02/07/14 12:00pm
02/07/2014 12:00 PM

Barbaraellen Koch photo | Officer Dan Hogan on patrol on East Main Street in downtown Riverhead.

Last year, the number of criminal incidents reported in Riverhead was at its lowest point in more than a decade, continuing a downward trend that began in the early 2000s, according to annual police data.

While the direct cause of the decline isn’t fully known, local business owners, town officials and law enforcement experts believe that stronger community outreach and increased patrols, along with a nationwide drop in crime, may have played a role, leaving some optimistic that the overall trend will continue.

(more…)

01/24/13 8:00am
01/24/2013 8:00 AM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | An aerial view of Calverton Enterprise Park, looking south.

Riverhead Town is throwing its hat in the ring in a competition among county, municipal and private entities all trying to entice Federal Aviation Administration officials to build a state-of-the-art air traffic control facility on their land.

Wherever the NextGen Integrated Air Traffic Control Facility is built in lower New York State or Long Island, it would bring with it some 800 highly technical and well-paid permanent jobs, as well as hundreds of construction jobs over 10 years officials say.

The FAA hopes to have the project online by 2019.

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, after some pushback from Supervisor Sean Walter, convinced the Town Board to submit an application last week.

EDITORIAL: FAA facility would be a welcome boost

 

The submission also comes at the urging of Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), Ms. Giglio said.

“It would obviously be a boon to Riverhead so Congressman Bishop encourages them to apply,” said Bishop spokesman Oliver Longwell, noting that Mr. Bishop has not publicly endorsed a location, as several applications are coming from within his 1st Congressional District.

Riverhead officials are proposing town-owned land at the Calverton Enterprise Park, once the site of a Grumman fighter pilot testing facility.

“Congressman Bishop is fighting hard to have the new FAA tower built on Long Island,” Mr. Longwell said. “EPCAL does seem to fit the criteria but we’re not sure about [easement questions], as there are complicated environmental issues at the site.”

The facility, which would be satellite-based, unlike current radar-based air traffic control systems, would consolidate and replace the functions of the existing FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip Town and the existing Terminal Radar Approach Control facility in Westbury, federal officials say.

As for the competition for the new facility, Islip Town has been pushing the FAA for some time to build it at MacArthur Airport and, locally, officials with Rechler Equity Partners have confirmed that they have submitted land they lease from the county at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton as a possible site for the FAA project.

Other Long Island sites that have been suggested include a 40-acre parcel on Nicolls Road near Suffolk Community College in Selden, Mitchell Field in Nassau County and possibly 95 acres owned by Jan Burman at EPCAL, according to Ms. Giglio. It could not be immediately confirmed which of these other locations were being officially considered through the application process.

Ms. Giglio said that if Mr. Burman’s land at EPCAL won the FAA facility, as opposed to town-owned land at the former Grumman site, the town would lose out on potential tax revenues it would receive if Mr. Burman’s land were developed by private enterprise, since the FAA would be tax exempt. Mr. Burman could not be reached for comment.

A number of upstate locations also have been mentioned as possible locations for the FAA facility, Ms. Giglio said, including Stewart International Airport in Newburgh and a site near Albany.

Ms. Giglio raised the issue at last Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session, which is open to the public, and made the argument that since the FAA is running advertisements seeking a new centralized location for the facilities, the town should at least try to lure it to EPCAL.

But Mr. Walter disagreed.

“We should be looking at this as a region and not stealing this,” he said.

Mr. Walter believes there is a danger that the FAA might move the facility off Long Island altogether and that Long Island officials should present a unified show of support for keeping it in Islip.

There are Riverhead residents who work at the Islip Town-owned airport who would lose their jobs, he said.

But Ms. Giglio countered that other Long Island towns are already trying to “steal” the project and that Riverhead officials should be most concerned with bringing it to Riverhead Town.

Because the FAA is exempt from town zoning, she said, a facility at EPCAL would not require new zoning or state Department of Environmental Conservation approvals and the town wouldn’t have to spend any money because the FAA has money earmarked and in place for the project.

“This would bring 800 high-paying jobs to the area,” she said.

The FAA wants to locate the regional facility within 150 miles of New York City and is seeking 34 to 49 acres for the project. The site must be in New York State and the landowner must be willing to sell the property to the FAA.

“The site must be suitable for construction of an operational air traffic control campus with approximately 250,000 square feet of buildings and parking for 800 employees,” the FAA said.

FAA officials would not disclose what sites have been submitted so far. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31.

“It’s perfect for EPCAL,” Councilman Jim Wooten said during last week’s meeting.

Mr. Walter said the Town Board should at least have Islip Supervisor Tom Croci come to Riverhead to explain the importance of the facility to his town.

“I’m not concerned about Islip; I’m concerned about Riverhead,” Councilman George Gabrielsen said.

“It can’t hurt,” Councilman John Dunleavy said, although he questioned why the town always waits until the last minute on applications like this.

Mr. Walter ultimately gave in and directed town community development agency director Chris Kempner to prepare a proposal to locate the facility at EPCAL.

Back on July 12, Mr. Walter participated in an Islip Town press conference with other Long Island officials backing MacArthur Airport as the location for the NextGen facility.

Other officials at that press conference included then-Brookhaven supervisor Mark Lesko. Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Babylon Supervisor and Suffolk Democratic Party chairman Richard Schaffer and several other state, county and business officials, according to Inez Birbiglia, Islip Town’s communications director.

“It was pretty bipartisan,” Ms. Birbiglia said, as both Republican and Democratic officials backed the Islip site.

Ms. Birbiglia said on Tuesday that Islip Town was under the impression Riverhead supported the MacArthur Airport site for the FAA facility.

Islip Town officials believe MacArthur is the best site for the NextGen facility, she said.

“We have 80 acres available just a few thousand feet away from the existing ARTCC and the FAA employees already live in the surrounding neighborhood.”

The NextGen facility will be regional and will serve airports throughout the New York City region, so it’s not necessary that it be located at an existing airport, officials said.

The FAA’s NextGen control system was designed to eliminate older radar-based technologies and rely more on global positioning satellites, enabling aircraft to fly closer to one another in ever-crowded skyways while providing less separation in time and space during takeoffs and landings, ultimately alleviating flight delays that have plagued New York area airports over the years, according to Islip officials.

tgannon@timesreview.com

11/17/12 9:33am
11/17/2012 9:33 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The severely eroded bluffs near Hulse Landing Road beach in Wading River.

Work will begin on Monday to repair three large breaches to the ocean barrier beach caused by Hurricane Sandy along the South Shore, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

But what about the North Shore?

That’s the question Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and some residents who live along the Long Island Sound are asking, as Hurricane Sandy has erased much of the beach that used to stand between their homes and the water.

“Right now, the mean high water mark is probably in some people’s living rooms,” Mr. Walter said Friday.

“About 70 to 80 feet of beach is just gone,” said Jim Loscalzo, who lives on Creek Road in Wading River.

The beach along Creek Road now is almost up to the houses and bulkheads that have been buried for years are now exposed. In one case, a cesspool ring is visible on the beach.

Mr. Loscalzo, who rode out the storm with his wife, said he lost everything below the first floor of his home, including two cars that flooded.

“We’re very nervous about this situation,” said Ginnie Grieco of Oak Street in Wading River, which is just east of the town beach there. “The storm took most of our beach away.”

Ms. Grieco is planning to initiate a petition drive to get the federal government to rebuilt the beach, much like it’s doing on the South Shore.

“I see them giving a billion dollars to help the South Shore, but why not the North Shore?” she asked. “Right now, high tide is almost in my living room.”

Other areas along the Sound in Riverhead Town also have seen significant erosion since Sandy. The water along the beach at the end of Hulse Landing Road is now right up to the house on the westerly corner of the road, and almost up to the bluffs on the east. Houses on the top of those bluffs are now perilously close to the edge.

At the end of Edwards Avenue in Calverton, the water is also right up to the base of beachfront homes.

Mr. Walter said he attended a Long Island Association breakfast Friday morning at which state Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner Joe Martens spoke on the subject of Hurricane Sandy.

Mr. Walter said he asked the commissioner if there was a way the state or federal government could initiate a project to rebuild the badly eroded Sound beaches by dredging sand from bottom offshore and pumping onto the beach.

He said Mr. Martens told him they’d look into it.

The supervisor said he’s also been in contact with Congressman Tim Bishop’s office.
Oliver Longwell, an aide to Mr. Bishop, said Friday that the process that led to the South Shore projects is different from what would apply to Sound beaches.

“Those are beaches that are managed by the federal government, so that is something the Army Corp has funds already appropriated for, from Fire Island to Montauk Point,” Mr. Longwell said.

On the Sound beaches, he said, Riverhead Town would have to initiate a beach restoration project on its own, and seek reimbursement from the federal government.

He said the town would know in advance if a federal appropriations bill with money for such projects had been approved.

The federal government also will need to provide help by exempting certain projects from standing dredging deadlines. Dredging is usually prohibited during winter flounder and piping plover mating seasons.

Mr. Walter said he understands that the ocean barrier beaches need to be restored, but the North Shore needs help too.

“It’s a mess along the Sound, and we’re trying to get the attention of the powers that be to address it, because if I dredge a little bit of sand out of Wading River Creek, we might be able to help a few homeowners, but we’re not going to be able to do what needs to be done,” Mr. Walter said.

“What we really need is an offshore dredge to come in and dredge the sand out of the Sound and then put it up on the beach.”

And that type of project is expensive, he added.

Even when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides assistance, the town still must pay 25 percent of the cost.

“If you’re talking about tens of millions of dollars, and the town had to pay 25%, we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Mr. Walter said. “We want to see if we can get them to do it.”

Mr. Loscalzo said that when he bought his property in the mid-1980s the beach along Creek Road looked much like it does now with stairs leading down to the beach. Over the years, the Long Island Lighting Company, LIPA’s predecessor, raised the beach by pumping sand onto it from when it dredged Wading River Creek.

“This storm, in 8 or 9 hours, destroyed everything that’s been done down here,” he said.
He said he rode out Hurricane Gloria in 1985 too, and he thinks Sandy was much worse.

“Sandy made Gloria seem like a wind storm,” he said. “My wife and I stood on our deck and watched telephone poles and boats and everything floating by.”

The town has begun to receive applications from beachfront homeowners seeking to rebuild their bulkheads damaged in the storm, and Mr. Walter said he hopes to have a system in place to expedite those applications.

02/09/11 4:21pm
02/09/2011 4:21 PM

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter could be replacing Babylon Supervisor Steve Ballone on the Long Island Regional Planning Council, Newsday.com reports.

Mr. Walter, serving his first term at the helm in town government, would be appointed by Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, who reportedly has not yet filed a resolution on the matter. If confirmed by the county Legislature, Mr. Walter having a seat on the influential body could help development efforts at EPCAL.

Read full story by Rick Brand and Olivia Winslow.

12/07/10 2:11pm
12/07/2010 2:11 PM

I read with interest Democratic Party Chairman Vinny Villella’s column last week [Dec. 2] about the Riverhead budget process this year. Mr. Villella attempts to pull budget numbers out of context and patchwork them into a sinister story about how this year’s budget was adopted.  In all fairness to our Riverhead Town supervisor, Mr. Walter, and this Town Board, I found Mr. Villella’s criticism unfair and smacking a little of partisan politics. After all, I think that our former supervisor, Democrat Phil Cardinale has to accept at least some of the blame for our current situation. Of course, being the leader of a political party myself, I suppose I could be painted with the same brush, so let’s instead look at the facts.

This year, in a completely refreshing way, the Town Board was honest with taxpayers and issued a budget that did not employ one-shot tax gimmicks to cover up budget shortfalls. This Town Board did not exaggerate revenue sources with fictitious land sales, pie-in-the-sky resort plans and unrealized lawsuit settlements, as was done in the 2010 budget. This Town Board took the bold step of reducing town employees and salaries, something which takes conscience and courage to do. This Town Board, saddled with huge increases in health care benefits, insurance and the debt from Mr. Cardinale’s landfill were able to make tough choices and still reduce town spending and they did it all in an open, transparent fashion.

No one likes to see people lose their jobs, but the reality is that 75 percent of the town’s budget goes to pay salaries. What cost cutting measures would Mr. Villella or Mr. Cardinale propose to reduce spending and why didn’t either one of them do so when they were supervisor? On Jan. 1, Riverhead will be without a number of part-time employees making less than $10,000 per year yet receiving more than $18,000 in health benefits. We have reduced the overall workforce while still maintaining the same level of service to the residents.

We can attempt to put a high-gloss shine on the story but when it comes right down to it, the people spoke on Election Day and they called for reduced government spending and a reduction in the size of government. In a time where the State of New York’s pension and health care systems increased the town’s cost by $1.6 million dollars, this budget reduced overall town spending by almost $800,000.

For too long the town has operated as if it had an unlimited credit limit and we only had to pay the minimum balance. The tax increase that the town has adopted is far less than what would have been required had we continued along the same path. The bottom line is, something had to be done and Mr. Walter has shown the political courage to do it. I am proud of this Town Board for cleaning up the town’s debt. We are sowing the seeds which will reap a rich harvest for Riverhead. Stay tuned and stay positive.

Mr. Saladino is the town Conservative Party chairman and a part-time deputy town attorney.

11/01/10 12:13am
11/01/2010 12:13 AM

There will not be a hi-tech industrial park located at the Enterprise Park at Calverton — at least not one built by Rechler Equity Partners. An estimated 3,700 construction workers from across Long Island will not be anticipating 10 years worth of build-out over some 300 acres there. The promise of 7,650 permanent, local jobs is over.

The Melville-based developer sent a letter to the Riverhead Town Board Tuesday informing officials of its decision to pull the plug on the $18 million contract to buy 300 town-owned acres at EPCAL ­– laying the blame in part on town officials.

The developers cited “a sluggish economy and a Town Board that was not willing to adapt to the changing economic landscape,” as reasons for its decision.

“The town board had an opportunity to ensure the future of a more vibrant Riverhead,” the group’s president, Gregg Rechler, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, their inability to understand the economic fundamentals of a successful project forced us to withdraw our offer on this property before the Friday deadline.”

Rechler Equity Partners had until the end of this month to pay a $250,000 fee to extend its contract by six months, as Mr. Rechler had previously indicated he needed more time to decide whether to go forward with the project. But the company also wanted to amend its hi-tech park plans to include housing and retail uses, something a majority of Town Board members opposed.

“Rechler sought extensions to their agreement, a reduction in their original purchase price and proposed adding a housing component to their site plan,” Mr. Walter said. “All of these changes midstream were not good for the people of the Town of Riverhead. I welcome the opportunity to make a fresh state in our efforts to properly develop the EPCAL property.”

The town will also find out by Nov. 4 the fate of  Riverhead Resorts, the other proposed big land sale and development in Calverton, as the town has given the group until that date to pay about $4 million in contract extension fees it owes the town.

Rechler went into contract with Riverhead Town in 2007 to buy the 300 acres for $35 million. At that time the developer had planned to build a 2.7 million-square-foot hi-tech park over the course of a decade. The group estimating the project would generate 3,700 construction jobs and 7,650 permanent jobs. But in 2009, citing the economy, Rechler convinced the Town Board to drop the price to $18 million.

And earlier this year, Rechler asked Town Board members for changes in the permitted uses on the site to allow for more than 900 apartments and retail uses mixed in with light industrial uses, but a majority of Town Board members opposed those changes.

Negotiations with Rechler and Riverhead Resorts began during the prior administration of former supervisor Phil Cardinale, and both were chosen following a lengthy request for proposals process.

Mr. Walter said neither proposal would have been his first choice.

“I will push to subdivide the land at EPCAL into smaller parcels, peel back some of the resort zoning and craft a more realistic plan to bring employers, development and a tax base to the vital track of land we call EPCAL,” Mr. Walter said Tuesday.

tgannon@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 26, 2010

10/31/10 8:32pm
10/31/2010 8:32 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO Riverhead fire chief Nick Luparella and other firefighters urged the town to avoid cutting a fire marshal position Tuesday night.

Members of the Riverhead and neighboring fire departments turned out in force Tuesday night to urge the Riverhead Town Board not to eliminate a fire marshal position, as proposed in Supervisor Sean Walter’s tentative 2011 town budget.

Several of the six other full-time employees whose positions are slated to be cut also spoke in an attempt to save their jobs.

As with previous meetings, town Civil Service Employees Association members also showed, wearing red shirts and protesting any layoffs.

The firefighters showed up in uniform at Tuesday night’s Town Board meeting and even parked several fire trucks outside Town Hall with their light flashing to protest the proposed elimination of town fire marshal Craig Zitek’s position. Riverhead Fire Chief Nick Luparella and others pointed out that by checking that sprinklers work, pathways are clear and buildings meet codes, fire marshals often ensure that firefighters don’t get trapped in burning buildings.

“Public safety is not the area to be cutting,” Mr. Luparella told the Town Board.

Animal Control Officer Sean McCabe, site plan reviewer Theresa Masin, Juvenile Aid Bureau secretary Cheryl Behr, Community Development department program technician Liz Plouff and Mr. Zitek also made their cases as to why they believed their jobs should not be cut, as the supervisor has proposed.

Mr. McCabe noted taht he is one of only two Animal Control Officers in the town. As for Ms. Masin, she said town officials had pledged to streamline the review process when they took office, and that eliminating a planning position will do the opposite. She said applications she has reviewed that have been approved also generated about $150,000 in fees for the town. Ms. Plouff said she has been responsible for obtaining and managing grant money for the town, while Ms. Behr said her position also is vital to maintaining grants obtained by the JAB.

Councilman John Dunleavy and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio both publicly stated support for restoring the fire marshal position.

tgannon@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 20, 2010

10/13/10 6:17pm
10/13/2010 6:17 PM


VERA CHINESE PHOTO Riverhead Resorts president John Niven traveled from Scotland to attend a Town Board work session Wednesday. Councilmen George Gabrielsen and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio (right), who have voted to end the group's contract with the town, walked out of the meeting in anger.


Representatives from Riverhead Resorts, the group seeking to purchase 755 town-owned acres in Calverton, promised town officials Wednesday that on Nov. 3 they will have $3.9 million of the nearly $6 million the developers owe the town.

The representatives flew from Europe to make the promise in person, but they only fully relayed it to two Riverhead Town Board members, as councilpersons Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen, who have voted repeatedly to end the contract, walked out in anger at the meeting’s start. The sales contract between the town and the Resorts group was supposed to have been finalized May 15.

Councilman Jim Wooten was absent.

EDITORIAL: RESORTS MONEY NOT WORTH THE RISK

Mr. Gabrielsen and Ms. Giglio asked Riverhead Resorts president John Niven and Michael Simmonds, head of Solutio Finance, the company vowing to provide an initial funding package of $25 million for the project, if they were ready to write a check for the late payments that day. The men said they were not.

“I do not see a check,” Ms. Giglio said. “I think this is just another, I hate to say it, dog and pony show.”

“When you do have the money, give me a call,” Mr. Gabrielsen said before walking out.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman John Dunleavy apologized on behalf of Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen to Mr. Niven and Mr. Simmonds, who had traveled from Scotland and England respectively to attend Wednesday’s meeting.

Councilman John Dunleavy said he remained optimistic about the project since no other suitors have come forward.

“I have no doubt in my mind that you want to move forward,” he said. “We have nobody else out there.”

Morton Weber, whose law firm Weber Law Group is representing Riverhead Resorts, said another $3.9 million in late payment would be made in January. He noted the time frame for when the deal is finalized will be determined in part by when the town is able to subdivide the land, a necessary step before closing.

During the meeting, Mr. Walter requested documentation verifying that the lender had promised to finance the full amount of the project. Mr. Weber said it would be impossible due to confidentiality reasons.

“This document cannot be divulged,” he said. “This is an agreement between a lender and a borrower.”

Mr. Simmonds told Mr. Walter that on a scale of one to 10, the chances of the town having the check in-hand on Nov. 3 was a nine.

And if Riverhead Resorts does not have the $3.9 million Nov. 3?

“It’s over. It’s really over,” Mr. Walter said.

The supervisor had previously said he would end the contract but reversed course in Town Hall last Tuesday when a vote came up to do so; he was the deciding vote on tabling the measure.

The Riverhead Resorts group is planning to build a multi-themed resorts complex bigger than Disneyland at the Enteprise Park at Calverton, or EPCAL, land that was owned for decades by the U.S. Navy before it was deeded to Riverhead Town in the mid-1990s.

The Resorts group and the town have informally agreed on a lower, $108 million purchase price for the land, down from the original $155 million agreement made before the real estate market collapsed. Resorts officials had argued that declining real estate values warranted the lower price.

The Town Board had previously given Riverhead Resorts until last month to come up with the then-$3.9 million it owed or face having the contract terminated, but it missed that deadline and as per the sales contract, and now owes almost $6 million.

vchinese@timesreview.com