10/29/13 1:15pm
10/29/2013 1:15 PM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The Suffolk Theater's grand ballroom during its grand re-opening gala in March.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The Suffolk Theater’s grand ballroom during its grand re-opening gala in March. Anna Maria Villa was hired as GM in July.

Roughly three months after Anna Maria Villa was hired as general manager of the Suffolk Theater, she and the theater have parted ways.

Anna Maria Villa

Anna Maria Villa

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.


10/25/13 12:51pm
10/25/2013 12:51 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sean Walter and Angela DeVito on the Suffolk Theater stage.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sean Walter and Angela DeVito on the Suffolk Theater stage.

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: 

Closing statements: 

10/25/13 12:42pm
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sean Walter and Angela DeVito on the Suffolk Theater stage.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sean Walter and Angela DeVito on the Suffolk Theater stage.

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.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Dunleavy, Millie Thomas, Jodi Giglio and Bill Bianchi.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | John Dunleavy, Millie Thomas, Jodi Giglio and Bill Bianchi.

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.”


10/24/13 6:45pm
10/24/2013 6:45 PM
Suffolk Theater in Riverhead

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The historic Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead.

The News-Review reported live from tonight’s political debates between six candidates seeking three open seats on the Riverhead Town Board, including the supervisor seat.

The first debate featured incumbent Republican Town council candidates John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio against Democratic council challengers Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas. That was followed by incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter facing off against Democratic challenger Angela DeVito.

Click below to follow a recap:

10/23/13 3:00pm
10/23/2013 3:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater on East Main Street will be the site for another round of political debates Oct. 24.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The Suffolk Theater on East Main Street will be the site for another round of political debates Oct. 24.

The Riverhead News-Review and Riverheadlocal.com media outlets are getting set to host their second night of town political debates Thursday at the Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead.

The debates start at 7 p.m. and run until about 9 p.m. The theater’s doors open at 5 p.m. and the bar and restaurant will be open at that time, but shut down during the debates.

There will be two separate debates Thursday, with the first featuring incumbent Republican Town council Candidates John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio against Democratic council challengers Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas. That will be followed by incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter facing off against Democratic challenger Angela DeVito.

There are three Town Board positions up for grabs in the at-large election Nov. 5, the supervisor seat and two council seats.

The debates will be co-moderated by Riverheadlocal editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

The first political debate event was held Aug. 26 and featured Republican, Democratic and Independence primary candidates for town council and town supervisor. More than 200 people crowded the Suffolk Theater for that event.

“After the success of primary debate, we’re now even more excited to co-host this event featuring the six general election candidates,” said Times/Review Newsgroup executive editor Grant Parpan. “The professional staff at the Suffolk Theater did a great job in setting the stage and I know a lot of people in town are looking forward to this next round of debates, as are we.”

“These debates give the public the opportunity to learn where the candidates stand on important local issues,” Ms. Civiletti said. “We’re happy to partner again with the News-Review to sponsor the debates. An informed electorate is at the very heart of the democratic process.”

All questions for the debates will be written in advance by the two moderators and the candidates will be given time to make closing statements. There will be no questions from the floor. No outside video recording of the event is allowed.

There is a suggested $5 donation at the door, with all proceeds going to support the nonprofit New Beginnings’ effort to build the Brendan House facility on Sound Avenue, which will provide 24-hour care for young adults with brain injuries.

The first debate event raised $1,045 for Brendan House.

09/02/13 12:00pm
09/02/2013 12:00 PM

East End Arts will present ‘Art Means Business,’ a seminar and networking party, from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, at the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead. Business owners, artists, government officials, arts and nonprofit organizations and the public are invited to attend.

The keynote speaker is Michelle Isabelle-Stark, director of film and cultural affairs for the Suffolk County Department of Economic Development. She’ll talk about “Destination Downtown,” the county’s marketing campaign aimed at promoting small businesses, business districts and historic downtowns.

A panel discussion on ways for small businesses to partner with the arts will be moderated by Citibank business banker Jim Cairo. Panelists will include Baiting Hollow Vineyard owner Paula Geonie; Michael Mahon, owner of 73 Main in Riverhead; The Riverhead Project owner Dennis McDermott ; Ron Rothman, owner of Rothman’s Department Store in Southold; and Ann Vandenburgh, co-owner and art curator of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company.

Tickets are $25 in advance for East End Arts and Riverhead Chamber of Commerce members; $30 in advance for nonmembers; and $35 at the door.

08/27/13 11:27am
08/27/2013 11:27 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio at Monday's debate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | (L-R) Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

Republican council candidates Jodi Giglio and Anthony Coates both called into question each other’s backgrounds during Monday night’s Riverhead Town primary debates at the Suffolk Theater.

This while Councilman John Dunleavy sat in between the two bitter rivals.

At one point, Mr. Dunleavy expressed gratitude that he didn’t have to get involved in the dispute, providing a moment of levity for a crowd of more than 200 people.

Mr. Dunleavy did, however, criticize some of his neighbors and management at the Foxwood Village community, while explaining his vote to allow the developer of a Costco-anchored shopping center  to clear trees right up the property line of the retirement community where he lives.

The debate, entitled “Riverhead at the Crossroads,” was sponsored and moderated by the local media outlets Riverhead News-Review and RiverheadLOCAL.com.

RELATED: See the entire video of Monday night’s debate

In the Republican primary, incumbent party designees Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy are facing a challenge from Mr. Coates for two available seats in an at-large election.

Mr. Coates, who has been a political adviser to incumbent Republican supervisor Sean Walter, said he “is running to bring a new voice” to the board. Mr. Coates has endorsed Mr. Dunleavy’s candidacy, and has been critical of Ms. Giglio.

Ms. Giglio has claimed — and said again at Monday night’s debate — that Mr. Coates, who changed his registration from Democrat to Republican last year, turned against her only after she voted against appointing him to a “legislative secretary” position proposed by Mr. Walter in March 2012.

Mr. Coates would have gotten paid $65,000 for one year to help lobby the state on issues at town land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton (EPCAL). In her closing statements, she called Mr. Coates “obsessed” and said his campaign blog mentions her 15 times while rarely mentioning important issues like jobs, taxes and public safety.

Mr. Coates said he did the EPCAL job voluntarily even after he wasn’t hired, making trips to Albany with Ms. Walter to lobby state officials on proposed, EPCAL-related legislation

Ms. Giglio claimed it wasn’t until the town hired former congressman George Hochbrueckner to lobby on EPCAL issues that “results started to happen.”

Ms. Giglio was asked about her permit expediter business, and whether she’d be willing to disclose her clients.

“Absolutely,” Ms. Giglio responded. The town requires officials to file a disclosure statement in March and that lists “all of my business affiliations,” she said.  Ms. Giglio said she has recused herself on any vote involving a former client, and that she is not doing any expeditor business in Riverhead Town.

“That’s just not accurate,” Mr. Coates said. “Your disclosure statement is a piece of swiss cheese. It says nothing.”

He said Ms. Giglio has voted for proposals involving Ray Dickhoff and Martin Sendlewski, who are her partners in the Summerwind Square county-subsidized affordable apartments and retail project on Peconic Avenue.

He also criticized her for having time to oversee the Summerwind project but not getting proper permits for construction work at her Baiting Hollow home, as has been reported.

Mr. Coates said he’s seen Ms. Giglio in Brookhaven Town Hall working with a team of engineers on a proposal there, and then “hours later, you’re the councilwoman in Riverhead, with that same team of engineers that you called co-workers in Brookhaven.”

Ms. Giglio said that’s “simply not true…It’s just another bullying tactic and a character assassination.”

She said Summerwind Square was approved before she was on the board.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to get in on this conversation,” Mr. Dunleavy said. “I don’t represent anyone but the taxpayers of the Town of Riverhead.”

“John is a retired police officer,” Ms. Giglio responded. “I am a young working person.”

The candidates also were asked about the controversial land clearing on the north side of Route 58 for The Shops at Riverhead project, which will feature a Costco Wholesale as its anchor store.

The trees were cleared up to the property line at Foxwood Village.

Mr. Dunleavy, who lives in Foxwood Village, explained that a committee at Foxwoods picked a resident there to represent the neighborhood at Planning Board meetings, saying the unnamed rep “didn’t know what was going on.”

He said the owners of the property should have represented Foxwood Village at Planning Board meetings, as was the case with the Glenwood Village development, where the owner negotiated with the Planning Board as a developer was planning an adjacent shopping center. In that case, the property owner convinced the developers to build a sound wall and to leave 30 feet of trees as a buffer.

Mr. Dunleavy said he voted for the clearing permit for the Costco project because it met the town code.

Ms. Giglio said the site plan for the Costco project was approved by the Planning Board “long before we approved the clearing permit.”

She said the Planning Board allowed the developer to clear the property and that the Town Board “is not happy” with that decision.

Mr. Coates said that if he’s elected, “I will communicate to those agencies before a crisis happens” to ensure decisions represent the will of the Town Board.

Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy both said they didn’t feel the Town Board should be imposing its will on the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals. Ms. Giglio said the Town Board’s job is to make the town code works, and that the board is proposing land-clearing legislation to ensure that the type of clearing that happened with the Costco project doesn’t happen again.

Mr. Coates also was asked about his background and what he does for as living.

As has been reported, Mr. Coates worked for John McNamara, the former Port Jefferson businessman who was convicted of defrauding General Motors out of millions of dollars in the 1980s. Mr. Coates, who ran businesses for Mr. McNamara and acted as publisher of The Record newspapers, was never charged with any wrongdoing in that case. He said he’s proud of the work he did during that time.

He said that since 2003, he’s worked as an independent investment adviser and that people can look up his qualifications with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

However, Mr. Coates is not listed on FINRA’s online broker check, which only includes licenses from the past 10 years. He has said in interviews that his current work doesn’t require a license from FINRA.

On the subject of EPCAL, Ms. Giglio said she supports the current efforts to subdivide the land into 50 small lots while Mr. Coates said the town still needs to figure out how to pay for sewer and infrastructure improvements there, which will cost more than $30 million.

Mr. Dunleavy said he and former supervisor Phil Cardinale negotiated a contract with Riverhead Resorts, the company that had proposed a “snow mountain” at EPCAL, that earned the town $7.5 million in deposits, even though the sale never occurred.

He said “everybody laughed at ski mountain,” but that the town is still using that money.

Mr. Coates said the town has been working on some issues for 10 years with no solution and “has been run by the same cast of characters for the last 50 years.”

The event raised $1,045 for the Brendan House, a Sound Avenue facility that will provide 24-hour care for people with brain injuries.


Monday night’s debate also featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito.

08/27/13 9:00am
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town Board candidate Anthony Coates, from left, and Town board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio address the moderators at Monday's debate at the Suffolk Theater.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Town Board candidate Anthony Coates, from left, and Town board members John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio address the moderators at Monday’s debate at the Suffolk Theater.

The first of two town political debates sponsored by local media took place at the historic Suffolk Theater Monday night.

Monday’s first debate featured Democratic supervisor candidates Ann Cotten-DeGrasse and Angela DeVito, followed by Republican town council candidates Anthony Coates, John Dunleavy and Jodi Giglio.

The debates were moderated by News-Review executive editor Grant Parpan, RiverheadLOCAL editor and publisher Denise Civiletti and News-Review editor Michael White.

The Democratic candidates debated first, for about 45 minutes, followed by the Republican candidates.

The debate can be rewatched at the link below. The Democrats start at the 7-minute mark; Republicans begin one hour, 20 minutes in.