04/13/13 12:00pm
04/13/2013 12:00 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO |  Steve Scerri, vice president of New Beginnings Community Center in Medford,  urges the Riverhead ZBA to approve the group's proposal to build a home for people with traumatic brain injuries on Sound Avenue.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Steve Scerri, vice president of New Beginnings Community Center in Medford, urges the Riverhead ZBA to approve the group’s proposal to build a home for people with traumatic brain injuries on Sound Avenue.

New Beginnings Community Center’s proposal to create a home for victims of traumatic brain injuries in Riverhead needs an interpretation from the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals as to whether it is a permitted use, because town code doesn’t specifically mention that type of facility anywhere.

New Beginnings in Riverhead

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | The New Beginnings Brendan House site on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

Group respresentatives appeared before the ZBA on Thursday, and will have to appear again on April 25, as ZBA members asked for more information about what type of uses were allowed in the large colonial house on Sound Avenue, in which New Beginnings hopes to build.

New Beginnings is looking to convert the vacant house at 4079 Sound Avenue into a facility that will be named Brendon House, after Brendan Aykroyd of Blue Point, who died at the age of 25 from injuries sustained through a traumatic brain injury two years earlier.

Brendan’s parents, Sandra and Marshall Aykroyd, attended Thursday’s ZBA meeting in Riverhead Town Hall.

The group is planning to renovate the building to house four brain-injured patients, either veterans or civilians, New Beginnings vice president, Steve Scerri, explained to ZBA members. The center will be staffed with aides working around the clock to ensure the patients are fed and take their medication, although the aides will work in shifts and not actually live in the home, he said.

New Beginnings also plans to convert a separate building on the property into a home for a “house mother,” who will live in that home and will manage the facility and fill in when an aide can’t make it to work, Mr. Scerri said.

Michael Hubbard, the Riverhead youth who was badly burned by a gel candle explosion in May of 2011 and suffered brain damage after his heart stopped beating for a short time, is expected to live in Brendan House once it opens. Because there is no such facility locally, he has been staying in an upstate hospital with his mother, Nancy Reyer, by his side the whole time sine the accident.

ZBA attorney Scott DeSimone and ZBA members wanted more specifics, particularly about what was on the property before it was donated to New Beginnings, and when was the second building built, and for what purpose.

Mr. Scerri said he didn’t know when the second building was built, although he believes it was at least eight years ago.

Richard Reeve, who owns a farmstead across the street from the proposed center, was also in attendance Thursday night.

He said the second building was originally a shed that was renovated into an apartment by the previous owner about two years ago. He said the shed wasn’t there in 2004. Mr. Reeve said he believes the proposed facility is “good endeavor” but warned the New Beginnings representaties that the building is in the middle of an agricultural area — and that there will be noise.

ZBA member Leroy Barnes said he wanted to see the building department and assessment records for the property before making a decision.

The ZBA adjourned the hearing to their April 25 meeting.

Alysson Scerri, president of New Beginnings and the wife of Steve Scerri, said she got involved in New Beginnings about two years ago, when her father suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident.

“I saw the debilitating effect it has on families,” she told the ZBA members. ”When I work at the center, on a daily basis, I see a lot of parents who struggle with the thought that, if something happens to them, what happens to their loved one?”

New Beginnings Community Center provides office space specifically designated for individuals or groups committed to providing treatment to individuals with traumatic brain injuries and other similar disabilities.

Sandra Aykroyd said her son was blind-sided with a punch in 2009 that severed an artery and left him unconscious with a fractured skull.

He spent 71 days in an upstate hospital, and then continued his rehabilitation in New Beginnings when he came back home. He had been working with the group but still had seizures, never drove a car again and lost his independence.

On June 16, 2012, she said, he died suddenly.

“I can’t say enough about what New Beginnings has done for him and what is has done for us as a family and what it has done for community of survivors of traumatic brain injuries,” she told the ZBA. “It changes lives forever.”

Ms. Aykroyd said the proposed home will give its residents the sense of independence, hope and freedom they lost when they suffered their traumatic brain injuries.

“I thank you for the consideration of this project and I ask that you think about traumatic brain injuries, reach out and find out a little bit about it and look into your hearts before you make a decision,” she told the board.


04/12/13 8:00am
04/12/2013 8:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | With parishoners Mary Ann Musumeci of Middle Island (left) and Rita Allen of Jamesport, Pastor Dianne Rodriguez lights altar candles during First Parish Chruch’s first service at Grange Hall.

First Parish Church in Northville is getting a new lease on life thanks to a new tenant dedicated to preserving the building’s rich history.

On Sunday, April 7, Community Baptist Church began holding services at the 109-year-old church. The congregation finalized a lease agreement last week with United Church of Christ, which owns and maintains First Parish Church, located at the corner of Church Lane and Sound Avenue.

Dwindling membership and finances almost caused First Parish to shut its doors for good.

The lease agreement gives the small UCC parish the freedom to hold services without the financial burden. The UCC congregation now meets at Grange Hall, another historic First Parish-owned building, directly across Sound Avenue.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | The outside of First Parish Church in Northville.

Community Baptist Church Pastor Joshua Fryman called the lease agreement a blessing. He described the two-year-old congregation as an independent group unaffiliated with any religious organization. Before renting First Parish Church, Community Baptist didn’t have a house of worship to call its own. Instead, members gathered for services in the basement of Polish Hall in Riverhead and later moved their Sunday services to Grace Episcopal Church in Riverhead.

“I told our folks we really needed to pray for a building because I don’t want to be the nomadic Baptist church.” Pastor Fryman said. “I want to find a place to put our roots down. Most of our folks come from the North Fork, so it’s been a blessing.”

One of the features that drew Pastor Fryman to the church is the building’s dynamic history. First Parish Church dates back to 1829, when the parishioners of Old Steeple Church in Aquebogue split from that congregation after deciding it did not follow the Bible’s teachings closely enough. From that, the Strict Congregational Church was born. It held services at Grange Hall until 1831, when the first church building was constructed.

The church was rebuilt twice due to fire. In 1877, a disgruntled former minister burned the building to the ground, according to Riverhead historian Richard Wines. It was destroyed by fire again in 1901, when the church steeple was struck by lightning.

With the support of wealthy local farmers and other parishioners, the current church was completed in 1904. The building was modeled after the Cleveland design plan, which was popular in the 1900s and emphasized asymmetry, Mr. Wines said. Decorated with richly colored stained glass and oak pews, the church boasts one of the oldest working organs on Long Island. The Hook & Hook organ is one of two in working condition on the North Fork, Mr. Wines said. The other is at Orient United Methodist Church.

Up until 1957, the church was known as Sound Avenue Congregational Church. At that time Protestants seeking spiritual and political freedom divided branches of Christ’s church, resulting in the formation of United Church of Christ.

While the UCC started strong in Northville with more than 50 members, parishioners have slowly trailed off, according to First Parish Pastor Dianne Rodriguez. The farmers who once helped finance the church have dispersed, Mr. Wines said, leaving the church without its core following. Pastor Rodriguez says the UCC in Northville has about 15 parishioners.

But the congregation will still have a presence in the iconic church, the pastor said. Community Baptist Church has agreed to allow First Parish to hold special events there, such as weddings.

Community Baptist Church will hold a community day Sunday, May 5, at 11 a.m. to introduce the church and building to the public.


03/24/13 12:00pm
03/24/2013 12:00 PM
Riverhead New Beginnings

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | New Beginnings Brendan House on Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

It’s been more than a year since New Beginnings Community Center announced plans to build a group home on Sound Avenue for people with traumatic brain injuries who need long-term care but are too young for nursing homes.

And although a storm-packed fall and winter slowed down fundraising, the effort is still going strong, said the group’s founder.

“Not only are we raising money to put the house up but we’re educating people as well,” said Allyson Scerri, who founded New Beginnings, a Medford-based outpatient center, in 2011 after her father suffered a traumatic brain injury in a motorcycle accident.

Help with renovating the house was redirected due to storm cleanup, she said.

“A lot of our volunteers had prior commitments because of the storm, but I feel that we’re back on track now,” Ms. Scerri said. “I feel like finally now after this long winter we can really get refocused and just plunge right through and get the building up.”

The group has raised $35,000 of the roughly $250,000 needed to renovate the house, a two-story home on Sound Avenue that once served as a refuge for single mothers.

When completed, the 12-bed Brendan House will offer round-the-clock nursing care for those with traumatic brain injuries or other cognitive and physical disabilities as they make their recoveries and learn to live with their conditions.

Michael Hubbard, the Riverhead teen who suffered brain damage after a gel candle explosion two years ago and has since been recovering in an upstate children’s hospital, will be one resident of the home, she said.

Speaking at a meeting last August at the group’s Medford location, Michael’s mother, Nancy Reyer, said the house would be an answer to her prayers. “It’s nothing but the grace of God that Brendan House is going to be two miles away from where I live,” Ms. Reyer said. “If this is not God in the works, I don’t know what is.”

The home will be named in honor of Brendan Aykroyd, a 25-year-old Blue Point man who suffered a brain injury in a 2009 assault. Mr. Aykroyd joined New Beginnings in 2011 for rehabilitation, but he died in his sleep last June.

The group originally planned to open the home this coming June, but Ms. Scerri said they are now shooting for an August grand opening.

While it appears the group has a ways to go to reach its funding goal, Ms. Scerri said the target price tag will likely be much lower thanks to donations of supplies from companies like Home Depot that cut down on construction and renovation costs.

New Beginnings has also gotten support from Riverhead residents. A fundraising drive was held at River-head High School, and Riverhead Rotary Club members have also worked to raise money for the cause.

“The community’s wonderful,” Ms. Scerri said. “Nancy [Reyer] is out there working hard for Michael.”

Ms. Scerri said the town government, specifically the zoning department, has also helped move the project along.

“They’re doing everything in their power to get the permit to us as fast as possible,” she said.

For more information about Bren-dan House, including how to donate, visit the New Beginnings website.


01/17/13 9:50am
01/17/2013 9:50 AM

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilman Jodi Giglio debated at Thursday’s work session the merits of applying to bring a Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control center to town land in Calverton.

Ms. Giglio suggested bringing the facility to the Enterprise Park at Calverton, while Mr. Walter favored keeping it at Islip/MacArthur so it doesn’t leave Long Island entirely.

The board eventually sided with Ms. Giglio.

The FAA is seeking to build a new facility that will replace the aging air traffic control facilities in Ronkonkoma and Westbury with one that would serve as a state-of-the-art regional air traffic control center.

The FAA wants to locate the regional facility within 150 miles of New York City, and while the Islip airport is one of the sites being considered.

“It’s perfect for EPCAL,” Councilman Jim Wooten said.

Mr. Walter said the Town Board should at least have Islip Supervisor Tom Croci come to the Riverhead board 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 to the last minute on applications like this.

Mr. Walter ultimately agreed and directed town Community Development Agency director Chris Kempner to prepare a proposal to bring the facility to EPCAL.

Also at the meeting, the board also did not give the go-ahead to Justin Purchasing’s plan to import shredded wood from Nassau County to its Sound Avenue farm to be turned into mulch, despite a favorable opinion from the town’s agricultural advisory committee.

Instead, the board now wants the county soil and water conservation board to determine whether the land can handle the volume of material the applicant seeks to bring in.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon reported live from the meeting.

Click below to see what else happened:


Riverhead Work Session agenda 01-17-2013 by rnews_review

12/29/12 5:00pm
12/29/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The stop work order at 4166 Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

A Sound Avenue farm owner is seeking permission from the Riverhead Town Board to import between 125,000 and 150,000 cubic yards of wood chips in order to further shred them and allow them to decompose over a six to 18 month period.

The applicant, Justin Purchasing Corp, is seeking to bring the wood chips to a 41-acre farm it owns on 4166 Sound Avenue in Riverhead.

Town officials said the company had been importing the wood chips from a Nassau County-owned facility in Eisenhower Park that processed debris from superstore Sandy when the town issued a stop-work order on Dec. 16, claiming the work was being done without permits from the town, according to Supervisor Sean Walter.

Mr. Walter said he further contacted the office of Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano to notify them that the company did not have town permits, and Nassau County then cut off “their supply” of wood chips.

Now, Justin Purchasing Corp is seeking an exemption from the Town Board from the chapter of the Town Code dealing with importation or materials, according to Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.

“They are arguing that under Chapter 62 (which deals with importation), they are exempt due to the agricultural nature of what they are looking to do,” Mr Kozakiewicz said.

Mary Hartill, an attorney representing Justin Purchasing Corp, said the material is monitored by the state Department of Environmental Conservation at the Nassau County end to ensure that it is clean, and it is followed to its ultimate destination by a GPS tracker installed by the DEC.

Ms. Hartill said Justin Purchasing, which is headed by Kristian Agoglia of Huntington, assumed it was exempt from requiring a permit when it previously began importing the material, and had gone before the town’s farmland select committee and spoke to a deputy town attorney prior to beginning.

“They thought they had covered all their bases,” she said.

Ms. Hartill said the Agoglia family had owned the land for many years and farmed it. It is currently leased to a farmer, she said.  Kristian Agoglia is also the president of Looks Great Services, a landscaping company that stores equipment on the Sound Avenue property.

Chapter 62 states that an owner or lessee engaged in agricultural production, “seeking to remove soil or import material related to or incidental to the harvesting of crops or such other agricultural production shall be exempt from Chapter 62.”

“We’re not convinced that it is agricultural,” Mr. Kozakiewicz said.

“If they are bringing in limited amounts to supplement the soils on that farm, that’s agricultural,” Mr. Walter said. “If they are doing more than that, that’s not necessarily agricultural. That may be commercial processing and would need site plan approval.”

While the Town Board will ultimately decide if that’s the case, the Town Board on Thursday referred the application to the town Agricultural Advisory Committee for their opinion, which would be advisory only.

The Agricultural Advisory Committee next meets Jan. 14.

Justin Purchasing’s application describes what they are seeking to do as the following: “Importation of approximately 125,000 to 150,000 cubic yards of wood chips which will be reduced by shredding to approximately one-inch (or less) on the premises. The material will be further reduced in volume during the decomposition process, over a six to 18-month period.

“DEC guidelines for mulching will be followed. The end product of 40,000 to 50,000 cubic yards of top soil will be used as a supplement to the (existing) soil.”

Mr. Kozakiewicz said Justin Purchasing has acknowledged that they have already imported about 27,000 cubic yards of wood chips onto the Sound Avenue site.


11/17/12 11:26am
11/17/2012 11:26 AM

More than seven hours after a Riverhead man who police said was driving drunk took out a utility pole in Baiting Hollow early Saturday morning a portion of Sound Avenue remained closed to traffic as the town awaits the arrival of a LIPA repair crew, police said.

Police charged Robert Weber, 26, with driving while intoxicated, according to the department. Mr. Weber was alone in the vehicle when it hit the pole at 3:30 a.m., said police. He was taken to police headquarters and held for arraignment.

Late Saturday morning Sound Avenue remained closed between Edwards and Fresh Pond Avenues with traffic diverted to Middle Country Road, said police.

10/03/12 8:00am
10/03/2012 8:00 AM
Northville, Riverhead

BARBARBAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A lawyer for A Taste of Country in Northville said his client will appeal a judge’s decision barring them certain food offerings.

A state Supreme Court judge last week ruled the owners of A Taste of Country in Northville cannot operate a deli or takeout restaurant on their Sound Avenue property.

More specifically, they can’t prepare or sell hot food, cold short-order foods such as sandwiches, or cooked-to-order food or catered foods.

Riverhead Town took the business to court in 2010, claiming that it’s certificate of occupancy is for a farm stand, and that the above mentioned uses are not permitted but were being done on the site.

The property is owned by John Reeve Jr. and his wife, Renee, and is located on 1.8 acres on the north side of Sound Avenue. The Reeves rent the property to a tenant, who runs the store.

Mr. Reeve’s father is the town’s longtime sanitation supervisor.

The town code allows farms to sell homemade or homegrown products on a parcel of land that’s at least seven acres, and allows farmsteads to sell “supporting farm products or products not grown by the farmer,” so long as these products make up less than 40 percent of the merchandising area.

“It is not being operated as a farm stand, but as a restaurant in violation of the Riverhead Town Code,” the Sept. 20 ruling by state Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Emerson states.

While the judge issued what’s called a summary judgement — meaning no trial was required — ruling on the farm stand issue, she declined to do so on a second issue the town challenged the Reeves on that deals with a farm workers’ house that’s also on the property in question. That issue will go to trial.

The property is located in a zone that allows minimum two-acre residential lots, as well as agricultural and other uses.

The town, which had granted a permit for the farm stand in 2002, claims the building was initially operated as a farm stand selling homemade baked goods, farm-raised fruits and vegetables and cooked foods such as eggs when Renee Reeve operated the store prior to 2009, but since it has been leased to a tenant, it has operated as a delicatessen and then as a Mexican restaurant and no longer sells farm products.

“It’s not a final determination, there’s still a trial to be had on some of the issues,” said John Ciarelli, an attorney for Taste of Country. “We’re going to comply with the court order (in the interim), But there’s a trial coming up and we’re going to vigorously defend our rights.

“The town ordinance is ambiguous. The Reeves also have some pre-existing rights, and there are other people serving hot food in the other areas along Sound Avenue. I don’t think there’s a different between what other farmsteads are selling and what Taste of Country is selling.”

He said his client will appeal the ruling on the farm stand.

The farm worker house was permitted by the Zoning Board of Appeals in 2005 on the condition that the Reeves actively farm at least five acres within three miles of the property and that they submit proof of that to the ZBA annually. The town claimed the Reeves failed to do so on an annual basis and had a relative living in the house instead of a farm worker at one point.


10/01/12 4:00pm
10/01/2012 4:00 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | John Scorzelli Jr. with his children Odin, 9, and Honor, 7, and wife Maria.

The Reeves Park father of two who died in a car accident on Sound Avenue Saturday morning was “born to be a husband and a father,” mourning family members said Monday.

“His family was so important to him,” said sister-in-law Sonia Montalbano. “It wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about material things. It was about family.”

John Scorzelli Jr., 46, was killed when the 2006 Mazda sedan he was driving collided with a 2005 KIA SUV just east of Horton Avenue about 12:30 a.m., Riverhead police said.

Witnesses said the eastbound Mazda appeared to have lost control going around a curve in the road and crossed into the westbound lane going sideways, directly into the path of the KIA traveling west.

Mr. Scorzelli was treated at the scene by Riverhead ambulance volunteers and transported to Peconic Bay Medical Center, but later died of his injuries, police said.

The operator of the Kia, Lia Fallon, 43, of Port Jefferson, was not seriously injured, according to a police statement.

Ms. Fallon is the executive chef and owner of Amarelle across from the Duck Ponds in Wading River and Bistro 72 at the Hotel Indigo in Riverhead; she was released from the hospital Saturday.

There were no charges issued as a result of the accident, police said. The detective investigating the cause of the accident could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Scorzelli was a devoted family man, his wife Maria said. He worked two jobs as a physician’s assistant at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital and at a sleep apnea center in Smithtown so she could spend more time with their two children: Odin, 9, and Honor, who turns 8 years old next week.

Mr. Scorzelli would play lacrosse with Honor and spend time looking for garter snakes and turtles in the woods with Odin, the family said.

“He was a really great guy … he really was,” Ms. Scorzelli said, holding Honor in her arms. “I think that’s why he left so quickly. He did all he was put here to do.”

The wake for Mr. Scorzelli will be held tonight at the McLauglin Heppner Funeral Home on Marcy Avenue in Riverhead from 7 to 9 p.m. and on Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m.

A funeral mass will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at St. John the Evangelist in Riverhead.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Scorzelli Children Education Fund. Information about how to donate to the Fund will be made available at the wake Monday evening.

Read more about John Scorzelli Jr. in this Thursday’s edition of the Riverhead News-Review.