09/23/14 9:11pm
09/23/2014 9:11 PM
The Honda SUV where it came to rest after last Thursday's crash in Calverton. (Credit: Carrie Miller)

The Honda SUV where it came to rest after last Thursday’s crash in Calverton. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

An 80-year-old woman who was a passenger in a vehicle involved in a crash that sent two cars careening down a hill in Calverton last Thursday has died of her injuries, Riverhead Town police said.

Roberta Ekberg of Calverton was in a westbound Honda CRV driven by 79-year-old Alfred Ekberg when Mr. Ekberg attempted to make a left turn off Sound Avenue and collided with an eastbound Audi driven by Jeannette Kuzma, 58, of Shoreham, police said. (more…)

08/30/14 4:30pm
08/30/2014 4:30 PM
A 46-lot subdivision is proposed on this farmland north of Sound Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A 46-lot subdivision is proposed on this farmland north of Sound Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

After neighbors came out in early August to oppose the plan, the Riverhead Town Planning Board closed a public hearing last Thursday on a subdivision plan for land near the intersection of Sound and Roanoke Avenues after developers increased the size of the lots, as the board had requested. (more…)

08/14/14 8:00am
08/14/2014 8:00 AM
A 46-lot subdivision is proposed on this farmland north of Sound Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A 46-lot subdivision is proposed on this farmland north of Sound Avenue in Riverhead. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A plan to convert a 27-acre Sound Avenue farm into a 46-home subdivision was met with resistance last week from neighbors who said the parcel should be preserved as farmland.  (more…)

12/09/13 1:00pm
12/09/2013 1:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The main building on Sound Avenue that will become Brendan House.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The main building on Sound Avenue that will become Brendan House.

The Riverhead Lions Club is donating $4,000 to a group home for survivors of traumatic brain injury called Brendan House, which is now under-construction on Sound Avenue.

The club will present the funds to New Beginnings, the Medford nonprofit that is spearheading the project, tomorrow afternoon, said Lions club member Bobby Hartmann.

The Lions will name the living room of the building “The Lion’s Den” as a result of their donation, he said.

The Lions Club has also pledged to donate $2,000 each year ”in perpetuity” to the project, to help with operating costs, Mr. Hartmann said.

Once completed, the group home will provide round-the-clock care for eight residents. The aides that will work at the home will not stay overnight, and a house mother will live in a separate house on the property.

Mr. Hartmann said New Beginnings approached the Lion’s Club at the group’s meeting last week and immediately made a strong impression.

“They left and five minutes later we made a motion [to donate the funds],” he said. ”The stars lined up and it was a perfect match.”

Mr. Hartmann praised the work New Beginnings has already done, which includes rehabilitation work for those recovering from traumatic brain injuries.

“Being in our backyard and the good that they’re doing as a nonprofit, it was just there for us as a win-win for everybody,” he said.

psquire@timesreview.com

11/15/13 7:00am
11/15/2013 7:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | J. Kings's operation manager Pat Dean in Riverhead in the climate-controlled warehouse.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | J. Kings’s operation manager Pat Dean in Riverhead in the climate-controlled warehouse.

Lyle Wells, owner of Wells Homestead Farms in Aquebogue, used to store his excess produce in a shed. He couldn’t control the humidity or temperature and would lose about 40 percent of his stored crop because of the conditions, he said.

But since September, Mr. Wells has used Grapes & Greens — a food storage and processing facility in Calverton owned by J. Kings Food Service Professionals — to store a total of 212,000 pounds of fresh butternut and spaghetti squash harvested from his farm.

He’s losing only 5 to 10 percent of the crop now, meaning there’s more to be sold – and more profit to be made.

“It doesn’t take long [for the money] to add up really quickly,” Mr. Wells said.

Editorial: Government spending that makes sense.

Wells Homestead Farms is one of “dozens” of farms and six wineries from across the North Fork to use the facility since it opened for business this harvest season. And although the plant’s food packaging operations aren’t quite ready, its storage and refrigeration units have already made a “huge, huge difference” for local growers, said one participant, Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery.

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“It’s been terrific,” he said. “It’s really opened up a lot of avenues and doors for us.”

“It’s been tremendously successful,” said J. Kings owner John King.

Before the facility’s cooling storage was up and running this year, J. Kings would pick up produce directly from farms and bring it to retailers for sale.

“If they just pick it in the fields and then bring it to Stop & Shop, the product gets warmer and warmer,” Mr. King said. “It was hot as hell when we were delivering it.”

As a result, he said, that produce wouldn’t last long on store shelves. But now, produce cooled at the new facility after being picked up at the farms will last about five days on store shelves.

The facility has 8,000 square feet of storage and holds about 100 pallets of produce.

The facility is also being used by vineyards to cool wines for storage, with about 600 pallets of finished wine on the premises. The wine or grapes can later be returned to the wineries or distributed to stores, Mr. King said.

Waters Crest in Cutchogue had been using a fellow wine-grower’s facility to store its excess wine and grapes. But that was only a short-term solution, Mr. Waters said. As the other company’s wine grew in popularity, the extra storage space began to run out, leaving Waters Crest with little room to grow. Thankfully, he said, Grapes & Greens came online at the right time — for him and others.

Smaller winemakers have been waiting for a storage facility they could use without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their own storage areas, Mr. Waters said.

“We’ve been needing something like this for years,” he said.

The need for a processing facility was highlighted in a study completed in 2011 by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Committee.

Citing a need to spur agricultural development on Long Island, the study recommended the building of “a strong agricultural processing center, or enterprise park, that would … provide distribution, cooling and storage of produce, allow meat processing” and perform other functions.

The Long Island Farm Bureau secured a $500,000 grant from the governor’s regional economic council initiative to get the project off the ground.

The facility officially opened last year after the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals upheld a controversial town building department permit for the property in June in the face of concerns about potential traffic and noise. But its operations were slowed down.

One neighbor, Austin Warner, filed a lawsuit against the Riverhead ZBA, as well as Mr. King and his company, to overturn the ZBA’s decision, claiming the ZBA violated state open meetings law and allowed false information when making its approval decision, among other alleged violations. In February, a state Supreme Court judge sided with J. Kings and the town, saying Mr. Warner submitted “no proof that the ZBA broke the law.”

Though the facility remained open throughout the legal battles, it was unable to get up and running in time for last year’s harvest, said Jim Alessi, Grapes & Greens’ director of agricultural services.

“By the time we got things going it was already into the fall,” he said, “Now we’re in position and it’s paying off.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the facility is providing “critical” assistance for farmers to expand.

“You can’t be as large an agricultural area as eastern Suffolk is without having basic necessities met,” Mr. Walter said. “Processing and cold storage are two of those things.”

Still, many farmers aren’t using the facility just yet.

Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela said the plant’s potential advantages are slowly catching on with farmers.

“The word is starting to get out,” Mr. Gergela said, adding he expects more farmers to use the facility next year.

While the wine industry has already used the plant “extensively,” Mr. Gergela said, farmers will find the facility’s processing unit valuable now that new federal food quality regulations are being considered.

He estimates compliance with the regulations, which will set new standards for water quality, cleanliness and worker protection, would cost the average farmer about $30,000 in new equipment.

By storing their food at Grapes & Greens, farmers could avoid most of those costs, he said. In order to use the facility, farmers pay a one-time $300 fee to help offset costs incurred by the Farm Bureau in applying for the grant. Beyond that, farmers also pay a handling fee of $29 per pallet.

“As time goes on we expect the farmers are going to realize ‘Jeez, we can’t have all the special things the government wants us to’<\!q>” due to the costs, Mr. Gergela said, adding they will find a benefit in a shared facility.

As for food processing and packaging, Mr. King said the legal delays held up health department permits.

But Mr. King said he’s not entirely sure if the packaging component of Grapes & Greens will take off as originally envisioned.

J. Kings has been packaging food in Bay Shore, but found packaged produce didn’t sell on store shelves as well as company officials had hoped.

“Long Island produce is so much more expensive than other produce, so it’s kind of hard to package it,” Mr. King said.

But he’s not giving up on plans to add packaging operations to the Calverton facility, he said.

“It’s in our best interests to get this to work,” he said.

09/17/13 9:19am
09/17/2013 9:19 AM
JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | A detour is set up at Herricks Lane on Sound Avenue.

JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | A detour is set up at Herricks Lane on Sound Avenue.

Commuters backed up over the past couple of days on their way to work can breathe a sigh of relief on Wednesday morning, as Tuesday is expected to mark the end of a brief road resurfacing project on Sound Avenue.

Traffic was routed southbound on Herricks Lane this morning, down to Main Road where Riverhead police waved traffic through.

Drivers are suggested to use Main Road until the road opens back up. According to a Southold Highway Department deputy, the project – which included milling and repaving the road – has been running along as scheduled and the road should be back open on Wednesday.

08/27/13 10:00pm
08/27/2013 10:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead police detectives outside the Koppert Cress greenhouse on Horton Avenue Tuesday afternoon.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead police detectives outside the Koppert Cress greenhouse on Horton Avenue Tuesday afternoon.

A Laurel man was busted for growing marijuana at a Riverhead greenhouse Tuesday afternoon after Riverhead Town police and the East End Drug Task Force found more than 50 marijuana plants on the property, according to a Riverhead police statement.

Police searched the Koppert Cress greenhouse on the corner of Sound Avenue and Horton Avenue with a warrant and discovered 57 plants, as well as a box truck used to transport the plants, according to the statement. Some of the plants were discovered on the property, while others were found in the truck, police said.

All of the plants were in a “grown phase” and had not yet been harvested, police said.

Anton Van De Wetering, 43, of Laurel was arrested and charged with two counts of Unlicensed Growing of Canabis, a class “A” misdemeanor, according to the statement. Police said additional charges will be filed once the marijuana plants are analyzed and weighed by the Suffolk County Crime Lab.

Mr. Van de Wetering is the son of 82-year-old Peter Van de Wetering, who founded Van de Wetering Greenhouses in 1958. The greenhouses have produced the tulips that line Park Avenue for years, and the company was featured  in an April New York Times article.

The younger Van de Wetering, who was the longtime manager of Van de Wetering Greenhouses, is “no longer affiliated in any way with Van de Wetering Greenhouses,” said a company representative.

Anton Van de Wetering left the company over a year ago, the spokesman said.

While at the scene Tuesday afternoon, police Lt. David Lessard said authorities believed contraband was “brought onto the property.” Police later said the East End Drug Task Force received a tip from a confidential informant about the marijuana.

A man who answered the phone listed for the Koppert Cress company said he had “no idea what was going on” at the Sound Avenue greenhouse. Koppert Cress bought the property searched by police from the Talmage family in 2012.

The East End Drug Task Force is headed by the district attorney’s office and comprises law enforcement personnel from across the county’s five East End towns.

A Suffolk County police helicopter was called in to assist during the investigation and Riverhead police were seen walking through the parking lot of the greenhouse, with some patrol cars leaving and returning to the scene.

psquire@timesreview.com

08/20/13 5:00pm
08/20/2013 5:00 PM
COURTESY FILE PHOTO | Jerry and Fern Hill speaking to young women at the ranch named in honor of their son. The home will now house girls for the first time.

COURTESY FILE PHOTO | Jerry and Fern Hill speaking to young women at the ranch named in honor of their son. The ranch will now house girls for the first time.

More than 30 years after launching a program to house abused, neglected or otherwise troubled boys, Riverhead’s Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch opened its first home for girls Monday.

“From the very beginning we had hoped to have girls, but when we opened it was boys that we had and it didn’t seem like the right thing to do, to have the boys and girls on the same campus,” said Fern Hill, who founded the ranch with her husband, Jerry Hill, in 1980. “Through the years we’ve tried several different things and this one just kind of came to us.”

Located near Sound Avenue in Riverhead, the four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home is part of Timothy Hill’s new “Refine” program, which provides independent-style housing for young women between the ages of 17 and 21, said Kris Mannale, the house’s caretaker. Mr. Mannale lives in the house with his wife, Hannah, who is also a caretaker, and their 2-year-old daughter.

Yesterday two young women, ages 18 and 20, moved into the house, which the organization currently refers to as the “Sound Avenue Home,” Mr. Mannale said. Another young woman is expected to move in sometime next week.

“There’s been a need for a girls’ home for a long time and there definitely is a need for it right now,” Ms. Hill said.

Built in 1925, the former private residence was purchased in June and is surrounded by trees that appear to hide it from view. The bedrooms are designed to be shared and can accommodate up to four girls, Mr. Mannale said.

Similar to Timothy Hill’s independent living program for boys, girls at the Sound Avenue House are required to get a job, either on-campus or off, and must meet certain schooling requirements, Mr. Mannale said. They are permitted to have a car.

“I don’t know of any other girls’ programs being run the same way,” Mr. Mannale said. “I think when you look at the other independent living programs we have, the success rate is pretty phenomenal. When they leave, they’re people of character and able to hold down a job. They’ve been given vocational training and résumé building. It’s not just housing.”

Mr. Mannale said the young women at the Sound Avenue House are adjusting well to their new home.

“They’re great,” he said. “We love having them.”

ryoung@timesreview.com