This week in Riverhead History: ‘Suffolk Theatre to open by fall’

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | We ran this picture a little more than a year ago with a headline a headline that read "Suffolk Theatre owner hopes to open next year."

The following stories were excerpted from News-Review issues published 5, 10, 15, and 25 years ago this week:

15 years ago …

Suffolk Theatre to open by fall

Interior restoration of the Suffolk Theatre is scheduled to begin in January and the Art-Deco movie house is expected to reopen within 7 1/2 months, we reported in the Dec. 19, 1996 issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

Those were the terms the Riverhead Town Board agreed to the previous Thursday with the New York City firm Van Nostrand Vascotto Associates.

In agreeing to pay Van Nostrand Vascotto $109,000 to act as the project’s construction manager, board members called for bids for all renovations and stage extension. All work is expected to be complete by fall 1997, we wrote.

According to our story, exterior renovations were completed on the $2.1 million project in 1995, and $800,000 was approved for the interior work in the spring of 1996.

“We’re going to have the biggest screen in Suffolk County and a state-of-the-art sound system designed by [Star Wars creator] George Lucas,” said then-Councilman Vic Prusinowski.

Regal Theatres, a firm proposing an 18-screen multiplex for Route 58, had volunteered to screen first-run films at Suffolk Theatre, we wrote.

Postscript: Keep reading, it gets better.

10 years ago …

Theater sale stopped

In his final meeting as a councilman, Phil Cardinale floated a bill to sell the Suffolk Theatre at an auction, we reported in the Dec. 20, 2001 News-Review.

Mr. Cardinale, who had lost his bid for reelection a month earlier, proposed selling the Suffolk Theatre at an “absolute auction” saying that the theater “continues to stand vacant, unused, removed from the tax rolls and in visibly deteriorating condition.”

The Town Board acquired the 70-year-old theater in 1994 for $400,000 and had spent $800,000 to renovate as of the publishing of our 2001 article. The theater was last opened for a movie screening in 1987.

The other four Town Board members voted against the auction since it would be “absolute,” meaning it would be sold to the highest bidder with no Town Board control over use, so long as it fit the existing zoning.

“Phil’s heart is in the right place trying to get this back on the tax rolls, but I can’t agree with an absolute auction,” said Councilman Ed Densieski.

Postscript: Nearly 25 years since the theater last screened a movie, current owner Bob Castaldi, who purchased the theater from the town for $700,000 in 2005, says the renovation is close to complete. A new lighted marquee was illuminated for the first time this fall.

World Trade Center victim’s body found

The waiting is over for the Washington family of Calverton, but the grieving begins anew, we wrote 10 years ago this week.

Keisha Washington returned home from Christmas shopping Dec. 18 when two Suffolk County homicide detectives knocked on her door to tell her the body of her husband was found at Ground Zero, more than three months after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Washington worked at the World Trade Center.

“Now it’s like reliving it, which we knew we had to do,” Ms. Washington said.

Postscript: On the 10th anniversary of the attacks this past September, we updated the story of the Washington family.

Making Grangebel grand

Construction work began 10 years ago this week on repairing a bulkhead at Grangebel Park in Riverhead, “a riverfront attraction town officials and business owners view as an important part of the revitalization of the downtown area,” we reported.

The work involved replacing three footbridges and 800 linear feet of bulkheading, a $207,000 job financed with help from a $100,000 state parks grant.

Then-BID president Tim Yousik said a fully restored Grangebel Park could help bring people downtown, we wrote.

“People used to come out from all over Long Island just to look at it,” he said. “That park was fantastic. It should be that again, and this is a good start.”

Postscript: Nine years later, almost to the day, a renovated Grangebel Park reopened.

25 years ago …

Urban sprawl moves east to Wading River

Wading River is at a crossroads, we wrote in the page 4 story of the Dec. 25, 1986 issue of the Riverhead News-Review. Still marked by expanses of open space, the area is quickly being developed. With nearby Brookhaven Town serving as a reminder of what it could be, Riverhead Town officials and concerned residents now face the difficult task of adapting to and controlling the rapid growth.

At the time, we reported that more than 600 acres were slated for residential development, with more than 400 single-family homes slated for the area. This, in addition to four shopping centers slated for development in the area.

“For the last three years nothing much was happening and all of the sudden [developers] are coming out of the woodwork,” Miller Place developer Nicholas Aliano told us.

At the time our story was written, Wading River Square, across from King Kullen had just been built.

Postscript: Twenty-five years later it’s fair to say Wading River is far from “urban” as our headline suggested. But future development, and how to control it, is still a question many in the community are asking.

Five years ago …

Kent reunites man with dog lost during Hurricane Katrina

Two old pals — a 51-year-old disabled mechanic and a 6-year-old canine thought to be of boxer and Akita ancestry — were reunited at Kent Animal Shelter Dec. 14, 2006 after more than 16 months apart.

The last time dog Rocky and his owner, Steven Cure, had been together was in St. Bernard Parish on the morning Hurricane Katrina struck.

Mr. Cure had rushed his parents out of town, but had to leave Rocky behind since the car was packed. He planned to return to pick up the dog the next day, but couldn’t get back after the levees were breached.

Rocky was later taken to a shelter in Mississippi and shipped to Kent when the first shelter got too crowded.

He was reconnected with his owner after his microchip data was extracted from a computer damaged at a New Orleans shelter during the storm.

How’d they let it slip by?

The State DEC commenced an internal investigation of its failure to enforce a key permit condition on a controversial sand mine in Calverton, DEC regional director Pete Scully told the Riverhead News-Review in a statement published in the Dec. 21, 2006 issue of the paper.

Mr. Scully’s statement was in response to a report in the previous week’s News-Review that Mike Cholowsky of Calverton Industries had been operating in violation of a permit condition requiring him to stay out of the garbage business, we reported. The permit condition was a safeguard against illegal dumping at the Calverton site, put in place after Mr. Cholowsky’s admitted role in illegal dumping at the Brookhaven Town dump in the 1990s.

“We have an obligation to investigate these matters fully,” Mr. Scully wrote.

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