01/26/14 8:00am
01/26/2014 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | General contractor Roy Schweers and New Beginnings founder Allyson Scerri outside the old farmhouse on Sound Avenue being renovated for Brendan House, a long-term care facility for adults with brain trauma.

Amid huge swaths of open space, farmhouse after farmhouse dots scenic Sound Avenue. Among them, on the south side of the road across from Reeve Farm in Riverhead, sits a historic home that’s in the middle of a renovation and extension project unlike any other the North Fork’s rural corridor has ever seen.

New Beginnings, a nonprofit founded by Alysson Scerri after her father suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2007, is building a long-term medical care facility at 4079 Sound Ave. The two-story, 1,900-square-foot house was built in the early 1900s. While removing its kitchen and modernizing the existing space, Ms. Scerri and general contractor Roy Schweers are also overseeing the addition of a 2,500-square-foot rear extension to the building. They hope to have that project completed by summer.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The existing portion of the Brendan House project dates back to the early 1900s, featuring built-in cabinets and nearly floor-to-ceiling windows on the first floor.

The completed structure will be called Brendan House, after Blue Point resident Brendan Aykroyd, who at 25 died after suffering a brain injury in a 2009 assault. It will be part medical facility and 100 percent home for a severely underserved group of individuals.

The building “fell into our lap,” said Ms. Scerri, explaining that the home’s former owner bequeathed it to New Beginnings in 2011. Since then, raising funds, receiving donated goods and appearing before the local zoning board have all been part and parcel of establishing the 24-hour care facility for adults, a rarity on Long Island.

Greg Ayotte, director of consumer services with the Brain Injury Association of America, said funding for such facilities is often the biggest hurdle to getting brain-injured people the care they need.

“Most folks who sustain a severe brain injury end up in a skilled nursing home, a nursing home or just at home,” he said. While nursing homes naturally have the necessary round-the-clock resources, individuals who aren’t age-appropriate for a nursing home could experience setbacks from being in the wrong environment — if they’re accepted into the facility at all.

“Especially when they’re younger, you might see a lot of behavioral problems, not just because of their injury, but because of their environment,” Mr. Ayotte said. “If you have a 40-year-old stuck with a bunch of 80-year-olds, that might create a few problems.”

Pointing to Brendan House, he said, “There is certainly a need for longer-term care community-based programs.”

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | In the back of the house the studs are up for the kitchen (left) and bedrooms at right. General contractor Roy Schweers said installing plumbing and electric will be up next.

People have responded to help make that happen.

Among others, the Riverhead Lions Club cut a check for $4,000 and plans to donate $2,000 a year in perpetuity. The family of Justin Walker — a Riverhead High School graduate who had suffered a traumatic brain injury and will likely be placed at Brendan House — donated another $2,500.

Contracting company Babe Roof donated materials and labor to put a new roof on the facility, a job Mr. Schweers estimates is worth at least $6,000 to $10,000. In addition, Revco has donated lighting and Home Depot has contributed building materials. Electrical service throughout the house will be installed with the help of the Electrical Training Center, a school for those hoping to get into the field.

Mr. Schweers — who also built New Beginnings’ 9,000-square-foot outpatient facility in Medford — has also used volunteer labor from the Suffolk County Department of Corrections, a service he initially thought would be a one-time thing.

“But they keep coming,” he said. “They even wanted to work on Christmas.”

Due to the building budget, Mr. Schweers said the newly constructed part of the facility will have a more modern feel, while the existing farmhouse will retain its older look with interior renovations. The bones of the house are strong, he said, though a new heating system will be needed to make the building livable.

In back, two smaller structures are also being converted for use. One will house a full-time caregiver while another will hold two bedrooms. In total, Brendan House will be able to accommodate 12 people.

Ms. Scerri, who described herself as “just a hairdresser” before starting New Beginnings, said the nonprofit would build more variations of Brendan House if it could, pointing to a need for long-term, 24-hour care facilities in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

“We need three more of these buildings,” she said.

jpinciaro@timesreview.com

01/12/14 8:00am
01/12/2014 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Vacant land is fast disappearing on Route 58. Irwin Garsten owns the above piece of property, just east of the Hudson Savings Bank building, where he has a site plan application for a shopping center.

While Riverhead Town officials have for years tried to bring new stores to downtown Riverhead, the developers and owners of large retail complexes continue to flock to Route 58, as evidenced most clearly by the new Walmart and Costco rising on the west side of the road.

To the east, there’s new set of medical and professional buildings. And even more shopping plazas are on the way.

Route 58 — or Riverhead’s tax base, as the town supervisor calls it — follows a different pattern from the downtown core, which is known more for its local restaurants and “redevelopment” efforts. This contrast has led some to complain of “overdevelopment” on Route 58.

But is it even fair to compare the two?

“It’s a different kind of animal,” said realtor Larry Oxman, who is also a member of the downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District’s management association.

Mr. Oxman said that although downtown is generating a lot of interest, developers of large retail stores continue to want locations on Route 58.

But building there comes at a price.

The rent on downtown leases is usually about half what a business owner would pay for a comparable property on Route 58, and downtown businesses pay less in common area maintenance costs because downtown is in a public parking district, said Mr. Oxman, adding that he’s representing two Route 58 properties currently for sale, both of which are getting a lot of interest.

While critics have decried the abundance of big box stores as a loss of local character, the buildings keep on coming, lured by large parking areas and proximity to other big-name retailers, such as Tanger Outlets, the thoroughfare’s anchor tenant, so to speak.

NEW PROJECTS

A new medical office complex is under construction at the intersection of Route 58 and Northville Turnpike.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The new, larger Walmart on Route 58 near Tanger Outlets is slated to open Jan. 15. Even though the improvements on the property have yet to be fully assessed, the property owners will be paying $124,928 in taxes for 2014.

Walmart, Fortune 500’s largest retailer nationwide, will soon vacate its current 120,000-square-foot space near Northville Turnpike and move into a 170,000-square-foot store directly across from the entrance to Tanger.

The Costco warehouse store that will sit just east of the new Walmart already has a building in place with the store’s name on it. It is not expected to open until later this year, as road and infrastructure work have yet to be completed.

The new Saber-Riverhead shopping center across from Costco already has several open stores, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops and Five Below.

So is there anywhere left to build on Route 58?

Yes indeed; in fact, a few proposals are already in the hopper.

The 12-acre property between Hudson City Savings Bank and the town highway yard is owned by Apple Honda’s Irwin Garsten, who has submitted a site plan application to build a 64,000-square-foot shopping center there.

The owner of the 1.5-acre lot at the southwest corner of Route 58 and Kroemer Avenue, Barclay Ehler, has a site plan in place to build a 14,400-square-foot retail store there. Once work begins, the county Department of Public Works plans to take part of that property to realign the intersection.

The former Rolle Brothers farm equipment site just east of Ostrander Avenue also is being proposed for development by owner Richard Israel, who hopes to create restaurants and retails stores there.

And Browning Hotel Properties plans to build a second hotel next to the 114-room Hilton Garden Inn it owns on the north side of Route 58, across from Tanger Outlets. The second hotel would be a 140-room Marriott Residence Inn, according to owner Lee Browning, who said he plans to file a site plan for the new hotel soon.

THE COSTS

According to numbers on Riverhead Town’s tax roll for this year, commercial properties on Route 58 will pay a combined total of just over $14 million in property taxes in 2014.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The owners of the Costco site are paying $431,069 this year in property taxes.

The biggest contributors are Tanger Outlets, which will pay $4.3 million in property taxes, and Riverhead Centre, which will pay $1.5 million, including school, town and other taxes.

Supervisor Sean Walter has said that about $750,000 in property taxes will be added to the tax rolls next year following the completion of the Route 58 projects currently under construction — but even so, those properties are already paying pretty hefty tax bills.

Owners of Costco site are paying $431,069 this year, while the owners of the new Walmart property are on the hook for $124,928 in taxes.

The Saber-Riverhead center, next door to Riverhead Raceway, is currently paying $108,761 in property taxes, according to town records.

The three new shopping centers rising on the west end of Route 58 all began construction after the March 1 “taxable status date,” which means they were assessed based on what was on the property as of March 1 last year, said Riverhead Town Assessor Mason Haas. Next year, they will likely be assessed at higher amounts, he said, as the projects should be closer to completion by March 1.

Compare this with downtown, where, for example, 12 properties owned by the Riverhead Enterprises property group collectively generate far less in taxes than the Route 58 Stop & Shop — $195,315 compared to $261,110.

While Route 58 is sometimes criticized as being overdeveloped, Supervisor Walter disagrees, noting that’s what the stretch was meant for.

“I think it’s a tremendous thing, and the overwhelming majority of residents that I speak with … say they love Route 58,” he said. “They love the fact that the stores are there, but you can go to a rural setting just a mile away. Riverhead has always been a shopping district for the East End, and that’s our tax base. Without the taxes we receive from stores on Route 58, everyone’s taxes would be a lot higher.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/05/14 8:00am
01/05/2014 8:00 AM

LUKE ORMAND COURTESY PHOTO | The American robin is among the birds locals can expect to see during the colder months. It will usually make its appearance here toward the end of winter.

Entering the deep freeze of a North Fork winter gives year-round residents a chance to enjoy some of the natural beauty that lies hidden behind bushes and brush during warmer weather. That’s the handsomely feathered birds whose colors are all the more vibrant against a backdrop of newly fallen snow.

While most residents can spot the red cardinal, are a number of other species are worth catching a glimpse of — some of which flock to our area only during the winter months, experts say.

“A lot of them have distinctive plumage or something unique to them and, if you look closely, they all have their own beauty,” said Tom Damiani, a member of the North Fork Audubon Society for nearly two decades. “You realize that cardinals are not the only bird that’s striking.”

LUKE ORMAND COURTESY PHOTO  |  A Cedar waxwing.

To attract these species — and help them survive winter’s bite — consider the following tips, which start with supplying basic birdseed. Black oil sunflower seed, rich in oils and sized just right, is the best choice for most birds, no matter the season, Mr. Damiani said.

“The oils are good for overall nutrition and because birds have very fast metabolism, a food source high in oil is a good thing,” he said.

Another oil-potent option is suet — rendered beef fat hardened into small cakes. The cakes are often filled with seeds, berries and other goodies and can be hung in small baskets, he said. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, many birds digest and metabolize animal fat easily. Given the likelihood of bacteria growth, however, suet is best served when temperatures are below freezing.

Mr. Damiani said he recommends bringing suet cakes inside at night; otherwise, you may find that creatures of the four-legged type have ran off with them — “basket and all.”

Not all birds are attracted to feeders that hang or perch on a stand, he said, so consider spreading feed across the ground as well. A mixture of cracked corn, white millet and the black oil sunflower seed should do the trick, Mr. Damiani said.

Nancy Gilbert of Jamesport, a former teacher with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s master gardener program, said the season’s chill can create desert-like conditions for birds when fresh water sources freeze over.

“Water is the most important thing, because they need to keep their feathers clean and have a source to drink,” she said, adding that birds need to bathe in the winter, as keeping feathers clean helps maintain body heat.

“If they can’t puff up their feathers and create an air pocket between the feathers, they can’t stay warm,” Ms. Gilbert said.

Both she and Mr. Damiani recommend installing bird baths, which can also be outfitted with small heaters to keep water from freezing. Heaters are inexpensive to buy and cost pennies a day to run, Mr. Damiani said.

Providing both food and water can make your yard a hangout for the flighty bunch, which during the winter includes white-throated sparrows, fox sparrows, cedar waxwings and robins, the experts said.

Ms. Gilbert said those blessed with patience could eventually train one type of bird to eat from the palm of their hand.

The black-capped chickadee, a tiny songbird described by Cornell as having “curiosity about everything,” is very common on the North Fork, she said.

The chickadees have a black cap and bib, white cheeks and a gray back, tail and wings. If you notice them visiting a feeder, stand by patiently with some feed in your hand, she said.

“They will come and sit on your hand. When they do, you realize how insubstantial these little things are,” Ms. Gilbert said. “They are just little bits of fluff.”

Once you’ve attracted the birds to the yard, consider creating a safe haven where they can spend the night, which may make them more likely to stick around. A brush pile or even a dried-up Christmas tree will give the birds a place to hide from predators and help keep them warm, Ms. Gilbert said.

“When the snow covers up a brush pile it creates all kinds of air pockets that will help to keep them warm,” she said. “It’s a great place for them to spend cold nights and provides a place for them to duck into to hide away from predators, like the hawks who are after them.”

Then there are cats.

“People who have outdoor cats shouldn’t try and feed birds,” Mr. Damiani cautioned. “You’re setting the birds up; it’s just cruel.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

12/15/13 8:00am
12/15/2013 8:00 AM

PHOTO COURTESY CORNELL RESEARCH LAB | Hyacinth Blue Jacket.

Winter may be on its way, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy spring flowers.

By forcing spring bulbs, anyone can fool Mother Nature into offering up beautiful blossoms earlier than usual.

The process, which involves artificially chilling bulbs for eight to 15 weeks, thus coaxing them to bloom out of season, is an easy way to enjoy a variety of flowers, including amaryllis, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, crocuses and narcissus.

To help, we’ve rounded up a few experts for a quick tutorial.

Let’s get started.

STEP 1

Chill the bulbs. After purchasing your bulbs of choice, carefully place them in a paper bag and leave them in the refrigerator for several weeks, depending on the variety, says Janis Leonti, a floral designer at The Flower Shop in downtown Riverhead.

“You have to keep the bulbs cold,” she said. “You have to trick them into thinking they’ve gone through autumn and winter.”

That paper bag is important, by the way.

“Plastic bags will make the bulbs rot,” Ms. Lionti says. “Paper bags keep them fresh.”

To further ensure freshness, Thomas Kowalsick, a senior horticulture consultant at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, recommends checking the bulbs periodically to make sure they aren’t moldy or drying out.

No room in the fridge? You can also put the bulbs in a planting pot and leave them outdoors to chill, provided the temperature is consistently lower than 45° F, Mr. Kowalsick said.

And if you’d rather not chill your own bulbs, some retailers, like Chick’s Agway in Southold, sell them pre-chilled.

“They’re shipped from Holland with the words ‘Ready for forcing’ on the package,” says Valerie Cichanowicz, owner of Chick’s Agway.

PHOTO COURTESY CORNELL RESEARCH LAB | Narcissus (daffodils).

STEP 2

Plant the bulbs. Congratulations! You’ve pulled off a cunning feat of trickery and are now ready to plant your bulbs.

Mr. Kowalsick advises using a clean pot with drainage holes and filling it with two inches of potting soil. Place, but don’t push, the bulbs into position then add enough soil to fill the pot, using your fingertips to make the soil firm while being careful to avoid bruising the bulbs.

Since different types of bulbs require different periods of time to grow, or root, Mr. Kowalsick recommends that you avoid combining varieties in the same pot.

Place the potted bulbs in a sunny spot in your home and let them warm up.

STEP 3

Enjoy the fruits (er, flowers) of your labor. Now that the grunt work is over, sit back and watch your bulbs bloom into the beautiful flowers they were meant to be. Depending on the type of bulb you’ve planted, they’ll begin blossoming in a matter of weeks.

“You’ll see the green shoots come out and all of a sudden the flower buds will pop up,” Ms. Leonti says.

“You can almost watch them grow,” Ms. Cichanowicz adds. “It’s just amazing.”

ryoung@timesreview.com

11/24/13 10:00am
11/24/2013 10:00 AM

AMBROSE CLANCY FILE PHOTO | This East End backyard, which once had views of wetlands and berry bushes, is now overun by mile-a-minute vine.

No one is declaring victory just yet, but the man-versus-nature war on what has come to be known as the mile-a-minute vine has been joined. The invasive vine has a predator, experts have found, and it comes in the form of the stem-boring black weevil.

Although he’s taking a cautiously optimistic approach, Cornell Cooperative Extension scientist Dr. Andy Senesac says there’s reason to hope that over the course of several years, the plant could be eradicated

“We’re encouraged, but we can’t be throwing any parades as far as success,” he said.

COURTESY PHOTO | Weevil damage to a mile-a-minute vine leaf.

For the past two years, CCE scientists have been running test programs using the weevil on the North and South forks. The protocol for releasing the weevil was developed by a professor at the University of Delaware and the weevils are being distributed without cost by the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insects Laboratory in Trenton, N.J., where they are being raised.

While the weevils may not be as prolific as their prey, early tests are promising that the insects will steadily eat away the invasive species and eventually wipe it out without damaging other plants that grow alongside it.

The hope is that as mile-a-minute dies off, the weevils themselves will also die off, Dr. Senesac said.

Persicaria perfoliata, as mile-a-minute is properly know, grows up to six inches a day when conditions are right. Also known as “the kudzu of the north,” it easily overmatches native species. It blocks other plants from sunlight, stopping their ability to photosynthesize, which will eventually kill them. Mile-a-minute devastates the natural ecology on a wide scale, stopping the regeneration of forests and woods and doing damage to a community’s economy.

And being an annual, with a generous amount of seeds, it’s a recurring nightmare for homeowners, gardeners and farmers.

“If you look around now, you might think, ‘Oh, it all died. But it’s not over; it will be back the next year,” said Roxanne Zimmer of Peconic, a volunteer at Cornell. “Because it’s an annual, all those beautiful blue berries will seed and reseed. And, of course, the birds and insects will carry it around as well. It doesn’t really poke its head up until June or July. And July is when you start to notice it again.”

CORNELL COOPERATIVE EXTENSION COURTESY PHOTO | Researchers plan to continue to release more weevils in vine-infested sites on the East End in 2014. The program has been in practice for eight years in Delaware, New Jersey and other states, and in that time the weevil has been observed to feed only on the weed and no other plants.

Ms. Zimmer said the vine has a unique feature that she described as a “curved barb that allows it to grab.”

“That’s what makes it so vicious,” Ms. Zimmer said. “It can hook onto a limb or tree and then the next barb will hook on and then it just continues to grow up and out.”

According to research compiled by the University of Delaware, mile-a-minute is an Asian vine introduced to the United States in the mid-1930s at a nursery in Pennsylvania, where it was mixed with holly seeds imported from Japan. Deceptively beautiful, not only for its vibrant green color, its leaves are delicate triangles, almost heart-shaped, and its berries, when ripe, are bluish-purple. The vine has now made its home in 12 mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, extending west to Ohio, south to the Carolinas and north to Massachusetts.

But designing and managing programs to put the weevil to work is no easy process, Dr. Senesac said.

For the dozen states experimenting with weevils, there’s a two-step approval process. It starts with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Once a permit is received from APHIS, those in New York have to apply to the state Department of Environmental Conservation for a permit to deploy the weevils. The entire process takes about six months, Dr. Senesac said.

He generally begins the application process in October with the aim of deploying the tiny critters, which are twice the size of the head of a pin, in test areas in late April or May.

In the two years that test programs have been operated, there’s a positive indication that the weevils move beyond the point where they are originally deployed. There has also been some evidence of weevils arriving on Long Island on their own from other locations, Dr. Senesac said.

He cautioned that people whose property is overrun with mile-a-minute not pull it out at the roots at this time of year. It will die out during the winter, and early next spring would be the best time for property owners to destroy new plants, pulling them out at their roots, before they’re able to take hold.

Cornell Cooperative Extension has plans to get information to residents in early spring about how to identify the weed.

Dan Fokine, a volunteer organizer for Shelter Island Vine Busters, an awareness group, said mile-a-minute is relatively new to that island and the East End. He first saw it a couple of years ago.

“Once it hit the ground it really took off,” Mr. Fokine said.

If a neighbor has mile-a-minute, that neighbor should be approached about removing it, he advised.

He compared rooting out the vine with fighting terrorism. “You have to take the fight to it,” he said, “You just can’t fight them on your own turf.”

jlane@timesreview.com

With Michael White

11/17/13 10:00am
11/17/2013 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A house under contract on Ostrander Avenue in Riverhead. Home sales were up in the third quarter this year, but the median sale price dropped.

Single-family home sales for the third quarter of 2013 were back to their pre-recession levels in Riverhead, numbers show, though the median price was down more than 10 percent compared to the same period last year.

According to data provided by Suffolk Research Services, 122 single-family homes in Riverhead sold from July through September. That was the most sold in those months since 2006, when 149 homes sold in the area, and far above the 88 homes sold last year. However the quarter’s median home sales price dropped from $355,000 in 2012 to $350,000 this year.

The trend is similar across the East End, numbers show, reflecting an active market where many people who have been waiting to buy or sell are finally making the move.

“It means there’s good value out there,” said Valerie Goode, owner of Colony Realty in Jamesport. “People who were waiting for their homes to sell two years ago are now ready-to-go consumers.”

Across the five East End towns, the volume of single-family home sales jumped 35 percent in the third quarter, from 635 a year ago to 860 this year. Median prices, meanwhile, dropped 3.9 percent from 2012 to $639,000 — and far below a third-quarter high of $717,000 in 2007.

Shelter Island was the only town to see an increase in the median sales price, which rose 21 percent to $760,000 over 22 sales. Southampton took the quarter’s biggest hit, dropping 13 percent from $900,000 to $780,000 over 371 transactions.

In Southold, the third-quarter median sales price fell from $480,000 last year to $429,000, a drop of over 10 percent. As in Riverhead, however, the number of transactions for the period was up in Southold, from 104 in 2012 to 127 this year.

Carol Tintle, regional manager with Daniel Gale Sotheby’s, said that she’s seen home sale prices increase recently, especially at the upper and lower ends of the market.

“The higher and lower ends are definitely selling,” she said. “The problems are the middle of the road, unless it’s very special. Until some homes get reduced to the price they should be, there is so much on the market, they may not sell.”

A quarterly report released by real estate firm Prudential Douglas Elliman noted that median prices on the high end were, on the whole down, across the North Fork. The median home price in the fifth and highest quintile, the report states, was $870,000, down 20 percent compared to last year. But the lowest quintile showed a 9.1 percent gain, to $257,500.

Julia Robins, an associate with Century 21 Albertson Realty in Greenport, suspected that an overall median price dip would be more reflective of the higher end, as she’s seen more sales volume on the whole.

“Sales activity is fabulous,” she said. “And it’s sustained into the fall. If there is any red in the median sales price, it’s probably the upper end.”

No agents reported concern about an increase in interest rates over the last six months, as a first-quarter average of about 3.4 percent on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is expected to give way to about a 4.3 percent rate in the coming quarter, according to Freddie Mac economist Frank Nothaft.

The $46 million total for third-quarter single-family home sales reported in Riverhead was the town’s highest since 2007, when the total reported was $47 million.

jpinciaro@timesreview.com

11/10/13 8:00am
11/10/2013 8:00 AM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This Flanders home was recently elevated. One East End home moving company said it’s receiving about 100 inquiries a day about raising or moving homes as a result of hurricane Sandy.

Ever since Hurricane Sandy sent storm tides of more than six feet surging across the Peconic Bay shoreline and the South Shore, Guy Davis’ construction company has been busy.

People want their homes lifted out of what are now being designated federal flood plains. Not only that, they want them lifted fast.

“These are folks that were devastated,” Mr. Davis said. “They had three, four, five feet of water in their houses.”

Before the storm, Davis Construction House & Building Movers — based in Westhampton Beach — would get about 10 to 15 calls a day from people wanting their houses raised or moved to other parts of a property or needing their foundations strengthened, Mr. Davis said.

But since the storm hit, the company has been getting about 100 calls a day.

The company’s workload has swelled to as many as 40 projects at a time. In the next few weeks, Mr. Davis’ construction company will begin work on two bayfront properties on Scallop Lane in Jamesport.

“They got flooded out pretty good over there,” he said.

Lifting a home takes roughly six to eight weeks, once the necessary building permits have been obtained.

The first step is a site visit, during which Mr. Davis and his employees survey the property and figure out the best way to redesign the house. The homeowner also consults with an architect, who drafts plans for what the house will look like post-elevation, Mr. Davis said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The Jamesport beach house at left is slated to be elevated in the next few weeks.

Some customers choose to raise the foundation, while others choose to have their houses rest on wooden pilings driven into the existing foundation.

Next, workers disconnect all electric, plumbing and gas lines. Then, steel beams 10 to 12 inches thick are slid beneath the house in grid pattern, placed strategically under load-bearing points to prevent the structure from cracking, Mr. Davis said.

Specialized hydraulic jacks then begin to lift the house at a rate of about one foot per hour, all the while maintaining the same speed — which is critical to preventing damage.

“It can go eight or nine feet [up] in a day’s time,” Mr. Davis said. Most homeowners are choosing to raise their homes above the flood plain level recently redesignated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Now it’s critical to meet FEMA elevations to get out of the flood zone and get the best discounts on your [federal flood] insurance,” he said.

Houses are always lifted higher than final elevations to allow workers access underneath.

The foundation on an elevated house is then raised to the structure’s new height, with pockets left open in the foundation. The steel beams used to lift the house then fit into the empty spaces when the house is lowered. After the house is set on its new foundation, the beams are slid out from under it and the empty spaces in the foundation are patched up.

The process for using wood pilings as supports is a bit different. Instead of lifting up the house and then building up the foundation beneath it, workers use a “railroad track” of steel rollers to roll the house off its footprint, Mr. Davis said.

The wooden pilings are then driven into the ground and the house is rolled back to its original location, lifted and placed atop the new supports.

No house is too big to lift, Mr. Davis said. The company is currently elevating a 18,000-square-foot mansion on Middle Lane in Southampton.

“Size doesn’t matter; we can raise and move any type of house,” he said.

The process may take a while, but raising a house can offer peace of mind to those who have suffered from flood damage.

“They want their house high and dry so they never have to go through that again,” Mr. Davis said.

psquire@timesreview.com

10/20/13 10:00am
10/20/2013 10:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Local realtors Jerry Cibulski (left) and Thomas McCarthy are members of the North Fork chapter of the Long Island Real Estate Group helping to transform this blighted Orient property into a new Habitat for Humanity house.

Real estate agents don’t typically find themselves on the construction side of the housing trade but members of the North Fork chapter of the Long Island Real Estate Group are feeling right at home helping with construction of a new Habitat for Humanity home in Orient.

It may not look like much now but the blighted property on Greenway East will soon be the site of a modern residence for a needy family in Southold Town.

From the moment chapter president and local realtor Thomas McCarthy first posed the idea of helping to fund and build the Habitat home early this summer, all 200 North Fork members were on board, he said.

“As a group of professionals we wanted to get together and give something back to our community,” he said. “It is a great cause. As brokers, we know that it’s a struggle for many working families to afford a home. We figured, what better way to help a local family in our own backyard?”

The group recently held a fundraiser at the Soundview Restaurant in Greenport, raising more than $2,500 toward demolition of the existing structure and construction of a brand-new home. Once the abandoned home has been razed and it’s time to start building, the realtors plan to get their hands dirty, Mr. McCarthy said.

The new Orient home will be the first Habitat property in Southold Town, according to Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk president and CEO Diane Burke.

The journey began earlier this year when the site was identified through Suffolk County’s 72H affordable housing program, which is designed to turn repossessed properties over to local communities that, in turn, offer homes to low-income families.

Suffolk County offered the property to the town in March and has since provided $10,000 in funding for the project through a community block grant.

The town recently allocated the grant money to assist Habitat for Humanity with demolition and cleanup of the blighted property. It also waived fees for disposal of demolished materials at the town transfer station.

Phillip Beltz, the town’s special projects coordinator, welcomed the prospect of bringing more affordable housing to Southold.

“We are in dire need of affordable housing,” he said in July. “When I first started here the lack of perpetual affordability was one of the greatest oversights I noticed.”

At present, Southold Town has only 22 affordable housing units that are covered by restrictions regulating the resale price — all of them at The Cottages in Mattituck, Mr. Beltz said.

Town officials also put out a request for proposals for 40 affordable apartment rentals spread out across the town, but no specific plan is currently in place, Mr. Beltz said.

The added bonus of working with Habitat for Humanity, he said, is that the organization ensures that the property will remain affordable. Habitat retains a stake in the property so that if the home is sold, it can use much of the appreciation to continue its programs.

Habitat will also write a covenant into the deed requiring that house be sold at an affordable price to another eligible family.

Pending the closing of the Orient property within the next couple of weeks, Habitat officials hope construction can begin by early November and that the house will be ready by spring 2014.

Mr. McCarthy said he is currently soliciting donations of time and materials for the project from local contractors.

“I believe as a community this is something we can do ourselves,” he said. “Something for the locals by the locals.”

Habitat’s director of development, Les Scheinfeld, said support from the realtors has gone a long way toward getting the project on track.

“We are so excited they want to work with us,” he said. “They have raised money and gained the support of local contractors. It’s a great partnership.”

Habitat will work with the town to develop a strategic construction plan tailored for the site.

Southold’s housing department will begin accepting and screening applications for the property after the closing.

Candidates must meet structured town and Habitat income guidelines and, if selected, must agree to contribute hands-on build time, or “sweat equity.” They would also need to complete classes and perform community service as part of the down payment on their new home.

cmurray@timesreview.com