TIM GANNON PHOTO
About 50 residents attended County Legislator Ed Romaine’s press conference Tuesday to announce plans for the purchase of a controversial 4.1-acre parcel slated for development on Sound Avenue in Reeves Park.
County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches) will be submitting a bill today calling on the county to begin taking steps toward the acquisition of a controversial 4.1-acre parcel at the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, on which a shopping center has been proposed.
Mr. Romaine held a press conference at the site Tuesday to announce his plans. He was joined by state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), Assemblyman Mark Alessi (D-Shoreham) and Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, along with about 50 residents who also supported preserving the land.
“This is something I am not going to give up on,” Mr. Romaine said. “I truly believe that Sound Avenue needs to remain as rural as possible. I understand property rights, but I also understand the greater issues. There’s a place for development and there’s a place for less development, and this is the place for less commercial development.”
EMB Enterprises, owned by Kenn Barra, is seeking to build a 28,000- square-foot shopping center at the Park Road/Sound Avenue corner. Earlier this year, an appellate court, ruling on a lawsuit EMB brought against a town rezoning of the property, approved the application subject to an environmental review. Residents of nearby Reeves Park and other areas have opposed the development, with more than 1,000 signatures on a petition in opposition to it, and Mr. Walter has suggested the land be acquired as a park, although he said the town alone doesn’t have enough money to do so.
At Tuesday’s press conference, Mr. Romaine said that unless there is a willing seller, the county cannot consider purchasing the site. He said his bill will go before the county Legislature’s environment, planning and agricultural committee on Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. The committee will assign a grade indicating the land’s priority for acquisition. If the bill makes it out of the committee and doesn’t get tabled, it will be voted on by the full Legislature on Oct. 12.
MEMORIAL PROPOSED TO BOARD
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, Sept. 8, Reeves Park resident Bob Kelly, whose brother Tom was an FDNY firefighter killed in the World Trade Center attacks, asked the Town Board to acquire the land as a Sept. 11 memorial site. (The town renamed Park Road in honor of Tom Kelly several years ago, and a plaque and flag in his memory were placed at the corner of Sound Avenue.)
Mr. Kelly pointed out that many Sept. 11 victims were never recovered, and their families have no cemetery or gravestone to visit.
“On Sept 11, 2001, my brother Tom Kelly was at work in Brooklyn at Ladder Company 105 on Dean Street,” Bob Kelly told the elected officials in Town Hall. “By the time I reported to work that day at my firehouse in Queens, the Twin Towers had already been struck by terrorist attacks.
“I immediately called my brother Tom up at his firehouse and tried to tell him to be safe, but I was too late. They’d already responded. And I never got to speak to him.”
He also recalled his last conversation with his brother, during which they spoke of the beauty of Riverhead.
“We were on the beach at Reeves Park on Labor Day weekend,” he recalled. “Life was good that day. I told him how lucky he was to stay out here in Riverhead, and Reeves Park, all year round. Tommy had just purchased a home on Marine Street and he gladly made the trek into Brooklyn, knowing he could come home to his Reeves family, my folks and our friends.”
Mr. Walter responded that Mr. Barra had told him that he had already invested about $1.6 million in the property and the development application.
“The town doesn’t have the financial wherewithal to buy it on our own,” Mr. Walter said. He suggested partnering with Suffolk County and even having residents raise funds privately.
On Saturday, a candlelight ceremony in memory of Tom Kelly and others killed in the terrorist attack was held at the Park Road/Sound Avenue corner, with about 100 people participating.