08/29/13 8:00am
08/29/2013 8:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Apollo Real Estate Advisors has owned the Woolworth site since 2006 and may be in the process of getting it sold.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Woolworth site was one location Supervisor Sean Walter originally thought could work for a downtown movie theater.

Supervisor Sean Walter’s vision of a downtown Riverhead movie theater has gained little momentum as critics claim a Route 58 location would be more logical.

Mr. Walter said he still hopes to lure a movie theater downtown, but would be willing to consider alternate locations such as Route 58. He said he’s currently talking to representatives from two movie theater companies about coming to Riverhead but wasn’t optimistic.

“I don’t have a lot of confidence in getting one,” he said.

Councilmen John Dunleavy and George Gabrielsen said the idea of restricting a movie theater to only downtown Riverhead theater makes little sense.

They both said parking in downtown would be a problem. A theater would require 1,200 parking spaces, Mr. Dunleavy said, while there are only 500 currently downtown.

Mr. Gabrielsen said it’s all about location.

“We’ve really got to get that archaic idea of a downtown movie theater out of our heads,” Mr. Gabrielsen said.

Mr. Walter tried to lure Regal Cinemas to the former Woolworth building on East Main Street in 2011 before the deal fell apart in early 2012. One of the companies he’s speaking with now owns the Movieland Cinema on Route 112 in Coram, he said. The other “is a spinoff of one of the large cinema groups,” he said, although he declined to identify it.

“I’m trying to bring them here, the problem is, we’re not getting a lot of traction because that business seems to be a dying business,” Mr. Walter said.

With Regal, Mr. Walter insisted on trying to get the company downtown instead of Route 58, a preferred destination for theater companies.

Now he’s softened that stance because space in downtown may be  filling up with other uses, he said.

The Woolworth building, which Mr. Walter said was ideal for a theater, is now being developed with a gym, retail stores and apartments. The supervisor said the only property left that might be big enough for a theater is the former Sears building, but apartments are also being proposed for that building.

“I would much rather it be on Main Street, but if Main Street fills up, obviously I’m not going to lock them out if someone wants to bring one to Route 58,” Mr. Walter said.

Sheldon Gordon, a principal in Riverhead Enterprises, the company that owns the Sear’s building, said they tried to contact some movie theater companies about coming downtown, but the companies haven’t gotten back to them.

Mr. Walter acknowledged it’s beneficial for a movie theater to be in a commercial shopping center.

“[Theaters] don’t generate enough money to pay what other businesses pay, but shopping center owners like movie theaters because they are anchors and they bring hordes of people to the shopping center.”

A zoning change would be required for a movie theater to open on Route 58. In 2004 the Town Board voted to eliminate movie theaters as a permitted use on Route 58 in an effort to lure a theater downtown.

Mr. Walter said none of the theater companies he’s talked to recently have insisted on going on Route 58, but if one did, “it would be something we’d have to consider,” he said.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she would support a Route 58 theater if the developer agreed to put a smaller theater downtown, something a company she’s spoken with — but didn’t identify — has suggested.

Mr. Dunleavy suggested a movie theater near The All Star bowling alley, which is technically on Route 25.

One way or another, downtown wouldn’t work for a theater, Mr. Gabrielsen said.

“It’s got everything going against it,” he said. “I can’t see it happening. Unless you open up Route 58, you’re never going to get a movie theater.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/20/13 2:30pm
08/20/2013 2:30 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO |

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead Police Department’s newest ATV was unveiled today. On hand were: (from left) Town Councilman John Dunleavy, DA Thomas Spota, Police Chief David Hegermiller, PBA President Dixon Palmer, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, Police Officer John Morris, Councilman George Gabrielsen, PBA Vice President Christopher Parkin, Councilman Jim Wooten and Supervisor Sean Walter.

The Riverhead Police Department’s latest addition started at a fundraiser for Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota two years ago.

Riverhead police officer Charles Cichanowicz was in charge of patrolling Iron Pier Beach, but was frustrated by having to drive back to police headquarters to pick up the department’s all-terrain vehicle when it was needed. He pitched an idea to Mr. Spota: use money seized from criminals in police raids to help the police department buy new ATVs and sheds to store them.

This summer, the county delivered. Riverhead police have been using the new ATV — worth about $6,000 — since June and it has already had a noticeable impact on how well the police can patrol the beaches and assist those in need, said Supervisor Sean Walter.

“We do beach patrols during the summertime so we’re really happy the DA provided us the money for the two sheds,” Mr. Walter said in an interview last week. ”It’s very helpful because it increases the protection on the beach. We used to get a lot of complaints.”

Police officer and Police Benevolent Association vice president Christopher Parkin said the shed and new ATV allows police officers to respond to emergencies on the beach faster. It used to take police about 20 minutes to return to base, pick up the ATVs using a trailer and return to the scene on the beach, town officials said. Now, police can respond in minutes.

“These are live-saving instruments,” Mr. Parkin said. “That time can be the difference between life and death.”

The two new sheds purchased using the asset forfeiture funds have been installed at Wading River and Iron Pier beaches.

Mr. Spota, who was at Iron Pier beach Tuesday with the Town Board and police officials, said he would expedite a request to get Riverhead police a second, new ATV. The police plan to then donate one of their older vehicles to the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

psquire@timesreview.com

08/14/13 11:30am
08/14/2013 11:30 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO  |  Weeping Willow Park will open Friday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The long planned Weeping Willow Park will officially open Friday in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m., Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter announced.

The park sits on the site of the former Weeping Willow Motel on West Main Street, which had been there for 58 years until the town purchased the property in 2009 for $1.25 million to transform the half-acre site into a park. The demolition of the building was delayed until 2011 because asbestos had to be removed, and earlier this year, the opening was delayed further by vandals driving on the grass.

In addition to creating a park with a canoe and kayak launching area, the removal of the motel also had benefits, Mr. Walter said.

“The project has removed a blighting influence in the downtown Riverhead business district and eliminated the significant discharge of wastewater and runoff from the site into the Peconic River,” he said.

Cornell Cooperative Extension provided picnic tables, trash receptacles and signage to the park through its “Creating Healthy Places in Suffolk County” grant awarded by the New York State Department of Health, according to Susan Wilk, Cornell’s  Creating Healthy Places in Suffolk County Coordinator.

The town purchased the property using money from the Community Preservation Fund, which comes from a voter-approved two-percent real estate transfer tax.

The town also received a $500,000 state Environmental Protection Fund grant for the project in 2007.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/13/13 5:24pm
08/13/2013 5:24 PM
NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTOS | Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio is currently engaged in a bitter primary battle with Anthony Coates.

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTOS | Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio has currently raised more money than primary challenger Anthony Coates.

Republican Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio is far ahead of running mate John Dunleavy and primary challenger Anthony Coates in terms of money raised and money spent in this year’s campaign, according to the latest Board of Elections disclosure reports.

The reports also show that Riverhead Town Democratic Committee has now raised more money than its Republican counterpart as of the latest filing period for this year.

Also, Democratic supervisor candidate Angela DeVito has raised nearly as much money as incumbent Republican Supervisor Sean Walter, despite the fact that Mr. Walter ran a separate campaign for Suffolk County legislator earlier in the year.

The Board of Elections requires all fundraising committees to file campaign disclosure reports in January and July, but also requires candidates involved in a primary or a general election to file additional reports, including a 32-day pre-primary report that was due Friday.

In Riverhead Town, there is a Democratic primary for supervisor between party nominee Angela DeVito and challenger Ann Cotten DeGrasse, as well as a Republican primary for two council seats that pits party nominees Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy against challenger Anthony Coates, who has specifically targeted Ms. Giglio in his campaign.

There’s also a council primary for the Independence party nominations in Riverhead, pitting Ms. Giglio and Mr. Dunleavy against Bill Bianchi, a Democratic nominee.

The other Democratic council candidate, Millie Thomas, is not running in the Independence Party primary.

In the Democratic race for supervisor, Ms. DeVito, to date, has raised $21,509 and spent $13,764, with $7,735 left on hand. Her biggest contribution was $1,000 from the Ironworkers Political Action League.

Ms. Cotten-DeGrasse has raised $6,588 and spent $3,920, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. For the year, she’s raised $8,353 and spent $6,422, and ended the most recent filing period with $3,929 on hand.

Mr. Walter didn’t have to submit a pre-primary report since he’s not involved in a primary, but he has raised a total of $26,452 and spent $19,964 so far this year, with much of that being raised when he was running a special election for county Legislature earlier this year.

The Riverhead Town Democratic Committee had not yet posted a pre-primary report on the state BOE website but, to date, per the July filing, the Democrats had raised a total of $25,686 and spent $15,344 this year. The committee shows a balance of $15,550.

By comparison, the Riverhead Republican Committee had raised $5,950 and spent $7,172 through the July filing and the end balance showed them in debt to the tune of $4,102. The Republicans filed a “no action” notice in the pre-primary report, indicating that they had neither raised nor spent any money since the July filing date.

“I think it’s obvious that people want to change this Town Board this year and are supporting us,” said Riverhead Democratic chair Marge Acevedo.

Neither Mr. Bianchi nor Ms. Thomas have set up campaign fundraising committees yet.

The primary vote date is Sept. 10.

In the Republican race for two town council seat nominations, Ms. Giglio’s latest reports show her raising $14,760 more and spending $12,780 more since the prior reports in July.

Adding up the totals from the January and July filings, she has raised a total of $54,824 and spent $49,317. She started in January with $6,066, giving her a closing balance of $11,571, according to the report.

Ms. Giglio reported $4,542 in unspecified contributions in her latest report. Contributions of less than $100, such as those from people who attend fundraisers with a ticket price under $100, do not have to be listed by name.

Her biggest contributors named in the latest report are Phyllis Chulpsa of Smithtown and Composite Technologies of Calverton, each of which contributed $1,000.

Ms. Giglio’s campaign expenses show payments for fundraising events of $900 and $5,740 to Strategic Maneuvers and $1,500 to Third Rock, both of which have the same address as the Outer Banks Restaurant, which Ms. Giglio’s husband runs at the county’s Indian Island Country Club.

Mr. Dunleavy’s 32-day pre-primary report lists only $2,683 in additional contributions and $6,572 in additional expenses. For the year, including numbers from the prior reports, Mr. Dunleavy has raised $38,613 and spent $25,187. His campaign still has a balance $9,647 on hand.

His biggest contribution in the recent report was $1,000 from Randy Altschuler of St. James, who twice ran unsuccessfully for Congress on the Republican line against incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop.

Mr. Dunleavy also received $808 from Rudy Saviano Inc., of Ronkonkoma, which does fundraising auctions.

And Mr. Coates’ latest disclosure report shows only $1,000 more in contributions and $492 more in spending. The entire $1,000 came from Ron DeVito, who is seeking to build an assisted living facility on Mill Road.

Adding up all the reports, Mr. Coates has raised $6,275 and spent $5,336, although he started the year with $2,512, having raised $2,708 at fundraisers in late 2012. He still had $3,449 on hand at the end of the most recent filing period.

Mr. Coates’ expenses showed charges of $61 for “gas for petition travel” and $29 and $11 for “meal for petitioner.” In past reports, he has listed his cell phone costs as a campaign expense.

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/17/13 4:00pm
07/17/2013 4:00 PM
Sean Walter of Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter (right) says elected officials should not serve on political parties’ executive committees.

Riverhead Town has a law in place prohibiting appointed members of boards such as the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals from serving on political parties’ executive committees.

But Supervisor Sean Walter says he plans to introduce legislation expanding that prohibition to include elected officials as well.

The supervisor unveiled his proposal at Tuesday’s Town Board meeting, when board members presented a plaque to Marge Acevedo for her 25 years on the Board of Assessment Review.

Ms. Acevedo stepped down from that board earlier this year after she was named chair of the Riverhead Democratic committee. Mr. Walter said Brookhaven Town already has a law prohibiting elected officials from holding positions on the executive boards of political party committees, such as committee chair or vice chair.

The only current elected official in Riverhead who would be affected by the proposal is assessor Mason Haas, who is vice chair of the town Republican committee and is expected to take over as chairman later this year.

Mr. Walter, also a Republican, said he plans to discuss his proposal with the Town Board at Thursday’s work session.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/13/13 8:00am
06/13/2013 8:00 AM
GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue, just south of the Reeves Park neighborhood.

Riverhead Town should not dare to scuttle Suffolk County’s plans to purchase 15 acres of farmland along Sound Avenue for preservation.

The property stretches north into the Reeves Park neighborhood, and Reeves Park residents — as well as others across the North Fork and all Suffolk County — have made it clear that developing the state-designated rural corridor is not in the best interest of the neighbors, or the region as a whole.

Yet town council members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen have said they don’t want the town to contribute the $75,000 that would allow the joint purchase to move forward. They argue the town shouldn’t be taking developable land off tax rolls and that Riverhead’s preservation funds are dwindling. But last we checked, housing developments weren’t exactly money-makers. And $75,000 for 15 acres is an excellent deal that won’t break the bank.

The two council members have the power to block the move. Supervisor Sean Walter has recused himself from a vote because he used to represent property owner Ed Broidy as a lawyer. If Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen do kill the measure, they would not be acting as fiscal conservatives, as they might believe. They would instead be acting penny wise and pound foolish, as Councilman James Wooten has said.

Too much money and effort have been invested over decades into preserving Sound Avenue as a treasure for all Long Islanders, starting in earnest with the two-lane highway’s designation by the state as a historic rural corridor. There have been years of litigation between the town and Mr. Broidy since the town’s master plan rezoned the land (and other parcels on Sound Avenue). In the meantime, former county legislator Ed Romaine lobbied hard to get support for Suffolk County’s purchase of the Broidy property, with area civic leaders and other residents showing up in Hauppauge to support preservation efforts. This newspaper took the unusual step of running an opinion-based photo spread of rural Sound Avenue on its cover, urging the county to act to protect the corridor. Residents later displayed those photos to county lawmakers in Hauppauge to help win support for the cause.

Throw into the mix developer Kenn Barra, who has recently sold a 4.1-acre property on the east side of Park Road, also fronting Sound Avenue, to the county for parkland. That done, one might have thought preservation of the Broidy land was also nearing the finish line.

But now it seems the deal might be dead — and over a measly $75,000?

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski should step in and pressure Ms. Giglio and Mr. Gabrielsen to vote with their constituents. There may be no better example in this town of open space that should be preserved. It’s been 10 years since Mr. Broidy proposed a 22,000-square-foot shopping center for the site, causing great dismay among preservationists and everyday citizens. It’s now time to put this all behind us.

06/12/13 1:25pm
06/12/2013 1:25 PM
EPCAl in Riverhead, FAA

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | A view of the EPCAL site from the sky.

With just a week left in the current New York State legislative session, an agreement appears to be have been reached on Riverhead Town’s efforts to get state support for a plan that would fast-track development proposals at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, according to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

One major change in the proposed legislation would eliminate the creation of a commission comprising town, county and state representatives to review applications. Instead, the entire process would be left up to the Riverhead Town Board, Mr. Walter said.

The proposed state legislation still needs to be approved by the local government committees in both the state Senate and Assembly, then it needs to be approved by the full membership of both houses.

The Town Board also needs to approve a home rule message, which is scheduled for a vote at a special meeting on Thursday, Mr. Walter said. A home rule message means a locally affected government supports proposed state legislation.

The state Legislature’s current session is scheduled to end next Thursday, June 20, officials said.

“I’m shocked and amazed,” Mr. Walter, who has helped lobby in Albany for EPCAL legislation, said of the news Wednesday evening. “I’m so happy.”

He said he got word of the deal about 6 p.m. Tuesday, noting that numerous changes had been made to the proposed bill in the past two weeks.

The state Senate approved an EPCAL bill last year, but the Assembly never voted it out of committee.

Mr. Walter said the chairman of the Assembly’s committee on local government, Assemblyman William Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) supports the current version of the bill.

The bill’s wording now requires the town to create an overall zoning plan for EPCAL; then, any development applications for the industrial park that conform to that plan would be approved within 90 days. After an application reaches the town, town officials would have 10 days to forward it to agencies that might be involved in the review process, Mr. Walter said.

Drew Biondo, an aide to state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, said the overall plan governing development at EPCAL would be crafted and approved jointly by town, state and county agencies. After the plan is agreed to, subsequent development applications that conform to it would be fast-tracked, under the proposal.

Normally, each individual application would need approvals from state, county and town agencies.

The town would still need to complete its environmental study, subdivision map and revised zoning at EPCAL before the proposed bill could take effect, the supervisor said. That’s all expected to take about a year to complete, he said.

Should the EPCAL bill take effect, Mr. Walter believes the town will need to hire a consultant to run the program.

“There’s no way the town staff can handle large applications in 90 days,” Mr. Walter said.

He hopes to visit upstate Genesee County, which has a successful economic development office that deals largely in marketing and obtaining grants.

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/24/13 8:00am
05/24/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Fresh Pond Landing Beach east from Edwards Avenue in Baiting Hollow last week.

People will be swimming at their own risk at Riverhead Town’s three Long Island Sound beaches until the end of June, according to recreation department superintendent Ray Coyne, who said the move is being done in part because of Hurricane Sandy damage, and to save money.

“Those beaches are not ready for swimming,” he said, though he said the beaches have improved in recent months compared to the condition they were in after Sandy.

 

The South Jamesport bay beach will have lifeguards on weekends starting Memorial Day, and swimming will be permitted there, he said. But Long Island Sound beaches at Iron Pier, Wading River and Reeves Park will not have lifeguards until June 24.

All four beaches will have attendants on weekends after Memorial Day, and town parking stickers will be required, Mr. Coyne said. People can go to the Sound beaches, but those who swim there without a lifeguard do so at their own risk, he said.

At Iron Pier, the town is replacing a sidewalk that was destroyed during Sandy, said Supervisor Sean Walter. That work is being paid for with Federal Emergency Management Agency funds, he said.

[Editorial: Town shouldn't scapegoat Sandy just to save a buck]

The supervisor said he supports the decision not to post lifeguards at Sound beaches until June 24.

As for the condition of Iron Pier beach, Mr. Coyne said, “We just needed to clean it, because there was a lot of debris that had washed ashore during the storm. We lost some of the beach, but I’d say we’re in fairly good shape at Iron Pier.”

In Wading River, Mr. Walter said the town dredged Wading River Creek over the winter and got permission from the state to deposit the dredged sand on the beach in front of the homes between the creek’s eastern jetty and the town beach. That sand was pushed up against what used to be the dune, he said, and helped cover up a lot bulkheads and cesspools that were exposed following Sandy.

As for the town beach there, “I don’t think we lost a lot of beach at Wading River,” Mr. Coyne said. “We are in pretty good shape over there.”

The town doesn’t operate Hulse Landing as a bathing beach with lifeguards, but people need parking stickers to park there, and the town also has a boat ramp there, Mr. Coyne said.

That beach has rebounded nicely since the storm, Mr. Walter said.

“It’s just a slightly different landscape this year at the beaches,” Mr. Walter said. “Overall, I don’t think it will be anything insurmountable.”

After June 24, all four beaches will be open — with lifeguards — seven days a week. Last year, the town opened all four beaches on weekends only after Memorial Day with lifeguards and attendants, switching them all to seven days a week at the end of June, Mr. Coyne said.

“It’s a combination of things,” Mr. Coyne said in explaining the staffing changes. “Because of Hurricane Sandy and the damage done on the Long Island Sound beaches, we wanted a little more time to clean them up. And in the case of Reeves Beach, we wanted more time for the beach to come back.”

The other reason, he said, is that studies his department has done show that not many people swim at this time of year, so the department can save money by not hiring the lifeguards.

“If people want to swim in June, they can still go to South Jamesport,” Mr. Coyne said.

Of the four town beaches, South Jamesport made out the best after the hurricane.

“South Jamesport was barely touched,” Mr. Coyne said. The bathroom was flooded by the stormwater, but the beach itself had no problems.

Reeves Park Beach fared the worst of the four.

“As of a few months ago, there was no [Reeves] beach, but it’s slowly coming back,” Mr. Coyne said. “So we’re not going to open it for swimming until the end of June, and we’re hoping there will be enough beach there to put a lifeguard stand.

“If we have to move the lifeguard stand at high tide, then we will not have it open. But I’m confident we will.”

At one point, Mr. Coyne said, the water at Reeves Park came all the way up to the staircase leading down to the beach at high tide, but the beach has been growing in the past six to eight weeks.

“If you had asked me two months ago, I would say we’re not opening it,” Mr. Coyne said.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park, had warned town officials earlier this year about the poor condition of Reeves Beach, but he said Tuesday that it has recovered since then.

Mr. Biegler said the decision not to post lifeguards at Sound beaches before June 24 could be a liability issue if someone has an accident or drowns at a beach without a lifeguard.

“It’s Memorial Day weekend, everyone is thinking beaches, and to not have lifeguards on duty raises a concern,” he said. “But I’ll leave it up to their judgment.”

tgannon@timesreview.com