Last year wasn’t the easiest for Tony Sammartano.
Last year wasn’t the easiest for Tony Sammartano.
Business was good for these folks in 2014.
The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce announced its annual award recipients on Monday, and will honor the group at its yearly ceremony in December. (more…)
The Riverhead News-Review honored its 2013 People of the Year Thursday night during a ceremony at the company’s main office in Mattituck. (more…)
In August 2011, Denise Lucas took her 13-year-old neighbor to the Riverhead Animal Shelter to look at the dogs. The girl wanted to be a veterinarian but was terrified by the barking dogs and the sight of the shelter.
Animal advocates had long protested conditions at the town’s shelter, saying that better facilities were needed to care for the dogs. After her August visit, Ms. Lucas saw the same need.
Instead of protesting, she took action.
The longtime Riverhead resident and dog lover, who had never organized a single fundraiser before, soon began going door to door, business to business across the East End to raise money to build Riverhead Town a new animal shelter.
More than a year later, Move the Animal Shelter — the organization she founded — has raised thousands to put toward building a new town facility. She’s also spearheaded the town’s first public dog park, with a second park expected to open in the spring.
Ms. Lucas has kept up an impressive pace, holding dozens of fundraisers — from dinners to dog grooming events — and obtaining nonprofit status for her organization while still working her regular job.
It’s that dedication and drive that several town officials and residents have praised, and why Ms. Lucas is the News-Review’s 2012 Person of the Year.
“Denise Lucas came to me about a year ago, and she was on a mission,” said Councilman James Wooten, the Town Board’s liaison to Ms. Lucas’ group. “She was like a spitfire … for me personally, I think she’s just a breath of fresh air.”
Ms. Lucas began raising funds in September 2011; two months later, she had raised $12,000 for the new shelter. The money originally went into a special town fund, but it was later returned to the group once it received 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit.
The new shelter as designed should cost roughly $300,000, Ms. Lucas has said in previous interviews.
While raising funds for the new shelter, Ms. Lucas learned of the town’s efforts to get a dog park built. She immediately opened up another fundraising effort and raised $14,000 to help the town build its first public dog park: Issac Park at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. Ms. Lucas also enticed businesses to donate supplies or pay for various items needed for the park, like fencing and picnic tables.
The dog park in Calverton opened in July; Ms. Lucas is currently raising funds to have another, smaller dog park built at Stotzky Park near the soccer fields.
“This one person has accomplished so much for the town in just one year,” wrote Riverhead resident Jim Seuling, in nominating Ms. Lucas for Person of the Year honors.
On Dec. 18, the Riverhead Town Board voted to privatize the town shelter, putting it under the control of the North Fork Animal Welfare League, a nonprofit group that currently runs the Southold Town shelter.
But Ms. Lucas is not going to give up on her mission; in fact, the move may help her raise even more money to help Riverhead’s pets, officials said.
“This [privatization of the shelter] is probably better for her organization, because she’s going to be working with the North Fork Animal Welfare League,” Mr. Wooten said. “She’s reenergized by it.”
Long Island Spirits, the Island’s first and only vodka distillery, has been housed in a turn-of-the-century barn on Sound Avenue since 2007.
The growing distillery and tasting room is located in Baiting Hollow, where visitors can treat their taste buds to local liquor as they overlook an 80-acre potato farm.
In the past two years, Long island Spirits has gone on to produce the first local whiskey and aged brandy as well.
Those who have worked with the company say Long Island Spirits’ burgeoning success is all thanks to head honcho Richard Stabile, the News-Review’s 2012 Business Person of the Year.
“Richard got there first, period,” said manager James Silver of Peconic Bay Winery, which teamed up with Long Island Spirits to produce the island’s first brandy, Sono Rinata, just over two years ago. “He took what everyone was thinking and did it. It was a brilliant idea to put a distillery in this area — especially one rife with material to be distilled. And then he did it so unbelievably well; I don’t know anyone who wasn’t completely jealous.”
Mr. Silver, a shepherd of his own business’ success, called Mr. Stabile “a leader, and a pragmatic, thoughtful, inspired contributor” to the North Fork’s business landscape who “took a risk few would dare to and made it work.”
And he isn’t the only one singing Mr. Stabile’s praises.
Brand specialist Alicia Messina, who has worked for the distillery founder and owner for three years, said Long Island Spirits has found success not only because they have cornered the local vodka market, but because of the type of boss Mr. Stabile has been all along.
“He is greatly appreciative of his employees and constantly lets them know this,” Ms. Messina said. “Rich has created such a wonderful and friendly work environment within Long Island Spirits, and this pays off in the success he has had with his business over the years.”
The distillery employee said Mr. Stabile’s kindness is not limited to his employees, and she added that he is “always quick to help out with charitable events and fundraisers and enjoys reaching out to people in need,” including donating products to events to benefit finding cures for cancer or being involved in golf outings to support local veterans.
“Rich has brought something new to Long Island and found much success in it,” Ms. Messina said of Mr. Stabile. “LiV vodka has been in numerous blind taste-testing competitions, scoring extremely high, and has been recognized for its domesticity and being an economically friendly product.”
In March, the distillery released Pine Barrens Whiskey, the Island’s premier local whiskey, made from a commercially finished beer, instead of peated malt.
“I’ve always been a whiskey fan,” Mr. Stabile told the Long Island Wine Press earlier this year. “But we wanted to do something different with ours. Most American whiskeys are bourbon-style, made from corn, and there’s a lot of ryes out there. We wanted to do a scotch-style whiskey, single malt, but rather than develop our own peated malt, we thought it would be unique if we used a commercially finished beer. Nobody else does this, that we know of.”
For the product, Mr. Stabile teamed up with Long Island’s Blue Point Brewing Company, distilling down 850 gallons of one of their beers, Old Howling Bastard, for its first batch.
“We spent a lot of time experimenting with Blue Point before we got going,” Mr. Stabile said of the process, “but we’re just blown away with what we came up with.”
2012’s Public Servant of the Year for both The Suffolk Times and the Riverhead News-Review is someone who represented both Southold and Riverhead towns over the past seven years, but who won’t be representing either in 2013.
Ed Romaine, who was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor in November, is our choice for Public Servant of the Year for his work as the North Fork’s representative in the Suffolk County Legislature from 2006 to 2012.
And a lot of people agree.
“I couldn’t think of anybody more deserving of this than Ed,” said Southold Supervisor Scott Russell. “As supervisor, I have worked with Ed on issues ranging from stormwater mitigation to erosion control to farmland preservation. Ed has been our go-to guy on just about any issue. He’s tireless. He’s got an institutional knowledge. He’s one of those guys that just tries to make a difference every day in as nonpartisan a fashion as possible.”
“He is probably one of the few remaining true statesmen that we have left in the county,” said Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in the Reeves Park area of Riverhead. “He works across party lines, he understands the importance of community and he understands the importance of representing his constituents without concern for party affiliation or party line.”
At the request of the Reeves Park community, Mr. Romaine worked to get the county to acquire a four-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, where a shopping center had been proposed, in order to make a 9-11 Memorial there. At least two families in Reeves Park lost loved ones on Sept. 11.
“He took our cause right up to the end, at his last county legislative meeting,” when the acquisition was finally approved, Mr. Biegler said. “I couldn’t think of a better person for this award. We are sorry he is going over to Brookhaven.”
In the Legislature, Mr. Romaine and South Fork representative Jay Schneiderman were consistently outnumbered 16-2 by West End legislators.
Now it’s 16 to 1, said Mr. Schneiderman, who not only fought alongside Mr. Romaine on bills to benefit the East End, but also knew him before he entered public office.
“He was my seventh grade social studies teacher in Hauppauge,” Mr. Schneiderman said.
“Ed has been a tremendous fighter for the people of the East End,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “He’s got a great record on the environment and, for the past eight years, he’s been a great partner of mine in protecting the interests of the East End.”
Mr. Schneiderman, who was elected to the Legislature as a Republican but switched his enrollment to the Independence party, said Mr. Romaine “puts party interests aside and works for the good of the people.”
“Ed Romaine is going to be sorely missed by the Town of Riverhead,” said Mason Haas, a town assessor who has worked with Mr. Romaine on the issue of getting the homeless sex offender trailers removed from county property in Riverside and Westhampton. “He’s been a friend and advocate for us.”
Other issues Mr. Romaine worked on include getting fire wells put in the pine barrens, helping people who lost their homes to flooding on Horton Avenue in Riverhead, acquiring the North Fork Preserve in Northville for parkland, getting weekend bus service on the East End and fighting the MTA payroll tax.
Mr. Romaine’s successor will be chosen in a Jan. 15 special election between Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Southold Councilman Al Krupski.
During the pregame huddle before an early season game this fall, McGann-Mercy football coach Jeff Doroski gathered his players to deliver a message. Before him stood a group of players expected to finish near the bottom of Division IV — an all-too-familar destination for the Monarchs.
We’ve been down for a long time, Mr. Doroski told his team. No one believes Mercy is a team that can contend.
And Mr. Doroski posed a question to his team: Why not us?
Believe in your teammates, he said. Believe in your coaches. Trust the hard work you’ve put in.
“You get chills when you hear him speak sometimes,” said Phil Reed, an assistant coach at Mercy. “You feel like you want to put on a uniform and go out and play for him. I don’t know how he does it, but he just comes up with these things.”
Under Doroski’s leadership, in only his second season as Mercy’s head coach, the Monarchs surged to their most memorable fall in three decades, posting seven wins, advancing to the semifinals of the Division IV playoffs and captivating the close-knit Riverhead school.
For his efforts in turning Mercy’s football program around, while also working as a well-respected health and physical education teacher and volunteering his time at a bevy of school functions, the News-Review selected Mr. Doroski as its 2012 Educator of the Year.
McGann-Mercy is a second home for Mr. Doroski. His parents both attended Mercy. So did his wife. As a high school student, he was the featured running back for the Monarchs. After graduating in 1992 he owned the single-season and career rushing records.
It was back when Mr. Doroski carried the ball for Mercy that the Monarchs last had a season comparable to this year. When the Monarchs won an epic 22-21 playoff game over Hampton Bays in November, it was the first postseason win for the program since 1991. The seven wins matched their best season since 1978.
“He’s a big part of continuing the tradition of excellence at Mercy because he’s been through it,” said athletic director John Lonardo. “He’s very aware of that and that’s something he really brings to the kids and reinforces to the kids about what McGann-Mercy stands for and the tradition of McGann-Mercy.”
In addition to coaching the varsity football team, Mr. Doroski, 38, also coaches the junior varsity baseball team in the spring. When it comes to baseball, he is a bit of a legend. In 2003 he coached the varsity team to a state championship, the only state title for any team in Mercy history.
No matter the time of year, Mr. Doroski, who lives in Riverhead, can be spotted at Mercy long after the school day has ended. In the winter he works the scoreboard during basketball games. He also monitors the weight room.
“Jeff has an outstanding rapport with the students,” Mr. Lonardo said. “He’s extremely liked. He communicates very well with the kids. He’s extremely motivational. The kids not only enjoy his classes, but they enjoy playing for him.”
When Mr. Doroski became the varsity football head coach, numbers were dwindling in the program. Former athletic director Paula Nickerson said in 2011 that it was a “miracle” the program survived during some of the leanest years.
Mr. Doroski helped rejuvenate interest in football and this past season the Monarchs had the kind of depth that allowed them to not only stay competitive, but excel.
“You could see from day one when he took over the program that the kids responded to him,” Phil Reed said. “The way he wanted to set the program up and it’s grown from leaps and bounds from when he started.”
As a teacher in a small school, Mr. Doroski gets an opportunity to work with many of his athletes in the classroom as well. Asaiah Wilson, the football team’s junior quarterback, had Mr. Doroski as a health teacher last year and as a gym teacher this year.
Mr. Wilson said Mr. Doroski’s demeanor as a coach and teacher is very similar.
“He wants us to work hard,” he said. “If we got a 99, he wants us to ask why we didn’t get 100.”
The quarterback position was something Wilson had little experience in before this season. He had played in PAL leagues during his youth, but never anything close to being a varsity quarterback.
Mr. Doroski was instrumental in helping him learn the position and encourage him along the way, even when things were tough, Mr. Wilson said.
“He guided me through everything,” he said. “Reading defenses, switching plays at the line, he guided me through all that. Sometimes I would get down on myself and he’ll pick my head up.”
Patience is one of Mr. Doroski’s greatest strengths, according to Mr. Reed.
“He’s not an excitable guy,” said the assistant coach, who also coaches varsity boys basketball at Southold. “He can be loud when he wants to be but when it comes to the games he has nice level confidence about himself in order to make the right decision.”
After the Monarchs improved 5-0 in October, Mr. Doroski was selected for the New York Jets’ High School Coach of the Week award.
“He’s been one of the best coaches I’ve been able to work with and I’ve been coaching for a long time,” Mr. Reed said. “He’s just a wonderful person to be around.”
The Riverhead News-Review will announced its Person of the Year in its Jan. 5, 2012 issue.
Here is a list of people that have won the award in the past decade:
• 2010 — Linda Hobson
• 2009 — Chris Kempner
• 2008 — Riverhead Blue Waves
• 2007 — Maureen’s Haven
• 2006 — Sister Margaret Smyth
• 2005 — Alan Shields
• 2004 — Phil Cardinale
• 2003 — Vince Tria
• 2002 — Bryan Tressler
• 2001 — Annie Jackson
• 2000 — Judy Young