07/22/13 5:10pm
07/22/2013 5:10 PM
Pickersgill in Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | BID management association president Ray Pickersgill in downtown Riverhead.

Robert James Salon owner Ray Pickersgill was re-elected to a fourth term as president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association last Wednesday, but it didn’t come without a challenge.

Architect Martin Sendlewski, who had been BIDMA vice president, threw his hat in the ring for president at the annual meeting last Wednesday at Town Hall, but he said he thinks Mr. Pickersgill has done a “fantastic job” as president for the past four years and has no complaints about him.

“We’ve all been pretty much in the same spots for three years,” Mr. Sendlewski said last Wednesday. “Maybe it’s about time to change things around, to keep things fresh.”
He said other organizations he’s involved with do this.

But Mr. Pickersgill said he still wants to be president.

“I think we’ve done a good job for the past three years,” he said, citing a number of grants he’s gotten for downtown Riverhead projects as well as the events the BID has sponsored to bring thousands of people downtown.

Mr. Sendlewski said he’d have gotten the BID involved with a number of projects had he become president, such as setting up information kiosks and getting an office and secretary for the organization.

Mr. Pickersgill said he opposes having an office and a secretary, which the BID used to have, because of the cost. But he feels Mr. Sendlewski can still work on the kiosks, even though he wasn’t voted president.

Voting was done by paper ballot among BIDMA members, with ballots containing each board member’s vote for president, vice president, secretary and treasurer all on one sheet of paper.

For president, Mr. Pickersgill received eight votes and Mr. Sendlewski four, according to BIDMA secretary Carolyn London. Bill Allan of Minuteman Press defeated Mr. Sendlewski for vice president, 6 to 3, and Ms. London and Ed Densieski were re-elected as secretary and treasurer, respectively.

Mr. Densieski said Mr. Sendlewski is his first cousin, but he still voted for Mr. Pickersgill.

“His effort is unbelievable,” Mr. Densieski said.

The BID also decided to investigate the way it elects board members, after this year’s vote had to be held over a week. Initially, fewer than the required 10 property owners showed up to vote and results could not be finalized until the minimum number of votes had been procured.

Elected unopposed this year to two-year terms on the BIDMA were Ms. London, of J. Sauer Opticians, Ray Dickhoff of Summerwind Square, builder Phil Hancock, Larry Oxman of East End Commercial Real Estate, Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos and Steve Shauger, general manager of the Hyatt Place hotel.

“We should address this so we don’t have a problem every year,” Mr. Pickersgill said. Officials say the bylaws allow them to do away with balloting if an election is unopposed.

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/20/13 1:38pm
05/20/2013 1:38 PM
Pickersgill's Robert James salon

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO| Downtown Riverhead looking west from the second floor above Robert James Salon on East Main Street.

I read John Finnegan’s column about his experience trying to site his zip line in downtown Riverhead.

I thought the column was nasty and unnecessary. It reminded me of two truths learned while growing up. One, never be a cry baby. Two, as my father would say, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Mr.Finnegan ran his idea by a group of businesses downtown and the Town Board, the idea seemed to falter as quick as it was proposed.

Let’s deal in a few facts:

Mr. Finnegan has never built or run a zip line.

Mr. Finnegan’s company was just formed, has no funds, has not done a dollar’s worth of business and is trying to raise money online to support his idea.

The zip line as-proposed would run the lenth of the boardwalk downtown and completely compromise the waterfront. It would be a huge, potential liability, costing the town more in increased insurance premiums.

The zip line would strain what is fast becomming a heavily trafficked parking lot, and in return Riverhead would receive — if he is successful —$37,000 a year in total revenue.

This, when according to all the parking studies, each spot is worth $100,000 dollars to downtown businesses. Many downtown visitors and residents have expressed that screaming zip liners overhead is not the experience they are looking for when they stroll the riverfront.

Can you think of any waterfront towns with zip lines running over them?

As businesses downtown, we met with Mr. Finnegan and shared our concerns. We kept an open mind. We tried to be positive and gave him good suggestions on other places for it in the town.

He told us the only place he would consider is downtown. When he saw the Town Board and the businesses had a lot of quetions he could not answer, he decided to make sarcastic comments about our town. He displayed pictures of empty stores, dumpsters and boarded-up windows.

Yes, Mr. Finnegan, we know we use dumpsters downtown and we are working on coming up with a better system, which we have already done on the other side of Main Street.

Yes, we know we have some empty stores, but it is also hard to find tenants to fill 12,000- to 24,000-square-foot storefronts. Believe me, I have tried.

You mentioned Dee Muma, Ray Dickhoff, Anthony Coates and myself. You implied the business community and us do not know what’s good for downtown. Mr. Finnegan, we make our living here. We employ a lot of people here. I have my entire life savings invested here.

And, you know what? There is no other place I would rather be. I am sure the others feel the same.

We volunteer here. We work here. And we are commited to make this town grow and prosper. We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we aren’t where we used to be either. Something called a recession got in our way, then a storm called Sandy.

You are a guy from out of town with a dream, but no money or experience. Forgive me, but Riverhead has seen it’s share of snakeoil salesmen over the years. When someone comes with an idea now, we check them out. After all, it affects everyone.

We did not kick you out of town. We tried to give you alternatives. But instead, you kick us on the way out of town. To me that shows what kind of neighbor you would have been. Your angry letter was a turnoff for me and an insult to the town I have come to love.

Ray Pickersgill is the owner of Robert James Salon and did not write this column on behalf of the parking district or business district.

05/10/13 6:15pm
05/10/2013 6:15 PM
JOHN FINNEGAN COURTESY PHOTO | A proposed Riverfront zip line in downtown Riverhead is receiving backlash from the business community.

JOHN FINNEGAN COURTESY PHOTO | A proposed Riverfront zip line in downtown Riverhead is receiving backlash from the business community.

A Westchester man with hopes of bringing a 900-foot-long zip line to the Peconic waterfront in downtown Riverhead plans to address the Town Board at its work session Thursday. He aims to prove that his proposed ride is the type of attraction that will help bring foot traffic to downtown businesses.

But those same business owners he says he hopes to help say they’ll be right there waiting for him Thursday morning, prepared to argue that a downtown Riverhead zip line is something they don’t want.

“I don’t think for a minute you could ride a zip line with boats and fishermen underneath,” said downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill. “What are they going to do, close off the waterfront?”

Urban Jungle Zip Lines principal John Finnegan says he’s been in talks with Councilman George Gabrielsen for more than a year about his plans to erect a 70-foot tower with a zip line carrying riders over the river to a slightly shorter tower 900 feet away. The draft proposal suggests constructing the towers in the downtown parking lot that runs south of East Main Street.

Mr. Finnegan, who according to state records formed his company just six months ago, said he agreed to pay the town roughly $40,000 this year for use of its land during a meeting between himself, Mr. Gabrielsen and other town employees earlier this week. That payment would increase anywhere from 10 or 15 percent if the town decided to extend the lease next year, Mr. Gabrielsen said.

The Riverhead location, which was first reported earlier this week by riverheadlocal.com, would be the first zip line venture for Mr. Finnegan, who has previously worked as a salesman for a sports publication. The site is one of three currently being considered by Urban Jungle, the North Salem resident said. He’s been in discussions with officials in Westchester to build a ride there and has named Bryant Park in New York City as a possible site.

He said Friday he’s closest to bringing a zip line to Riverhead, where he hopes to open the ride June 28, though he has yet to file a formal application with the town. The zip line would run seven days, from noon to 10 p.m. during the peak summer months, April through October, he said.

A business plan Mr. Finnegan posted online shows that he has been seeking investors to cover 80 percent of the shares in his business, amounting to $500,000. In order for the company to break even on its investment, his business plan states that it would need to attract more than 100 riders per day, per year. The plan states that customers would pay $20 to ride the zip line and would have the option to purchase a photo for an additional $20.

Though his plan suggests advertisements would be papered on the towers, he said advertisements are not being considered at the Riverhead site.

Mr. Gabrielsen, a proponent of the project, estimates the zip line could attract more than 100 riders each weekday and up to 200 riders during weekend days.

“It’s a great idea, it’s a family event,” Mr. Gabrielsen said. “We need foot traffic and this will help facilitate that.”

But Mr. Pickersgill, who owns Robert James Salon & Spa on Main Street, said he believes construction would severely impact parking in the downtown area.

He and other business owners fear customers will be deterred from shopping locally if inconvenienced by insufficient parking, he said.

“Riverhead doesn’t need a zip line,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “It needs a parking garage.”

Further complicating the matter, the Riverhead Parking District shares ownership of the proposed site with the town.

“We pay special taxes to have rights over that property,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “We will take [the town] to court if need be.”

He said he and other business owners plan to protest the proposal when it’s brought up at Thursday’s work session.

But Mr. Finnegan, who spent his childhood summering in Jamesport, said he believes Riverhead is an ideal location for the project because of the downtown’s recent revitalization.

“I think we can help each other,” said Mr. Finnegan, who estimates the business will add 20 to 25 seasonal jobs to the local economy. “Without a question this is realistic. The town already does a great job of bringing in people to the waterfront and when word gets out about us, we will bring in more tourism.”

Thursday’s work session is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at Riverhead Town Hall. Before construction on the zip line can begin, the site plan needs to be approved by both the Town Board and the New York State Department of Labor, Mr. Gabrielsen said.

cmurray@timesreview.com

04/24/13 5:36pm
04/24/2013 5:36 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Runners trek down the unnamed road in Riverhead that could soon share a name with either Heidi Behr or Jim Bissett.

The unnamed road that runs along the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead may soon have a name.

But which name?

One proposal calls for the section of road from Peconic Avenue to McDermott Avenue be named after Heidi Behr, the 23-year-old Riverhead woman who died in a May 2005 accident while she was volunteering with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio mentioned the proposal to name the riverfront street after Ms. Behr during an interview with Bruce Tria on WRIV radio Wednesday morning, saying more details would be coming soon.

“She was a volunteer and she lost her life going to save somebody else’s,” she said on the air. “It’s something that needs to be done, sooner than later.”

But another proposal calls for naming it after Jim Bissett, the late co-founder of the Long Island Aquarium and the adjacent Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead. Mr. Bissett died in December 2011 at the age of 48 in an apparent suicide. Mr. Bissett is often credited with helping to revive downtown Riverhead through the aquarium.

Supervisor Sean Walter said on Wednesday that the proposal to name the road after Ms. Behr will likely be discussed by the Town Board next week, but he added that the Business Improvement District Management Association and the Parking District advisory committee have already discussed naming something downtown for Mr. Bissett.

“That’s one of the things we have to look at,” Mr. Walter said. “We have to sort that out.”

Ray Pickersgill, the president of the BID and a member of the Parking District advisory committee, said both boards had voted several months ago in support of naming the road along the river “Jim Bissett Way.”

“Nobody had done more for this town than Jim Bissett,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “We’re the only Main Street in Suffolk County that has a name brand hotel on it, and it’s made a big difference. He brought the aquarium to Riverhead as well. I can’t even tell you how many other things he was involved in, but anytime I would go to Jimmy and ask him to get involved in something, he’d be right on it.”

Mr. Walter said they decided not to put the street naming discussing on Thursday’s work session agenda because there is a state Department of Transportation workshop on the subject of downtown sidewalks scheduled at 10 a.m., and that discussion may take a long time.

Mr. Walter said he didn’t know the specifics of the proposals.

“I haven’t even really been told what it is yet,” Mr. Walter said of the plan to name the street after Heidi Behr. “I remember at one point we were going to name the ambulance barn after her.”

Councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen said they have no opposition to naming the riverfront drive after Ms. Behr. Mr. Wooten said he is also hoping to name a planned handicap accessible playground at Stotzky Park after her.

Councilman John Dunleavy couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Behr volunteered with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance for three years but also worked for a paid ambulance company.

She and another emergency medical technician, Bill Stone, 30, of Ridge, who was a paid member of the Riverhead department, died when the ambulance they were in hit a tree in Aquebogue while it was transporting a Jamesport man to a hospital on May 3, 2005.

Ms. Behr left behind her then-13-month-old son, Jared, who has severe disabilities and is being raised by Ms. Behr’s family.

The group planning a Sept. 11 memorial at the recently acquired parkland on the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead also is likely to have a memorial in honor of Heidi Behr and other emergency service volunteers, according to Bob Kelly, a retired New York City firefighter from the Reeves Park area who made the suggestion.

The park already has a small memorial in honor of Ms. Kelly’s brother, Thomas, a New York City firefighter who died while fighting the World Trade Center fires on Sept. 11, 2001. Park Road also is named in honor of Thomas Kelly.

tgannon@timesreview.com