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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12/01/12 9:33am
12/01/2012 9:33 AM

GABBY GLANTZMAN PHOTO | The three-legged deer near an Orient home, with wood and wire tangled in its antlers.

It was a white-tailed deer, not a reindeer, but there was still holiday spirit aplenty when the North Fork Animal Welfare League got help from a local veterinarian in rescuing a three-legged buck whose antlers were hopelessly tangled in nylon ribbon, wooden posts and tomato cages at an Orient residence. The mess was attached to a nearby fence, trapping him.

“The poor guy, I figured if anyone deserves a second chance, he does,” said Dr. John Andresen, a veterinarian at Matittuck-Laurel Veterinary Hospital who helped to free the deer.

“He could still run around, but his head was tied to this long lead of tangled up fencing,” said NFAWL director Gillian Wood Pultz. She called Dr. Andresen, who has a keen interest in large animals, to come out with a tranquilizer gun so the rescue team to get close enough to remove the unwanted headgear without harming the animal or themselves.

“Once he was tranquilized it only took about 10 or 15 minutes to get him untangled,” Ms. Pultz said. Eventually the buck regained consciousness.

“That was a pretty traumatic experience and he needed to calm down, so we just let him be as he woke up and told the owners of the property to call us if he wasn’t up and moving around in an hour,” she said.

Dr. Andresen said he was only too happy to help save the deer.

“Initially, when I got out of vet school, I wanted to be a zoo vet,” he said. “But that’s not really practical because there aren’t many openings to do that, so it’s always just been an interest of mine.”

Ms. Wood Pultz described the rescue as “a good story because it had a good outcome. More often than not there are bad outcomes and we have to humanely euthanize the deer. Every year, we see deer that haven’t been tracked by hunters running around with arrows in them. Recently we had to humanely euthanize a fawn that was attacked by a dog and suffered a broken spine.”

Ms. Wood Pultz said traumatic injuries in deer are fairly common, but three-legged deer are less so and she knows of only one other, which has been living in Southold Town for years.

As for the Orient deer’s missing foreleg, she said the amputation appeared to be an old injury.

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11/02/12 5:57pm
11/02/2012 5:57 PM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The two gas tankers coming off the Orient ferry Friday afternoon.

Two tanker trucks each carrying 10,000 gallons of gasoline originating in New England arrived in Orient on a Cross Sound Ferry vessel Friday afternoon, bound for gas stations somewhere on Long Island with another delivery expected on a Saturday afternoon boat, said David Kapell, Cross Sound’s Long Island liaison.

The drivers were to meet up with two other truckers and switch the full tanks, which carried gas originating in Providence, R.I., with two empties, which they were to bring back on the 7 p.m. Orient to New London ferry.

The plan calls for the trucks to return Saturday with an additional 20,000 gallons of gasoline landing in Orient at 3 p.m.

With the gas shortage continuing, Cross Sound waived its standing prohibition against carrying bulk loads of gasoline on its vessels, Mr. Kapell said.

08/20/12 1:52pm
08/20/2012 1:52 PM

KAYLA CHIARAMONTE COURTESY PHOTO | Burning wreckage from the Shirley plane crash that took the life of David McElroy Sunday.

The Suffolk Times has reported that an Orient man was killed in a small airplane crash in Shirley Sunday morning that also killed one of the passengers of the plane and left a third person in critical condition.

According to multiple sources, David McElroy was inside and possibly flying the single-engine plane out of Brookhaven Calabro Airport shortly after 11:30 a.m. before it crashed into a dumpster outside a Shirley home a mile from the airport.

Mr. McElroy, the owner of the plane, was killed in the crash along with passenger Jane Unhjem, 60, of Goshen, N.Y., who died eight hours later. Another man in the plane Erik Unhjem, 61, also a pilot, was listed in critical condition at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

A witness to the crash said the plane navigated around several homes on the residential street before crashing into a dumpster, adding that he believed the pilot’s actions saved many more lives.

“I believe [the pilot] did everything he could to avoid hitting any houses,” said Chris Melendez, a homeowner near the site of the plane crash.

Mr. Melendez said he tried to save Mr. McElroy from the flames of the crash by spraying the wreckage with a garden hose, but was unable to reach him just a few feet away to pull him out.

“I wish there was more I could do for [Mr. McElroy],” he said. “It was just horrible. I’ll never be able to forget him.”

Investigators have not yet determined the cause of the crash.

Read the full story on The Suffolk Times here.

08/04/12 12:00pm
08/04/2012 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Steve Mezynieski with his wife Gretchen and son Cole, 16, at their new venture- transforming the former 42.5 acre Zeh farm in Calverton on Route 25 for growing nursery material and possibly grazing cattle.

During the Great Depression, Steven Mezynieski’s family was forced to sell off its South Fork farm. Now, generations later, the Wainscott native and Orient resident is piecing together a new agricultural legacy for his own children. And a dilapidated farm in Calverton is the latest tract to join the Mezynieskis’ growing collection of acreage.

Mr. Mezynieski and his wife, Gretchen, purchased the former Zeh property on Middle Country Road about a month ago and have been working over the past few weeks to fix up the forgotten farm.

“I like to see diamonds in the rough and make them diamonds,” he said.

The roughly 43-acre property, across from the Windy Acres farm stand, was previously owned by the Zeh family, but laid unused for years. The Mezynieskis said the property was littered with garbage when they arrived.

“If you came here three years ago you would’ve turned your car right around,” said Frank, who used to work the farm and has become friendly with the land’s new owners. He declined to give his last name. “Words can’t tell you how bad it was,” he said.

The family has cleared away much of the mess and begun recultivating the soil on the hilly land. A pile of torn-up trees sits next to a tin barn and the lawn in front of the vacant farmhouse is dusty and dry. The house will remain, for now, and may be renovated later, Mr. Mezynieski said.

This isn’t the Mezynieski family’s first investment in farming. They also own Driftwood Farms, a 140-acre property in Orient where they raise cattle and grow privet hedge for landscapers and private buyers. The family also purchased a cattle farm in Florida in 2005.

Mr. Mezynieski said he’ll also grow privet and raise cows in Calverton, and may feature a nursery. The goal, the Meznieskis said, is to leave something for their three children: Cole, 16; Mack, 10; and Anastasia, 5.

“Each of the kids will have farms when they get older,” Mr. Mezynieski said.

The oldest sibling, Cole, was 10 when his family bought the Orient farm. Now he is helping to get the new property ready for farming.

“I think I like this one the best,” he said as he drove a pickup up and down the steep hills around the property. Cole said he’d like to try to grow some different crops at the farm to add “diversity.”

Cole said he is looking forward to working on the farm; for the teenager, farming is in his blood.

“I never figured I’d do anything else,” he said.

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