07/08/13 6:00am
07/08/2013 6:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos (left) with fundraiser organizer and owner of the Riverhead Project restaurant, Dennis McDermott, on Sunday.

On a weekend typically reserved for fireworks and family gatherings, restaurant owners are usually hunkered down at their businesses, trying to make the most of the busy summer holiday.

But this particular holiday weekend, Riverhead proprietors put their own livelihoods, and competition, aside for an afternoon to support one of their own.

Friends and fellow downtown restaurant owners banded together Sunday for the first of many fundraisers to help Athens Grill rebuild after it was destroyed in a fire a little more than a week ago.

The barbecue lunch, called “Rebuild Athens,” at The Riverhead Project restaurant saw dozens show up in support for Athens Grill owner John Mantzopoulos and his family. Trays of food were donated from neighboring eateries, including Blue Duck Bakery, Digger O’Dell’s, Meeting House Creek Inn, Crooked Ladder, Cody’s BBQ and Grill and many more.

“It’s like the end of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ when everybody comes together,” event organizer and Riverhead Project owner, Dennis McDermott, said of the event. Guests were not asked to pay for a meal, however nearly all donated for Athens Grill’s reconstruction efforts.

“It’s not even about the money; it’s to show John that we are here for him,” Mr. McDermott said.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | The interior of the Athens Grill days after the fire.

“I was actually surprised so many came together,” Mr. Mantzopoulos said. “Riverhead has really shown me good faith.”

In 2004, Mr. Mantzopoulos took ownership of Athens Grill, expanding and upgrading the former gyro joint into an elegant, Greek restaurant. For almost 10 years he has been a part of Riverhead’s downtown revitalization efforts and currently serves on downtown Riverhead’s Business Improvement District’s board of the directors.

“John would always help anybody and now it’s his turn,” said Ray Pickersgill, the BID president, adding the outpouring of compassion is characteristic of the downtown business community. “They are all in competition, but they are all members of the business district.

“People here like to help others when they’re down.”

Mr. Mantzopoulos said he was relieved no one was injured by the fire, and that he is looking forward to re-opening.

“It’s too early to say what color the walls will be, but we will rebuild,” he told the crowd Sunday. “Hopefully in six months from now I’ll see you back at my tables.”

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07/05/13 11:59am
Riverfront Riverhead

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Children and families alike took to the riverfront Thursday.

Hundreds packed downtown Riverhead’s riverfront parking lot along the Peconic River July 4 for a concert and fireworks show.

The annual event, hosted by the downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District, featured Grammy award-nominated family musician Brady Rymer.

The firework show later lit up the night.

Before the riverfront festivities, The Suffolk Theater hosted a free show with food and live music downtown.

“FREEdom Fest” featured the band GI Jivester and ran from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

06/30/13 12:36pm
06/30/2013 12:36 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Goin’ Bananas paddled by Brett and Ross Dobert won first place in the first youth regatta competition Saturday at the Riverhead Cardboard Race on the Peconic Riverfront.

Riverhead Cardboard Race organizers have released a complete list of Saturday’s winners from the fourth annual boat race.

The popular event on the Peconic Riverfront was organized by Riverhead Town and the Riverhead Business Improvement District.

The race kicked off shortly after noon with the Supervisor’s Race, where Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter won against Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Here’s a list of Saturday’s winners:

Youth Regatta

First competition
First place: Goin’ Bananas. Crewed by Brett and Ross Dobert. Built by Rasso Dobert.
Second place: Crabs. Crewed by Eric Deegan, James Bardrom and James Parkinson. Built by Eric, Larry, James and Joshua.
Third place: The Bobber IV. Crewed by Bobby Bayer.

Second competition
First place: Archimedes III. Crewed and built by Ian and Jay Oxman, Jonah Holderer and Sam Santora.
Second place: Vote for Michael Panchak. Crewed and built by Michael Panchak.
Third place: Baby Faces. Crewed and built by Haley Rudnicki, Bryce McKissick, Brian Clark and Michael Harris.

Riverhead Yacht Club Regatta – Single Occupant

First place: He Row. Crewed by Robert Stiles. Built by Team Coconuts.
Second place: USS Monitor. Crewed and built by Jack Tyniec.
Third place: Batz and Pep. Crewed and built by Ed Phalen.

Peconic River Special Pontoon Boats – Anything Goes

First place: Bottom of the Barrel. Crewed by Erik Bilka, Dave Smith, Shelly Smith, Jackson Smith, Chris Scarduzio, Jeremy Tocher, Josh Carp, Nick Poe and Patrick Clementz. Built by Mark Schumacher.
Second place: Kardboard Khaos. Crewed by Jeff Andrade, Peter Orlowski, Dan Baione and Darren Hinderliter. Built by Cardboard International.
Third place: East Moriches Community Ambulance. Crewed by Ryan and Sara Franceschini, Karine Constentino, Jackie Brown and Robert Wedell. Built by Diane and Robert Wedell and Kerrie Franceschini.

The Grand National Regatta – Anything Goes (two or more paddlers)

First competition
First place: Get Away. Crewed by Mark Sisson, Katrina Lovett, Nora Catlin and Chris McHugh.
Second place: USCGC Sarafin. Crewed and built by Cassie Densieski and Natalie Massiah.
Third place: Passing Wind.

Second competition
First place: Chip Eater 2. Crewed by Scott Edgett and Shane Burgher. Built by Scott, Shane, and Anthony.
Second place: I Hope It Floats. Crewed by Evan Houck, Abigail Houck, Vincent, Mike and Mark Manuella. Built by Vincent and Mike Manuella.
Third place: Renew Blur. Crewed by Fred Popp, Mike Fingers, Gary Tabler, and Juan Cruz. Built by Fred Popp.

Cardboard Boat Race Awards – Youth Boats

Vogue Award (best looking): Goin’ Bananas. Brett, Ross and Rasso Dobert.
Most Creative: The Disney Princess Castle. Pola Dobrinski, Nylejah Green, Megan Brewer and Sara Mohern.
Best Costume Crew: Home Tee Pee. Brian, Cliff, Marie and Diane Berry.
Spirit Award: The Ark. Eva Reese, Christiana Carini, Catherine Burns and the St. Isidore’s Youth Group.
Best Themed Award: Archimedes III. Ian and Jay Oxman, Jonah Holderer, Sam Santora and the Long Island Science Center.
Commanders Choice Award: The J.T. Jonathan Theodore.
Best Captain Award: LI Adventure Race. Hanna Witt, Jayden Binkis, Coy and Lincoln Witt.

Cardboard Boat Race Awards – All Other Boats

Vogue Award (best looking): Get Away. Mark Sisson, Katrina Lovett, Nora Catlin, and Chris McHugh.
Most Creative: USS Monitor, Jack Tyniec.
Best Costumed Crew: By The Book. Faye Swett and Kaity Talmage.
Spirit Award: Chip Eater 2. Scott Edgett, Shane Burgher and Anthony.
Best Themed Award: Duct Blind. Daniela Bennett and family, Daniela Campino and family, the Velasquez family and the Ortiz family.
Commanders Choice Award: Two Codgers. Jack Helgans and Howie Dietz.
Titanic Award: Lighthouse Marine Machine. Matt Tuthill, Kevin Tuthill, Rob Muller, Jordon Forkoren and Keith Santoro.
Best Captain Award: Archimedes III. Ian and Jay Oxman, Jonah Holderer and Sam Santora.

See photos and watch a video of a first-person view of the Cardboard Boat Race. Pick up Thursday’s paper for complete coverage.

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06/29/13 3:31pm
06/29/2013 3:31 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | News-Review reporters Cyndi Murray (left) and Carrie Miller compete in the fourth annual Cardboard Boat Race Saturday.

Long Islanders gathered Saturday in downtown Riverhead to watch paddlers compete against each other in the fourth annual Riverhead Cardboard Boat Race on the Peconic Riverfront.

The popular event was organized by the Riverhead Business Improvement District and hundreds of people lined the riverfront, enjoying a day of fun, food and friendly competition.

Riverhead News-Review reporters Carrie Miller and Cyndi Murray competed in the Grand National Regatta race. With a video camera strapped to the front of their boat, the duo recorded their race as they tried navigating through the water among more than a dozen boats.

Click on the video below for a first-person view of the race.

See more photos at northforker.com.

04/24/13 5:36pm
04/24/2013 5:36 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Runners trek down the unnamed road in Riverhead that could soon share a name with either Heidi Behr or Jim Bissett.

The unnamed road that runs along the Peconic Riverfront in downtown Riverhead may soon have a name.

But which name?

One proposal calls for the section of road from Peconic Avenue to McDermott Avenue be named after Heidi Behr, the 23-year-old Riverhead woman who died in a May 2005 accident while she was volunteering with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio mentioned the proposal to name the riverfront street after Ms. Behr during an interview with Bruce Tria on WRIV radio Wednesday morning, saying more details would be coming soon.

“She was a volunteer and she lost her life going to save somebody else’s,” she said on the air. “It’s something that needs to be done, sooner than later.”

But another proposal calls for naming it after Jim Bissett, the late co-founder of the Long Island Aquarium and the adjacent Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead. Mr. Bissett died in December 2011 at the age of 48 in an apparent suicide. Mr. Bissett is often credited with helping to revive downtown Riverhead through the aquarium.

Supervisor Sean Walter said on Wednesday that the proposal to name the road after Ms. Behr will likely be discussed by the Town Board next week, but he added that the Business Improvement District Management Association and the Parking District advisory committee have already discussed naming something downtown for Mr. Bissett.

“That’s one of the things we have to look at,” Mr. Walter said. “We have to sort that out.”

Ray Pickersgill, the president of the BID and a member of the Parking District advisory committee, said both boards had voted several months ago in support of naming the road along the river “Jim Bissett Way.”

“Nobody had done more for this town than Jim Bissett,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “We’re the only Main Street in Suffolk County that has a name brand hotel on it, and it’s made a big difference. He brought the aquarium to Riverhead as well. I can’t even tell you how many other things he was involved in, but anytime I would go to Jimmy and ask him to get involved in something, he’d be right on it.”

Mr. Walter said they decided not to put the street naming discussing on Thursday’s work session agenda because there is a state Department of Transportation workshop on the subject of downtown sidewalks scheduled at 10 a.m., and that discussion may take a long time.

Mr. Walter said he didn’t know the specifics of the proposals.

“I haven’t even really been told what it is yet,” Mr. Walter said of the plan to name the street after Heidi Behr. “I remember at one point we were going to name the ambulance barn after her.”

Councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen said they have no opposition to naming the riverfront drive after Ms. Behr. Mr. Wooten said he is also hoping to name a planned handicap accessible playground at Stotzky Park after her.

Councilman John Dunleavy couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Behr volunteered with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance for three years but also worked for a paid ambulance company.

She and another emergency medical technician, Bill Stone, 30, of Ridge, who was a paid member of the Riverhead department, died when the ambulance they were in hit a tree in Aquebogue while it was transporting a Jamesport man to a hospital on May 3, 2005.

Ms. Behr left behind her then-13-month-old son, Jared, who has severe disabilities and is being raised by Ms. Behr’s family.

The group planning a Sept. 11 memorial at the recently acquired parkland on the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead also is likely to have a memorial in honor of Heidi Behr and other emergency service volunteers, according to Bob Kelly, a retired New York City firefighter from the Reeves Park area who made the suggestion.

The park already has a small memorial in honor of Ms. Kelly’s brother, Thomas, a New York City firefighter who died while fighting the World Trade Center fires on Sept. 11, 2001. Park Road also is named in honor of Thomas Kelly.

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03/30/13 10:00am
03/30/2013 10:00 AM
Downtown Riverhead, Blues & Music Festival, Vail-Leavitt

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Robert Ross of NYC at the 2012 Blues Festival in June.

This year’s Riverhead Blues Festival will likely be held in September to avoid conflicting with other events, according to Bob Barta, the president of Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which has held the event as a fundraiser since 2006.

The festival had traditionally been held in July until last year, when it was moved to June and lost $8,720, according to Vail-Leavitt officials.

“We had originally planned to have it at the end of June, but then there were all sorts of conflicting events being planned then, so we decided we were going to reschedule it, and right now, we’re looking at dates in September,” Mr. Barta said. “It will be after Labor Day, and the idea will be to try and do it at a time when there aren’t such a hugh number of events going on at the same time.”

A September festival also figures to have cooler weather, Mr. Barta said.

Last year marked the return of the Blues Festival after a one year hiatus in 2011. The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and Business Improvement District were involved in dispute over who would run the festival in 2010.

“Last year, the big thing was that we unwittingly set ourselves up against the Strawberry Festival,” Mr. Barta said, alluding to the fact that the 2012 Blues Festival took place at the same time as the popular Mattituck festival. “That was really one of the biggest problems on our point.”

He said they are being careful to pick a date that doesn’t conflict with other popular events.

“There have always been issues with trying to not conflict with other big festivals like the Great South Bay Festival in Patchogue, which would limit certain acts from being available,” he said.

While town officials have said the Riverfront parking lot in downtown Riverhead might not be available for big events much longer once the Summerwind apartments open, Mr. Barta says Vail-Leavitt is hoping to have the Blues Festival there this year.

“We’ve been having discussions with representatives from the town about trying to have one last shot back in some version of the back parking lot,” Mr. Barta said. “We’re trying to see if that is workable. We started looking at other locations, but we have a preference for the back parking lot because it allows us to showcase the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, and it allows us to showcase the riverfront. We’d like to have it back there.”

Business Improvement District president Ray Pickersgill said the BID is hoping to hold its concerts in the Riverfront lot as well this summer, with the stage placed along the riverfront, so the audience faces the river. When Summerwind opens, the residents in the 52 apartment units will be permitted to use the riverfront lot as their parking lot.

The Town Board has a public hearing scheduled on a proposal to establish a three-hour parking limit in a section of the lot between Tweed’s and Cody’s BBQ.

Mr. Barta says Vail-Leavitt hasn’t determined exactly where in the back parking lot the festival would be located.

Mr. Barta said holding the event in September will help give them time to dig out of the financial hole.

“We’ve partly dug out already,” he said. “This coming month, we thought we were on a track to be completely dug out by the summer, but as it worked out, our bookings for April were a bit light.”

He said they’ve gotten a little more than halfway out of the hole, and they plan to hold some fundraising events to act as kickoff events for the season and to give them “a boost” as they head toward the Blues Festival.

In past years, the Blues Festival would already have been scheduled by this time, but no application has been submitted to the town for the event yet this year.

Mr. Barta says Vail-Leavitt still plans to make the festival a two-day weekend event and still plans to charge admission, although a price hasn’t been determined.

The BID originally ran the festival as a free event before facing a huge debt in 2005. Vail-Leavitt took over the event in 2006 as a fundraiser for its non-profit organization and began charging an admission fee.

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03/22/13 4:00pm
03/22/2013 4:00 PM
Riverhead's Summerwind Square

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The municipal parking lot behind the Summerwind Square apartment complex and East Main Street stores and restaurants.

A public hearing is set for April 16 on a proposal to institute three-hour parking limits for cars parked in a section of the lot south of East Main Street in downtown Riverhead.

The measure has the backing of the town’s parking district advisory committee, according to Ray Pickersgill, who is a member of that committee as well as president of the Business Improvement District management association.

The Town Board voted Tuesday to schedule the hearing, set to start at 7:15 p.m. in the Town Hall meeting room.

Councilman John Dunleavy, the Town Board liaison to the parking committee, proposed the limits in anticipation of the opening of the Summerwind Square apartment complex on Peconic Avenue.

The limits are designed to prevent apartment residents from parking in spaces immediately behind the East Main Street stores, Mr. Dunleavy said. Under the proposal, Summerwind residents would instead be able to park in spaces in the southern portion of the parking lot.

The proposed restricted area is described in the public hearing notice as “sixty parking stalls immediately south of the stores that front on the south side of East Main Street between Cody’s BBQ & Grill and Tweeds Restaurant, extending in a southerly direction, terminating at the light posts located in said parking lot.”

“There is already a two-hour parking limit in this area, but the town took the signs down because there was plenty of parking available,” Mr. Pickersgill said in an interview.

The prospect of the Summerwind opening changes that and makes the time limits necessary, he said.

South of the light poles, 115 spaces parking spaces are available where Summerwind residents can park day and night, Mr. Pickersgill said. Stores in the area have also agreed to have their employees park toward the south end of the lot, nearer to the river, he said.

But Ray Dickhoff, one of the Summerwind Square owners, said at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting that restaurants that book parties and live entertainment often do so for four hours.

Rather limit hours, he said, the town needs to come up with a plan to address downtown parking, moving  forward, because the downtown zoning currently allows for up to 500 apartments.

Supervisor Sean Walter said the town will have to change that zoning because there’s not enough parking for 500 apartments in the area.

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02/02/13 1:00pm
02/02/2013 1:00 PM
The Riverhead Rocks Triathlon and Cardboard Boat Race will be held the same weekend this summer.

The Riverhead Rocks Triathlon and Cardboard Boat Race will be held the same weekend this summer.

Two popular Riverhead events will be held on the same weekend this summer, bringing family fun and a surge of business to downtown Riverhead.

Riverhead’s 4th annual Cardboard Boat Race and the Riverhead Rocks Triathlon, going on its second year, will be combined into one weekend of fun June 29-30.

“We always had the boat race on that [last] Sunday [in June], but because the triathlon depends on the way the tides are, it worked out that the tides will be perfect for the way they need to be for that Sunday,” said Ray Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District.

The boat race will be June 29 and the triathlon June 30.

Last year’s boat race had close to 100 participants, and brought more than 2,500 people to Riverhead, Mr. Pickersgill said. “It’s amazing people come from all over the island to come and participate in this.”

The event is an opportunity to bring families together.

“Last year I had one mother say to me, ‘You know my son and daughter fight all year long, but the two months before the race they are as thick as thieves building their boat,’ ” Mr. Pickersgill said.

The inaugural Riverhead Rocks Triathlon also drew quite the crowd last year, with more than 450 participants. This year more than 1,000 participants are expected to race, Mr. Pickersgill said.

Last year “the hotels were all booked solid,” Mr. Pickersgill said. “All the restaurants were packed with the people buying dinner and lunch.”

Booths will be set up for local restaurants to sell food during the triathlon and for non-profit organizations to fundraise, Mr. Pickersgill said.

In an effort to promote downtown Riverhead to potential business owners, the district will also open “pop-up stores,” in the empty storefronts on Main Street. With the permission of the landlords, “the empty buildings get transformed for the day and become businesses,” Mr. Pickersgill said.  “So that they can see what it’s like on Main Street, and maybe they will decide to come back.”

Depending on the landlords’ permission, they may be able to open the “pop-up” stores for both events.

“It’s just a great, great family day,” Mr. Pickersgill said.

Last year the Cardboard Boat Race won the Verizon Fios “Best Community Event on Long Island” award, and the Riverhead Rocks Triathlon won its “Best New Event” category.

For information about the either event visit www.riverheadbid.com. For further information on Riverhead Rocks Triathlon visit www.riverheadrocks.com.

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