07/05/12 6:00am
07/05/2012 6:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Maryann Wowak Heilbrunn at her desk in Riverhead Town Hall.


Why even run?

I read with some concern the News-Review article “Tax receiver retires; Wooten eyes job”. What I would like to know is when tax receiver Maryann Wowak Heilbrunn knew she was going to retire? She was just elected to a four-year term of office and now we have to have a special election to fill her slot. Special elections are expensive.

Councilman James Wooten, who was just elected to a four-year term on the Riverhead Town Council, now wants Ms. Wowak Heilbrunn’s job. When I ran for assessor last year, Mr. Wooten wanted to run for town supervisor but was pressured by Sean Walter and Republican Party officials to run for a council seat.

Mr. Wooten should make up his mind, as he is not doing the public a favor in having another special election for his council seat. In a time of a poor economy, high unemployment and higher taxes, Riverhead can ill afford special elections. The public be damned.

Robert Svoboda


Singing the blues

After reading a letter to the editor about the Blues Festival in last week’s newspaper, I felt compelled to give my opinion as to why the attendance was down this year, as well as give my reason for not attending myself.

People didn’t show up mostly because they were not allowed to BYOB (bring your own beer). Part of the unique charm of the Blues Festival was to bring your own beverages and food, set up your area, hang out and listen to good music, meet up with friends and just kick back and relax all day. This year, however, between the admission and having to buy beer on-site, it made it too expensive to attend — especially all day, like my group has always done — therefore it was not worth our while.

It’s a real shame because my friends and I — a group of about 25 — looked forward to the Blues Festival every year. None of us went.

It’s also a real loss for the town. Riverhead blew it once again.

Janice Seus


Stop them!

Say what? The Riverhead Town Board is poised to approve a land use plan and rezoning for Route 25A in Wading River, but the non-elected Planning Board thinks otherwise?

That’s what it seems like when a premature and incomplete plan for a 53,000-square-foot shopping center is proposed for the very area the Town Board has targeted for balanced growth. The Planning Board has taken a preliminary look at plans for the North Shore Country Plaza — proposed for the property next to the Condzella Farm in Wading River — and seems ready to fast-track the project before Town Board members can act on what they think is good for Wading River.

Referring to the Town Board plan, project lawyer Peter Danowski suggested that “to change the plan now in the middle of someone’s application, I think, is actionable.” That means subject to a lawsuit. He said, “It’s unfair to have a pending application that is not acted upon and then change the zoning.”

Is he kidding? It’s just the opposite. The 25A Corridor Study was begun in July 2011. The development project was not proposed until December. At that time, it was said that the development plan was some kind of effort to protect development rights in the face of the land use study. So it’s not the case that the Town Board is contemplating rezoning in the face of the shopping center plan; it’s the shopping center plan that’s trying to pre-empt the rezoning. The rezoning plan came first!

I think that the shopping center backer, Mr. Danowski and the Planning Board are quite literally trying to “pull a fast one” and try to railroad this undesirable project through the unelected Planning Board in record time, before the elected Town Board can enact the 25A plan. Neither the Town Board nor the Planning Board should let that happen.

Richard Amper

Editor’s note: Mr. Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, wrote this letter as a concerned citizen and not as a representative of the Pine Barrens organization.


A day at the races

Three cheers for Riverhead! The Cardboard Boat Race has turned into a real downtown showcase event. Judging by the large increase in boats that raced this year and the ever-increasing crowds, we have a lot to be proud of.

I would like to thank all the volunteers, town police, town recreation, town sanitation, building and grounds, the BID and the highway department for their efforts.

I would like to also offer a special thanks to my colleagues on the Cardboard Boat Race committee, Ed Densieski, Kristina Gabrielsen and Ken Zaneski. The boat race committee founded this race in 2010. For three seasons we have worked endless hours to make this event such a success. We are already planning next year’s race to make it even bigger and better. Another event that is positively Riverhead!

George Gabrielsen

councilman, Riverhead Town

06/28/12 6:00am
06/28/2012 6:00 AM

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.


Best days ahead
for the Vail

On behalf of the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, we thank the community for the many successes of this year’s Riverhead Blues and Music Festival. While attendance numbers were less than we had hoped for, I was encouraged by the overwhelming support voiced by everyone involved, audience, crew and many local businesses.

As most know, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall provides a venue for fundraising events supporting charitable groups like Toys for Tots, East End Hospice, Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter, as well as medical benefits helping locals in need. We presented programs for the East End Arts, I Love Riverhead, and every year of the annual Riverhead Idol competition as well as public forums, Business Improvement District meetings, graduations for Riverhead Charter School and town inauguration ceremonies.

These and other events have been presented without charge for the community’s benefit. We appreciate all support in our continuing work.

I thank the Town Board for approving the festival and the fates above for two days of great weather. Many people complimented the free performances given in Grangebel Park, showcasing acoustic acts in a beautiful and relaxed setting.

We thank Joe Lauro of Historic Films for previewing the opportunity beginning next month when the Vail brings movies back to downtown Riverhead (albeit in digital form). Unique performances at the Vail will help establish the downtown as an entertainment district with an active nightlife.

With insufficient space here to express thanks more fully, a complete version of this statement may be found on our website at vailleavitt.org.

Finally, I would especially like to thank my colleagues on the Vail-Leavitt board. I encourage interested community members to contact us via our website — vailleavitt.org — or email us at [email protected]. Whether offering suggestions, assistance or volunteering, I ask you to help us grow and develop through your participation in this community. With your involvement, I believe the best days of the festival and our Music Hall still lie ahead. Thank you.

Robert Barta

president, Council for the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Inc.

co-director, 2012 Riverhead Blues and Music Festival


Here’s why
we stayed home

I and seven to 10 other friends missed the music and fun times at this year’s Riverhead Blues Festival, our first absence ever. No, it was not the Mattituck Strawberry Festival or the Shelter Island 10K Run that was the reason. It was the short-sighted policies of Vince Tria and the festival organizers.

What was once free admission became $5 per person, then $10 and now $15. What was a “bring your chair and cooler” was now a “no-no.” What was once a rare opportunity for Riverhead Town to showcase its riverside venue for residents and visitors is now just a continuing political squabble and another money-making event.

Ed Goldstein


Not Emperor Walter

This is in response to the June 21 News-Review article entitled “Walter says he’s sorry after tirade.” Mr. Walter has attacked so many people over the past few years that I can’t believe he is the least bit sorry about anything, except that he can’t deny it this time. He says, “When you are a public figure, sometimes you have public things come out that you don’t want to come out. So, obviously, I said some words that I regret …” He doesn’t say he didn’t mean what he said, he just seems to be sorry it was made public. He’s been a lawyer for years; you can’t convince me that he would be so careless with his words if he didn’t mean them.

Even when he said he was sorry to Councilwoman Giglio, he said only that he was out of line, and he shouldn’t have done it, not that he didn’t mean it. What a cheap shot to quote from the Bible, which doesn’t change anything he said.

Painful words are not that easy to forget, and judging from his past treatment of the people around him that has already been made public, this will not be the last time he tries to intimidate those he believes are beneath him, because that’s the mode he uses to get what he wants. He forgets that he’s working for us and is our supervisor, not our emperor.

I just hope all residents finally see this for themselves.

Helga Guthy


Get moving on EPCAL

Fortunately, it would appear that cooler heads in Albany have put the brakes on Supervisor Sean Walter’s new EPCAL bureaucracy. Unfortunately, Mr. Walter is likely to use this setback as another excuse to delay sales and development at EPCAL and any chance of tax relief for our town.

Rather than his Don Quixote quest to chase a bad idea to supplant established agencies that have development and environmental expertise with Riverhead’s notoriously inept Town Board to control the site, perhaps Mr. Walter and the council members might consider some ideas that could actually work in Riverhead.

Here are some suggestions:

An Indian casino: Governor Cuomo has already given the green light to gambling and it’s been a tremendous success at Aqueduct and Empire City. Casino workers get real wages to support families. The Shinnecock Indians already tried to do something in Riverhead and were rebuffed. Mr. Walter needs to get beyond his personal views and at least consider this as a possibility.

Motor sports: NASCAR is the fastest-growing sport in America and the town turned down a $150 million offer to create a facility in Riverhead to pursue “sand mine mountain” brought to the town by alleged criminals involved in prostitution and money laundering. There is no excuse to blow off a legitimate deal by real players to bring a world class facility to Riverhead.

Aviation: With FedEx down the street and a working rail spur, it’s just a shame to see $500 million of U.S. government-built runways wasted. Limited cargo use with tight control over hours of operation to protect the public could generate hundreds of high-paying jobs. And plenty of the rich and famous from Long Island’s Gold Coast and the Hamptons would love to have a place to keep their Gulf Streams for easy access for those quick trips to the South of France.

With thousands of acres available, there’s plenty of room to pursue all these opportunities and other good ideas as well. But under Mr. Walter and his predecessors, Riverhead has gained a reputation as “The Little Town that Can’t.” If anything, the supervisor has displayed (sometimes misplaced) passion and intensity in what he does. It’s time for the supervisor to jettison his past failures and use those skills to get something moving in EPCAL that works and can lower taxes.

Ron Hariri

06/17/12 7:00am
06/17/2012 7:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Robert Ross (left) and Mark Dann perform Saturday at the Riverhead Blues Festival.

The 2012 Riverhead Blues & Music Festival began yesterday under blue skies and sunshine. The music continues today beginning at noon in downtown Riverhead. Admission is $15 for the day.

Here’s a rundown of the all bands performing today, capped by a performance by Johnny Winter at 4:35:

Outdoor Stage

Noon — 12:50 One Mo’ Time

12:55 — 1:45 Joplin’s Pearl

1:50 — 2:40 Toby Walker

2:45 — 3:35 Frank Latorre

3:40 — 4:30 Who Dat Loungers

4:35 — 6:00 Johnny Winter

Vail-Leavitt Stage

Noon — 1:00 Bryan Campbell & Max Feldschuch

1:20 — 2:20 American Primitive String Band

2:40 — 3:40 Ari Eisinger

4:00 — 5:00 Jacks O’Diamonds

Click here to read more about the performers.

06/16/12 4:48pm
06/16/2012 4:48 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Robert Ross of NYC prepares to take the stage Saturday at the Riverhead Blues & Music Festival.

The annual Riverhead Blues & Music Festival got off to a good start Saturday afternoon under sunny skies with cool breezes on the historic riverfront in downtown.

By 3 p.m. a few hundred fans were on hand to listen to Patti Betti, bluesman Robert Ross Trio of NYC, the traditional American rock and roll of Josey Wales Outlaw band (in the Vail-leavitt Music Hall) and the rockabilly music of the North Fork’s own Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, who are based in Greenport.

The Blues & Music Festival continues tonight and tomorrow.

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06/16/12 9:00am

JOHN NEELY FILE PHOTO | Performers at the 2010 festival.

The 2012 Riverhead Blues & Music Festival kicks off today with a full slate of musicians ready to perform. The music starts at noon and continues to 10 p.m. Admission is $15 for the day or $25 for the weekend.

Here’s a rundown of the all bands performing today:

Outdoor Stage

Noon-12:55 — Mike Orio

1:05-2 — Pam Betti

2:05-3:50 — Robert Ross

3-3:50 — Lone Sharks

3:55-4:45 — Ray Anderson

4:50-5:45 — Bobby Nathan

5:50-6:45 — Lil’ Cliff

6:50-8:05 — Chris Duarte

8:10-8:40 — WATG

8:45-10 — Roomful of Blues

Vail-Leavitt Stage

Noon-12:50 — Tobacco Roadies

1:10-2 — Misspent Youth

2:20-3:10 — Josey Wales

3:30-4:20 — Vendettas

4:40-5:30 — Bruce Macdonald

5:50-6:40 — Toby Walker

7-8 — Buzzards

8:20-9:10 — Buddy Meriam

Click here to read more about the performers.

12/08/10 4:18pm
12/08/2010 4:18 PM

NEWS=REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys performing at the 12th annual Riverhead Blues & Music Festival Saturday.

If other organizations try to take over the Riverhead Blues Festival again next year, the festival might move out of downtown Riverhead, says Bob Barta, president of Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which has run the festival since 2006.

Earlier this year, the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce made a bid to run the Blues Festival instead of Vail-Leavitt. Eventually, the chamber, which was working with the Business Improvement District on its proposal, backed out and Vail-Leavitt ran the festival, which Mr. Barta describes as a fundraiser for the music hall.
Why would Vail-Leavitt want to move the festival out of downtown Riverhead?

“The main reason is that we felt like we were in a somewhat hostile environment,” said Mr. Barta. “The BID and the chamber wanted to take over the operation and direction of the festival.”

Mr. Barta said Vail-Leavitt hasn’t ruled out anything at this point and is exploring whatever options are available.

He said the festival is the music hall’s biggest fundraiser, and that had Vail-Leavitt not agreed to take over the festival from the BID in 2006, the festival likely would have died. He said Vail-Leavitt has now obtained a trademark for the Riverhead Blues Festival.

The BID had run the festival from its inception in 1999 until 2005, but lost a lot of money on the 2005 festival. The festival had free admission when the BID ran it. Vail-Leavitt has charged an admission fee, most recently $10, since it took over.

Earlier this year, the BID and Chamber sought a special events permit from the town to run the festival. The BID offered to give Vail-Leavitt $30,000 from its budget to offset its loss of revenues from the festival, and allow the Chamber to operate some booths at the event. The chamber also said it would find corporate sponsorship.

Mr. Barta said the resulting confusion over who would run the festival made it difficult to book performers and attract vendors. He said Vail-Leavitt made a profit on the festival this year, but it was much less than in prior years. He would not disclose how much it made, saying it’s “proprietary.” He acknowledged that the extreme heat that weekend, in addition to the controversy over festival management, played a role in the lower attendance.

“If they are going to try and play that game again, we’re not into playing,” Mr. Barta said. “The survival of a nonprofit, charitable, all-volunteer organization depends on the success of the festival, so I need to be sure that we’re going to mimimize the impact of outside forces … I’d like to see it continue downtown. But if that’s not going to be possible, or if it holds me up from being able to pursue contracts with performers,” he may consider other locations, he said.

BID president Ray Pickerskill said he didn’t know if the BID and Chamber would make a similar proposal this year. Chamber president Bob Lanieri couldn’t be reached for comment.
This is not the first time Vail-Leavitt has threatened to move the festival, Mr. Pickersgill said.

“They tried to do this last year, too,” he said, but dropped that plan when the Chamber and BID sought to take over the downtown festival.

“When they found out how easily they could be replaced, they came back,” Mr. Pickersgill said.

[email protected]