03/01/13 3:00pm
03/01/2013 3:00 PM

YMCA OF LONG ISLAND RENDERING | The YMCA released this design of a proposed facility when it was eyeing a site in Aquebogue.

After almost 15 years of trying to build a YMCA facility in Riverhead Town or the Riverhead area and getting nowhere, Peconic YMCA co-founder Joe Van de Wetering said his board — which hasn’t made any firm decisions yet — just might end up calling it quits.

This comes after new leadership at the parent group, YMCA of Long Island, rejected a site at the Enterprise Park at Calverton that the town was willing to offer up for free.

Riverhead Town officials approved the measure last year, and had been hoping to get a lease signed by December or January.

“At some point, you’ve got to say, let’s be realistic and throw in the towel,” Mr. Van de Wetering told the News-Review, acknowledging that ending their effort is one of the options being considered.

Mr. Van de Wetering said that while he’s hopeful something can be worked out, “We’ve got some basic conflicts with the [Long Island] YMCA” group, which must be on board and approve of any Y facility built in the region.

Peconic YMCA publicly announced its plans to bring a YMCA to Riverhead in January 2000, at which time it appeared the group had a site near County Road 105 and Route 25 in Aquebogue. But those plans fell through, and the group has since looked at a number of other properties, some connected with unpopular development proposals, some in locations that met opposition from neighbors and some that the Peconic YMCA board ultimately decided against.

The Calverton proposal, while farther west then the group initially wanted, got further along than any of the others and appeared to be on the verge of being constructed after the Town Board agreed to donate 7.3 acres at EPCAL for the Peconic YMCA and had begun negotiating a deal to lease, and eventually give, the property to the YMCA in exchange for certain services spelled out in the agreement.

But in December, YMCA of Long Island’s president and CEO, Anne Brigis, who replaced longtime president and CEO Michael Famiglietti in July, notified the town that the YMCA was considering a location on Riverhead School District property rather than EPCAL.

The town then directed its outside attorneys to stop work on the EPCAL lease agreement.

“I’m very disappointed in the YMCA of Long Island,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said this week. “They came out here, and we spent a lot of time and energy negotiating on the Calverton site. Members of their board of directors testified at the public hearing as to what a great site it was.”

Mr. Famiglietti, who retired in July, had supported the EPCAL site.

“I’m very disappointed they are not coming to Calverton and I wish them the best of luck,” Mr. Walter said. “But I have a feeling the decisions that they are making are probably going to affect their backers.

“The Long Island Y may have actually killed a Riverhead YMCA project, and that really is unfortunate for the residents of the East End.”

The supervisor said that as far as he’s concerned, the EPCAL deal is dead and the town will probably try to sell that property, which runs along Route 25.

He said he still doesn’t know what brought about the YMCA’s “180-degree turn” on the EPCAL site.

Mr. Van der Wetering said the YMCA of Long Island is waiting for the Peconic YMCA board to decide what it wants to do, adding that YMCA of Long Island is willing to look at other sites — in addition to the school district property — which would involve starting from scratch.

As for the EPCAL site, YMCA of Long Island officials “have basically told us that it is out of the picture,” he said.

Fritz Trinklien, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island, who had worked with Peconic YMCA and visited the area many times — in Town Hall, with potential donors, civic leaders or the News-Review editorial team — has been taken off the project, Mr. Van der Wetering said.

“They have a new regime that’s in charge and they want to see things done differently,” he said.

The Peconic YMCA board initially wanted a site closer to the Riverhead Zip code and felt EPCAL was too far west. But the seven-acre site was essentially being donated by the town and the Peconic YMCA board ultimately decided to go with it, Mr. Van der Wetering said, adding that it’s frustrating to see that plan fall apart again after so many years.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” he said. “It’s always something standing in the way. We just never expected to see this happen.”

Ms. Brigis has not returned calls seeking comment.

A call to Scott Sammis, president of the YMCA of Long Island’s board of directors, also was not returned.

Riverhead School Superintendent Nancy Carney said last week that she has not heard anything new from YMCA of Long Island officials since December.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/07/12 12:00pm
08/07/2012 12:00 PM

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to approve an agreement Tuesday allowing the Peconic YMCA group to build a Y facility on town-owned land in Calverton.

The Town Board meeting starts at 2 p.m. in Riverhead Town Hall.

The board is also expected to issue a request for proposals for companies to do billing for the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

There are three public hearings schedule.

One hearing would make St. John’s Place a two-way street, the second hearing would ban left turns out of East Avenue onto Northville Turnpike and the third would eliminate the requirement that police have 20 years of service in order to qualify for a retirement incentive program, so long as they are eligible to retire.

That hearing proposes other changes to the retirement incentive program as well, such as a payment of $1,000 per year of service for up to $25,000.

We will be running a live blog from the meeting at riverheadnewsreview.com. See agenda below.

August 7, 2012 – Agenda

07/19/12 6:00am
07/19/2012 6:00 AM

After 15 years of searching for land and enough cash to build a YMCA recreational facility in Riverhead Town, it appears the Peconic YMCA has found a permanent home in Calverton.

The local nonprofit is partnering with the town, which will convey town land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton for the group to build the facility — should the measure be approved by the Town Board next month.

This is all happening with the backing and direct involvement of the larger YMCA of Long Island organization.

Peconic YMCA volunteers, Long Island YMCA and the donors who have pledged over $6 million toward this project should be applauded, not only for their steadfast drive to build such a place for Riverhead families to enjoy but also for their sensitivity to the needs and concerns of various communities that didn’t want such a facility in their backyards.

In recent years, when neighborhoods and civics rose up against Y proposals — such as at Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue or across from Vineyard Caterers on Main Road — the YMCA backed off, eventually. The Y did so in both instances on its own accord; no one forced the Y to start looking elsewhere. This is a clear sign that, all along, YMCA officials meant what they were saying: that they wanted to be a partner in the community, not an adversary. Somewhat lost in these battles was the fact that a YMCA built in the right location is good for any town and community. It offers health and wellness opportunities for seniors with its pool, and offers young families through child care and summer camp services. It gives young people a safe place to work, meet and socialize.

And that’s what will be coming to Calverton. This is a big win for the town, and well worth the land it’s giving up.

The Riverhead Town Board recognizes this as well. Since all the board members are in agreement, Supervisor Sean Walter said this week that he’d like to approve the measure at the Town Board’s first meeting in August. Here’s hoping that this time, nothing gets in the way.

04/26/12 10:00am
04/26/2012 10:00 AM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Town Board work session is at 10 a.m.

“Congratulations, this issue is done, as far as I’m concerned, welcome to Calverton.”

Those were Supervisor Sean Walter’s words to representatives of Peconic YMCA Thursday following a work session discussion in which the Town Board and the local Y group agreed informally to allow a YMCA facility to be built on town-owned land at the Calverton Enterprise Park (EPCAL).

The Town Board, which has about a year to go on its efforts to subdivide the town’s EPCAL property, plans to lease a 7-acre lot on Route 25 to the group while it waits for the subdivision to be completed.

After that, the town will give the property to the Y for a facility that would feature an indoor pool, fitness center and multi-purpose rooms.

The site in question is located in between the Stony Brook Business Incubator and the Grumman Memorial Park, and it would have access from a new road being proposed that would align with the existing traffic light at Route 25 and Route 25A.

Peconic YMCA has been searching for a site in the Riverhead area for about 10 years, with many of those sites ultimately being rejected because of community opposition, impracticality or because they were tied in with other projects that met with opposition.

Earlier this year, after giving up on another EPCAL site about two miles west of this because the town was having difficulty getting county health department approval for its park and sewer connection there, Peconic YMCA decided it would buy a 8.9-acre site on Main Road in Aquebogue, across from Vineyard Caterers. But that site ran into community opposition, and Mr. Walter instead offered the the 7-acre EPCAL site.
In the past, Peconic YMCA has said it wanted to be close to the center of Riverhead, and that EPCAL was too far west.

“We’ve had a lot of discussions with the various volunteers and donors,” said Fritz Trinlein, the director of strategic planning for the umbrella group, YMCA of Long Island. “Initially, the feeling was that this was further west than we preferred. Ideally, we liked the center of town, but because of the direction and preference of the town board that this parcel would work and was suitable, we agreed.”

He said that from a demographic perspective, the proposed EPCAL could reach more people than a site in the center of town because the Wading River and Calverton areas are among the fastest growing areas in the town.

“The future is exciting,” Mr. Trinklein said.

Mr. Trinklein said they hope the process can be done fast.

“Those people that are participating want to see a shove in the ground, they want to see a building up,” he said, referring to the people who have donated money to Peconic YMCA.

The Y officials have said they have about $6 million of the $8 million they estimate they will need for the project.

The Y can add other facilities and programs over time, once this one is build, he added.

Peconic YMCA will need to connect to the sewer system, and while the town can donate the land, it cannot donate sewer or water hookups, officials said.

Mr. Walter suggested that the Y use the $500,000 it was going to us to purchase land in Aquebogue to connect to the existing force main and lift station on the sewer connection at the Incubator.

Mr. Trinklein suggested instead that Peconic YMCA make an annual contribution of financial aid to Riverhead families in need. He suggested they make a donation of a certain amount per year.

“Nobody should get the idea that we had $500,000 sitting there,” said Peconic YMCA chairman Joe Van de Wetering. “One of the reasons we liked this site is because it wasn’t costing us $500,000.”

The Town Board is expected to approve resolutions at its regular meeting Tuesday to convey the land to Peconic YMCA and to establish a temporary lease of the property until the town’s subdivision is done and it can convey the land.

Both of those actions are subject to a permissive referendum, in which residents can force a public vote on the issue if they present a certain number of petitions in opposition.

Mr. Walter said that between site plan approval, health department approval and other steps needed by the YMCA, they are about a year away from building.

“We will expedite this,” Mr. Walter assured them.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said it would probably take longer than that if they stuck with the Aquebogue plan.

Click play on the live blog below for more information on the YMCA measure, and for other happenings from work session:

03/24/12 10:00am
03/24/2012 10:00 AM

For those just catching up on the latest YMCA proposal and subsequent debate, here’s a crash course: the Peconic YMCA group is trying to purchase nine acres across from Vineyard Caterers on Main Road in Aquebogue, where it wants to build its long-dreamed-of Y facility. No official plans have been filed with the town as of yet. In fact, the YMCA does not yet even own the property. But some in Aquebogue and neighboring Jamesport are in an uproar and have launched a “Save Main Road” campaign similar to the “Save Wading River” movement on the other side of Riverhead Town. Both campaigns are designed to block what some locals and environmentalists consider inappropriate development projects proposed for their respective hamlets.

In the last few weeks I’ve noticed a lot of misinformation flying about from those for a YMCA and those against such a facility at this location. To help readers see through some of the smoke, I wanted to give each side a chance to answer some key questions that have arisen during the last few weeks, in a manner that doesn’t have to go through a reporter’s or editor’s filter on what to keep and what to cut.

I used this newspaper’s editorial coverage, reader comments posted on riverheadnewsreview.com and Facebook, and my own dealings with Peconic YMCA over the years to come up with the questions. I hope this helps in understanding the issues at hand.

Georgette Keller, Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, president

Q: What do you think is the chief concern among those against this location for a Y?

A: Although we are all in support of a YMCA, the people of Save Main Road oppose this particular location. Ten years ago, the master plan severely restricted development on this stretch of the rural corridor to avoid the issues this project brings with it of traffic and the character of this area. Yes, there is a catering hall across the street but that’s why it’s even more important that this largely residential area doesn’t get further compromised by commercial-type development and huge structures. The Town Board recognized it then and planned for limited development because of it. We can’t just keep making exceptions left and right when anyone proposes a project and expect Riverhead to preserve its North Fork character and culture.

Q: Many at the ‘Save Main Road’ meeting spoke of keeping the land as ‘virgin forest.’ Is this really plausible?

A: Of course. That’s what we have the Peconic Bay Transfer Tax for, as well as many other nonprofit and community organizations on the East End, such as Peconic Land Trust, North Fork Environmental Council, and even the movement of Save What’s Left. The purpose of the RB-80 zoning is to preserve agricultural soils and to allow limited residential development. A virgin forest is certainly more in line with the goals of the zone than a 40,000 square-foot building would be, and if the Y doesn’t get built here then there’s still a chance that can happen.

Q: Where do you think a Y should be built?

A: I personally feel that the location adjacent to Stotzky Park is ideal. It provides an opportunity for future growth of the YMCA and the greatest access to all people, especially those that need the support of the YMCA’s services. The social issues in Riverhead will never be addressed if we do not build a better system of engaging our children as they grow. And teens need to be able to access the Y on their own. Can you really imagine teens on bikes on Main Road trying to get there independently? Besides, a downtown YMCA could help transform downtown Riverhead and revitalize the retail there, just as it did in Bay Shore. The YMCA’s Fritz Trinklein made a statement to that effect in the News-Review in 2009 and I definitely agree with him on that.

Q: Why do you think there’s more uproar over this Y than the Village at Jamesport, a proposed Main Road shopping center that will also need special permits from the Town Board?

A: There isn’t. There is significant opposition to both projects but the hearings and most of the activity on the Village at Jamesport project happened years ago and so it’s not fresh in everyone’s minds like this is. This proposed location for a YMCA is clearly inappropriate and does not conform to what’s allowed in RB-80 and so it is receiving quick opposition.

This is clearly another one of attorney Pete Danowski’s many attempts to subvert our Master Plan and zoning on behalf of one of his clients by playing semantics. He recently successfully petitioned the town to defy logic and say that wine tasting was a customary accessory to a craft store so that a new business on Main Road in Aquebogue can serve wine, and I think people are getting tired of it.

On the other hand, though the opposition to the Village at Jamesport has been going on for at least eight years, it’s not as clear-cut an issue. Village at Jamesport is looking for a special permit for uses that are actually allowed in the Rural Corridor Zoning, and opposition is based on the fact that this parcel has a different building allowance than what rural corridor allows for.

Q: Is there anything the Y can do to work with local residents who oppose this location for the project to get a facility built there?

A: No. The zoning does not support the use. Period. A special permit cannot be based on accessory uses. YMCAs are primarily recreational sports facilities, and this one may have educational pre-K classes as an accessory use but that doesn’t actually qualify it for a special permit. In fact, the Y offers many programs that are not allowable in RB-80 zoning, which would disqualify it for a special permit. Additionally, the zoning on the parcel does not support any possible future expansion for outdoor sports/an aquatic center as the Y claims it wants to do. The initial building phase (the indoor pool and facility) would use up all the lot coverage the Y allowed. This location makes no sense for the community or the YMCA, long term.

Fritz Trinklein, YMCA of Long Island, Inc., director of strategic planning

Q: One of the biggest criticisms of the YMCA is that it has never considered the heart of downtown as a possible location. Why the need for open space and camp facilities when we live in one of the most rural, open regions of Long Island? You can’t say kids around here don’t have room to run.

A: A YMCA needs outdoor space for its full compliment of programming. Summer day camp programs are key. The popular “Silver Sneakers” program for seniors (often funded by health insurance) and the “couch potato to 5K” program are examples of outside activities in a pleasant environment.

Introductory outdoor classes for youth, including soccer, golf, T-ball, volleyball and field hockey, are simplest when administered “on-site.” Personal training classes also use outdoor space for sprinting or longer distance running.

Eight acres is required to establish an optimal YMCA location. This makes a downtown location all but impossible, particularly within the Y’s $500,000 acquisition budget.

Traffic, proximity, and accessibility to the membership are other key factors for a successful YMCA. Ninety-nine percent of all participants need to be transported to the Y, regardless of where it is located. Of the approximate 40,000-person local population pool, a small segment drives through downtown on a regular basis (unlike Main Road). If a Y is located downtown, it would add new traffic to an already difficult-to-navigate area. Y members generally tend to travel up to 15-20 minutes to participate in programs. By the time a driver squirrels through downtown, many minutes are consumed driving a very short distance.

Furthermore, Y studies show less than 5 percent of YMCA members of a branch located in Riverhead would come from the downtown area, regardless of where it is located. The Y needs to be accessible to as many people as possible.

The number one expressed need by 80 percent of the entire population is an indoor swimming pool. And the remaining 20 percent virtually all agree a Y is needed. One population does not need a Y more than another.

Everyone will improve their sense of wellness by participating. Young, old; rich, poor; white, black; those in good health and those who have health struggles. Everyone.

Q: Do you have any idea about the potential traffic impacts on Main Road if the facility were to be built in Aquebogue?

A: Town Hall has recent hourly traffic studies for Main Road. The YMCA knows branch traffic. Most participants coming to a branch on Main Road would combine it with other errands, thereby not adding to traffic. Once full membership has been reached in 3 to 5 years, the Y’s preliminary analysis shows an average traffic effect of 2 to 3 percent.

Q: Opponents of the proposed location have floated other sites the Y might want to consider, namely the former North Fork/Capital One headquarters in Mattituck. Has the Y considered that property? What did it find?

A: Many sites have been suggested over the past decade. Each location introduces specific elements that have to be evaluated. Demographics play a large roll. A branch located east of Laurel would not have sufficient membership to achieve a balanced budget, which is the goal of all YMCAs on Long Island. Additionally, the priorities of those who have provided volunteer leadership and donor support need to be incorporated into the decision-making process.

The Peconic YMCA committee, which has been working tirelessly for over 15 years, has specified that the branch be located in the Town of Riverhead, accessible to all residents in the town.

Q: If this doesn’t happen in Aquebogue, does Peconic YMCA keep trying? Or does it pack its bags. I can’t imagine it has much left in its tank, frankly.

A: The Peconic YMCA committee, led by Joe Van de Wetering, has shown an incredible commitment to benefit town residents. Over these many years, each proposed location has created a reaction by a small group of local people who, although they universally agree with the benefits a YMCA would provide the community, have unfounded fears of the impact a YMCA would have on their specific neighborhood. The YMCA of Long Island has built a reputation of being good and friendly neighbors at all of its branch locations. For example, property values adjacent to a Y normally increase due to the existence of a Y.

Instead of giving up, Joe and the Peconic YMCA committee have taken extra measures to ensure the suitability of a potential location, by initially garnering the unanimous endorsement of the Town Board, the town planning department and the town attorney before pursuing it. Although some Town Board members vacillate and change their minds, the town supervisor and other consistent board members have shown strong leadership in standing by their word and endorsement.

Joe is supported by very publicly-minded, philanthropic individuals, who want to help the town become a healthier, happier place to live. In addition to the Van de Wetering family, the Entenmanns, Millers, and Goodales have committed leadership pledges of six figures or more to see this project succeed. We are motivated by the steadfastness of their support.

How long will this benevolence last? Even the most gracious people have their limits.

Michael White is the editor of the Riverhead News-Review. He can be reached at (631) 298-3200, ext. 152 or mwhite@timesreview.com.

03/10/12 5:06pm
03/10/2012 5:06 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO

No one doubts that a YMCA would benefit the North Fork, but none present at the Jamesport Meeting House Saturday morning supports building a 40,000-square-foot recreational facility on the 8.8 wooded acres across from Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue.

More than 50 residents, as well as Riverhead Town Board members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen, gathered for the special meeting held by the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association to discuss the prospect.

“It seems out of character with the community. I don’t like it, but I want to find out more,” Aquebogue resident Michael Cotula, who lives on Colonial Lane, directly west of the proposed site, said prior to the meeting. Others echoed that sentiment.

“I’m not opposed to the YMCA” said, Perry Conklin, a  Main Road, Aquebogue resident for 76 years. He added the site includes a dangerous curve in Main Road road that would invite accidents.

On another note, he said,  “That’s the only piece of woods between here and Southold. What do you want to do, destroy it?”

“In my opinion, it should clearly be located centrally in Riverhead so those who need it most can get there,” said Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association. Ms. Keller, who has worked at YMCAs, said she thinks everyone supports the idea of a Riverhead Y, but the location would make it very difficult for needy families in Riverhead to get to.

Aquebogue resident Tim McElroy, who also lives on Colonial Lane, said it appears the location was chosen to appeal to those in Southold more than Riverhead residents. “That’s how it seems to me,” he said.

Many raised questions about whether the building would be a traditional YMCA, with a mission focused on strengthening a community and all of its members, or more of a country club, with high cost monthly and yearly fees that only more wealthy residents can afford.

Because of the area’s zoning, a special permit is needed from the town declaring the structure an educational, not recreational, facility.

gvolpe@timesreview.com

Check the March 15 Riverhead News-Review newspaper for more extensive coverage.

10/31/10 7:59pm
10/31/2010 7:59 PM

T

he plan to build a YMCA near Stotzky Park, a short jog from Riverhead’s downtown, appears to be in doubt.

The Riverhead Town Board unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday “to express support for the establishment of a YMCA at Enterprise Park at Calverton property adjoining the town’s park.”

But Joe Van de Wetering of Peconic YMCA says his group still considers the county property to be its first choice for a YMCA site. The Calverton site is more of a backup plan, he explained.

“It’s something that’s been discussed, but it’s not necessarily what we desire,” said Mr. Van de Wetering. “But we want to make sure there’s always an option.”

Peconic YMCA has been seeking a site in Riverhead for more than 10 years.

Fritz Trinklein of the YMCA of Long Island said the volunteers and contributors to the Peconic YMCA project are eager to get work started quickly, while construction prices are low, but the process of establishing a YMCA on the county land is taking longer than hoped. Currently, he said, the issue of what agency approves what on the project is being reviewed by attorneys for the county.

A proposed land swap between the county and Riverhead Town, which Mr. Trinklein had hoped could get the project moving sooner, was rejected by Town Board members earlier this year.

In the past, Peconic YMCA has opposed the idea of building a facility at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, saying the former Navy land is too far from the center of town.

Mr. Van de Wetering said that is still a drawback of the Calverton location, as is the lack of a public sewer system there.

Riverhead Councilman George Gabrielsen noted the Southampton Youth Association in North Sea is also far from the center of town, but employs an aggressive busing system to get kids to the facility. He believes a similar arrangement could be worked out in Riverhead, since the school district has expressed interest in using the proposed YMCA pool.

Mr. Gabrielsen said the town has designated a portion of a town park in Calverton for a community recreation complex, and the YMCA could fill that role. The town has eight acres of land there that it could make available just east of the existing softball fields and east of some proposed soccer fields, he said.

“We’re encouraged by this positive signal from the town,” Mr. Trinklein said. Peconic YMCA is “willing to pursue all options” and may end up going with whichever plan can be implemented fastest, he said.

“We’ll get there,” Mr. Van de Wetering said. “We are extremely patient.”

tgannon@timesreview.com


This post was originally published Oct. 19, 2010