10/20/13 10:00am
10/20/2013 10:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Local realtors Jerry Cibulski (left) and Thomas McCarthy are members of the North Fork chapter of the Long Island Real Estate Group helping to transform this blighted Orient property into a new Habitat for Humanity house.

Real estate agents don’t typically find themselves on the construction side of the housing trade but members of the North Fork chapter of the Long Island Real Estate Group are feeling right at home helping with construction of a new Habitat for Humanity home in Orient.

It may not look like much now but the blighted property on Greenway East will soon be the site of a modern residence for a needy family in Southold Town.

From the moment chapter president and local realtor Thomas McCarthy first posed the idea of helping to fund and build the Habitat home early this summer, all 200 North Fork members were on board, he said.

“As a group of professionals we wanted to get together and give something back to our community,” he said. “It is a great cause. As brokers, we know that it’s a struggle for many working families to afford a home. We figured, what better way to help a local family in our own backyard?”

The group recently held a fundraiser at the Soundview Restaurant in Greenport, raising more than $2,500 toward demolition of the existing structure and construction of a brand-new home. Once the abandoned home has been razed and it’s time to start building, the realtors plan to get their hands dirty, Mr. McCarthy said.

The new Orient home will be the first Habitat property in Southold Town, according to Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk president and CEO Diane Burke.

The journey began earlier this year when the site was identified through Suffolk County’s 72H affordable housing program, which is designed to turn repossessed properties over to local communities that, in turn, offer homes to low-income families.

Suffolk County offered the property to the town in March and has since provided $10,000 in funding for the project through a community block grant.

The town recently allocated the grant money to assist Habitat for Humanity with demolition and cleanup of the blighted property. It also waived fees for disposal of demolished materials at the town transfer station.

Phillip Beltz, the town’s special projects coordinator, welcomed the prospect of bringing more affordable housing to Southold.

“We are in dire need of affordable housing,” he said in July. “When I first started here the lack of perpetual affordability was one of the greatest oversights I noticed.”

At present, Southold Town has only 22 affordable housing units that are covered by restrictions regulating the resale price — all of them at The Cottages in Mattituck, Mr. Beltz said.

Town officials also put out a request for proposals for 40 affordable apartment rentals spread out across the town, but no specific plan is currently in place, Mr. Beltz said.

The added bonus of working with Habitat for Humanity, he said, is that the organization ensures that the property will remain affordable. Habitat retains a stake in the property so that if the home is sold, it can use much of the appreciation to continue its programs.

Habitat will also write a covenant into the deed requiring that house be sold at an affordable price to another eligible family.

Pending the closing of the Orient property within the next couple of weeks, Habitat officials hope construction can begin by early November and that the house will be ready by spring 2014.

Mr. McCarthy said he is currently soliciting donations of time and materials for the project from local contractors.

“I believe as a community this is something we can do ourselves,” he said. “Something for the locals by the locals.”

Habitat’s director of development, Les Scheinfeld, said support from the realtors has gone a long way toward getting the project on track.

“We are so excited they want to work with us,” he said. “They have raised money and gained the support of local contractors. It’s a great partnership.”

Habitat will work with the town to develop a strategic construction plan tailored for the site.

Southold’s housing department will begin accepting and screening applications for the property after the closing.

Candidates must meet structured town and Habitat income guidelines and, if selected, must agree to contribute hands-on build time, or “sweat equity.” They would also need to complete classes and perform community service as part of the down payment on their new home.

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07/16/13 3:16pm
07/16/2013 3:16 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop announces his new bill to lift the congressional mandate to sell Plum Island.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D- Southampton) Tuesday announced the introduction of “Save, don’t sell Plum Island,” a bill designed to overturn the 2008 congressional mandate for the federal government to sell the island, for decades the home of an animal disease research laboratory, at public auction.

The bipartisan legislation would help prevent non-research development on the 840-acre island, preserving what Mr. Bishop called a biodiversity “treasure.”

The federal General Services Administration recently released an environmental impact statement supporting construction of up to 500 dwellings on the island, which in addition to animal disease center is home to an abandoned military installation.

The congressman was joined at a morning press conference on the beach in Orient by state Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Southold Supervisor Scott Russell and representatives of several environmental groups, including the Group for the East End, the Nature Conservancy and Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

Connecticut Democratic Congressmen Joe Courtney and Rep. Michael Grimm, a Staten Island Republican, have signed on as cosponsors. Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate by Democrat Richard Blumenthal.

Its purpose is to reverse the 2008 bill requiring the island’s sale to help finance a new $1.2 billion animal disease research center in Manhattan, Kan.

Mr. Bishop’s bill contends cleanup costs from past island activities, including the operation of Fort Terry, a WWI-era Army base, coupled with Southold’s pending island zoning prohibiting new development, would dramatically reduce the island’s commercial value.

Mr. Bishop said the Kansas research facility would “duplicate many of the research functions currently served well by other research facilities, including Plum Island,” and would be unaffordable given the nation’s budget constraints.

According to Mr. Bishop’s bill, the Plum Island facility has been well maintained.

He added that more than $23 million in federal funds have been invested in laboratory upgrades since January 2012, with additional significant expenditures likely in the future.

“If the federal government did not already own Plum Island, it would be seeking to purchase it for conservation,” Mr. Bishop said.

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07/01/13 8:00am
07/01/2013 8:00 AM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | The Orient Point Lighthouse in Plum Gut is once again being auctioned off by the federal General Services Administration.

Orient Point Lighthouse is on the auction block … again.

Following a failed attempted by the U.S. General Service Agency to sell the historic lighthouse last year the department has once again opened the property for bidding.

Built in 1899, the cast iron lighthouse, also known as the “Coffee Pot” lighthouse, is located just off the tip of the North Fork in Plum Gut. The building stands 45 feet tall and boasts three stories of living quarters and two watch decks, according to the GSA listing.

The agency first attempted to auction off the lighthouse last summer, with plans to sell the property to the highest bidder within two months. The closing date was later postponed to September of that year. Despite the extended deadline, the auction did not result in a sale.

“It’s not uncommon,” said GSA spokesman Patrick Sclafani. “People say, ‘Wow. I can buy a lighthouse!’ But once they inspect it, they realize they may not have the resources to maintain the property.”

Such was the case with the East End Seaport Museum, which was considering purchasing the lighthouse before determining it did not have the financial resources to back the deal.

Nine parties bid in last year’s Orient Point Lighthouse auction, with the highest bid coming in at $100,000.

Comparatively, the offer was well below the sale price of Little Gull Island, which sold for $381,000 last October. Connecticut resident and businessman Fred Plumb bought the one-acre island in the Long Island Sound, which is one of home to an historic lighthouse. Mr. Plumb has yet to announce plans for the property.

The second round of bidding on the Orient Point Lighthouse opened on June 1. So far the highest bid is $10,000, according to GovSales.com. Bids are being accepted in $5,000 increments.

Under the National Lighthouse Preservation Act, the would-be-owners would not be permitted to tear down or make any major changes to the structure. They would also be required to allow the U.S. Coast Guard access to maintain the light.

“Our hope is that if a private owner gets it, they will reach out to conservation groups and maintain it the right way,” Mr. Sclafani said.

The GSA has not yet set a closing date for the bidding.

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06/08/13 3:00pm
06/08/2013 3:00 PM
North Fork Wine Trail sign in Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A North Fork Wine Trail sign at the intersection of the Main Road and County Road 105 in Aquebogue.

The North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail might be getting longer.

Last Wednesday the New York State Senate passed a bill sponsored by Senator Ken LaValle that proposes extending the North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail about nine miles to Orient Point.

If the legislation passes in the Assembly, the ‍wine ‍trail will continue to the end of Route 25 in Orient. The official ‍trail currently begins at Edwards Avenue in Calverton and ends at the junction of Routes 48 and 25 in Greenport.

“North Fork wineries are an economic engine for our region,” Mr. LaValle said. “Extending the North Fork ‍Wine ‍Trail will help boost agritourism, which will benefit our farmers and wineries.”

The bill also calls for the creation of a road sign at exit 73 of the Long Island Expressway notifying drivers that the ‍wine‍trail is accessible from that exit. A sign is already in place at exit 71.

Ron Goerler Jr., president of the Long Island ‍Wine Council, said not placing a sign at exit 73 was an “oversight.”

“If you take exit 73, you’re right at Tanger Outlets,” Mr. Goerler said. “It’s a straight shot onto the North Fork. Tanger brings 13 or 14 million people a year and to have a sign stating the ‍wine industry is just ahead brings more awareness to the region.”

Steve Bate, executive director of the ‍wine council, said the organization doesn’t have revenue fi gures for North Fork wineries but estimates that the region’s more than 50 wineries attract 1.2 million visitors a year — a number that proponents of the bill hope will only increase.

“Senator LaValle has always been a huge supporter of the local ‍wine industry,” Mr. Bate said. “He has helped us with many important pieces of state legislation over the years. This new ‍wine ‍trail bill is just the latest example of how he helps enhance our wineries’ contribution to the local economy.”

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04/29/13 6:30pm
04/29/2013 6:30 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | From left: John Turner from Huntington/Oyster Bay Audubon, Randy Parsons from The Nature Conservancy, Congressman Tim Bishop, Charles Rothenberger from Save the Sound.

Environmental groups from both sides of the Long Island Sound  hosted a public meeting in Orient Monday on protecting Plum Island’s undeveloped areas.

Group for the East End and the Save the Sound organization from Connecticut were  joined by Congressman Tim Bishop and dozens of concerned community members at Poquatuck Hall to address the future of the island.

Reporter Cyndi Murray blogged from the meeting. For a recap click on the link below.

04/29/13 8:00am

Environmental groups from both sides of Long Island Sound will host a public meeting on protecting Plum Island’s undeveloped areas in Orient tonight.

The Group for the East End and the Save the Sound organization from Connecticut will be joined by Congressman Tim Bishop at Poquatuck Hall on Skippers Lane for the session from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The fate of the 840-acre island off the North Fork’s eastern tip has been in question for several years as federal authorities consider the construction of a replacement animal disease research facility in Manhattan, Kan. That project, which Congress has yet to fully fund, calls for closing the Plum Island lab and selling the property.

The public forum comes just one week before Southold Town will hold a public hearing on the proposal would divide Plum Island into three zoning districts.

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04/19/13 12:13pm
04/19/2013 12:13 PM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | SWAT officers at the exit of the Cross Island Ferry in Orient Friday afternoon.

UPDATE (1:15 p.m.):

Local authorities say a walk-on passenger to a Cross Sound Ferry boat heading to Orient Friday morning “fit the description” of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings and set off a scare that drew dozens of police officers to Orient and New London, Conn.

“It was not him,” said Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said from the scene. “It was someone who looked like him.”

Suffolk Police did apprehend the passenger, but determined he was not the suspect. As of 1:15 p.m., the man was being transported to Southold Town police headquarters to further check his status with county investigators — as a precaution, he said.

Police were going to run the man’s fingerprints electronically through what’s called a “live scan,” to run the prints through state and federal databases. The live scan has replaced ink and roller as a means of taking prints, Chief Flatley said.

But, he added, “they have no reason to believe it is him at this point. He was fully cooperative. He definitely fit the description.”

Police at the scene also X-rayed the man’s bag, he said.

“We received a call after 11 a.m. from crew aboard the Cross Sound Ferry,” Chief Flatley said. “There were concerns about someone that had a resemblance to the man from Boston. After the crew contacted them, they notified the Suffolk County Police Department, who sent an emergency services unit, a bomb team. There was no arrests.”

A utility worker at the Orient ferry yard who did not give a name, told a reporter he saw police swarm the passenger and force him down on his stomach near the ferry’s snackbar.

The worker said he thought at the time the man was being arrested.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Police were blocking traffic at the Orient Causeway on Route 25 just before 12:30 p.m. Friday.


At least a half dozen Suffolk County police cars — their lights and sirens blaring — were spotted heading east on Route 25 in Mattituck about 11:40 a.m. Friday, for what could be shaping up to be a false alarm.

Police have shut Route 25 west of Orient, at the Orient Causeway, officials said, though some cars were being allowed to pass through as of just before 12:30 p.m.

Boston Bomber suspect called in Orient

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Police vehicles heading east on Route 25 in Mattituck about noon Friday.

The Day of New London newspaper reported before noon that police tactical teams also reported to the waterfront in New London for reports of “a possible suspect” in the Boston Marathon bombings Monday and subsequent shootings Thursday night in Cambridge.

But The Day updated the site a few minutes later after reporting passengers were boarding the ferries as normal. Ferries at the New London terminal go to Block Island, although seasonally, Orient and Fishers Island.

Meanwhile, schoolchildren have been told by police to remain indoors.

Oysterponds School District Superintendent Richard Malone said he received a call from the police shortly before noon.

“I spoke directly with the police and they told me to keep the kids inside and not to let anybody in or out,” he said.

[Video from New London, via theday.com]

The Oysterponds school on Route 25 is not on lockdown, he said, but the district has staffers at the doors.

Classes are continuing, Mr. Malone said, but he is awaiting word from the police on how to handle dismissal, which is at 2:45 p.m.

“The children are in the classrooms and we’re using the gym for recess,” he said.

Police gave the same order to the neighboring Greenport School District, but the district’s school already had a half-day scheduled due to parent/teacher conferences.

The children were dismissed at 10:52 a.m.

“We’re all secure here,” said district superintendent Michael Comanda, adding that though children were gone, staffers were still in the building.

“We’ve got a person at every door and we’re monitoring the situation and waiting for the green light from the police,” he said.

“It’s unexpected, but we’ve been practicing our lockdown and evacuation procedures regularly now we’re putting them to use,” he said.

A Suffolk County police spokeswoman could not comment on the matter.

Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley was not immediately available.

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with Tim Kelly, Michael White and Joe Werkmeister

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03/28/13 12:30pm
03/28/2013 12:30 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO |  Nicholas Latasso (left) and Bert Roner at a Thursday morning arraignment.

Two Riverhead Town residents were arraigned on trespassing, stolen property and drug charges Thursday morning after they were caught with stolen copper telephone cables from Orient Point County Park in Orient Wednesday afternoon, Southold Town police said.

Bert Roner, 35, of Flanders and Nicholas Latasso, 33, of Riverhead pleaded not guilty to several misdemeanor charges stemming from their arrest.

The men were caught after cops received a tip from Plum Island security about 4 p.m. Wednesday, police said.

Police stopped Mr. Roner as he was driving a black 2004 Ford Suburban in the parking lot of the Cross Island Ferry about 4 p.m. while investigating a possible larceny, according to a criminal complaint filed in Southold Town Justice Court.

Officers noticed Mr. Roner’s eyes were “red and glassy” and he failed roadside sobriety tests at the scene, according to the complaint.

Police discovered Mr. Roner and his passenger, Mr. Latasso, had “several lengths of plastic encased copper telephone feeder cable” belonging to Verizon, according to the complaint. Mr. Latasso also had a small white envelope containing a white powdery substance that tested positive for heroin, a police officer reported.

The men admitted they had trespassed at the Orient Point County Park, according to a criminal complaint.

Both Mr. Roner and Mr. Latasso were charged with third-degree criminal trespassing and fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, court officials said.

Mr. Roner was also charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs while Mr. Latasso faces a seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance charge.

Mr. Roner had previously been arrested for stealing copper from a business in Mattituck in July 2010, according to a published report. He served 90 days in jail in connection with that incident, records show.

He was then arrested last March after he was found in possession of a controlled substance during a probation visit, according to a News-Review report.

Bail for both men was set at $1,500 cash or $7,500 bond. They are due back in Southold court next Friday.

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