09/27/13 6:59am
09/27/2013 6:59 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Bedell Cellars’ assistant winemaker, Seferino Cotzojay, crouches on top of the grape crusher as Raven Blake of Greenport stomps down the grapes to make room for more.

While many immigrants to the U.S. look at agricultural work as a stepping stone into other industries, 28-year-old Seferino Cotzojay of Mattituck has achieved big things by staying put in farming.

“I’m sure you’ve heard this,” Mr. Cotzojay said on a recent afternoon, while harvesting grapes at Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue. “Opportunities are here in America.”

Opportunities certainly presented themselves to Mr. Cotzojay, who worked his way up to become assistant winemaker at Bedell.

“This is my passion, wine making is my passion,” he said.

Special Report: Immigration and agriculture on the North Fork

He began working in the fields of his native Guatemala at 6 years old, after being forced to quit school, which had become too expensive for his family, he said.

He traveled to the U.S. at age 15 in hopes of getting an education. And his first learning experience in this country came in the form of culture shock.

“When I first came to the U.S., I was struck by the language barrier, learning English, the culture differences,” Mr. Cotzojay recalled. “It was hard to get used to.”

He began attending school in Phoenix, Ariz., where he focused on learning English. His next move was to the fields of Long Island, where he began working alongside winemakers at Bedell.

Between harvesting and cleaning tanks and equipment, he said, he paid close attention to how the winemakers described different wines.

“Not a single vintage is exactly the same, but somehow I became familiar,” he said. “I was able to understand and to communicate on a daily basis, and that helped me a lot to be able to learn and read books about winemaking.”

Over time, his knowledge base grew, as did his fluency in English. By 2011 he had earned his current position as assistant winemaker.

When asked if America is a place where dreams can come true, he replied, “It’s a matter of pursuing and making the dream become a reality – it could be anywhere in the world.”

Mr. Cotzojay currently has a green card and is working on gaining citizenship, he said, so he can continue working at the very farm where his passion was grown.


08/12/13 9:00am
08/12/2013 9:00 AM
CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A classic car show fundraiser was held in Southold Sunday to benefit the Sweeney family of Laurel.

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | A classic car show fundraiser was held in Southold Sunday to benefit the Sweeney family of Laurel.

More than 400 local residents attended a classic car show in Southold Sunday to support Mattituck fireman Michael Sweeney and his family.

The Sweeney home in Laurel was badly damaged in a fire just two weeks ago.

The benefit classic car and motorcycle show at the American Legion Hall was organized by a group of Mr. Sweeney’s oldest friends. You can read more about how the fundraiser came to be by clicking here.

08/11/13 2:20pm
08/11/2013 2:20 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Dan Yaiullo, center, leads a song and dance in a scene from Oklahoma!

A couple has given $100,000 to help fund renovations at the North Fork Community Theatre building in Mattituck.

On top of that, Emilie and Michael Corey have pledged to match all other donations to the theater, up to $300,000, through December 2015. That means as much as $700,000 could go toward rehabbing the facility.

The theater’s president, Mary Motto Kalich, called the donations “inspiring.”

“This really inspires all of us to work together and contribute,” Ms. Kalich said. “It makes it easier, if you will, for the community to say, ‘Hey, now my $100 is really $200.’ They are reaching out in a tremendous way to help us do these renovations to the theatre.”

The Coreys were not available for comment this week but, according to published reports, Ms. Corey is a retired social worker and Mr. Corey is a retired managing director of JP Morgan. The couple has a home Riverhead Town and ties to the East End and New York City.

The money will be used to purchase and install a new cesspool, curtains, as well as lights and rigging for the theater. The structure was built in the 19th century as a church and has been used for performances since 1957. The theater’s 166 chairs — hand-me-downs from the 1980s, Ms. Kalich said — will also be torn out and replaced for an estimated cost of $35,000. The theater’s exterior will be painted and re-shingled.

“The curtain has some sort of tape on top of it because there’s a big rip in it,” Ms. Kalich said. “You make do and you fix what you can.”

This isn’t the first major donation the theatre has received. Last year, with the help of donations from community supporters, the group was able to purchase the building itself from Mattituck Presbyterian Church for $465,000. The amateur theater group had been leasing the theater since 1961.

“We had never really done much fundraising before,” Ms. Kalich said. “Then we realized we needed to buy the building. About five years ago we started a campaign, reached out to the community and received wonderful support from a wide variety of people.”


07/30/13 4:37pm
07/30/2013 4:37 PM


Members from several North Fork congregations will gather in Mattituck’s Strawberry Fields August 3 for a day of music, prayer and sermons at the Great North Fork Awakening.

The free event, which starts at noon and ends at 8 p.m., is being hosted by volunteers and will consist of short sermons from various Long Island churches. Greg Gaffga, pastor of the Mattituck Presbyterian Church, will give the opening sermon.

In a press release, Monica Harbes, who owns Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck with her husband, Ed, said the event is geared toward “anyone who is interested in renewing their faith, seeking spiritual direction, or those who may have questions about beginning a relationship with God.” Ms. Harbes was not immediately available for further comment.

Local Christian rock band Crossing Jordan will perform two short sets during the day and a longer set in the evening.

Food vendors will be on site, but guests are invited to bring their own picnic baskets.


07/29/13 8:00am
07/29/2013 8:00 AM
GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Charles Millman speaks at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Greenport Sunday morning.

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Charles Millman speaks at Congregation Tifereth Israel in Greenport Sunday morning.

Toward the end of a presentation on his investigation into the TWA Flight 800 crash, Mattituck resident Charles Millman was asked what he thought caused the plane to go down just 12 minutes after takeoff on July 17, 1996.

“I think it was not the center wing [fuel] tank,” Mr. Millman said, contradicting the official report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board, following its investigation into the crash that left 230 people dead.

Mr. Millman, a retired aircraft engineer who once served as a maintenance manager at John F. Kennedy International Airport, worked as a consultant for the NTSB in the aftermath of the TWA Flight 800 crash over the Moriches Inlet in East Moriches. Now, 17 years later — and after a recent documentary offering alternative theories into the crash of the Boeing 747-100 headed from JFK to Paris, France has made headlines — Mr. Millman says he believes the federal government should reopen its investigation.

“I don’t know what happened that day,” Mr. Millman said during his presentation to the Men’s Club of Congregation Tifereth Israel in Greenport Sunday. “I do know that I think the investigation should be reopened and looked at carefully.”

The NTSB announced June 28 that it’s currently reviewing a Petition for Reconsideration of the Board’s findings and probable cause determination regarding the flight. The petition was received four weeks prior to the world premiere of the documentary, “TWA Flight 800,” on the EPIX television network. The film, which features six retired NTSB investigators who say the government’s explanation was a cover-up and the jet was actually downed by a missile, has since screened at the Stony Brook Film Festival and will also be shown Aug. 8 at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington.

Mr. Millman, who has not yet seen the documentary, said the pristine condition of several items recovered from the crash and the NTSB’s inability to replicate an explosion of a center wing fuel tank during its investigation have led him to dispute the government’s official position on the crash.

As part of his presentation to more than two dozen people at the synagogue Sunday, Mr. Millman shared the NTSB accident report, which states the explosion of the center wing tank as the probable cause of the crash. The report says the explosion was most likely caused by a short circuit outside of the tank.

“That doesn’t seem to make too much sense to me,” he said.

Mr. Millman also passed around photographs, newspaper articles and notes from the investigation.

Conspiracy theories have surfaced since the day of the crash, with more than 100 eyewitnesses having told investigators they saw a streak of light headed toward the aircraft moments before it exploded in the sky.

The government has maintained that what those witnesses actually saw was a piece of the aircraft falling from the sky, a theory Mr. Millman disagrees with.

“Common sense says that if hundreds of people say they saw [the streak of light] ascending, then it was ascending, not falling,” Mr. Millman said.

The investigation into the crash lasted more than four years and is reportedly the most expensive crash investigation in U.S. history.

Two men who attended the presentation Sunday said they had sons who were witnesses to the crash. Jed Clauss of Mattituck said his son, Josh, was surfing in Westhampton when debris from the plane landed near him.

Mr. Clauss said Josh returned home with a piece of plastic that surrounded one of the plane’s windows. They called the FBI to report the discovery and an investigator was sent to the house, he said.

“He asked Josh if he noticed a Grady-White [boat] headed in the opposite direction,” Mr. Clauss said. “I always found that curious.”

Mr. Clauss says he’s always believed kinetic energy from a missile shot in the direction of the plane caused the explosion.

Mr. Millman said he hasn’t dwelled on what caused the crash, since he doesn’t exactly know, but he thinks the time has come for the government to take another look.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said, “but 230 lives were affected and when you also consider [all their family members], a tremendous amount of people were hurt by this crash.”


07/23/13 5:00pm

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Sydney Campbell of Southold plays sorority sister Elle Woods in  North Fork Community Theatre’s production of “Legally Blonde,” which opens Thursday.

“Legally Blonde,” the musical based on a novel by Amanda Brown and a 2001 movie, is this summer’s Youth on Stage presentation at North Fork Community Theatre in Mattituck.


The story takes sorority sister Elle Woods (Sydney Campbell of Southold) from UCLA to the halls of Harvard in pursuit of love and a law degree. The NFCT production is directed by Jessica Raven and produced by Susan Hedges, with musical direction by Jacob Boergesson and choreography by Meagan Schmid.

Performances are Thursdays through Sundays, July 25 to Aug. 11. Show times are 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. A free reception will start at 7 on opening night, Thursday, July 25.

Saturday, Aug. 1, will be a special “Think Pink” night, with all refreshment stand proceeds going to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

Tickets are $20. Go to nfct.com or call 631-298-NFCT (6328).

07/22/13 8:00am
07/22/2013 8:00 AM

A Mattituck pharmacist was arrested Friday after he was caught stealing Hydrocone pills from the Rite Aid store where he was employed, Southold Town Police said in a press release issued Monday morning.

An investigation revealed Paul Rinaldi, 57, of Miller Place was using the pills to self medicate over the course of a six-month period, police said. He was reported to police by Rite Aid’s asset protection division, police said.

He was transported to police headquarters and processed Friday, and has since been released on bail.

06/30/13 5:59pm
06/30/2013 5:59 PM

A Riverhead woman with a prior DWI was arrested for driving drunk along Route 48 in Mattituck Saturday night, Southold Town police said.

Jamie Walsh, 29, was stopped for traffic violations shortly after 10 p.m. when she was found to be intoxicated, police said.

She was taken to police headquarters and held for a Sunday morning arraignment. Her vehicle was seized due to a prior DWI conviction, police said.