03/03/14 7:13pm
03/03/2014 7:13 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Canada geese in the Peconic River just south of Riverhead's West Main Street on Friday.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Canada geese in the Peconic River just south of Riverhead’s West Main Street on Friday.

Riverhead Town officials may take another stab at trying to get the state to ease restrictions on a law that severely limits development along the banks of the Peconic River.

“Right now, there’s no incentive to revitalize,” said Charles Voorhis of the engineering firm, Nelson, Pope and Voorhis, which was hired by the town to complete a $610,000 Brownfield Opportunities Area grant study of West Main Street and downtown Riverhead. (more…)

12/14/13 3:19pm
12/14/2013 3:19 PM
JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

When Vince Taldone saw the state had given an $88,875 Economic Development Council grant for the pedestrian walkway he has been pushing for on the Peconic River in Riverside, he wasn’t sure what to think.

“I thought, how do they expect us to build a bridge for $88,000?” said Mr. Taldone, who is the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Southampton Town, on behalf of FRNCA, has submitted a grant application seeking $1.145 million for the pedestrian bridge project.

But upon closer inspection, it turns out that the $88,875 was specifically meant for the planning and design of the bridge.

Mr. Taldone said they had submitted the grant application quickly in order to make the deadline for submissions, and had not done any engineering or design of the proposed bridge, which would allow people to walk over the river from county parkland in Riverside to the parking lot in downtown Riverhead.

“I thought they were missing a zero,” Mr. Taldone said. “But they made it clear they weren’t saying no and they weren’t expecting us to build a bridge for $88,000.”

Mr. Taldone and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has been involved in a number of Riverside revitalization plans and who proposed the pedestrian bridge at a FRNCA meeting, both said in interviews Friday that they fully understand why the state would want to commit money to the design of the bridge before committing money to constructing it.

“They put their stamp of approval on the concept,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “That’s big. The fact that they put $88,000 into the design of it anticipates that they will also fund the construction of it.”

He said he believes the design work can easily be done in time to submit additional grant applications for the construction work next summer.

“Obviously I was hoping to get the whole thing funded in the first round, but I’m not disappointed,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I’d be disappointed if we got nothing.”

Southampton Town recently received a $15,000 county grant for walking trails through the parkland leading to the likely location of the pedestrian bridge, and the town currently has a number of revitalization efforts underway in Riverside, which has traditionally been an area with little commercial development and high amounts of blight.

Included in these efforts is a recently awarded contract with Renaissance Downtowns to be a “master developer” of Riverside, a county study on the feasibility of establishing a Riverside sewer district, a study to redesign the Riverside traffic circle as a two-lane roundabout, and a recently awarded $236,900 state Brownfield Opportunity Area grant to study ways to redevelop areas in Riverside that may have had contamination in the past.

Read the pitch from Riverside’s new master developer


11/10/13 3:07pm
11/10/2013 3:07 PM
BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead High School rowers at the Snowflake Regatta Sunday.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead High School rowers at the Snowflake Regatta Sunday.

Hundreds of rowing enthusiasts descend on the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead Sunday for what has become a fall tradition — the annual Snowflake Regatta hosted by East End Rowing Institute.

Teams from both Riverhead and Bishop McGann-Mercy high schools participated in races along the 3,500 meter course Sunday.

View photos from the event below:

10/06/13 8:00am
10/06/2013 8:00 AM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | East End Rowing has a new home in downtown Riverhead. Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio joins (from left) East End Rowing co-founder Co Rentmeester, webmaster Dan Jablonski, vice president George Woodhull and president Bill Hale.

If it weren’t for the 27-foot-long, 11-inch-wide racing scull in the front yard, the brown-shingled house at 30 McDermott Ave. in downtown Riverhead probably wouldn’t get more than a passing glance.

But this property isn’t just any abode — it’s the new home of East End Rowing and, after spending more than a decade on a chunk of land in Flanders without a structure to store their equipment, the group and its 35 members are happy to be there.

“There was no indoor anything in Flanders,” said club member Dan Jablonski, who manages East End Rowing’s website. “It was 12 years without a roof, basically. So when [storms] Irene and Sandy came, all the members went down there and had to make sure the boats were tied down and far enough away from the water.”

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The building also has workout space for its members, including rowing machines.

Fortunately, that sort of hassle is now a thing of the past. In May, East End Rowing entered into a licensing agreement with Riverhead Town that gives the club rent-free use of the McDermott Avenue house. The five-room house was purchased by the town earlier this year for $160,000 and is now the property of the town sewer district, said that district’s superintendent, Michael Reichel.

Mr. Reichel said the town bought the house with the intention of demolishing it to make way for a new pump station, but he does not anticipate that occurring for at least another two years. In the interim, East End Rowing is responsible for paying all utilities at the house, he said.

“There have been so many different locations proposed for the boathouse,” said Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio. “Now, with the sewer district getting this property, it just made sense to put it here.”

This isn’t the first time local government has stepped in to assist the club. A few years ago, East End Rowing was awarded a $90,000 grant from Suffolk County. Part of that money was used to put build a new floating dock on the Peconic River.

“It was just in time because the old wooden ones had given up,” club president Bill Hale said.

The new dock was a plus, but East End Rowing, which was founded in 2001 by Co Rentmeester, Michelle Knox Zaloom, Dan Johnson and Alice and Marty Golden, needed a home base. Club members had hoped to build a boathouse in the form of an addition to the East End Arts building on Riverhead’s East Main Street, but that didn’t pan out, Mr. Hale said.

Now that East End Rowing has a house, Ms. Giglio said town officials are also working on an easement that would allow the town to purchase a pre-fabricated boathouse to put in the home’s backyard. In the meantime, East End Rowing members can store their sculls outside and take a hot shower in the home’s second-floor bathroom after rowing the Peconic River. There are also two rowing machines in an upstairs room, where members can train during the winter.

Club members agree the timing was just right to help firmly establish themselves in downtown Riverhead, which is enjoying a revitalization that East End Rowing hopes to be part of.

“Rowing is exploding across the U.S. right now,” said Mr. Hale. “I think people are finding that they can do it all their life, like golf.”

East End Rowing expects to draw a crowd of at least a thousand people when it hosts its annual Snowflake Regatta on the riverfront Nov. 10. Participation at last year’s event was negatively affected by superstorm Sandy, but 2011’s regatta included 108 entries from 14 rowing clubs.

And when rowers are doing their thing on the Peconic River, Mr. Jablonski said, all eyes are on them.

“Everybody’s got a big old motorboat,” he said. “When you’re rowing a 27-foot-long, 11-inch-wide boat, everyone’s watching you.”


08/07/13 10:00am
08/07/2013 10:00 AM
Peconic footbrige

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne Holst (center) and town council members discussing plans for a footbridge over the Peconic.

The Southampton Town Board will hold a special meeting at noon Thursday to vote on several resolutions, including one to authorize Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to apply for a New York State Economic Development Consolidated Grant for a pedestrian bridge from downtown Riverhead to county parkland in Riverside.

The deadline to apply for the grant is Aug. 12.

JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

The town is seeking $1.145 million in grant money for the project, which requires approvals from Southampton Town, Riverhead Town and Suffolk County, since the land on which it is planned for in Riverside is part of a 14-acre county park.

Previous Coverage: Riverhead Town officials voice support for footbridge proposal

The issue also will be discussed publicly by the Riverhead Town Board at its 10 a.m. work session Thursday. Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, will give a presentation to the board. Mr. Taldone has been a driving forced behind the plan, which FRNCA hopes will be a beginning to plans for revitalization in Riverside. Southampton Town also plans to seek proposals from developers to redevelop the business area in Riverside.

Previous Coverage: Southampton set to act as grant deadline looms

The bridge will most like be located near the Long Island Aquarium, Mr. Taldone said.


07/26/13 12:00pm
07/26/2013 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Hollique Smith Johnson, 13, pulled his 12-year-old friend who couldn’t swim out of Peconic River July 14.

Hollique Smith Johnson walked through the front door of his Riverhead home July 14, his shirt and pants sagging and dripping wet. His mother, Angel Johnson, took one look at her son and said, “Eww! You stink!”

Moments earlier, Hollique — a 6-foot-3 13-year-old, had jumped into the Peconic River in downtown Riverhead to rescue a 12-year-old friend who had fallen into the water.

“He said, ‘Ma, I got to get in the shower; I had to jump in the Peconic,’ ” Ms. Johnson recalled Tuesday, standing on the riverfront dock where the incident occurred.

A wave of mixed emotions came over Ms. Johnson, from fear of what could have happened to relief that her son had the calmness under pressure to do what none of the other boys in the group could: jump in the water and swim.

Hollique had no choice but to learn how to swim at an early age.

When he was 2 years old, he fell out of his mother’s arms after she slipped on baby oil alongside a wave pool at Splish Splash. Hollique splashed into the water and instinctively began to dog-paddle.

“He’s been swimming like a fish ever since,” said Ms. Johnson, who admitted that she swims more “like a rock.”

Two weeks ago Hollique and a few friends were walking along the Peconic River at high tide when Hollique thought about jumping down onto a floating dock that was several feet away from the main dock. A few of the boys were ready to follow.

Jared Crump, who unlike Hollique is an average-sized kid for his age, stumbled at the edge of the dock and tumbled down into the water.

Unable to swim, Jared began to panic. Though he was just a few feet from safety, Jared was still far enough away that the other boys couldn’t just reach out to grab him. Jared couldn’t reach the dock and struggled to stay afloat. His head bobbed under the water twice.

Among the group, only Hollique could swim.

Some people nearby, thinking the boys were goofing around, took no notice of the potentially tragic turn of events.

“I saw his head go under a few times,” Hollique said. “He was drowning. So I saved him.”

He didn’t think twice about jumping in, not even taking the time to pull his cell phone out of his pocket.

“[Jared] was just crying, saying, ‘Thank you,’ ” Hollique said.

For the next few days, Jared didn’t want to leave Hollique’s side.

“Now I can’t get rid of the kid,” Ms. Johnson joked.

That Hollique was the only swimmer in the group is not all that uncommon. Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional injury or death, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And between 2005 and 2009, the fatal unintentional drowning rate was significantly higher for African Americans than for whites across all ages, the report stated. The disparity, according to the report, is highest among children between 5 and 14, with the rate for African American children nearly three times than that for white children.

Hollique, an honor student who is heading into eighth grade, has always loved the water. He surfs out in Montauk, where the waves tempt some of the biggest daredevils in the world. He’s thought about becoming a lifeguard.

In the days following the near drowning, he offered to help teach some of his friends how to swim.

Hollique’s sister Hollie, 28, is married to a man in the Coast Guard and they live in Miami. When Hollique visits, his brother-in-law shows him what it’s like to train in the water.

“He makes him learn how to swim and struggle under water,” Ms. Johnson said.

Away from the water, Hollique plays basketball, football and lacrosse. At 6-3 and still growing, he could become a familiar face on the Riverhead athletic fields in years to come.

“He has a lot of mentors, because I’m a single mom,” Ms. Johnson said. “I thank them all for helping me bring him up as a good young man.”


06/17/13 1:27pm
06/17/2013 1:27 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | DEC officers hunting for the alligator Friday.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | DEC officers hunting for the alligator Friday.

The alligator that’s been living in the Peconic River and eluded capture for more than a week was located and euthanized Sunday in Calverton.

The gator was killed about 25 yards down river from the state Department of Environmental Conservation kayak and canoe launch site off Connecticut Avenue.

The gator was killed by a single shot fired by a DEC conservation officer, a DEC spokesman said.

“Dart guns do not work on cold-blooded creatures,” said the spokesman, Bill Fonda.

Officers had been spotting and trying to capture the 3-foot long alligator alive for about a week near the boat ramp, Mr. Fonda said.

“As an option of last resort, the alligator was euthanized on Sunday in the interest of public safety,” he said. “Tranquilizing the alligator was not an option as the animal could still have evaded capture and returned to the water, continuing to pose a public safety threat. DEC has re-opened the canoe site.”

The boat ramp had been closed to the public during the search.

A DEC officer at the scene Friday said they hoped to catch the gator alive, if possible, but that proved too dangerous, Mr. Fonda said.

“DEC officers and staff used baited hooks, nets and catch poles in an attempt to capture the animal,” Mr. Fonda said.. “All these attempts proved futile.

Officials have said the gator was probably a pet that someone turned loose, and they have stressed owning an alligator is illegal in New York State.

The DEC in April found four other small alligators in the same area of the Peconic River boat ramp, and capture them alive.


DEC COURTESY PHOTO | These four gators were captured in the Peconic River Friday morning. A Manorville residents spotted the reptiles and contacted the DEC.

DEC COURTESY PHOTO | These four gators were captured in the Peconic River in April.

06/14/13 5:29pm
06/14/2013 5:29 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | DEC officer Don Damrath shows some DEC employees where he thinks the gator may be.

An elusive alligator remained on the loose Friday in Calverton as State Environmental Conservation Officers converged on the area to attempt to bait the gator.

Spotted in the Peconic River near the state boat ramp on Connecticut Avenue, the gator is estimated to be about 3 1/2 to 4 feet long, officer Donald Damrath said.

It’s the second time in less than two months a gator has been spotted in the area. Four baby gators were found in the same spot in mid-April.

Mr. Damrath spotted the gator Wednesday and another man photographed it earlier in the week. Officer Kaitlyn Grady and Lt. Frank Carbone assisted Friday in trying to lure in the gator near the ramp where a trail leading to it has been closed to the public since Wednesday. Officials believe the gator is likely still near the boat ramp.

Mr. Damrath said the gator may be dormant. Gators become dormant when temperatures reach 55 degrees and stop feeding when the temperature is about 70 degrees, he said.

The air temperature was near 70 degrees Friday but the water temperature was unknown. The gators will stay on land if it is warmer than the water, Mr. Damrath said.

The officers put some chicken down by the ramp  in an attempt to bait the gator. Mr. Damrath said the gator was likely domestic, so the trap might not work.

It’s possible that this gator was owned by the same person that owned the other four, he said.

The goal is to catch it alive if possible, he said, but cautioned, “It’s a dangerous animal.”


TIM GANNON PHOTO | The hunt for the gator continues Friday.