04/12/13 8:00am
04/12/2013 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | With parishoners Mary Ann Musumeci of Middle Island (left) and Rita Allen of Jamesport, Pastor Dianne Rodriguez lights altar candles during First Parish Chruch’s first service at Grange Hall.

First Parish Church in Northville is getting a new lease on life thanks to a new tenant dedicated to preserving the building’s rich history.

On Sunday, April 7, Community Baptist Church began holding services at the 109-year-old church. The congregation finalized a lease agreement last week with United Church of Christ, which owns and maintains First Parish Church, located at the corner of Church Lane and Sound Avenue.

Dwindling membership and finances almost caused First Parish to shut its doors for good.

The lease agreement gives the small UCC parish the freedom to hold services without the financial burden. The UCC congregation now meets at Grange Hall, another historic First Parish-owned building, directly across Sound Avenue.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The outside of First Parish Church in Northville.

Community Baptist Church Pastor Joshua Fryman called the lease agreement a blessing. He described the two-year-old congregation as an independent group unaffiliated with any religious organization. Before renting First Parish Church, Community Baptist didn’t have a house of worship to call its own. Instead, members gathered for services in the basement of Polish Hall in Riverhead and later moved their Sunday services to Grace Episcopal Church in Riverhead.

“I told our folks we really needed to pray for a building because I don’t want to be the nomadic Baptist church.” Pastor Fryman said. “I want to find a place to put our roots down. Most of our folks come from the North Fork, so it’s been a blessing.”

One of the features that drew Pastor Fryman to the church is the building’s dynamic history. First Parish Church dates back to 1829, when the parishioners of Old Steeple Church in Aquebogue split from that congregation after deciding it did not follow the Bible’s teachings closely enough. From that, the Strict Congregational Church was born. It held services at Grange Hall until 1831, when the first church building was constructed.

The church was rebuilt twice due to fire. In 1877, a disgruntled former minister burned the building to the ground, according to Riverhead historian Richard Wines. It was destroyed by fire again in 1901, when the church steeple was struck by lightning.

With the support of wealthy local farmers and other parishioners, the current church was completed in 1904. The building was modeled after the Cleveland design plan, which was popular in the 1900s and emphasized asymmetry, Mr. Wines said. Decorated with richly colored stained glass and oak pews, the church boasts one of the oldest working organs on Long Island. The Hook & Hook organ is one of two in working condition on the North Fork, Mr. Wines said. The other is at Orient United Methodist Church.

Up until 1957, the church was known as Sound Avenue Congregational Church. At that time Protestants seeking spiritual and political freedom divided branches of Christ’s church, resulting in the formation of United Church of Christ.

While the UCC started strong in Northville with more than 50 members, parishioners have slowly trailed off, according to First Parish Pastor Dianne Rodriguez. The farmers who once helped finance the church have dispersed, Mr. Wines said, leaving the church without its core following. Pastor Rodriguez says the UCC in Northville has about 15 parishioners.

But the congregation will still have a presence in the iconic church, the pastor said. Community Baptist Church has agreed to allow First Parish to hold special events there, such as weddings.

Community Baptist Church will hold a community day Sunday, May 5, at 11 a.m. to introduce the church and building to the public.


02/03/13 1:00pm
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  The driving range at Long Isalnd National Golf Course in Northville.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The driving range at Long Island National Golf Course in Northville.

The listing offers the potential for residential development next to an 18-hole course on 150 scenic acres, designed by one of golf’s most noted architects. Riverhead’s Long Island National Golf Club is on the market.

The Northville Turnpike property is being offered as part of a bankruptcy proceeding involving the course’s owner, Gatz Properties LLC. The company’s managing partner, William Gatz of Cutchogue, began the Chapter 11 process last July, listing more than $8.8 million in debt.

“It does come off as bad news, and I’m not going to sit here and say it’s not,” Mr. Gatz said. “It’s a sign of the economic times. I do think there’s a niche here for the product and we need to get over these unfortunate hurdles, which I’m optimistic we will.”

In the meantime, it would take someone with deep pockets to take over the course. While Mr. Gatz still hopes to save the business, the broker handling any potential deal says he believes it can sell.

“There is an asking price of $10 million,” said Matthew Bordwin, co-president of GA Keen Realty Advisors, the court-appointed broker. “I’m optimistic about the process. It is a beautiful course.”

Mr. Bordwin said his company, which is based in Manhattan, began marketing and advertising the property earlier this month. He said the ads have received attention from a variety of potential buyers.

“We have interest from golf course operators, developers, maybe those who do a little bit of both, as well as high-net-worth individuals who are looking into it,” Mr. Bordwin said.

One reason potential buyers are lining up is the property’s existing zoning, which allows for residential development, Mr. Bordwin said. So while some might be interested in the course itself, others may want to alter the design or build on the surrounding land.

“I’ve even heard some folks express interest in getting rid of nine holes and adding more residential development,” Mr. Bordwin said.

That could be a concern for residents of The Highlands, a high-density residential community adjacent to Long Island National, where many residents bought their homes because of its close proximity to the 18-hole course.

“We’re not going to be happy if that’s what’s proposed,” said Highlands resident Tom Cruso. “I think most of us would be concerned housing would go up. We’re very protective, but at the same time we’re here because of developers.”

Mr. Cruso said he believes the course would lose its appeal if it were redesigned to nine holes.

“It’s a nice golf course,” he said. “As a golfer you can play nine, but 18 holes is really the game.”

The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., son of legendary golf course designer Robert Trent Jones. In an interview Mr. Jones Jr. said that unless he designs the new course, his brand would no longer be associated with Long Island National.

The 6,800-yard public course is known as for its “park and links-like style,” said Mr. Jones, who designed the course in 1999 on what was originally a potato farm.

“It is known as a golfer’s retreat,” he said. “The turf grass grows well and it is open to the sea breezes, and that’s what golf is all about.

“It has three different ambiances: rolling firm terrain, tree areas, as well as lakes, so you have a great deal of variety in the links.”

Mr. Jones called the course “a community asset.”

Long Island National had been run by an outside operator for 11 years before Mr. Gatz, whose family maintains 100 percent ownership of the property, took over as managing partner in August 2010. The company experienced nine straight years of declining business, but this past year saw a double-digit upswing, he said.

As of now, Long Island National remains open and expects to continue to operate throughout the upcoming season, said Mr. Bordwin, who added that most prospective buyers have expressed interest in keeping the course open.

“Even someone who is interested in development will probably run it as a golf course as they develop their plans,” he said. “It’s likely the golf will continue, at a minimum, for awhile.”

Should the golf course close, Mr. Gatz said, it would “break my heart.”

“The property is on the market until I get everything buttoned up here,” he said. “I can’t rule out a sale to a developer, but I put that at a slim-to-none chance.

“I’ve never been through this before and I never want to go through it again, mentally and emotionally.”


01/28/13 5:48pm
01/28/2013 5:48 PM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Suffolk County envisions turning the North Fork Preserve in Northville into Suffolk’s last great county park.

The Suffolk County Legislature will take up the purchase of the final three acres of the North Fork Preserve at its Feb. 5 meeting,  where newly elected North Fork Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) has submitted a bill to acquire the land for $702,000.

The bulk of the property, two parcels totaling 314 acres, were purchased by the county in 2011 for $18.3 million. The county plans to create a public park on the land, with the 133-acre northern section being left undeveloped for use as passive recreation like hiking or horseback riding, and the southern portion being used for more active recreation like camping, tennis and basketball.

The three acres still to be acquired contain three existing structures on them, which will be used by the Suffolk County Parks Department for a caretaker residence and check-in station, a barn for parks maintenance equipment and a garage for park maintenance equipment and a with a small office area for parks personnel, according to Mr. Krupski, who co-sponsoring the bill with County Executive Steve Bellone (D-Babylon).

“The North Fork Preserve property is a critical open space acquisition for Riverhead, the North Fork and all of Suffolk County,” Mr. Krupski said in a press release. “The North Fork Preserve has been called ‘Suffolk’s last great park’ and I agree with that description. The park, with fishing, hiking, camping and more, will be a highlight of the entire Suffolk County park system.”


12/12/12 1:40pm
12/12/2012 1:40 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The driver of this Mitsubishi Lancer was not injured in a two-car accident Wednesday afternoon, though the passenger in another vehicle was hospitalized.

A woman was hospitalized Wednesday afternoon after the car driven by a young woman bringing a cupcake to her mother at work was struck by a pickup truck at the intersection of Ostrander Avenue and Northville Turnpike.

The woman was driving a blue Mitsubishi Lancer north on Northville Turnpike about 12:20 p.m. when the vehicle collided with a Mazda B2500 pickup truck traveling south on Ostrander Avenue, police said.

The truck spun and crashed into a stop sign and street sign at the intersection, police said.

The young woman in the Mitsubishi said she was uninjured in the accident, though the vehicle’s hood was crunched in. The male driver of the truck was also not injured, though his female passenger “complained of pain” and was taken by the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps to Peconic Bay Medical Center, police said.

Police at the scene could not provide details on the woman’s condition.

The driver of the Mitsubishi had been driving to deliver a cupcake to her mother at work when the accident occurred, the driver’s mother said after the crash.

The mother, who later arrived on scene to help clean out the damaged car, said the driver of the truck drove through a stop sign.

She also said the intersection is dangerous.

“They need to put a traffic light there,” she said.

Police briefly diverted traffic away from the scene as clean-up crews removed the damaged vehicles. The road was reopened by 1 p.m.


10/03/12 8:00am
10/03/2012 8:00 AM
Northville, Riverhead

BARBARBAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A lawyer for A Taste of Country in Northville said his client will appeal a judge’s decision barring them certain food offerings.

A state Supreme Court judge last week ruled the owners of A Taste of Country in Northville cannot operate a deli or takeout restaurant on their Sound Avenue property.

More specifically, they can’t prepare or sell hot food, cold short-order foods such as sandwiches, or cooked-to-order food or catered foods.

Riverhead Town took the business to court in 2010, claiming that it’s certificate of occupancy is for a farm stand, and that the above mentioned uses are not permitted but were being done on the site.

The property is owned by John Reeve Jr. and his wife, Renee, and is located on 1.8 acres on the north side of Sound Avenue. The Reeves rent the property to a tenant, who runs the store.

Mr. Reeve’s father is the town’s longtime sanitation supervisor.

The town code allows farms to sell homemade or homegrown products on a parcel of land that’s at least seven acres, and allows farmsteads to sell “supporting farm products or products not grown by the farmer,” so long as these products make up less than 40 percent of the merchandising area.

“It is not being operated as a farm stand, but as a restaurant in violation of the Riverhead Town Code,” the Sept. 20 ruling by state Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Emerson states.

While the judge issued what’s called a summary judgement — meaning no trial was required — ruling on the farm stand issue, she declined to do so on a second issue the town challenged the Reeves on that deals with a farm workers’ house that’s also on the property in question. That issue will go to trial.

The property is located in a zone that allows minimum two-acre residential lots, as well as agricultural and other uses.

The town, which had granted a permit for the farm stand in 2002, claims the building was initially operated as a farm stand selling homemade baked goods, farm-raised fruits and vegetables and cooked foods such as eggs when Renee Reeve operated the store prior to 2009, but since it has been leased to a tenant, it has operated as a delicatessen and then as a Mexican restaurant and no longer sells farm products.

“It’s not a final determination, there’s still a trial to be had on some of the issues,” said John Ciarelli, an attorney for Taste of Country. “We’re going to comply with the court order (in the interim), But there’s a trial coming up and we’re going to vigorously defend our rights.

“The town ordinance is ambiguous. The Reeves also have some pre-existing rights, and there are other people serving hot food in the other areas along Sound Avenue. I don’t think there’s a different between what other farmsteads are selling and what Taste of Country is selling.”

He said his client will appeal the ruling on the farm stand.

The farm worker house was permitted by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2005 on the condition that the Reeves actively farm at least five acres within three miles of the property and that they submit proof of that to the ZBA annually. The town claimed the Reeves failed to do so on an annual basis and had a relative living in the house instead of a farm worker at one point.


04/01/12 2:56pm
04/01/2012 2:56 PM

Rescued donkeys joined parishoners at First Parish Church in Northville for a Palm Sunday morning processional down Church Lane.

Three donkeys that were rescued by the East End Ass Whisperers joined churchgoers as they walked, waving palms, down the country road in celebration of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.

This is the first year the donkey rescue group has partnered with First Parish Church, said Bernadette Deerkoski, who leads the group, Sunday morning.

Last year, she said, they held a donkey processional at St. Patrick’s RC Church in Southold, and earlier that morning, they’d put in an appearance at the Old Steeple Church in Aquebogue.


01/18/12 3:00am
01/18/2012 3:00 AM

First Parish Church, UCC is continuing to collect food for our local food pantries. They need canned, jarred and boxed goods. Those who would like to help out are asked to drop off their donations at the church on Sundays between 10:30 a.m. and noon. Baskets and/or boxes will be set up inside the foyer located at the east side entrance of the church to collect your goods. Please give what you can during these months and help fill the pantries in our community. Tell a friend and pass the word around. For more information, call Pastor Dianne Rodriguez at 516-673-1231 or email her at blackswan57@aol.com.

As I mentioned last week, the “Rockin’ for the Homeless” fundraiser will take place Saturday, Jan. 28, from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Polish Hall in Riverhead. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Sponsored by John’s Place Mattituck the event will feature Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, Who Are Those Guys, Rattlesnake Dawn and Boot Scoot Boogie. WLNG’s Lisa Dabrowski will emcee. Tickets are $25 per person through Jan. 27, $35 at the door, and can be purchased at Barth’s Pharmacy in both Riverhead and Mattituck, Polish Hall and the Mattituck Presbyterian Church office. For tickets and more information, call 298-4145, ext. 2, or visit rockinforthehomeless.org. This is a great way to be a good neighbor.

Last week there was a beautiful article in the News-Review about the difficulties faced by parents of medically fragile children. The article featured Angela’s House, an organization that provides two smaller houses on Long Island specially designed with 24-hour nursing care to accommodate the children’s complex medical and physical needs. Angela’s House also facilitates provisions for families like ours who have medically fragile kids living at home. Without their support we would not be able to provide for Johanna’s special needs in our home.

If you haven’t read the article from last week, please do so today. Also, please consider making a donation at angelashouse.org, by mail to Angela’s House, P.O. Box 5052, Hauppauge, NY 11788, call Bob Policastro at 631-979-2620 or email BPolicastro@angelashouse.org. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can offer.

My college kids are back to school — two in Ohio and one in Gaming, Austria. MaryAngela is having the adventure of a lifetime studying abroad for the semester. We wish them well and can’t wait to see them in May!

11/01/11 12:00pm
11/01/2011 12:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Town Councilman George Gabrielsen, center, surrounded by children at a ribbon cutting ceremony at Iron Pier Beach in Northville Monday.

Nearly five months after a group of young Riverhead Town residents complained of conditions at Iron Pier Beach in Northville, town officials unveiled a brand new playground there Monday.

The playground equipment was paid for through developer’s fees paid to the town and not through taxpayer money, Town Board members stressed. The town authorized recreation department superintendent Ray Coyne to spend $56,000 to purchase the equipment in June, though Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the project only cost about $35,000.

The old playground was deemed unsafe and removed in 2010.

“It was in terrible condition,” Mr. Walter said of the old equipment. “It was dangerous.”

The installation process only took about two weeks, Mr. Walter said, though the project was stalled while the town secured permits from the State Department of Environmental Conservation. Most of the work is complete, though the playground is still awaiting the installation of a rubber surface on the ground.

At a June Town Board meeting, a group of young girls, including Grace Kaelin, 9, and Savannah McDonald, 7, pictured above, approached the board to implore them to find the money to purchase the new playground equipment. They complained that a new playground was installed at the South Jamesport Beach and not at the Northville beach.

“If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have done this,” said Town Board member George Gabrielsen, a Jamesport resident and the liaison to the town’s Recreation Advisory Committee.