02/06/14 3:07pm
02/06/2014 3:07 PM


The homeless man charged in a Polish Town armed robbery attempt last month last month may have connections to “similar” incidents in the area, county prosecutors said at the man’s arraignment Thursday morning.

Monwell Wright, 20, was indicted by a grand jury and charged with two counts of felony attempted robbery, and one count each of felony and misdemeanor assault before Judge William Condon in Suffolk County court.


01/10/14 5:30pm
01/10/2014 5:30 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This property on Hamilton Avenue was raided by town code enforcement officials Friday morning.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This property on Hamilton Avenue was raided by town code enforcement officials Friday morning.

Authorities say at least 18 men were living inside an overcrowded Hamilton Avenue house targeted in a code enforcement raid Friday morning.

In addition to numerous fire and town code violations, Riverhead Town officials found some of the residents were living in an unfinished cellar that had been divided into makeshift living spaces, as well as evidence that an unheated garage was also being used for housing, town officials said.

“These are unsafe conditions,” said Supervisor Sean Walter. “They put people’s lives at risk. These landlords need to be stopped and the town is doing everything in their power to stop them.”

After getting complaints from neighbors, Riverhead Town police, fire marshals and members of the town attorney’s office carried out a search warrant at the house at 331 Hamilton Avenue, a single family residence owned by Rickey Taylor of Southampton, according to a town press release.

Mr. Taylor couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Inside the Polish Town residence, authorities allegedly found at least five occupants were living in the house’s unfinished basement that was split into four living areas containing “personal belongings, mattresses and bedroom furnishings,” the release reads.

The men living in the basement had been sleeping on beds close to exposed wiring, insulation, and heating and boiler equipment, authorities said.

Town officials said the raid revealed a shortage of smoke detectors, inadequate egress, exposed wiring, “excessive” littering, and evidence that inhabitable space had been converted into living areas without building permits or certificates of occupancy, according to the town’s statement.

Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate was called to help find the residents of the allegedly overcrowded home new places to live, town officials said.

The house was one of four that had been targeted for enforcement last March, when the Town Board passed a resolution authorizing Supreme Court action against the property. Friday’s raid was a part of the enforcement action plan against that property, Mr. Walter said.

“Unfortunately it takes longer to build a case than we’d like sometimes,” he said. “We have the facts we need to restrain them from occupying that house at this point.”

Town attorneys will now seek a temporary restraining order preventing residents from returning to the house, Mr. Walter said.

“We can’t let people run roughshod over the town housing code,” he said.

While neighbors said that while they weren’t familiar with the property targeted Friday, one resident said she’s aware of overcrowded homes.

“If I work outside I see people and they say hello to me when they go by,” the woman, who asked not to have her name printed, said. “No one’s bothered me. I stay to myself.”

The resident, who’s lived on the block for nearly 60 years, said the neighborhood has “gotten worse” in that time.

“You knew all the people before on the street,” she said. “Once those people sold those homes, that’s when it started going down.”

Correction: A photo accompanied with this story earlier pictured a house on Sweezy Avenue.

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08/17/13 5:00pm
08/17/2013 5:00 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | ‘Bride’ Joanna Kurzyan and ‘groom’ Patrick Faron perform a traditional Polish dance.

Weddings are in the details. There are dress colors and flower types, themes and dancing. The same is true at the mock wedding hosted Saturday by the Polish Town Civic Association during its annual Polish Town Fair and Polka Festival.

Except the “couple” doesn’t have to fuss with making of any of choices. They follow strict tradition — Polish tradition.

The wedding highlights the customs of a traditional Polish ceremony that dates back hundreds of years, according to festival chairwoman Karen Fleischman.

“It’s generational,” she said. “We have a lot of that here in Riverhead. It’s about carrying on family tradition.”

The nuptials begin sharply at noon with an exchanging of vows at St. Isidore’s Church in Riverhead.

Before long the celebration begins. The music starts up, the young couple and their wedding party march down the street and through the village. The parade consists of the maid of honor, the best man, the ring bearer, the flower girl, the parents of the bride and groom, the godmother and six young maidens.

During the 10-minute march, Polish heritage is on full display. The participants are adorned in traditional costume ­known as krakowiak, named for the Krakow region in Poland where native dress was thought to be uniquely colorful and festive. The members of the Polish Town Civic Association intricately bead the dresses, sparing no details in bringing the Polish tradition to life. Colorful ribbons are pinned to the back of the bride’s headdress, except for the color red, which was thought to cause the newly weds to fight for the rest of the lives.

Another charming quirk — the bride is expected to cry. If she did not, it was believed she would cry through her marriage.

Then it is time for the most important and oldest of the wedding customs. The bride’s hair is unbraided and cut signifying the loss of her life as a single girl and the passing into her new life as a married woman. Of course, this is done using a wig during Saturday’s reenactment.

Finally, it’s time to hit the dance floor for a tradition that takes months of modern day training.

The volunteer bridal party, representing the St. Maximilian Kolbe Polish Dance Group, perfected the traditional wedding dance known as the Grand Polonaise.

“They did a wonderful job,” Ms. Fleischman said. “They practiced for hours. It was a big commitment.”

While most of those traditions have been lost to time, one still remains. The marrying couple is presented with a small piece of bread, sprinkled with salt and a small glass of wine.

The bread symbolizes that the couple shall not want or go hungry, the salt to represent the bitterness in life and the wine to show the sweetness of life.

“It’s one of those heart warming things that stood the test of time,” Ms. Fleischman said. “Some things never change.”

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07/31/13 2:30pm
07/31/2013 2:30 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A worker at ‘Variety’ cleaning up shattered glass Wednesday morning.

Someone threw a cinderblock through the front window of a Polish Town variety store early Wednesday, the third time in the last 18 months vandals have targeted the store.

The Hispanic variety store on the corner of Pulaski Street and Hamilton Avenue, simply called “Variety,” was targeted about 4 a.m., with the concrete block damaging the window and a TV that was in the window’s display area, an employee said.

Riverhead Town police said the vandalism caused about $800 worth of damage.

Detectives are investigating the incident, police said.

A worker at the variety store, who gave his name as Vic, was found sweeping up broken glass around the window Wednesday morning.

He said someone had also thrown a brick through the window about six months ago, and that robbers smashed through a window and looted the store in an incident another six months before that.

The man said other stores, like the Spanish and Polish delis on Pulaski Street, have also been victims of vandalism in recent years.

At a nearby clothing store, an employee said she’d seen problems before, with people urinating in the alleys between buildings, but said the store had never been damaged by vandals.

“That’s crazy,” said the employee, who did not give her name. “I’ve seen people on drugs, there’s some homeless people who stay around for a few days, but never anything like that.”

Jim Loo, owner of the Birchwood restaurant across the street, said he’s seen people leave broken or empty liquor bottles against his storefront, but said this was the first time he’s heard of someone throwing a cinderblock through a store.

“Nothing ever happened like that,” he said. “Probably somebody was drunk or something.”

Mr. Loo, who said he’s been in the area for the past 12 years, said Polish Town has changed in that time, and not for the better.

“I’m sure that there are some good people left, it’s just late at night [when there are problems],” he said. “When people get drunk they do stupid things. The landscape of different people has really changed. It’s not really Polish town anymore.”

Mr. Loo said that while he walks his waitstaff to their cars now to make sure they make it home safely, he’s not too concerned.

“I’m just taking precaution steps,” he said.

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05/26/13 12:43pm
05/26/2013 12:43 PM

KERI NAJDZION COURTESY PHOTO | Ashley Yakaboski of Baiting Hollow has been selected Miss Polish Town USA 2013.

Ashley Yakaboski of Baiting Hollow has been selected Miss Polish Town USA for 2013. Miss Polish Town leads the parade and ceremonies at the Polish Town Fair in August.

First runner up was Anna Klimczuk of Mattituck and second runner up was Tiffany Russo of Hicksville.

KERI NAJDZION COURTESY PHOTO | First runner up was Anna Klimczuk of Mattituck and second runner up was Tiffany Russ of Hicksville.

05/23/13 8:00am
05/23/2013 8:00 AM
Great job Riverhead police

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Town police and state troopers teamed up to capture a shooting suspect Monday night on Osborn Avenue in Riverhead’s Polish Town

Alarm bells rang out through Polish Town Monday night as ambulances and town and state police cars — their lights and sirens blaring — descended on several crime scenes within minutes, and just a few blocks, of one another.

It was no terror scare, but it was no drill either. Police arrested a shooter accused of injuring a woman on Raynor Avenue with a shotgun blast and, in a separate case, a would-be armed robber on Osborn Avenue.

Monday night’s incidents, culminating with police officers storming an Osborn Avenue house and dragging out a suspected gunman, served as a reminder of the dangers our police and emergency workers face every night, often when the rest of us are tucked safely in our beds.

We also saw on full display the fine work of two police agencies that coordinated with each other and mobilized quickly to secure three crime scenes and make quick work of violent acts in our communities. While such incidents in town are, of course, cause for concern — and downright frightening for many — Riverheaders can take comfort in the quality of the men and women sworn to protect us.