06/18/14 9:00am
06/18/2014 9:00 AM
Supervisor Sean Walter said he finally decided to quit doing a weekly WRIV radio spot  after hearing Ms. Giglio and then Mr. Dunleavy both saying the town either doesn't have sound meters or they don't work. He said that's not true.  (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Supervisor Sean Walter said he finally decided to quit doing a weekly WRIV radio spot after hearing Ms. Giglio and then Mr. Dunleavy both saying the town either doesn’t have sound meters or they don’t work. He said that’s not true. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

For the second time in his four years in office, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter has discontinued doing a weekly radio show on WRIV 1390 AM.

Only this time, Mr. Walter says the station and radio host Bruce Tria are not to blame. (more…)

12/12/13 3:30pm
12/12/2013 3:30 PM
FLICKR PHOTO/cogdogblog

FLICKR PHOTO/cogdogblog

Personality. There used to be a lot of it in local radio. It wasn’t just about the music, but the jocks, the people between the tracks. They shopped at the same stores we did. Went to the same clubs. We drove by their offices. They were like pals. The “people” were what differentiated the stations from the mix tapes.

Michael White, editor

Michael White

There was plenty of news to be had as well. WGBB, for instance, was one of the biggest players in the Long Island news game, I’m told. Based in Merrick, the AM station had a packed newsroom in the 1970s, long before Channel 12 or the Internet.

“Election night was always a long haul,” recalled former WGBB newsman Gary Lewi. “We were logging 23-hour days but for us we were at the center of the action. The station only had 1,000 watts, but with the population density the way it was, you had an audience.”

Gary has fond memories of working with guys like Ed Grilli and Larry Barr. The three called their little news crew “Lewi’s Barr & Grilli.”

But something happened in the early 1980s that changed the landscape. Those in broadcasting know it as deregulation. (more…)

12/12/13 12:00pm
CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Johnny Neicko, 76, stepped down as host of 'Sunday Polka Time' recently after 31 years.

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Johnny Niecko, 76, stepped down as host of ‘Sunday Polka Time’ recently after 31 years.

When Johnny Niecko of Riverhead began his radio broadcasting career 40 years ago, he wasn’t expecting much.

Then 36, he had recently returned home from Japan and Korea, where he served as a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army, to marry his wife in a traditional Polish ceremony at St. Isidore R.C. Church.

Born in Poland, Mr. Niecko immigrated to Riverhead with his family in 1951. He hadn’t considered working in radio until his barber in Polish Town dared him to give it a shot.

“He said, ‘You know your Polish and you got guts,’” Mr. Niecko said. “He dared me. I couldn’t refuse.”

It was a good bet to take. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Niecko landed his first radio gig at WLNG.

“It was a feeling that is impossible to describe,” he said.

He stayed with the station for four years before moving on to WRCN for about two years and finally settling at WRIV in downtown Riverhead in 1982.

He has since hosted the station’s “Sunday Polka Time” program from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. almost every weekend for 31 years. The show, he said, has a simple format with meaningful roots that reflect his heritage and community.

“I have always listened to that type of music,” he said. “Polka music is happy music. It puts a smile in your heart. I always ran my show in a different format from most. I never talked over the music. People didn’t want to hear BS, they wanted to hear the songs and their feet.”

Over the years, his style has earned him the respect of the community.

In 2008, supporters threw him a surprise party at Polish Hall — complete with a steak dinner and a proclamation from former Riverhead Town supervisor Phil Cardinale — in honor of his 25th anniversary on the air at WRIV.

Looking back, the 76-year-old remembers that night as a highlight of his career but remains humble about the recognition.

“It was a special night,” he said. “Everyone that knew me came out. I think it might have just been for the steak, though.”

In addition to his devoted listeners on the East End, Mr. Niecko said, his audience extends into Connecticut, upstate New York and New Jersey.

“You may be sitting in a studio but it felt like I was traveling,” he said. “All the people calling, it was a nice feeling. They treated me like royalty. My only regret is that I started too late. This is a young person’s profession.”

Mr. Niecko said he first started to think about calling it quits after having a heart attack nine years ago. Over time, he said, the physical demands of the job got to be too much and so he “threw in the towel” this year.

“Age and steps,” he said. “That is the reason why I think now is the right time. To get to the studio I have to climb 42 steps. Each year it got worse and now, by the time I get to the top, I have to take a 10-minute break.”

So, with a heavy heart, Mr. Niecko signed off for the final time Nov. 31 with his signature goodbye: “God bless America, and may the good Lord bless and keep you.”

WRIV general manager Bruce Tria said Mr. Niecko’s departure is the end of an era at the station.

“Johnny is a part of the woodwork around here,” Mr. Tria said. “He’s the salt of the earth as far as Polish Town goes. He was never really affected by trends. He couldn’t care less. He always wanted to do the best show he can.”

Hank Kulesa took over this past Sunday as the host of “Sunday Polka Time,” with Mr. Niecko’s blessing.

“I’ve known Hank for 30 years,” Mr. Niecko said. “He’s hosted the show for me in past and he knows the music. He will do a great job.”

05/16/13 12:40pm
Celentano in hit and run

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Jacqueline Celentano, 21, of Calverton is led out of Southampton Police Department headquarters in Hampton Bays Wednesday morning for a Justice Court appearance.

Update: Jacqueline Celentano, who was arrested Tuesday in connection with the hit-and-run crash that seriously injured a Riverhead man early Sunday in Flanders, posted $30,000 bond and was released from jail Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

Ms. Celentano, 21, of Calverton was arraigned in Southampton Justice Court Wednesday morning on a felony charge for leaving the scene of a crash with personal injury.

She was then transported to the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverside, where she posted bail about 4 p.m., jail officials said.

Aaron Hartmann, the man injured in the crash on County Road 105, is recovering at Stony Brook University Medical Center, where his condition has been improving, relatives have told the News-Review.

Ms. Celentano lives with family in Calverton and works in Riverhead, her lawyer, John Russo, said in court Wednesday.

Wednesday 11:30 a.m.: The 21-year-old Calverton woman charged with leaving the scene of a crash that seriously injured a Riverhead man early Sunday in Flanders was held on $30,000 bail after answering to a judge in Southampton Town court Wednesday.

Jacqueline Celentano, a 2009 Riverhead High School graduate, is being charged with leaving the scene of an accident with physical injuries, a felony.

She turned herself in to police about 6 p.m. Tuesday after consulting her lawyer, John Russo, Mr. Russo said in Town Justice Court in Hampton Bays. She lives with family and works in Riverhead, he told the judge.

Before setting bail, Justice Deborah Kooperstein said she was concerned it took so long for Ms. Celentano to come forward to authorities.

Mr. Russo answered that his client left the scene out of fear.

An assistant district attorney argued Wednesday for $80,000 bail, saying Ms. Celentano “put her interests above society’s.”

Several family members ranging in ages attended the arraignment but declined to speak to a reporter afterward.

Mr. Russo said outside the courtroom that the family would be posting bail.


Wednesday 10:15 a.m.:  Southampton Town Police have arrested a 21-year-old Calverton woman in connection with the hit-and-run crash that seriously injured Aaron Hartmann of Riverhead early Sunday morning.

Jacqueline Celentano was brought into custody at 8 p.m. Tuesday night. During the investigation, police were able to identify a red 2000 Chevy Impala sedan parked outside a Riverside home as the car involved in the crash, police said. The car was impounded.

Ms. Celentano, a 2009 Riverhead High School graduate, will be arraigned at Southampton Justice Court today on a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident with physical injury.

“The family is very grateful for the diligent work of the Southampton police,” said Bobby Hartmann, Aaron’s uncle, who along with other family members was initially critical of the department. “We ask that prayers be sent in two directions now, one for Aaron and his speedy recovery, and also for the girl and the family; this could be a crossroad in her life.

“Thank God he will bounce back from this.”

“We’re very grateful for the outpouring of support from the community and the fine police work by Southampton,” Mr. Hartmann added.

Check back for more details as they become available.

BOBBY HARTMANN COURTESY PHOTO | Aaron Hartmann gives a thumbs up from his hospital bed to let friends know he’s doing OK.

Wednesday 10 a.m.: Aaron Hartmann’s family gave an update on his condition Wednesday morning. “He’s stable. No news is good news; the longer he’s stable, the better his odds,” said his uncle, Bobby Hartmann. “The swelling on his brain is down. He’s got another CTSCAN today. His legs all pinned up.

“He’s somewhat alert and a little agitated, understandably. He’s got a ways to go but he’s in stable condition, which is good news. We’re just worried about any risk of infection.”

Aaron also spoke his first word since the accident today, Mr. Hartmann said.

Tuesday 1:50 p.m.: Southampton Town Police Chief Robert Pearce said detectives are making progress in investigating the hit-and-run crash that seriously injured Aaron Hartmann of Riverhead early Sunday morning.

He also said police at the scene of the crash, which happened just before 1 a.m. on County Road 105, “did not realize the extent of the injuries at the time,” which was partly why an accident investigation failed to get under way immediately.

“We are treating this very seriously,” he told the News-Review about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, less than four hours after Mr. Hartmann’s uncle, Bobby Hartmann, took to WRIV radio asking why police didn’t treat the area as a crime scene immediately.

Chief Pearce said once police received word from hospital staff on the extent of Aaron Hartmann’s injuries, “That’s when we said, ‘Alright we’ve got to get detectives on this.’”

He added that third-hand reports that reached police as to what, exactly, had happened to the 23-year-old also contributed in delaying the investigation.

Police will update the public as the hit-and-run investigation continues, he added.

COURTESY PHOTO | An undated photo of Aaron Hartmann, who was seriously injured Sunday morning.

COURTESY PHOTO | An undated photo of Aaron Hartmann, who was seriously injured early Sunday.

ORIGINAL STORY: The uncle of a 23-year-old Riverhead man seriously injured in an apparent hit-and-run crash along County Road 105 in Flanders early Sunday took to the airwaves Tuesday morning with questions for Southampton Town police.

Bobby Hartmann, uncle of Aaron Hartmann, who’s been sedated and on a ventilator at Stony Brook University Medical Center after emergency surgery, appeared on 1390 AM WRIV with host Bruce Tria about 9:40 a.m.

FACEBOOK PHOTO | Aaron Hartmann in a hospital bed at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

FACEBOOK PHOTO | Aaron Hartmann in a hospital bed at Stony Brook University Medical Center.

First and foremost, he pointed out that no one at the Southampton Town Police Department reached out to his nephew’s mother in the hours after the crash.

Hospital officials alerted the mom that Aaron Hartmann was in critical condition at 9 a.m. Sunday, he said.

Bobby Hartmann told Mr. Tria that when he and the mother called the police department on Sunday, they were told “to call the records department Monday morning.”

As far as the police department’s dealings with the media, the department did not acknowledge the crash was being investigated as a hit-and-run until a press release was issued about 5 p.m. Monday. Before that, police would not comment on the incident, only to say “it was under investigation.”

The press release did not name the victim and mentioned nothing about the extent of his injuries.

Southampton Town Police Chief Robert Pearce could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday morning. Questions emailed from the News-Review to a police spokesman, after the police press released was issued, had not been answered as of 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

A message was also left about 10 a.m. with Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

Police sources told the News-Review such a crash involving extensive injuries should have immediately been treated as a crime scene, even if the vehicle stayed on the scene, by trained highway investigators.

Aaron Hartmann’s mother, Linda, whose been sitting at her son’s bedside in Stony Brook since the crash, pointed out to the News-Review Monday that the grassy area where her son was found had since been mowed over.

Bobby Hartmann said the same Tuesday on the air.

“Who was on the scene and why was this not followed through?” Bobby Hartmann asked.

Southampton Police said in its press release Monday evening that “police responded to a report of a man in the southbound part of County Road 105 near the bridge in Flanders. Upon arrival, a 23-year-old male who had sustained injuries was found in a disoriented state.  Members of the Flanders Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded for treatment and transport to Peconic Bay Medical Center.”

He was then transported to Stony Brook, relatives have said.

Bobby Hartmann said on WRIV that since the case has been turned over to the department’s detectives division, the detectives have been “stellar” and very informative to the family.

But he’s still wondering what took so long for the case to be handed over for an investigation.

During an interview with the News-Review Monday, and in subsequent comments on riverheadnewsreview.com, he speculated that police might not have initially taken the incident seriously due to his nephew’s arrest history.

“Aaron’s has had some troubles, but he’s been doing well,” he told a reporter. “He’s a well-mannered, good-hearted kid and he deserves better.”

“I want to know why there was not an immediate investigation started at the moment the police showed up,” he later wrote on the News-Review website. “I want to know if there was a subjective deciscion made because of his past.”

He said his nephew had being “doing well” before the crash.

He also complained on WRIV that Linda Hartmann had to retrieve her son’s clothes, which he said were not submitted as evidence, from hospital staffers.

He added that since the area of the crash was not immediately treated as a crime scene, it would have been simple for the driver to go back and retrieve any evidence, such as debris from the vehicle, that might have been left behind.

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