10/16/13 5:00pm
10/16/2013 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Supervisor candidate Angela DeVito was joined downtown Tuesday afternoon by town council candidate Bill Bianchi (left) and supporters. Ms. DeVito said the private sector is responsible for downtown’s resurgence, not politicians. Supervisor Sean Walter, in office since 2010, said he welcomes the criticism.

Democrats running for Riverhead Town Board seats say the incumbent Republicans don’t deserve credit for revitalizing downtown Riverhead, something Supervisor Sean Walter has frequently touted in his previous – and current – bid for re-election.

“The Sean Walter administration has made scant progress in efforts to improve downtown Riverhead,” Democratic supervisor candidate Angela DeVito said at a press conference Tuesday outside the former site of the Red Collection, which went out of business a couple of weeks ago. “What little progress has been made should be credited to town business leaders and not town government.”

Ms. DeVito was joined at the press conference by running mate Bill Bianchi, who is seeking a seat on the Town Board, and several supporters.

In a statement handed out at the event, Ms. DeVito said that “the opening of The Riverhead Project, reopening of the Suffolk Theater and the promotional activities of the Business Improvement District are the work of entrepreneurial business leaders and not Sean Walter or the lackluster Town Board.”

Mr. Walter saw it differently.

“If that’s what they want to campaign on, I welcome it,” he said in an interview. “Business owners are very happy with the help they got from my office to move things forward.”

He suggested talking to business owners such as Bob Castaldi of the Suffolk Theater, John Mantzopoulos of Athens Grill and Dennis McDermott of The Riverhead Project. All three have opened – or, in Mr. Mantzopolous’ case are reopening – since 2010, when Mr. Walter stepped into Town Hall.

“That’s nonsense,” Mr. Castaldi said of the Democrat’s claims. “When Cardinale was here, we went nowhere. When Walter came in, it was like somebody lifted a wet blanket off the town. There’s no question about it in my mind. When Cardinale was here we spun our wheels for three years.”

Former Democratic Supervisor Phil Cardinale had attempted to take back the Suffolk Theater through a reverter clause in the sales contract between the town and Mr. Castaldi. Mr. Castaldi then sued, the issue was tied up in court for several years and the restoration stalled.

Mr. Mantzopoulos, whose restaurant was badly damaged in a fire in July, said that a Town Board resolution to waive building fees for Athens Grill and the Rendezvous, which had a fire the same week, was approved by the Town Board — but not unanimously, as Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and Councilman Jim Wooten did not support the measure.

“There was a little opposition from two people, so I don’t know if you can put them all in the same box,” Mr. Mantzopoulos said in an interview Tuesday. “But overall, my personal experience is that the town government has been good to me. If there are state grants that I’m eligible for, they’ll notify me. I can’t really complain about Town Hall in the last four years.”

Mr. Mantzopoulos said he’s known Ms. DeVito for nine years and Mr. Walter for four.

“At the end of the day, they’re both good people and I wish them both luck,” he said.

Ms. DeVito said at the press conference that the Town Board should concentrate on things such as public safety and the condition of downtown sidewalks and businesses will come. She said the town still has police officers stationed outside the Suffolk Theater after shows and said town zoning allows areas such as Route 58 to kill downtown businesses.

“We need someone who is going to clean up Second and Third streets, and work with Southampton Town to clean up Riverside,” she said.

Mr. Bianchi said the revitalization of downtown “has a long way to go.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/17/13 1:00pm
04/17/2013 1:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Salt barns used by the Riverhead highway department. The GOP is set to screen one candidate for highway superintendent.

Riverhead Republicans plan to screen one candidate for highway superintendent, in addition to the Town Board seats, according to Republican chairman John Galla.

Mike Panchak of Riverhead is so far the only candidate seeking to screen for the party’s highway superintendent nomination, Mr. Galla said.

Mr. Panchak owns Eagle Asphalt Maintenance in Riverhead, and he is also a first lieutenant in the Riverhead Fire Department.

Mr. Panchak could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Republicans plan to screen prospective candidates for town offices tonight at the Hyatt Hotel on East Main Street, but have yet to set a date to nominate their choices, Mr. Galla said.

If nominated, Mr. Panchak would challenge incumbent Democrat George “Gio” Woodson, who has held the position since 2008.

Mr. Woodson, a former highway department employee, was elected to a two-year term in 2007 and was reelected to a four-year term in 2009. Riverhead voters voted to increase the term of the highway superintendent from two years to four in a 2009 proposition.

The only other town position up for reelection this fall is for assessor, where incumbent Republican Laverne Tennenburg is seeking reelection and doesn’t appear to have any challengers for the Republican nomination, Mr. Galla said.

Ms. Tennenburg was first elected in 1989, and has been the chair of the town Board of Assessors since 1997.

The Republicans plan to screen incumbent Sean Walter, Councilman Jim Wooten and Assessor Mason Haas for supervisor, Mr. Galla said. In addition, they plan to screen incumbents John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio for council, along with challenger Anthony Coates.

Greg Fischer, a registered Democrat, has asked to screen with both parties for a Town Board seat, although he has not specified if he’s seeking the supervisor post or a council seat.

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/07/13 6:30pm
02/07/2013 6:30 PM
COURTESY PHOTO  |  Frank Seabrook hopes his new Republican club will help jump-start party efforts throughout the East End.

COURTESY PHOTO | Frank Seabrook hopes his new Republican club will help jump-start party efforts throughout the East End.

Does the Republican party need new life? Frank Seabrook of Wading River thinks so.

“I guess after seeing how badly we lost in the special election for [former county legislator] Ed Romaine’s seat, I really became alarmed,” said Mr. Seabrook, a retired New York City police officer who for the past four years has been writing a Conservative blog called the New York Liberty Report.

“The Republicans lost pretty bad and I was struggling to figure out what happened,” he said, referring to the recent special election pitting Republican Sean Walter against Democrat Al Krupski in a race to fill the county’s first legislative district seat.

Mr. Seabrook said he got a list of voters in the 1st Legislative District and was looking through it.

“I quickly figured out why we were losing elections,” he said. “The average age of Republicans on these lists was, like, 75 years old. I figured out pretty fast that the GOP is dying and I am trying to figure out how we allowed that to happen.”

In an attempt to reverse the trend, Mr. Seabrook and fellow Wading River Republican Brian Mills have started the Peconic Republicans Club.

The club, for starters, is just a discussion group on a Facebook page open to Republicans in the five East End towns. Its goals are to promote the principles and platform of the Republican Party; support candidates and elected officials that do the same; help create a stronger, more unified regional Republican voice; promote and encourage Republican volunteerism and activism; support the five East End Republican town committees; and increase Republican voter registration.

Once the group’s membership is built up through the Facebook site, Mr. Seabrook says he eventually hopes to register it as a political action committee that can raise money and support candidates. He also plans to form an executive committee for the group, with town, zone and ward leaders.

“Republicans have not done a good job in two areas, communicating our platform and attracting young people and minorities to our message of limited government and free enterprise,” he said. “And that’s when I figured out that I could probably help.”

“It’s definitely important for a political party to adapt to the times,” Mr. Mills said. He views the group as “a forum for Republicans to exchange ideas and find a way for the party to move forward and get ideas from as many people as possible.”

He says the group will have a positive environment and isn’t looking to challenge or criticize anyone.

Mr. Walter, who won two terms as Riverhead supervisor before losing the legislative race, said Mr. Seabrook “has his finger on the pulse of the next generation of Republicans and how they receive information on the Internet, and I think that’s one part of what the Republican Party severely lacks.

“He’s definitely on to something,” he continued. “If the Republicans don’t learn to disseminate information better, it’s going to be problematic in elections to come. I’m very supportive of his efforts.”

“I welcome any endeavor that is going to spread the word to new groups of voters,” said Riverhead Republican Committee chairman John Galla. “But it doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to win these young people over.”

Mr. Galla admitted that he knows little about Facebook, Twitter and social media.

“But I’m not that much of a dinosaur to realize that this is a new marketing opportunity and it’s a great opportunity to reach out to new demographic groups,” he added. “Still, I don’t think we should change any of our basic precepts or platforms to attract new demographic groups.”

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Southold Republican Committee chair Pete McGreevy. “This is casting a wider net geographically and trying to unify people on an East End level.”

Mr. McGreevy said that in an election like the one for county Legislature, which covered three towns, or a Congressional election involving all five East End towns, a group like Mr. Seabrook’s can be valuable, in that people from one town would be more familiar with issues in other towns.

He added that he does not think the results of the recent legislative race are an indication of problems in the Republican party.

As of Tuesday, after only a week, the Facebook page had more than 230 members, Mr. Seabrook said.

“We’re just trying to promote Republicanism in a positive way, and build a more unified vote on the East End,” he said.

tgannon@timesreview.com