11/28/13 7:00am
11/28/2013 7:00 AM
The Kelly Family at the 2011 Memorial Golf tournament held at Cherry Creek Links in Riverhead: (from left) Mom and Dad (seated) Sue and Emmet Kelly and children (standing)  Jim (left), Bob (center) and Suzanne.

The Kelly Family at the 2011 Memorial Golf tournament held at Cherry Creek Links in Riverhead: (from left) Mom and Dad (seated) Sue and Emmet Kelly and children (standing) Jim (left), Bob (center) and Suzanne.

It took years. And for Emmet and Sue Kelly, seeing a Sept. 11, 2001 memorial park built near their home wasn’t just about their son Thomas, a NYC firefighter who was killed responding to the terror attacks.

It was also about preserving the Reeves Park neighborhood their son loved so much.

Tom Kelly, Sept. 11, WTC, FDNY

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Emmet and Sue Kelly (center) and family at the Sept. 11 vigil in 2012.

The park — built on what’s now county-owned land on the spot of a once-planned shopping center — was finally completed and unveiled this past Sept. 11.

Within nine weeks, both Emmet and Sue Kelly died.

“That was huge that they got to see the memorial park,” said Bob Kelly, who helped lead efforts, along with civic, town and county leaders, to preserve the property as parkland. ”It meant a lot to them. They both had said the same thing, ‘At least we got to see it completed.”

Thomas Kelly, who died trying to rescue people from the World Trade Center, had a home in Reeves Park, where his parents owned a second home.

At the vigil this Sept. 11, both Bob, a retired city firefighter, and Jim, a retired New York City police officer, pushed their parents in wheelchairs down to the park at Sound Avenue and Park Road —  which has also been named in honor of Thomas Kelly — for what has become an annual memorial service. (The vigil was being held at the spot even before the land was purchased by Suffolk County last year.)

Emmet Kelly died on Oct. 15 at the age of 82, following a lengthy illness, and Sue, whose full name was Marie Suzanne Kelly, died on Nov. 18 at the age of 79. They both had been ill for much of the year.

Emmet was a career FDNY member, having been in the department for 36 years, Bob Kelly said. Sue Kelly was a dietician at Peck Memorial Hospital in Brooklyn and later was a manager at an A&S department store in Queens.

“She died of a broken heart,” Bob Kelly said of his mom, who, like his dad, died in their Reeves Park home.

The shopping center was first proposed for the four-acre land in 2003. The development ran into widespread community opposition from Reeves Park residents, but the courts had sided with the developer in a lawsuit challenging a town rezoning of the property.

Then in 2010, former county Legislature Ed Romaine put in a bill to have the county buy the property for a memorial park. The property owner, EMB Enterprises, led by Kenney Barrey, eventually agreed to the sale and the county Legislature approved the purchase in Nov. 2012.

Bob Kelly said his parents seeing the park probably eased their remaining days on earth.

“Now, they are all together,” he said of his brother and his parents. “They are not in pain. They are all happy.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/11/13 8:57pm
09/11/2013 8:57 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The procession walks along Park Road in Reeves Park toward the new 9/11 Memorial at the corner of Park and Sound Avenue Wednesday night.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The procession walks along Park Road in Reeves Park toward the new 9/11 Memorial at the corner of Park and Sound Avenue Wednesday night.

Hundreds marched down Park Road in Reeves Park Wednesday night, joined by uniformed members of the Riverhead Fire Department, the Wading River Boy Scouts troop and other groups, to pay their respects to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The procession ended at the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road, at the new 9/11 Memorial Park dedicated to the first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, as well as all those who’ve been killed in the line of duty in Riverhead Town.

While residents of Reeves Park have held the memorial walk annually, led by the surviving relatives of fallen FDNY firefighter Thomas Kelly,  this year marked the first for the newly completed memorial.

The park was built on land that had been slated for development in 2003. Reeves Park residents had fought for years to convince town and county officials to acquire the property and preserve it as a memorial park, with the final acquisition only happening in late 2012.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park, served as the master of ceremonies for the event.

He later marveled at the work done by Riverhead Town employees in getting the new park ready for the 9/11 march.

“There’s love in what they did here,” he told a reporter. “Once they got up here and started working and people stopped by and patted them on the back, or gave them the thumbs up as they drove by, they just put their hearts into it.”

“I don’t recall ever seeing this tree before,” said Chris Kelly, a retired New York Police officer, as he admired the work that was done in clearing the site, moving the already placed large rock with a Sept. 11 Memorial on it, and installing benches, a flag pole and landscaping.

Chris Kelly is a cousin of Thomas Kelly, who died in the World Trade Center.

“It’s absolutely beautiful,” Mr. Kelly said of the park and the ceremony, at which he read a poem he had written about his cousin.

Chris Kelly spent time himself at Ground Zero and was working on Sept. 11, 2001, as was Thomas Kelly’s brothers Jim, also a retired city police officer, and Bob, who was a city firefighter at the time and is now retired.

Monday evening, Jim and Bob pushed the wheelchairs of their elderly parents, Emmett and Sue, to the ceremony. The procession started on Marine Street in Reeves Park and progressed south along Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive to the park.

“It was great to see the whole community come out,” Bob Kelly said after the event. “I think they get it. It’s still hard for me to believe this is physically here. It’s part of the whole town now.

“It’s going to be here for everybody, for generations to come.”


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09/11/13 8:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The newly built 9/11 memorial park on Sound Avenue is dedicated to the first responders who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, as well as all those who’ve been killed in the line of duty in Riverhead Town. A memorial march and vigil will be held Wednesday night.

On the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack today, the Reeves Park community will remember and honor the victims at a new memorial park that was years in the making.

A 9/11 Remembrance Walk will begin at 6 p.m. today at the corner of Marine Street and Park Road — known as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive — followed by a walk to the memorial at 6:30 p.m., said Eric Biegler, the president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park.

The Reeves Park area has a strong connection to Sept. 11 in addition to Thomas Kelly, a New York City firefighter from Reeves Park who was killed on 9/11 fighting the blaze at the World Trade Center.

Mr. Kelly’s brother Bob Kelly also was a New York firefighter on 9/11 and his brother Jim was a New York City police officer at the time. They both own homes in Reeves Park as well, and a small memorial for Tom Kelly was placed on a stone at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road several years ago.

Mr. Biegler said the Riverhead Town Buildings and Grounds department did an “outstanding job” in developing the park and getting it ready in time for Sept. 11.

He urged people to participate in the memorial Wednesday.

“Please make time to come down that night,” he said. “Walk with us. Take time out to reflect on what happened a few miles west of us so many years ago that changed all our lives.”

Another FDNY member who died on 9/11 was Jonathan Ielpi, whose family owns property in Reeves park. His father Lee is retired from the FDNY and also a former president of the September 11th Families’ Association, which founded the World Trade Center Visitors Center near Ground Zero in 2006.

The 4.2 acre memorial park site had been the subject of a commercial development proposal filed in 2003 by EMB Enterprises, which is led by Inn at East Wind owner Kenney Barra. That development proposal ran into community opposition and residents and officials eventually convinced Suffolk County to buy the land in 2012 for $1.27 million for use as a memorial park honoring first responders and victims of the Sept. 11

Riverhead Town agreed to develop the park, while the county bought the land.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/13/13 8:00am
06/13/2013 8:00 AM
GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue, just south of the Reeves Park neighborhood.

Riverhead Town should not dare to scuttle Suffolk County’s plans to purchase 15 acres of farmland along Sound Avenue for preservation.

The property stretches north into the Reeves Park neighborhood, and Reeves Park residents — as well as others across the North Fork and all Suffolk County — have made it clear that developing the state-designated rural corridor is not in the best interest of the neighbors, or the region as a whole.

Yet town council members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen have said they don’t want the town to contribute the $75,000 that would allow the joint purchase to move forward. They argue the town shouldn’t be taking developable land off tax rolls and that Riverhead’s preservation funds are dwindling. But last we checked, housing developments weren’t exactly money-makers. And $75,000 for 15 acres is an excellent deal that won’t break the bank.

The two council members have the power to block the move. Supervisor Sean Walter has recused himself from a vote because he used to represent property owner Ed Broidy as a lawyer. If Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen do kill the measure, they would not be acting as fiscal conservatives, as they might believe. They would instead be acting penny wise and pound foolish, as Councilman James Wooten has said.

Too much money and effort have been invested over decades into preserving Sound Avenue as a treasure for all Long Islanders, starting in earnest with the two-lane highway’s designation by the state as a historic rural corridor. There have been years of litigation between the town and Mr. Broidy since the town’s master plan rezoned the land (and other parcels on Sound Avenue). In the meantime, former county legislator Ed Romaine lobbied hard to get support for Suffolk County’s purchase of the Broidy property, with area civic leaders and other residents showing up in Hauppauge to support preservation efforts. This newspaper took the unusual step of running an opinion-based photo spread of rural Sound Avenue on its cover, urging the county to act to protect the corridor. Residents later displayed those photos to county lawmakers in Hauppauge to help win support for the cause.

Throw into the mix developer Kenn Barra, who has recently sold a 4.1-acre property on the east side of Park Road, also fronting Sound Avenue, to the county for parkland. That done, one might have thought preservation of the Broidy land was also nearing the finish line.

But now it seems the deal might be dead — and over a measly $75,000?

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski should step in and pressure Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen to vote with their constituents. There may be no better example in this town of open space that should be preserved. It’s been 10 years since Mr. Broidy proposed a 22,000-square-foot shopping center for the site, causing great dismay among preservationists and everyday citizens. It’s now time to put this all behind us.

06/08/13 1:00pm
06/08/2013 1:00 PM
Broidy in Reeves Park

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The land just west of Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive that nearby Reeves Park residents have wanted to see preserved.

A proposal to contribute $75,000 in Riverhead Town funding toward Suffolk County’s proposed acquisition of a 14-acre property on Park Road in the Reeves Park area does not have the support of at least three Town Board members, potentially jeopardizing the land deal.

The property in question is owned by Boom Development, headed by Ed Broidy of Southampton, and is located on the northwest corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

Mr. Broidy had proposed a commercial shopping center for the land back in 2003, at about the same time another commercial shopping center was proposed for the four-acre property on the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue.

Both proposals encountered community opposition, and the Town Board at the time voted to rezone to residential uses, which led to lawsuits from both property owners. Both lawsuits were decided in the property owners’ favor.

The land on the northeast corner, owned by Kenney Barra’s EMB Enterprises, eventually was purchased by Suffolk County last year for a Sept. 11 memorial park.

But Mr. Broidy instead proposed a settlement of his lawsuit and filed a 16-lot residential subdivision in place of the commercial development. One of the lots is a farm lot fronting Sound Avenue.

In the meantime, Suffolk County proposed purchasing Mr. Broidy’s land for use as a fitness trail. But the county requested that the town contribute about $75,000 for improvements and then maintain the fi tness trail.

Town Board members George Gabrielsen and Jodi Giglio opposed the purchase when the resolution to acquire the land was discussed at last Thursday’s work session.

Mr. Gabrielsen said he doesn’t think the town has enough money left in its Community Preservation Fund to pay for the park improvements, and said the town will also lose the tax revenue from the land if the county buys it. Ms. Giglio agreed, and said she’s concerned about taking more land off the tax rolls.

At a public work session last month, town tax assessor Paul Leszczynski told the board that if the farmed lot received an agricultural assessment abatement, the taxes it generated would drop from $6,710 to $536.

Supervisor Sean Walter represented Mr. Broidy as an attorney many years ago and recused himself from the vote and the discussion, meaning the measure lacked a three-vote majority needed to pass. Councilmen Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy supported the acquisition.

Mr. Wooten said town voters have supported land preservation.

“I think this will pay for itself in the long run,” he said.

“We’ve preserved a lot of land in this town but we’ve run out of money,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

“Then leave the resolution in and let it get voted down [on Tuesday],” Mr. Wooten said. “That way, the county won’t buy it.”

At Tuesday’s regular Town Board meeting, however, the resolution was not in the packet of resolutions slated for votes. Mr. Walter said there wasn’t support to put it in on the agenda and there wasn’t support to approve it. Mr. Broidy said Tuesday that he was not aware the Town Board didn’t support the purchase and was unsure what his next move would be.

He said he would call some town officials to talk more about the property.

tgannon@timesreview.com


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05/24/13 8:00am
05/24/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Fresh Pond Landing Beach east from Edwards Avenue in Baiting Hollow last week.

People will be swimming at their own risk at Riverhead Town’s three Long Island Sound beaches until the end of June, according to recreation department superintendent Ray Coyne, who said the move is being done in part because of Hurricane Sandy damage, and to save money.

“Those beaches are not ready for swimming,” he said, though he said the beaches have improved in recent months compared to the condition they were in after Sandy.

 

The South Jamesport bay beach will have lifeguards on weekends starting Memorial Day, and swimming will be permitted there, he said. But Long Island Sound beaches at Iron Pier, Wading River and Reeves Park will not have lifeguards until June 24.

All four beaches will have attendants on weekends after Memorial Day, and town parking stickers will be required, Mr. Coyne said. People can go to the Sound beaches, but those who swim there without a lifeguard do so at their own risk, he said.

At Iron Pier, the town is replacing a sidewalk that was destroyed during Sandy, said Supervisor Sean Walter. That work is being paid for with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, he said.

[Editorial: Town shouldn't scapegoat Sandy just to save a buck]

The supervisor said he supports the decision not to post lifeguards at Sound beaches until June 24.

As for the condition of Iron Pier beach, Mr. Coyne said, “We just needed to clean it, because there was a lot of debris that had washed ashore during the storm. We lost some of the beach, but I’d say we’re in fairly good shape at Iron Pier.”

In Wading River, Mr. Walter said the town dredged Wading River Creek over the winter and got permission from the state to deposit the dredged sand on the beach in front of the homes between the creek’s eastern jetty and the town beach. That sand was pushed up against what used to be the dune, he said, and helped cover up a lot bulkheads and cesspools that were exposed following Sandy.

As for the town beach there, “I don’t think we lost a lot of beach at Wading River,” Mr. Coyne said. “We are in pretty good shape over there.”

The town doesn’t operate Hulse Landing as a bathing beach with lifeguards, but people need parking stickers to park there, and the town also has a boat ramp there, Mr. Coyne said.

That beach has rebounded nicely since the storm, Mr. Walter said.

“It’s just a slightly different landscape this year at the beaches,” Mr. Walter said. “Overall, I don’t think it will be anything insurmountable.”

After June 24, all four beaches will be open — with lifeguards — seven days a week. Last year, the town opened all four beaches on weekends only after Memorial Day with lifeguards and attendants, switching them all to seven days a week at the end of June, Mr. Coyne said.

“It’s a combination of things,” Mr. Coyne said in explaining the staffing changes. “Because of Hurricane Sandy and the damage done on the Long Island Sound beaches, we wanted a little more time to clean them up. And in the case of Reeves Beach, we wanted more time for the beach to come back.”

The other reason, he said, is that studies his department has done show that not many people swim at this time of year, so the department can save money by not hiring the lifeguards.

“If people want to swim in June, they can still go to South Jamesport,” Mr. Coyne said.

Of the four town beaches, South Jamesport made out the best after the hurricane.

“South Jamesport was barely touched,” Mr. Coyne said. The bathroom was flooded by the stormwater, but the beach itself had no problems.

Reeves Park Beach fared the worst of the four.

“As of a few months ago, there was no [Reeves] beach, but it’s slowly coming back,” Mr. Coyne said. “So we’re not going to open it for swimming until the end of June, and we’re hoping there will be enough beach there to put a lifeguard stand.

“If we have to move the lifeguard stand at high tide, then we will not have it open. But I’m confident we will.”

At one point, Mr. Coyne said, the water at Reeves Park came all the way up to the staircase leading down to the beach at high tide, but the beach has been growing in the past six to eight weeks.

“If you had asked me two months ago, I would say we’re not opening it,” Mr. Coyne said.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park, had warned town officials earlier this year about the poor condition of Reeves Beach, but he said Tuesday that it has recovered since then.

Mr. Biegler said the decision not to post lifeguards at Sound beaches before June 24 could be a liability issue if someone has an accident or drowns at a beach without a lifeguard.

“It’s Memorial Day weekend, everyone is thinking beaches, and to not have lifeguards on duty raises a concern,” he said. “But I’ll leave it up to their judgment.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/20/13 10:14am
03/20/2013 10:14 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Reeves Park residents placed candles at a memorial for Tommy Kelly near Sound Avenue on Sept. 11.

Suffolk County on Tuesday formally closed on the acquisition of a four-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead for creation of a memorial park for Sept. 11 victims and emergency responders.

The land was owned by Kenney Barra’s EMB Enterprises and had been proposed for a 28,000-square-foot commercial development in 2003 consisting of stores and a restaurant. That plan ran into opposition from community members and town officials, who rezoned the land to residential uses, only to have that zoning later overturned in court after Mr. Barra sued.

Former county legislator Ed Romaine put in a bill to acquire the land as a park in 2010, and the Legislature approved the $1.28 million acquisition last November, at Mr. Romaine’s last meeting.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in the Reeves Park area, thanked Riverhead Town officials for their help at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I look forward to working with you guys in creating a wonderful park that Riverhead can be extremely proud of,” Mr. Biegler said.

A small 9/11 memorial has already been created at the site in memory of Thomas Kelly, a Reeves Park resident and FDNY member who died in the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. Park Road is also known as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

Thomas Kelly’s brother Bob, himself a retired New York City fire fighter and Reeves Park resident, has been calling for the creation of the memorial park.

“This land acquisition means so much more than just the purchase of open space,” Bob Kelly told county legislators in November.

tgannon@timesreview.com

11/08/12 10:36am
11/08/2012 10:36 AM
LIPA, Sandy, Reeves Park, Riverhead, Long Island

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Roberta’s house in Reeves Park is the only property in the neighborhood still without electricity after Sandy, she says.

By now, a lot of people have their electricity back in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

I got mine back Tuesday, and when you first get your power back it seems, to you at least, that Sandy is no longer a problem.

But there are many without power. And in some cases, it doesn’t seem to make sense why some houses have power and some don’t, or why fate chose the people it chose to leave in the dark.

Such is the case with Roberta. She lives in Reeves Park and still had no power as of Wednesday afternoon, though she says everyone else in her neighborhood does.

Even without electricity, Roberta, who didn’t want her full name used, has her hands full.

Her 87-year-old mother, a stroke victim, is paralyzed on one side and can’t get around by herself. Her 13-year son has Down’s syndrome. And Roberta doesn’t drive.

When LIPA repairmen came around over the weekend to restore electricity to the rest of her neighborhood, they told Roberta they couldn’t restore hers because the tree that had fallen on her house, pulling power lines down with it, had also crushed the electric meter box.

LIPA told Roberta she would have to get a private electrician to fix the box before they could come back and reconnect the power lines to her house. She had the box fixed, but getting LIPA back to restore the wires wasn’t proving too easy.

“I asked when they were coming back and they didn’t have an answer,” she recalled. “I said, ‘But you told me I had to have all this work done and you would come back.’ And now it’s getting cold.”

On Monday, a neighbor took them to stay at her house.

Roberta said her mother and son are both “out of their routine” and are constantly asking when they’re going home.

A few years ago, I guess, it could have been me grappling with a similar situation.

I had a brother with Down’s syndrome, and my mother was old and had “small strokes” that made it tough for her to get around or communicate. We took it a few steps further, too. We also had an even older father who was perfectly healthy but loved to get mad about things like this and the psychotic dog, which allegedly bit a guy who then sued us for $2 million.

And sometimes, the Down’s syndrome brother would open the gate and let the psychotic dog out of the house, which gave my father something else to get mad about, and I’d have to try to catch the dog before it attacked somebody.

But that was then. Now, it’s just me.

My other brother, who lives nearby, was mentioning the other day that it’s a good thing we didn’t have this kind of storm and power outage back then. There was Hurricane Gloria, but that happened in mid-September when it was warmer — and in 1985, when all those people were younger.

Something like this, in the cold, would be much harder.

As Roberta is discovering.

She has since found that she couldn’t even get LIPA on the phone anymore.

On Monday, the neighbor, who also didn’t want her name use, decided to contact the media. She contacted us. I went down there.

At first, I thought maybe she was calling the wrong numbers at LIPA. So I called the number I had just called the day before, since my power was out too, and, like Roberta, it seemed like everyone else in my neighborhood had gotten power back already.

No dice. Once you’ve made a report, an answering machine tells you they have the report, and it hangs up on you.

So I tried calling the LIPA public relations people. Certainly, they wouldn’t be the ones to come down and fix the power, but sometimes a little press attention will get some action.

The LIPA spokesperson, Karen Ryan, looked into the situation and eventually called back. She said a LIPA crew could be at Roberta’s house at an “estimated time” of 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Of course, on Wednesday, a Nor’easter, and more outages, were forecast. Roberta asked if they could make it Tuesday. The LIPA spokesperson said there are thousands of people in the same situation, and that there were other homes in Reeves Park without power and that Wednesday 9 a.m. estimate was the best they could do.

So Roberta took it.

I drove by Roberta’s house on Wednesday morning at about 10:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. The wires were still sitting on the ground, and the new storm was getting stronger. She was still without power today.

LIPA needs to assign a unit to answer calls such as Roberta’s.

tgannon@timesreview.com