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.


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.


09/26/12 10:00am
09/26/2012 10:00 AM
Thomas Kelly, FDNY

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS| Reeves Park residents placed candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11. A new park would be dedicated to his memory.

Plans to build a 9-11 Memorial Park on a four-acre parcel Suffolk County is proposing to buy on the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow took a step forward last week, when the Suffolk County Parks Trustees approved the park plan at their meeting in Montauk.

Suffolk County still needs to actually purchase the land, which requires an authorizing resolution from the county Legislature.

The property is owned by EMB Enterprises, headed by Kenney Barra, who had originally sought to build shops ton the parcel until the plan ran into opposition.

His attorney, Peter Danowski, has recently questioned whether the county plans to move forward with the purchase, citing the time it’s taken, although officials recently said the acquisition is moving forward.

The park would be dedicated to nearby Reeves Avenue resident Thomas Kelly, a NYC firefighter.

Bob Kelly, Tom’s brother, recently told the News-Review he hopes the park will happen within the next year.

He envisions the site as a memorial for all those who died on that day, as well as the families, loved ones and those who have gotten sick and died from working in the toxic air in the days and weeks that followed.


09/12/12 12:00pm
09/12/2012 12:00 PM
Tom Kelly, Sept. 11, WTC, FDNY

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Reeves Park residents, including Thomas Kelly’s parents (center), brothers and sister at Tuesday night’s vigil.

Residents of the tight-knit Reeves Park community came together as the sun set Tuesday evening to remember fallen New York City firefighter Tommy Kelly as a neighbor, friend, brother and son.

A Brooklyn firefighter, he was killed responding to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers.

The group gathered with candles lit at the corner of Marine Street and Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive/Park Road, where Tommy lived at the time of his death. He died in the south tower of the World Trade Center.

As the vigil proceeded with an escort of Riverhead volunteer firefighters the Reliable Engine firetruck, Tom Kelly’s parents, Emmet, a retired member of the FDNY, and Sue sat side by side in wheelchairs, with blankets across their laps to guard against the evening chill.

They were waiting for the procession next to the memorial to their son at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

The Kelly family started the day attending a mass at St. Joseph’s Church in Park Slope Brooklyn, where Tom Kelly’s Engine Co. 219 and Ladder Co. 105 firehouse is located.

Before the vigil, Tom’s brother, Bob Kelly, told a reporter it was “good to see that the community comes together for this and that they haven’t forgotten.”

Sound Park Heights president Eric Biegler addressed the community: “It was a monumental event that has shaped a generation; 11 years is a long time. Some of us have forgotten as life goes on. We forget to take time to sit and reflect.”

He reminded all that “coming together as a community, friends and family, we have not forgotten the heroes. We will never forget.”

Bob Kelly said he hopes a planned 9/11 memorial park to honor his brother’s memory will happen within the next year, and that it will become a memorial for all those who died on that day, as well as the families, loved ones and those who got sick and died.

The memorial is planned for property at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive that has been slated for development. Suffolk County government has taken steps to purchase the land for preservation.

“It is going to be something really special,” he said. “Hopefully next year.”

Tom’s sister, Jeanne Farrell of Rockville Center, also spoke at the event.

“On behalf of our family thank you all for coming out and helping us remember this 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks,” she said. “We traditionally end our day here in Reeves Park. It is fitting to us because this is where Tommy began and ended each of his days.

“We are all very lucky to have this place, this paradise to come to.”

She then read this prayer:

May all of us remember with compassion this  day.
Mat we grieve with those who still continue to grieve
And morn with those who still morn.
And continue to share memories with those who will never forget
And draw strength from the brave men and women who were the heroes of that day. And who gave their lives for others.
May we stand together with our strangers who that day became our friends.
May we remember always their love,kindness , and compassion and generosity.
Above all may we stand together as one and Never Forget!


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09/10/12 2:00pm
09/10/2012 2:00 PM
Tom Kelly, FDNY, Sept. 11, Reeves Park

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive runs from Sound Avenue north through the Reeves Park neighborhood.

Members of the Kelly family and other residents of the Reeves Park area in Baiting Hollow will keep the memory of Tom Kelly and others who died on Sept. 11, 2001, alive Tuesday with a small candlelight vigil along Park Road.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A portrait of Brooklyn firefighter Thomas Kelly painted by artist Peter Max.

The road, which stretches from Sound Avenue through Reeves Park to the north, is also named in honor of Tom Kelly, who had lived in Reeves Park.

Tom Kelly was NYC firefighter who was killed responding to the terror attacks at the World Trade Center.

A memorial in his honor now stands at the corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

This is the third year of the event. Attendees will meet at Marine Street and Park Road/Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive about 7 p.m. and walk to the Sound Avenue.

There will be a short service, probably about 7:30 p.m. at the memorial, organizers said.

Elsewhere on the North Fork Tuesday, there will be a 9/11 memorial flag-placing ceremony at Jean Cochran Park in Peconic.

That event runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Flags will be provided to the public.

09/01/12 10:00am
09/01/2012 10:00 AM

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Park Road/Thomas Kelly Drive and Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow, at the foot of the Reeves Park neighborhood.

Suffolk County’s proposed acquisition of developer Kenn Barra’s four-acre site at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue may not be dead, as Mr. Barra had suggested at a recent Town Board meeting.

But an attorney for the developer says he has “serious doubts” the deal will even happen.

Mr. Barra had proposed a shopping center for the property but faced stiff opposition from Reeves Park residents and litigation from Riverhead Town over zoning.

To much local fanfare, he ultimately agreed last year to sell to the county for use as memorial park.

County parks trustees are expected to discuss the site plan proposal to build a park on that land at their September meeting, said Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a spokeswoman for County Executive Steve Bellone. That meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20, at 1 p.m. at Montauk County Park.

But an attorney for Mr. Barra said he’s heard before that the deal for the Baiting Hollow land near the Reeves Park neighborhood was moving forward. And it still hasn’t.

County officials and Mr. Barra reportedly struck a deal last fall for the county to acquire the land, which had been slated for development, for $1.2 million for use as a hamlet park.

The Riverhead Town Board also agreed to spend $50,000 on the park, which would include a Sept. 11 Memorial. Since then, however, the county has replaced its real estate director and re-evaluated its open space acquisition program.

Mr. Barra’s attorney, Peter Danowski, said that Suffolk County still has not closed on the property’s purchase and still has not approved an authorizing resolution from the county Legislature on the purchase.

“I have serious doubts that the property will be acquired,” Mr. Danowski said at last week’s Town Board meeting.

At the same meeting, Mr. Barra also questioned whether the county acquisition would occur.

Mr. Danowski said in an interview that the price Mr. Barra agreed to doesn’t even cover what he’s paid on the property, including things like taxes and mortgage payments.

“I’ve been through acquisitions many times,” Mr. Danowski said Wednesday. “If everyone in county government wanted to close on the purchase of this property, it would have been done already. I fully expect this could be developed.”

The Sept. 11 park would be built in memory of all 2001 terror victims, including Thomas Kelly a New York City firefighter and Reeves Park resident who was killed on 9/11. Park Road was later named Thomas Kelly Drive in his honor.


03/06/12 2:00pm
03/06/2012 2:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | This stone, containing steel from the World Trade Center wreckage, now sits at the Thomas Kelly Memorial.

Tim Gannon reported live from Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting beginning at 2 p.m.

First on the agenda was a hearing to consider spending $50,000 in Community Preservation Fund revenues for improvement and maintenance at a proposed 9-11 memorial park in Reeves Park.

The board also voted to approve an environmental study findings statement for the long-proposed Village at Jamesport shopping center project. Residents had been opposed to this proposal, planned by a company called Jul-Bet Enterprises, but it’s been undergoing an environmental study for more than a year and the findings statement is one of the final things it needed to move forward.

The board also discussed the proposed Wading River Route 25A corridor planning study.

Read more in the blog below.

10/25/11 7:19pm
10/25/2011 7:19 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The property at the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue.

Suffolk County officials confirmed Tuesday night that a deal has been made to preserve the 4-acre property at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Reeves Park, which had been slated for commercial development.

North Fork County Legislator Ed Romaine said his office was contacted Monday about the agreement made between the county and the property’s owner, Kenn Barra. Mr. Barra, who also owns East Wind Catering in Wading River, had long planned to build a 28,000-square-foot retail center at the site.

“This is part of my overall plan to preserve as much of Sound Avenue and keep its rural character,” Mr. Romaine said.

While the legislator said he couldn’t confirm the sale price, he estimates the deal was for about $1.2 million. Mr. Barra declined a telephone interview Tuesday evening.

The county intends to build a 9/11 memorial park on the property honoring Lt. Thomas Kelly, a New York City firefighter from Reeves Park, who was killed in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Kelly’s brother, Bob, said he was glad to hear about Mr. Barra’s decision to sell the property for preservation.

“I know my brother is happy right now,” he said.

Mr. Romaine said the memorial plan includes carving out trails in the woods and building reflecting areas around the property for visitors to pay their respects to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“This will be the perfect place for it,” Mr. Romaine said, adding that he hopes the park will be completed before next fall.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, said he is pleased the community’s eight-year effort to preserve the land has come to fruition.

“I’m glad everyone came to this conclusion because we can do something really nice out there,” Mr. Biegler said.