Embattled ‘Cruise Night’ rolls on in Wading River

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05/20/2010 12:00 AM |

A collection of classic cars has greeted visitors to the King Kullen parking lot in Wading River every summer Thursday for the past six years. But the impromptu gathering is in danger of becoming a thing of the past, just like these models.

The weekly Wading River Cruise Night car show took place at the King Kullen shopping center in Wading River on Thursday even though the property owner, Charles Serota, had said he wanted the six-year tradition to come to an end. The show went on in a different part of the lot at the request of police, to minimize its impact on available parking for shopping center customers.

The southern strip of the lot that faces Family Fitness at Wading River health club on Route 25A has served as the prime location for gearheads to showcase their cars; it was bare Thursday night. Instead, the show had moved a few hundred yards from its usual site to the area between King Kullen and CVS.

Also on Thursday, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter showed up to offer the car enthusiasts a new alternative location in Riverhead. He said the riverfront parking area in downtown Riverhead was a place where they’d be welcomed.

“I love the fact that you’re here, but I want you to go someplace better,” Mr. Walter said. “It’s a little bit farther east, but it’s a nicer setting.”

Most of the classic car owners shrugged at Mr. Walter’s suggestion and said they wanted to keep the show alive in Wading River — even though Mr. Serota has said he wants them to move from his property.

Mr. Serota did not return phone calls this week seeking comment on the return of the car show. Last week, he said in an interview that he wanted the show gone because it was not run by an insured, formally organized club, and because his tenants in the shopping center had complained that the show, which meets from 5 to 9 p.m. each Thursday in warm-weather months, took up too many parking spaces.

Family Fitness at Wading River health club has said its clients have complained about a lack of parking during the show and wanted to see it move to the other end of the lot.

At Thursday’s gathering, a Riverhead Town police officer asked Charles Cali, president of the Long Island Moose Classic Car Club, to have participants move to the new spot because of the parking complaints.

“All they had to do was ask,” said Mr. Cali. “It would have eliminated everybody getting all riled up. I can’t see anybody complaining about moving 200 yards away.”

While the car show’s new location is in a section of the lot that is usually empty and wouldn’t directly affect customer parking, Mr. Serota’s ultimatum appears to remain an issue.

Mr. Walter said the group wouldn’t have to worry about becoming an organized club if it moved to the downtown municipal lot in Riverhead.

“All we’re asking is that you have insurance on your car and you all have that anyway, so I don’t care,” he said. “I know that this may be the spot, but I’m asking you to give it a shot. Maybe next Thursday come down to the riverfront.”

Members of the Riverhead Business Improvement District agreed to give cruise night participants discount cards to some of the downtown shops if the car show were moved to the riverfront parking area, Mr. Walter said.

Joe DeMonte, a classic car owner and cruise night regular, said at Thursday’s gathering he hopes the show doesn’t go to Riverhead because the current location is a central one for people coming from Port Jefferson and Miller Place as well as Riverhead and Mattituck.

“Our cars and the spectators aren’t taking up customer parking,” he said of the group’s new location between King Kullen and CVS. “We think it’s a happy medium. The only thing is if Mr. Serota will be happy with it.”

George Luhrs of Shoreham, who brought his 1930 Pontiac to last week’s cruise night, said the new location’s positives outweighs its negatives.

“It’s not much different from the other one,” Mr. Luhrs said. “In fact, it looks roomier to me, but we’re not as close to the stores, so we probably won’t get the same foot traffic here that we got down there — that’s probably one drawback. Other than that, I’m sure we’ll still have a good time.”

Some said they will continue to have cruise night in Wading River until they are actually forced out by Mr. Serota. When that happens, then they’ll consider moving to Riverhead.

“It is a nice spot,” Mr. Cali said of the riverfront parking area in downtown Riverhead.

“But you’ll have to deal with mosquitoes in the summer,” Mr. DeMonte said.

Mr. Cali joked that all Mr. DeMonte did was complain. “Fine,” he said. “Then stay here!”

“Then I’ll be all by myself here,” Mr. DeMonte said.

“Then you’ll be the best-in-show and will get all of the trophies,” Mr. Cali replied, both of them laughing.

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