05/25/14 8:00am
05/25/2014 8:00 AM
A modern painting depicting the October 1814 military engagement off Northville. (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Academy Collection)

A modern painting depicting the October 1814 military engagement off Northville. (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Academy Collection)

It’s 1814, and the United States is at war.

British frigates and brigs clog the East Coast’s trade routes, preying on merchant vessels and shutting down commerce.

On an October morning, an American cutter called the Eagle finds itself face-to-face with a Royal Navy brig nearly twice its size off Northville.

Below is a detailed account of the encounter that followed.  (more…)

05/05/14 12:24pm
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard boat into the Mattituck Inlet on Monday morning. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

A group of U.S. Coast Guard members in Mattituck Inlet Monday morning with the body of the missing boater. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

The U.S. Coast Guard recovered the body of a missing boater east of Mattituck Inlet Monday morning, one day after he was reported missing in the Long Island Sound, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.  (more…)

02/21/14 11:00am
02/21/2014 11:00 AM

First Parish Church is seeking tenants to renovate the historic Northville building. (Barbaraellen Koch photo)

In the course of its 182-year existence in Northville, Grange Hall on Sound Avenue has undergone various reincarnations: It’s been a place of worship, a school, a social hub for local farmers, and, most recently, a meetinghouse for several different groups.  (more…)

12/19/13 2:30pm
12/19/2013 2:30 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A drainage pipe from the preserve? in the front lawn of a home on Sound Shore Road in Northville.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A drainage pipe from the preserve in the front lawn of a home on Sound Shore Road in Northville.

After years of poking and prodding public officials to do something about periodic flooding on Sound Shore Road in Northville — flooding that includes contaminated water, tests have shown — residents in the area will get their wish for an overhaul of an outdated culvert system, courtesy of Suffolk County.

A series of underground pipes directs groundwater from the North Fork Preserve to Northville Beach and, for years, debate has raged over who — if anyone — would be responsible for updating the damaged system, which is believed to have been installed in the 1930s under the Works Progress Administration. The damaged pipes run underneath Sound Shore Road and through properties on its north side before reaching the beach.

The 307-acre preserve, previously two separate lots, was purchased in 2011 for $18 million. Suffolk County chipped in the lion’s share of the cost to construct a park, with Riverhead Town using $500,000 in Community Preservation Fund money. Now, with the responsibility of owning the land, Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said that updating the sub-par culverts falls to Suffolk, even if the cash-strapped county has to borrow $850,000 to do the work. County legislators approved a measure Tuesday to do just that.

“We’ve inherited quite a problem over there,” said Mr. Krupski. “But now it’s the county’s liability to fix.”

Mr. Krupski said that work to fix the problem, which started to emerge over a decade ago, could begin as soon as this winter, .

According to a 2009 Riverhead News-Review article, a November 2007 report from the Suffolk County Health Department found that during the summer months, fecal contamination was evident in the culvert system, which could be attributable to shallow groundwater, surface water runoff, animal waste “and, potentially, leaching from on-site disposal systems.”

That same county report recommended that people not swim near areas where culverts from the property discharge.

Independent testing completed a year later by the Northville Beach Civic Association, led by former civic president Kerry Moran, found extremely high counts of fecal matter in samples leaching from the culverts, some of which drain directly onto Long Island Sound beaches. One test revealed a fecal coliform number five times the level that would have closed a public beach. Mr. Moran died in 2011 of injuries sustained after being struck by an automobile the year before.

Mr. Krupski said the cost to construct a sump on the preserve originally came in at nearly $1.5 million. However, further discussion led to the current plan, which will still discharge groundwater into Long Island Sound, a plan for which, he said, the county had permission from the Department of Environmental Conservation. Mr. Krupski added that the only contaminants in the groundwater after the pipes are repaired should be animal waste.

John Cullen, president of the civic group for the past three years, said that Northville homeowners affected by the substandard pipe system “were hoping, and still are hoping, that things will be fixed with the water coming off the preserve.”

In recent months, Mr. Cullen said, several meetings with the county Department of Public Works have led to a sense of optimism in that regard.

“The DPW has been very helpful,” he said. “We’re just hoping this can be over and done with.”

08/15/13 7:07am
08/15/2013 7:07 AM
GOOGLE MAP | Farmland and woods stretch north of 5176 Sound Avenue in Northville.

GOOGLE MAP | Farmland and woods stretch north of 5176 Sound Avenue in Northville.

Two young men were arrested for shooting guns into a county preserve north of Sound Avenue in Northville Wednesday, “just missing” police officers who were called to the area to investigate, officials said.

Police were called to a Sound Avenue property just after 6 p.m. for reports of shots fired when they realized two men were shooting in the direction of the adjacent North Fork Preserve, Riverhead Town police said.

Cops said bullets were being fired into the park, narrowly missing the officers.

An investigation determined the men had been firing shotguns and a rifle behind the home at 5176 Sound Avenue.

Travis Albrecht, 22, of Aquebogue and Scott Willet Jr., 19, were each arrested on a second-degree reckless endangerment charge for firing a rifle in the direction of the county park, police said.

Police confiscated Saiga 7.62 X 39 MK Sportsman rifle, though no other weapons were listed in a police report.

An employee at a Sound Avenue equipment and mechanic’s shop just west of the property given by police said he heard close to 40 shots fired before police arrived to investigate.

“The majority I heard were shotgun,” said the worker, who did not give a name. “I’ve never heard nothing like that before.”

He said he about a dozen police cars responded to the scene.

Mr. Albrecht and Mr. Willet were both released on $500 bail and are due in court Aug. 28.

More charges are expected, police said.

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07/07/13 2:30pm
07/07/2013 2:30 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | ADD clients in the special sensoray garden in Northbille on Sound Shore Road.

It was 1983 when Don Rieb decided to make a career move that changed everything for so many people.

The Bellport native had been working for 10 years at AHRC Suffolk, one of the region’s best-known organizations serving people with developmental disabilities.

Mr. Rieb liked the work. But one day, he met with a group of parents who troubled by the thought of putting their developmentally disabled children in crowded state institutions. After that meeting, he decided to found his own nonprofit in Riverhead, one that would enable the developmentally disabled to live and thrive in warm, homelike environments. He named the organization Aid to the Developmentally Disabled.

“I had a metal military desk, a broken metal cabinet and a broken Brother typewriter that had correcting tape on it,” Mr. Rieb said, recalling ADD’s early days. “My salary was next to nothing. But your instincts kick in and you say, ‘This is going to work.’ ”

With the help of New York State funding and licensing, Mr. Rieb opened ADD’s first residential program in 1984 in Northville. Now, 30 years since its inception, ADD has 30 group homes in locations from Wading River to Greenport. ADD also provides residents with medical care and 24-hour services, including clinical interventions and support.

“The goal of ADD is to provide services to individuals promoting independence and community inclusion in a home-like environment with therapeutic supports with the belief that every individual has value and the potential to learn and achieve goals,” Mr. Rieb said. “The success of ADD has its foundation in providing competent and compassionate staff who are role models for the people they serve and an administrative staff and board of directors all working together.”

Dorota Wider has worked for ADD for over 13 years and is one of its three program directors. The program she runs, Individualized Residential Alternative, houses people in nine different group homes where  they learn skills like personal hygiene, cooking and how to get their learner’s permit.

“We believe all of [the residents] can learn new things,” Ms. Wider said. “They’re learning at a different speed but they do learn.”

One of ADD’s unique features is its 2.5-acre Sensory Gardens in Northville, where residents can help take care of the small farm animals that live there, draw with sidewalk chalk and have picnics.

“It’s part of our therapeutic approach we take with our residents and they love it there,” Mr. Rieb said of the gardens.

Calling the North Fork home, Mr. Rieb said, is a key component to ADD’s 30-year success.

“Riverhead is a great community and they’ve always accepted us from the get-go,” Mr. Rieb said. “For the most part, we’ve been under the radar. We focus on what we do: delivering services to the disabled.”


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.”