02/22/14 8:00am
02/22/2014 8:00 AM

Workers with Shirk Construction of Pennslyvania put up trusses on the addition to the Long Island Cauliflower building on Marcy Avenue in Polish Town.

Last year was a mixed bag for construction in Riverhead: new home-building in town reached a more than 10-year low in 2013, according to permits filed in town hall. Several large-scale commercial build-outs were started, however, and permits issued to expand existing premises were on the rise.  (more…)

02/14/14 12:53pm
02/14/2014 12:53 PM
A property on Blue Marlin Drive in Southold is on the market for $1.5 million.

A property on Blue Marlin Drive in Southold is on the market for $1.5 million.

There are 16 open houses scheduled for the North Fork this weekend. And we can give you a sneak preview.

The weekend’s crop of homes carries prices tags from $350,000 to $1.5 million. The home at the top of the price chart features a pool just steps from the bay.

See northforker.com for full listings and photos of all the houses.

02/06/14 2:20pm
02/06/2014 2:20 PM

deli_houseThere are five open houses scheduled for the North Fork this weekend.

We can give you a sneak preview.

The weekend’s crop includes a two-story house that once held a speakeasy during Prohibition, but the building was probably best known to longtime Greenport residents as the location of Rouse’s Delicatessen.

See northforker.com for full listings and photos of all the houses.

02/05/14 7:00am
02/05/2014 7:00 AM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | A home for sale in Cutchogue's Nassau Point area.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | A home for sale in Cutchogue’s Nassau Point area.

Home sales on the East End have skyrocketed last year compared to 2012 and 2011, according to a report released Monday by Suffolk Research Service Inc.

The research service’s president, George Simpson, described the East End market as “booming.”

(more…)

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