01/10/14 5:30pm
01/10/2014 5:30 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This property on Hamilton Avenue was raided by town code enforcement officials Friday morning.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | This property on Hamilton Avenue was raided by town code enforcement officials Friday morning.

Authorities say at least 18 men were living inside an overcrowded Hamilton Avenue house targeted in a code enforcement raid Friday morning.

In addition to numerous fire and town code violations, Riverhead Town officials found some of the residents were living in an unfinished cellar that had been divided into makeshift living spaces, as well as evidence that an unheated garage was also being used for housing, town officials said.

“These are unsafe conditions,” said Supervisor Sean Walter. “They put people’s lives at risk. These landlords need to be stopped and the town is doing everything in their power to stop them.”

After getting complaints from neighbors, Riverhead Town police, fire marshals and members of the town attorney’s office carried out a search warrant at the house at 331 Hamilton Avenue, a single family residence owned by Rickey Taylor of Southampton, according to a town press release.

Mr. Taylor couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

Inside the Polish Town residence, authorities allegedly found at least five occupants were living in the house’s unfinished basement that was split into four living areas containing “personal belongings, mattresses and bedroom furnishings,” the release reads.

The men living in the basement had been sleeping on beds close to exposed wiring, insulation, and heating and boiler equipment, authorities said.

Town officials said the raid revealed a shortage of smoke detectors, inadequate egress, exposed wiring, “excessive” littering, and evidence that inhabitable space had been converted into living areas without building permits or certificates of occupancy, according to the town’s statement.

Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate was called to help find the residents of the allegedly overcrowded home new places to live, town officials said.

The house was one of four that had been targeted for enforcement last March, when the Town Board passed a resolution authorizing Supreme Court action against the property. Friday’s raid was a part of the enforcement action plan against that property, Mr. Walter said.

“Unfortunately it takes longer to build a case than we’d like sometimes,” he said. “We have the facts we need to restrain them from occupying that house at this point.”

Town attorneys will now seek a temporary restraining order preventing residents from returning to the house, Mr. Walter said.

“We can’t let people run roughshod over the town housing code,” he said.

While neighbors said that while they weren’t familiar with the property targeted Friday, one resident said she’s aware of overcrowded homes.

“If I work outside I see people and they say hello to me when they go by,” the woman, who asked not to have her name printed, said. “No one’s bothered me. I stay to myself.”

The resident, who’s lived on the block for nearly 60 years, said the neighborhood has “gotten worse” in that time.

“You knew all the people before on the street,” she said. “Once those people sold those homes, that’s when it started going down.”

Correction: A photo accompanied with this story earlier pictured a house on Sweezy Avenue.


01/02/14 9:00am
01/02/2014 9:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Flanders Riverside & Northampton Community Association president Vince Taldone with his dog Champ in Riverhead in 2012.

Back in 2011, the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association needed a new leader, as its president then was planning to run for Southampton Town Board.

The only person willing to take the job at the time was Vince Taldone, a Riverhead Town resident who owned property in Flanders but didn’t live there; thus, he could not serve as the group’s president. The organization then voted to change its own bylaws so Mr. Taldone could take the helm at FRNCA.

Two years later, Mr. Taldone, who was FRNCA’s vice president in 2012, is the group’s president once again, and is heavily involved in efforts to revitalize the hamlet of Riverside, which for many years has been plagued by crime and blight, high tax rates and a lack of commercial activity.

A master developer has now been hired by Southampton Town with the goal of bringing commercial development to the area. A commercial sewer district study has been completed by Suffolk County and county and town officials hope to run sewers through the area, allowing the type of development that had not been possible previously due to the area’s high water table.

Then there’s the grant money. Just last month it was announced that town received a state grant to plan the construction of a footbridge over the Peconic River from Riverside into Riverhead. This came on the heels of a county grant being used to create a walking trail through county parkland leading to the river.

Behind all of this is Mr. Taldone, who, unlike many of the elected officials who have worked in this recent push to help Riverside, is doing his part solely as a volunteer.

For this reason and more, Mr. Taldone is the News-Review’s Civic Person of the Year for 2013.

“Vince has done a lot of the legwork” on the pedestrian bridge proposal, said South Fork county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has worked with Mr. Taldone on many of the ongoing plans for Riverside. “He deserves a lot of credit. He’s not getting paid for any of it, and he’s doing a lot of work.”

Mr. Taldone is retired from a career in New York City government, where he served primarily in program and land use planning positions within the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

And his volunteer work isn’t limited to Riverside.

Since retiring, he’s volunteered on Riverhead Town’s Landmark Preservation Commission, the town’s handicapped advisory board and the board of directors of Riverhead Townscape, a nonprofit that works on local beautification projects.

Mr. Taldone also is a longtime volunteer for 5 Town Rural Transit, which seeks to improve public transportation on the East End, has volunteered at the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter and he is a former member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

And somehow he does all this with a vision impairment that prevents him from driving a car.

Richard Naso, chairman of Southampton Town’s Citizen Advisory Committee for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton, was the person who suggested Mr. Taldone become FRNCA’s president in 2011. Earlier this year, Mr. Naso also suggested informally to a News-Review reporter that Mr. Taldone be nominated for a Person of the Year award.

“Because of his experience as a planner in New York City, he has the ability to get things moving,” Mr. Naso said. “Most of us don’t have that experience or expertise.”

He said Mr. Taldone has experience in applying for grant money and also was able to negotiate with both Southampton and Riverhead town officials on the footbridge proposal, which needs approval from both municipalities.

“He was able to get so much going in such a short period of time,” Mr. Naso said.


01/01/14 3:29pm
01/01/2014 3:29 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Sean Walter says some words at the town's inauguration ceremonies Wednesday at Pulaski Street School.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Sean Walter says some words at the town’s inauguration ceremonies Wednesday at Pulaski Street School.

Riverhead Town officials re-elected in November were sworn in for their new terms Wednesday in a New Year’s Day inauguration ceremony at the Pulaski Street School.

Supervisor Sean Walter, council members Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy, Highway Superintendent George Woodson and Assessor Laverne Tennenburg, all incumbents, all took their oath of office, assisted by family members.

The only new face at Wednesday’s ceremony was Republican Anthony Palumbo, who was elected to fill a vacancy in the North Fork state Assembly position that was vacated by the resignation of former assemblyman Dan Losquadro.

Mr. Walter once again said the current Town Board has made progress in reviving downtown and the Enterprise Park at Calverton, and has improved the town’s financial condition since taking over in 2010.

He said there is a great anticipation for what will happen in the future, and hinted that some big projects may be coming to EPCAL.

“Some of things people are looking to do at EPCAL, we can’t even talk about them because they are so large” and the applicants have asked that they not be made public, Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Dunleavy noted that East End Arts was unable to do its annual window decorating contest in the vacant stores in downtown Riverhead this year because there aren’t enough empty stores.

He also said Route 58 has been a big tax generator and that without some of the big retail centers there, people’s taxes would be much higher.

Mr. Dunleavy said the new Walmart on western Route 58 is scheduled to open on Jan. 15 and the new Costco is expected to open in April.

After that, he said, there won’t be many large tracts left on Route 58 that can be developed.


12/21/13 3:00pm
12/21/2013 3:00 PM

FILE PHOTO |  Nearly 85 percent of the Greenport School is covered with solar panels.

In addition to putting solar panels on the town’s closed landfill on Youngs Avenue, for which a request for proposals was recently issued, the Riverhead Town Board on Thursday discussed the possibility of allowing solar panels in a number of town parking lots, much like Suffolk County has done at the county center.

Although the proposal is still in its early stages, the board went over a list of potential sites for solar panels at its work session on Thursday.

Sites the board majority liked included parking lots at the EPCAL ballfield parking lot, Town Hall West on Pulaski Street, Railroad Avenue, Town Hall, the police station, and lots between Roanoke and East Avenues and between Griffing and Roanoke Avenues.

Supervisor Sean Walter opposed most of the downtown sites.

Rejected sites included the Bayberry Park parking lot in Wading River, the Wading River Highway Yard, around a sump at Edwards and Riley Avenues, the skate park parking lot, the Maple Avenue parking lot, behind the Methodist Church, and the Jamesport Boat Ramp parking lot.

The Town Board received about seven proposals for the landfill solar field, and hopes to select one by the end of the year.

12/15/13 5:00pm
12/15/2013 5:00 PM


Riverhead Town residents should receive their 2013-14 tax bills in the mail soon. The overall amount of property taxes to be collected — including school, town, county, fire and other special districts — is up by 3.6 percent over the previous year, at $141.1 million.

The biggest chunk of that total is school taxes, which account for 62 percent of the property tax levy. Town taxes, including special districts like sewer, water, ambulance and garbage, make up about 30 percent of the total.

Property owners must pay the first half of their taxes by Jan. 10 and the second half by May 31 or face penalties that range from 1 percent after Jan. 10 to 5 percent after May 12.


12/09/13 9:00am
12/09/2013 9:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead’s bay constable, Jim Divan, heads to the bay from East Creek in Jamesport Monday morning.

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works is planning to dredge four creeks in Riverhead Town between now and Jan. 15, weather permitting, according to Bill Hillman, the DPW’s chief engineer. Those sites are Meetinghouse Creek in Aquebogue, East Creek in South Jamesport, Hawks Creek in Jamesport (near Great Peconic Bay Marina), and Miamogue Lagoon in Jamesport.

Cases Creek in Aquebogue was also on the list of creeks the county planned to dredge. But the work will have to wait until the new owner of the adjacent Dreamer’s Cove Motel repairs the bulkhead and jetty.

The owner has obtained a state permit to do so, officials said.

“It doesn’t appear that will happen this year, but the other four [creeks] are on our agenda,” Mr. Hillman said. “They will be done toward the end of our dredge season. Riverhead is always the last town we do since we keep the dredge in Riverhead.

Mr. Hillman added that for East Creek and Hawks Creek, “We need to double check and see if they actually need to be dredged.”

In September, county DPW commissioner Gil Anderson asked the Town Board to pay overtime costs for the dredging jobs, estimated to be about $11,300. He made similar requests of other towns, too.

Mr. Anderson said DPW would need to run double shifts working seven days a week to finish the 23 dredging jobs it plans to do countywide with its one dredge within the 107-day dredging season. That season ends Jan. 15 due to environmental constraints pertaining to winter fluke.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the Town Board has authorized paying for the county overtime.


11/08/13 5:00pm
11/08/2013 5:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Bennett Brokaw (left), co-president of Bread and More, along with fellow volunteers Gerry Hamill (center) and Genny Yeoman, cook dinner at Riverhead Congregational Church in Sept. 2012.

Local charities that help the poor in Riverhead Town say they need help, too, as the number of homeless, hungry and elderly people in need of care continues to mount.

Those groups spoke at a public hearing Wednesday on federal Community Development Block Grants, which are allocated by the town to local charities on an annual basis, often to many of the same groups each year.

The town expects to have about $143,000 of grant money available this year, according to Chris Kempner, the town’s community development director.

Public service programs like the ones requesting help Wednesday can only receive a total of $25,000 and each individual grant must be for at least $5,000, she said.

“Public services include counseling, soup kitchens, senior services providing at least 51 percent of the funding for low to moderate income persons,” she said.

The Town Board will likely decide which programs to fund at its next meeting, Nov. 19. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 29, Ms. Kempner said.

Some of the charities seeking grant money included:

The Riverhead Community Awareness Program

CAP, as its more commonly called, has provided drug and alcohol prevention education to students in the Riverhead School District since 1982.

“Due to recent funding cuts, we have had to reduce staff and subsequently reduce our services in a time of increasing need,” said Shannon Kutner, a licensed clinical social worker with CAP, who works in the Phillips Avenue and Roanoke Avenue elementary schools.

“Roanoke Avenue Elementary School has the highest rate of poverty and poverty risk factors in Riverhead Town,” Ms. Kutner told the Town Board at Wednesday’s public hearing.

Ms. Kutner said that 62 percent of the students in Roanoke are eligible for free or reduced lunch, 68 percent belong to a minority group and 60 percent are economically disadvantaged, according to a report from the New York State Basic Educational Data System.

“In 2011, Roanoke Avenue saw a 10 percent increase in students and administrators report that at least 90 percent of those families were classified as low income,” she said.

The Dominican Sisters Family Health Service

The group provides assistance to frail elderly and disabled people of low to moderate income levels, according to Marianne Bogannam, the agency’s development manager for Suffolk County.

“Last year, we did close to 1,000 visits of seniors and disabled elderly in Riverhead,” Ms. Bogannam told the board.

The program, which Dominican Sisters have done for the past 19 years, employs workers who visit the homes of the elderly to do light housekeeping, change bed linens or go grocery shopping, she said.

“It sustains the seniors in their homes and keeps them from being prematurely placed in institutions,” she said.

The Open Arms Care Center and Project Care

The two programs run through the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, are also seeking a grant for their services, according to Zona Story, the chair of the group.

Open Arms runs a food pantry at the church and Project Care, which is done in conjunction with Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Federation of Organizations, provides free health screenings to home-bound seniors, clients of the food pantry, and seniors who frequent the town’s senior nutrition program, she said.

“This program is a lifeline for helping prevent hunger for many people in the community,” Ms. Story said. “The pantry serves approximately 500 households on a regular basis each year and about 1,200 individuals. We provide enough food for three meals a day for three days to each client.”

Bread and More soup kitchen

The kitchen operates three night a week at the First Congregational Church in Riverhead and has been in operation since the 1990s.

“On any given night, we serve between 80 and 125 meals, all made possible by staff that is solely volunteer,” said Judy Barth, one of the group’s leaders. “We offer an hour of warmth and caring to those whose lives are otherwise in chaos.”

Ms. Barth said Bread and More’s sources of income have dwindled in past years. They no longer receive grant money from the federal government, she said, and no longer receive supplemental money from the Interfaith Nutrition Network, as they had in the past.

“It is through private donations and this community block grant that we are still able to operate,” Ms. Barth said.

Maureen’s Haven

The group provides overnight shelter for the homeless in the winter, and is seeing a growing demand, according to its past chairman, Dwayne Wagner.

The group teams up with local churches on the East End to provide a place for the homeless to sleep. It has done so for the past 11 years.

“Last year, we had 312 individuals participating in our program,” Mr. Wagner told the Town Board.

It provided more than 5,000 beds that were made available over the winter in 32 churches on the East End, he said.

Maureen’s Haven also opened a new office in Riverhead in 2011.

East End Arts Council executive director Pat Snyder also requested block grant money to repair the handicapped ramp at the historic Benjamin House on its property.


11/05/13 8:45pm
11/05/2013 8:45 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Republican candidates Laverne Tennenberg, Jodi Giglio, Sean Walter and John Dunleavy celebrate victories on election night in downtown Riverhead.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Republican candidates Laverne Tennenberg, Jodi Giglio, Sean Walter and John Dunleavy celebrate victories on election night in downtown Riverhead.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter defeated Democratic challenger Angela DeVito in his successful bid for re-election Tuesday, earning 3,917 votes to Ms. DeVito’s 3,090, according to Suffolk County Board of Elections figures.

Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy, both incumbent Republican councilpeople, earned vote totals of 3,634 and 3,495, respectively, over Democrats Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas, who registered 3,141 and 3,045 each.

That was an at-large race between the four candidate for two open council seats.

Also in Riverhead Town, incumbent Republican assessor Laverne Tennenberg beat Democratic challenger Greg Fischer, 4,343 to 2,396, and Democratic highway superintendent George (Gio) Woodson beat Conservative challenger Michael Panchak by vote of 4,936 to 1,269.

In local races on the county and state levels, Suffolk County incumbent county Legislator Al Krupski defeated Republican challenger Albie DeKerillis by a wide margin of 12,515 to Mr. DeKerillis’ 4,702 votes.

Meanwhile, in the election to fill a vacant state Assembly seat, Republican Anthony Palumbo defeated Democrat John McManmon, who conceded in downtown Riverhead Tuesday night.

The county’s unofficial results showed Palumbo with 14,607 votes to McManmon’s 10,693, with 88 of 89 election districts in as of about 11:30 p.m.

The Riverhead News-Review reported live throughout election night.

Click below to see photos, candidate reactions and more.

(Read more in the News-Review newspaper.)