Apparently, “Orange is the New Black” can’t get enough of the Riverhead area.
The Netflix series, which we previously reported had been seeking “scary-looking” extras for scenes at the Riverside jail, will likely be filming in downtown Riverhead later this week. (Read more on northforker.com)
A monumental hurdle was cleared in the effort to finally bring economic development to the Enterprise Park at Calverton. That hurdle came in the form of state legislation, passed in October, designed to fast-track development proposals for 600 subdivided acres of town land at the former Grumman site. Several EPCAL proposals have fallen apart in the past, usually because they found themselves in a jurisdictional purgatory among governments. This legislation should solve the problem. Though nothing was built this year, the work of state and local lawmakers, namely Sean Walter, Ken LaValle and Fred Thiele, should pay dividends later in the form of jobs and tax base.
Riverhead Town had set out to subdivide 800 acres of town-owned property at EPCAL, yet the subdivision map that’s been sketched out shows 600 acres that will be sold. The loss of 200 acres comes because the state Department of Environmental Conservation outlined land that could not be developed at EPCAL due to protected species. While we’re not about ruining sensitive habitats, the last we checked, preserving huge swaths of land usually involves some sort of financial transaction. If the state doesn’t want this acreage developed, it must compensate the town accordingly. The proceeds could help fund necessary sewer plant upgrades and other infrastructure improvements at the site.
Six years is an awfully long time for one community to house the county’s entire homeless sex offender population. In fact, it’s six years too long.
But we were happy to report this year that the homeless sex offender trailers in Riverside were finally moved and the sex offenders were placed in shelters across the county.
The trailer system was never a good idea and the county’s handling of the situation was appalling.
The only good that ever came of it was the day the trailers finally left.
The town gave away the store by granting developers of the Route 58 Costco project the OK to clear-cut an entire 41-acre property in 2013, including 11 acres in which there are no immediate plans to build. The measure saved the developers money but short-changed taxpayers $374,100 in fees on imported fill. The reason given by the developers was that they didn’t want to disturb neighbors twice (should they build more later). Somehow this argument held water with the Planning Board, which approved the site plan in 2012, and the Town Board, which granted an excavation permit this year. Neighbors in the Foxwood and Millbrook communities now enjoy views of sand pits and strings of small arborvitae.
The history of the Suffolk Theater is too long and fraught with ups and downs to fit into this space but in 2013, the art deco-style theater saw a big “up” as it reopened after years of effort from Bob and Dianne Castaldi.
In the wake of the opening of the theater, which has hosted events from concerts to comics to debates to psychics, a variety of other businesses have opened their doors in the area on Main Street — exactly the hope of many who awaited the theater’s return.
The Castaldis were named People of the Year by the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce for their efforts, with East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder calling the anchor site a “point of pride” for the town.
New York State has agreed to adopt high-stakes testing and controversial teacher evaluation systems tied to Common Core State Standards in exchange for a one-time installment of $700 million in federal Race to the Top grant money. That’s less than 3 percent of what the state spends in a single year on education, experts say. Hardly seems worth the money to tie ourselves to a system that, at best, may help already college-bound kids attend marginally better colleges but will likely cause at-risk youths, English language learners and students with disabilities to fail in school in even greater numbers. Since the overhaul wasn’t created by legislation, lawmakers can, and do, deflect blame.
The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce honored its 2013 “People of the Year” during its annual holiday party Thursday night. The event was held at the Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead.
Here’s what the chamber had to say about this year’s honorees and a remark from each of the winners:
Gold Key Award
Lisa and Richard Israel
Presenter Monique Gablenz: “All who know Richard know he is a very determined, straightforward, ‘Get it done’ kind of guy… and Lisa is a smart, personable, very hard-working woman with the same work ethic as Richard who happens to be married to him.”
Co-recipient Ike Israel: “I’ve been here for over 25 years. I’ve seen Riverhead grow to a great place, to where I think now we’ve become the center of commerce. I’ve met some great businesspeople all along the way who have always put their heart and soul into Riverhead.”
Business of the Year
Island International Industries
Presenter Tracy James: “In my position in the IDA and as president of the Chamber, I have a unique opportunity to get to know the many businesses in Riverhead in a more in-depth way. I’m proud to have these companies here putting Riverhead on the map across the world every day. Island Industries is one such company … we can only hope their continued success continues to put Riverhead on the map.”
Co-recipient Ed Harms: “We are thrilled to call the Town of Riverhead our partner. We’ve chosen to make you our partner. We feel that we actually truly do have one in the town of Riverhead. As such, we don’t plan on being shy on continuing to ask for continued support… we’re thrilled to be able to bring manufacturing back to Long Island, back to Calverton, and back to the Town of Riverhead where it once was and where Tim and I think it belongs.”
Co-recipient Timothy Stevens: “I think Ed summed it up pretty well but we are pretty grateful we found a lot here. What we have out here is every owner’s dream. Most of the large developers in the city were able to come out and actually witness their high-rise structures being fabricated in the Town of Riverhead and being locally shipped into the city and up north, to Boston.”
Persons of the Year
Dianne and Bob Castaldi
Presenter Pat Snyder: “Dianne and Bob Castaldi, thank you for bringing this extraordinary venue to downtown Riverhead. You have given downtown Riverhead a point of pride.”
Recipients Bob & Dianne Castaldi: “It was August of 2004 when Dianne saw a small ad in the Suffolk Times that the Suffolk Theater was for sale. I would never imagine that we would be standing here today. That one small ad has changed our lives forever. Downtown Riverhead has become our neighborhood, our hometown and our future. Standing here today, we see so many familiar faces that we can now call friends.”
Agricultural Achievement Award
Presenter Robert Bugdin: “I admire and respect John for having the fortitude to have started a venture like this. It’s interesting and satisfying to know that the whole craft beer process happens here on Long Island and, most importantly, in Riverhead.”
Recipient John Condzella: “I’d like to thank the Chamber of Commerce. There’s a lot of new and exciting things happening in agriculture here in Riverhead and I’m absolutely honored to have received this award. I’d like to thank my parents — my father for teaching me a lot about agriculture over the years. The brewing community out here has been extremely supportive of what I’ve been doing and I’m extremely happy to be part of that family now.”
Entrepreneurial Achievement Award
Stony Brook University Incubator at Calverton
Presenter Janine Nebons: “The Stony Brook Incubator is the hallmark of collaboration, and when businesses have an opportunity to participate and coordinating private and public partnership strategies their chance of long-term success is so greatly enhanced.”
Recipient Monique Gablenz: “Through the establishment of the Incubator with labs and equipment and now, most recently, the facilities and equipment for shared food processing, we are experiencing the birth and growth of many small businesses.”
Director of the Year
Presenter Carmela Ditalia: “While busy with her many roles as a farmer, educator and promoter, wife and mother, Debbie still found time to serve on the Board of Directors at the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce. Although soft spoken, she always offered her ideas and the board and the community benefited from those ideas.”
Recipient Deb Schmitt: “I would like to thank you for this award. It has been an honor being on the Chamber of Commerce and the people that worked with me and were on the board were exceptionally wonderful people. Like I said, it really was an honor to be a part of it and to learn.”
Presenter Angie Reese: “This year’s recipient started making a difference in 2011, when she started the organization ‘Riverhead, Move the Animal Shelter.’ She raised money with the goal of relocating the shelter from its current Youngs Avenue location. She has successfully and is still working toward establishing dog parks in Riverhead and in relocating the shelter.”
Recipient Denise Lucas: “Thank you everybody — my family, my friends, and the people that I roped into helping me… especially Fred McLaughlin, for the night I bothered you and knocked on your door and said ‘Would you please help me?’”
Spirit of Riverhead Award
Presenter Tom Lennon: “Several years ago, Denise and Peter went out on a big limb. They abandoned their professions and started what we now affectionately know as Riverhead Local with nothing more than an idea and a dream that they could bring out the best of Riverhead, whether it be with sports, news or photography. They have done a tremendous job doing that in three short years … they have shown what it means to bring out the best side of Riverhead.”
Recipient Denise Civiletti: “We talked about this before — how blessed are you when you can earn a living doing what you love? That’s what we’re doing and we want to say thank you very much for the kind words, thank you for the support, and thank you for the honor.”
The event was sponsored by:
Suffolk Primary Health
Stony Brook University
Skydive Long Island
Suffolk County National Bank
Email News-Review business reporter Rachel Young at email@example.com.
The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce will recognize select businesses, individuals and organizations that have made a considerable impact and notable contribution to the community throughout the year at its annual awards dinner on Thursday, Dec. 5.
The public is invited to attend the dinner, which will take place from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead. Tickets are $65 per person and can be obtained from Mary Hughes at (631) 727-7600 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
This year’s award recipients include:
• 2013 Persons of the Year: Dianne and Bob Castaldi of the Suffolk Theater
• 2013 Business of the Year: Island International Industries, Inc.
• 2013 Agricultural Achievement Award: John Condzella of Condzella Hops
• 2013 Gold Key Award: Lisa and Richard Israel of Richmond Realty
• 2013 Entrepreneurial Achievement Award: Stony Brook University’s Incubator at Calverton
• 2013 Spirit of Riverhead Award: Riverhead Local
• 2013 Community Appreciation Award: Denise Lucas of Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter
• 2013 Director of the Year: Debra Schmitt, member of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors
Roughly three months after Anna Maria Villa was hired as general manager of the Suffolk Theater, she and the theater have parted ways.
Bob Castaldi, who co-owns the theater with his wife, Dianne, said Ms. Villa, who was hired in July, no longer works at the theater as of today, Tuesday.
“We just have different visions of which direction this theater should move in,” Mr. Castaldi said of the split. “It was very amicable.”
Ms. Villa could not be immediately reached for comment.
When asked what direction the theater plans to move in, Mr. Castaldi said that was something he was evaluating “right now” and that theater officials are looking for a new general manager.
“We’ve got all our people and we’ve got a couple of meetings over the next few days,” Mr. Castaldi said. “We will find a new course if necessary.”
This is the second time in less than six months the Suffolk Theater has parted ways with a top executive. In August, after a year on the job, Bob Spiotto was released from his duties as the theater’s first executive director as part of a shift of focus from nightly events to larger, weekend events.
Prior to working at the theater, Ms. Villa was hired as the executive director of Riverhead’s Industrial Development Agency in August 2009, a position she held until September 2010, when the IDA board voted 4 — 1 to terminate her employment.
At the time, IDA chair Kathy Wojciechowski said the move was “not about Anna.”
“We decided to terminate the independent consultant agreement that we had with her and we’re going in another direction, which is to hire a full-time person,” Ms. Wojciechowski said in a 2010 interview.
The IDA offers a number of tax breaks and other incentives aimed at attracting businesses to the area. Its budget is entirely funded by feed paid by the businesses it assists.
Prior to working for the IDA, Ms. Villa, who was born in Italy and grew up in Rochester, N.Y., spent a few years running her own marketing and consulting firm, which developed marketing strategies and sales programs for small to mid-sized businesses and non-profit firms.
She has a degree in business and economics from Empire State College, and also worked as a disc jockey, a singer, a civil service investigator, as well as a television reporter in Italy.
Riverhead supervisor candidates Sean Walter, the incumbent Republican, and Angela DeVito, the challenging Democrat, took the stage on Thursday night at the Suffolk Theater for a debate co-sponsored by the Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLocal.
The two answered questions about downtown, Enterprise Park at Calverton, Route 58 and more, even getting the chance to ask each other a question during the debate.
Check out their responses recorded here. And check back with us to check out video from the town board debate.
Candidates answer questions individually tailored to them:
Candidates speak about their vision for EPCAL:
Candidates speak about their plans for avoiding a tax hike in coming years:
Candidates on their plans for downtown:
The gloves came off in the final debates between candidates for Riverhead Town Board Thursday night, with Democrats in general criticizing the incumbent Republicans for the clear-cutting at the Shops at Riverhead site, and Republicans accusing Democrats of not offering any solutions.
The candidates also jumped on one another with plenty of direct criticism and sprited, and at times raucous,back-and-forth exchanges.
The debate, called “Riverhead at a Crossroads,” was sponsored by Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLocal and held at the Suffolk Theatre.
The debate was divided into two segments, one with the council candidates — Republican incumbents Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy and Democratic challengers Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas — and one between the supervisor candidates, Republican incumbent Sean Walter and Democratic challenger Angela DeVito. Questions were asked by Michael White, News-Review editor, and Denise Civiletti, RiverheadLocal publisher, rather than from the audience.
Mr. Dunleavy was up first, and was asked whether it was a mistake to allow the clear-cutting of vegetation at the Costco/Shops at Riverhead development on Rout 58. The land clearing there infuriated residents in Foxwood Village, where Mr. Dunleavy lives, and Millbrook Community, a mobile home park east of the development.
At a previous debate, Mr. Dunleavy blamed a Foxwood Village resident who voluntarily monitored the development at Planning Board meetings for not knowing what he was doing. This time, he apologized to the people at Foxwood Village, and said there was no one to blame.
“I didn’t know they were going to clear-cut the whole shopping center,” Mr. Dunleavy said. But he added that the evergreen buffer the developer is required to build will fix the problem.
But Mr. Bianchi specified Mr. Dunleavy for criticism on several occasions.
“He’s saying everything is great, when his own supervisor is saying we are headed for financial disaster. Maybe the problem is [the current board members] don’t know what’s going on,” Mr. Bianchi said. “We have some council people who are not even here in the winter, they are in Florida,” he said.
“If you’re not going to be at the meetings, then resign from the board,” Mr. Bianchi said.
“I didn’t miss a meeting,” Mr. Dunleavy said, referring to his spending a month in Florida two years ago. “I flew back here for every Town Board meeting.”
Mr. Bianchi pointed out that Mr. Dunleavy missed a meeting on Oct. 16, when Mr. Dunleavy was on a cruise to celebrate his anniversary and his wife’s birthday.
“I’m allowed to take a vacation,” Mr. Dunleavy responded, indicating he took two weeks off this year.
Later in the debate, Mr. Dunleavy brought up the issue of property Mr. Bianchi owned in Patchogue where the state claims a Bianchi family-owned operation there contaminated the soil with pesticides in a greenhouse business.
The property is listed as a state Superfund site.
“I wasn’t going to bring this up,” Mr. Dunleavy said, even though he was waiving documents about it in his hand.
He said he mentioned the Superfund site because Mr. Bianchi was being negative.
Mr. Bianchi said his family owned that land until the early 1990s and a pesticide used to kill termites was legal when they applied it, but it was later was made illegal by the state due to its affects on groundwater.
Candidates also battled on financial issues. Republicans said they have cut spending, and that when the Enterprise Park at Calverton is subdivided, they will be able to derive revenue from land sales there, which will stave off tax increases.
Democrats said that while the EPCAL fast track bill has been approved and the subdivision is nearing completion, the EPCAL buildout is still expected to take more than 10 years and the town will still need to spend more than $20 million on infrastructure and sewer improvements at EPCAL.
With town reserve funds set to run out in the next two years, there still is no guaranteed revenue for the next two years to stave off a potentially big tax increase that Mr. Walter and town auditors have warned about, Ms. DeVito said.
She repeatedly said the town should petition the county for a portion of the county-collected sales tax, since a chunk of it comes from Riverhead stores.
“I mentioned that to [County Executive] Steve Bellone and he laughed,” Mr. Walter said. “There’s no way the county is going to allow that. The county’s entire budget is balanced on the sale tax.”
“Saying you talked to Steve Bellone and ‘he said this,’ that’s not a final answer,” Ms. DeVito said. “You have to pursue it a little more.”
Ms. DeVito was critical of Mr. Walter’s statement that the town might have to borrow against the land at EPCAL to borrow money to lower tax increases. She asked him how he would raise revenue in the next two years to avoid a giant tax hike.
Mr. Walter said that is the most difficult question facing the town now. He agreed that mortgaging land at EPCAL “is probably the worst thing we could do, but it might buy us time.”
The supervisor has said the town could face a 20 percent tax increase in the future if it has no reserves to offset spending.
Another proposal the supervisor suggested was working with Governor Andrew Cuomo to find an “equity partner” who would provide financing for construction projects, and would get a piece of whatever profit it derived from sales at EPCAL.
Mr. Walter said that despite the public bickering and fighting among the all-Republican Town Board members, they are still “getting the job done.”
He said the board has helped bring new businesses to downtown, including the Suffolk Theatre, and proposed the legislation signed by the governor on Thursday designed to fast track development proposals at EPCAL.
Mr. Walter also questioned Ms. DeVito’s level of commitment, saying she “quit” the Riverhead school board.
Ms. DeVito answered that she stepped down from that board after three years in part because her mother — for whom she had been caring for — had been slowly dying during that time, and Ms. DeVito felt she was no longer “functional.”
Had something similar happened when she was town supervisor, she said, “I would step down again…rather than filling space for the sake of filling space.”
Mr. Walter later said there are many pressures involved in being supervisor, and he watched his own mother slowly die while he was in office in 2012.
“Being supervisor takes a toll,” Mr. Walter said. “2011 to 2012 was probably the worst year of my life.”
Ms. DeVito said she’s dealt with stressful issues while in leadership positions in the past, including the death of a child, and had not stepped down.
On the issue of downtown, Ms. DeVito said there are still issues with drug dealing and prostitution, and despite all the efforts, it’s still not a place to bring families.
“Angela, you talk a good game but you just said nothing,” Mr. Walter responded. “Main Street has more police presence that any area in town.”
He said when he took office, the Casa Rica restaurant was still open and was the scene of a number of violent incidents. He said it took his administration six months to get it closed, but they eventually got it closed.
Ms. DeVito at one point accused the supervisor of making fun of her, and said his answers to questions were cavalier and sarcastic. Mr. Walter said he wasn’t making fun of her — that he just had better answers — and was sorry she felt that way.
The supervisor said that during Ms. DeVitos’s tenure on the Riverhead School Board, the district spent two-and-a-half times the rate of inflation, and also proposed a $120 million bond that was rejected by voters.
Ms. DeVito countered that the school board instituted a spending cap when she was on it.
Ms. Thomas touted her experience owning a Real Estate business in Wading River and she was able to get that business through the crisis of the economic downtown without laying off any employees.
Among some of the specific questions asked of candidates, on the question of whether site plan authority should be taken away from the Planning Board and given back to the Town Board, which had that authority prior to 2006, only Mr. Bianchi said he favored doing so, among the council candidates.
“They are doing a great job other than one slight mistake,” Mr. Dunleavy said of the Planning Board, and in reference to the clear-cutting at the Costco site.
The supervisor candidates were not asked that question.
As for whether the town should update its entire master plan, Ms. Thomas and Mr. Bianchi both said it should be “tweaked” but not overhauled.
Mr. Dunleavy said he would want to get feedback from the public on that issue and Ms. Giglio said she thinks the 2003 master plan is “working very well” now, and has greatly reduced the maximum possible population of the town.
Ms. Thomas said the town is “broke” and needs to find grants or other revenue sources to offset spending. She said EPCAL has infrastructure problems that will be very costly. On the Costco site, she said the incumbents “totally dropped the ball,” and she believes the Town Board should have more interaction with the Planning Board on proposals. The current Town Board is “pro-development,” she said.
“This Town Board is very pro-active in listening to the community,” Ms. Giglio responded. It adopted new rules to require public hearings on commercial site plan applications, which was never done in the past, and is now requiring 50-foot buffers between homes and large commercial developments. She said the Town Board cannot “impose its will” on the Planning Board.
Mr. Dunleavy and Ms. Giglio frequently said their opponents identify problems but give no solutions.
Ms. Giglo was asked about her failure to get building permits and certificates of occupancies for expansions on her own home for several years and said she now has those permits, and is willing to pay the additional taxes she wasn’t assessed for on these additions over that years, a figure she estimates at about $10,000.
“It was a big mistake,” she said of not getting the permits. “I put it on the back burner and forgot about it” while attending to business and town matters.
In their closing statements, Mr. Dunleavy said he was on the board that negotiated a contract with Riverhead Resorts that brought the town $7.5 million, even though the land was never sold or developed, and that he has also negotiated cell tower leases that have brought revenue to the town.
Ms. Thomas said she’s a business person and not a politician and noted she’s been in leadership positions with the Long Island Board of Realtors.
Ms. Giglio said she has been mindful of taxpayers and has found innovative ways to help taxpayers, such as by calling for the rebidding of the town garbage collection contract, which saved $2 million, as the board liaison on garbage issues.
Mr. Bianchi, who was a state assemblyman for 22 years when he lived in the Bellport area, said it was necessary to work with both parties in that role and the same is true in the town. He again criticized Mr. Dunleavy, this time for leaving a press conference in Wading River earlier this year because the Democratic candidates were there.
“I’ve never in my life heard anything like that before,” Mr. Bianchi said.
Mr. Dunleavy did not get a change to respond to that, but in an interview on WRIV radio the next morning, he called the debate a “John Dunleavy bashing” session and described Mr. Bianchi as “nasty.”