the casket of Navy veteran David Maxwell, 66, before his burial at Calverton National Cemetery Monday.

More than one month after he was found drowned in his Midland Beach home, the last of Staten Island’s victims from Superstorm Sandy was buried at Calverton National Cemetery Monday afternoon.

David Maxwell, 66, a Vietnam veteran was found Nov. 9, 11 days after the storm hit. Neighbors who knocked on his door after the storm passed thought he had evacuated, according to the Staten Island Advance.

He had been living alone after his partner, James McCormick, 72, suffered a recent stroke and was forced to move into a rehabilitation center, the Advance reported.

A Navy veteran, Mr. Maxwell was buried at the national cemetery, accompanied by honor guards from the Catholic War Veterans and the Patriot Guard Riders.

12/07/12 3:00pm
12/07/2012 3:00 PM
Long Island, Riverhead, North Fork, Southold, Supestorm Sandy

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead Building Supply employee Andy Strrebel helps contractor Paul Fizzuoglio of Flanders load some sheetrock into his truck Tuesday morning.

Hurricane Sandy caused millions of dollars of damage on the East End but, at the same time, provided a boon, if not an economic windfall, for some businesses.

That’s especially the case for those in businesses connected to rebuilding. Some in the hospitality industry also received a bump, although no one interviewed this week felt the need to gloat.

“You want to be happy, but you can’t,” Rob Salvatico said of the 100 percent occupancy rates his two Riverhead hotels, The Indigo East End and Holiday Inn Express, experienced during and after Sandy. “I can’t even begin to tell you about the personal losses people have experienced from this storm. It’s terrible.”

About 40 New York state troopers used the Indigo East End as a staging area after the storm, bringing generators along to ensure they could stay at the hotel if it lacked power.

“First responders and National Grid guys were also desperate for rooms,” Mr. Salvatico said. “They’d been sleeping in their trucks and were just so happy to have a safe, dry, warm place to stay and have a hot shower. I couldn’t believe the looks on their faces as they came in the door. At one point, they were inflating mattresses and staying in the ballroom.”

Though he called the uptick in business “bittersweet,” Mr. Salvatico said the situation showed how Riverhead is developing.

“The uplifting message here is that if you look at Riverhead five or 10 years ago, we had one hotel,” he said. “Now we have four and this was the first time Riverhead’s hotels have been full for almost the entire month of November.”

The same held true in Southold, where hotel and motel parking lots were filled for weeks with utility trucks belonging to out-of-town and, in many cases, out-of-state utility workers brought in to help with the massive power restoration effort.

The storm also wrecked many a dock and bulkhead. John Costello of Costello Marine Contracting Corp. in Greenport said that with all the contracts the company has — including repairing ferry slips and rock revetments, some of which pre-date the storm — he can’t accept any more work.

“After the storm we’ve been involved in attempting to save a couple houses that were in jeopardy of getting pulled into the bay,” Mr. Costello said, “Since Oct. 29 I haven’t done any work except to go and visit devastated properties, particularly around Shelter Island, East Hampton and Montauk. So far we’ve saved two houses. It’s just nuts. There’s a lot of damage and all you can ask people to do is to try to be patient and hope they’re able to find legitimate, qualified marine contractors to get the work done.”

Mr. Costello said he’s received nearly 80 requests for service and has been able to respond to only about a dozen.

“We’ve been getting more business than we can possibly handle,” he said.

On land, contractors are also finding themselves swimming in work, said general contractor Paul Fizzuoglio, who stopped to talk to a reporter Tuesday morning while purchasing sheetrock at Riverhead Building Supply.

“It’s been a gold rush for contractors.” Mr. Fizzuoglio said, adding, “I’m giving them a fair price.”

Mr. Fizzuoglio of Flanders has contracts to renovate storm-damaged homes in Flanders, South Jamesport, Hampton Bays and even Long Beach.

Edgar Goodale of Riverhead Building Supply said it’s still a bit early to gauge any increase in sales for major repair-related items such as cabinetry and millwork, although he has noticed a slight uptick in insulation sales.

Mr. Goodale said Riverhead’s sales increases have been smaller than those of similar companies in western Suffolk and Nassau County.

“So many people are suffering,” he said. “You would not believe the stories. It’s absolutely heart-wrenching.”

The operators of independent hardware stores, like Orlowski Hardware in Mattituck and Cutchogue Hardware in Cutchogue, said if there’s been an increase in sales, it’s been very slight.

Robert Molchan of Cutchogue Hardware said his biggest sales came during and just after the storm.

“We were able to accommodate people with flashlights, batteries, candles, propane, lamp oil and even gas cans,” Mr. Molchan said.

Some of those in need of a flashlight during Sandy couldn’t have traveled to get one even if they wanted to, as vehicles throughout Long Island became waterlogged or crushed by falling limbs and trees.

“I think there were 250,000 cars lost just in the Northeast,” said Howie Lucas, owner of Lucas Ford in Southold. He estimates his sales are up 20 percent and that anyone who brings in proof that they lost a vehicle in the storm will receive a cash incentive to purchase a new vehicle.

Riverhead Toyota owner Ted Lucki said that while the majority of replacement business has been concentrated up-island, he attributes some new car sales to the gas crisis that immediately followed the storm.

“I think the gas lines that occurred reinforced the perspective of fuel economy and filling up once a week, instead of two or three times,” Mr. Lucki said. “Prices go up and down, but availability scares people and I think it’s reflective of the kinds of cars people are buying these days.”

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11/28/12 12:00pm
11/28/2012 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A tow truck leaving EPCAL after removing cars from the grasslands at the end of the 10,000 foot-long runway Wednesday morning.

Tow trucks have begun removing storm-damaged cars stored on a privately-held section of the Enterprise Park at Calverton Wednesday morning after the New York State DEC sent a cease and desist letter to the property owner ordering removal of the cars.

The cars, which were deemed inoperable after superstorm Sandy, are stored in the thousands on a section of EPCAL owned by developer Jan Burman, town officials said.

Unlike a similar arrangement the town has with an auto auction company to store vehicles elsewhere at EPCAL, the cars, trucks and SUVs on Burman’s property are being kept on grass by a different auto auction company, which DEC officials objected to in their letter.

In the Nov. 26 letter to car auction group Copart — which is storing the cars on the Burman land — DEC Regional Supervisor Robert Marsh wrote that the storage of cars on grassland at EPCAL threatened the habitats and foraging grounds of threatened or endangered species.

Tiger salamanders on the site may be crushed by the heavy equipment used to store and move the vehicles around the site, Mr. Marsh said, and the cars are also “an adverse modification of foraging habitat for northern harriers” and the short-eared owl, an endangered species.

This would be a violation of New York code that prohibits activities that threaten endangered species, he wrote.

“You are hereby advised to cease your operation at the referenced location immediately,” Mr. Marsh said in the letter to Copart officials. “All vehicles should be removed from the identified sensitive habitat areas as soon as physically possible.”

A local environmental advocate had previously criticized plans to store cars on the EPCAL property, saying the vehicles posed an environmental safety hazard.

Town officials initially issued a stop-work order on the Burman property’s car storing operation, but later rescinded the order because they the state Department of Environmental Conservation was the correct agency to look into the issue rather than the town, Supervisor Sean Walter said in a previous interview.

Mr. Walter was unable to be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

Bill Fonda, a spokesman for the DEC, said the town alerted the state to the potential violation at EPCAL

“[The] DEC will always assist property owners to follow best management practices to protect the environment,” Mr. Fonda said in an email. “In this case, the Town of Riverhead contacted DEC to discuss the use of the town-owned property at EPCAL for storage of vehicles, but the private property owner involved did not.”

On Tuesday, DEC officials and state troopers were onsite and by Wednesday cars were seen being loaded onto flatbed trucks and removed from the EPCAL property.

A security guard working for Copart at the site said no more cars were being allowed into the property, and he did not allow a reporter to enter the property.

Representatives from Copart could not be immediately reached for comment.

The cars being stored through the town’s lease also amount to in the thousands, but they are parked on the unused runways at the former Grumman facility.

DEC officials have said they do not have a problem with the town’s arrangement.

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