This week in Riverhead history: Cromarty family buys Riverhead Raceway

COURTESY PHOTO | Few sights on the East End are as identifiable as the statue outside Riverhead Raceway.

The following stories were excerpted from News-Review issues published 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 and 30 years ago this week:

30 years ago …

Raceway sold, new owners plan improvements

Riverhead Raceway will become a cornucopia of family-oriented events under plans now being considered by its new owners Barbara and Jim Cromarty, we wrote in the Jan. 7, 1982 issue of the News-Review.

The new owners said they were looking to host Oktoberfests, ethnic festivals and family concerts on the 30-acre site.

“When we get through with it it will look like a totally new facility,” Ms. Cromarty said.

Said Mr. Cromarty: “We hope to make the raceway one of the biggest outdoor entertainment facilities on the East End.”

Postscript: Thirty years later, the Cromartys still own Long Island’s only raceway. While all the goals mentioned in the 1982 story might not have come to fruition, no one can argue that the Raceway, an iconic North Fork location, hasn’t long been a major outdoor recreational destination.

Janoski takes control with GOP majority

Republicans were in full control at a Riverhead Town Board meeting Jan. 5, 1982 for only the second time in a decade, we reported in that week’s issue of The Riverhead News-Review.

Lone Democrat John Lombardi and citizens in the audience offered verbal opposition to several moves the GOP made at its reorganizational meeting.

The resolution that received the most scrutiny was a move to appoint Richard Larsen of Wading River, a co-leader of the town’s Republican Party, to replace Democrat Robert Donnelly on the Planning Board.

25 years ago …

Blass shatters Glass in race for presiding officer

William Lindsay has been the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature and East End Legislator Ed Romaine has been in the minority for so long now it’s hard to remember a time when the North Fork representative was also the PO.

But 25 years ago that was the case … and it was unexpected.

Considered a maverick Republican, East End Legislator Gregory Blass of Jamesport was not expected to retain his role as Presiding Officer of the Legislature when the 1987 reorganizational meeting was held. GOP leaders made a play at instead having Gerard Glass of Lindenhurst take over the post.

When role was called, however, Blass managed to get 10 votes to Glass’ eight.

“Everyone here, I’m sure, will understand if I suddenly find myself identifying with the biblical miracle of Lazarus,” Mr. Blass said at the meeting. “Indeed, a resurrection has taken place.”

Postscript: Mr. Blass is now the commissioner of Social Services for Suffolk County.

20 years ago …

Hunting: Too close for comfort

One week after a Wading River woman was injured by a stray shotgun shell that entered her home, the Wading River Civic Association was calling on tighter regulation hunters in the second week of January 1992.

The group was asking Riverhead Town and the state DEC to post no hunting signs on certain parcels as a precautionary measure against illegal hunting.

“I’m sure most hunters are responsible,” said then-Wading River Civic Association president Sid Bail. “But, boy, there are some people I don’t like to see with a gun in their hands.”

15 years ago …

Development rights bank gets its first deposit

The first-ever sale of Pine Barrens development rights credits took place Jan. 8, 1997, according to the News-Review issue published the following day.

Olin Warner of Warner Duck Farms in Calverton was the seller.

The Pine Barrens Commission approved Mr. Warner’s application to redeem 48 development rights credits from his 30-acre property on River Road for $480,000.

At the time, the state’s land bank had $5 million earmarked for development rights purchased but not a single taker.

Postscript: The county purchased Mr. Warner’s property for preservation in 2009.

AMP Circuits to close

Some 450 jobs will be lost to the Riverhead area as one of the town’s biggest employers and taxpayers announced it is closing its Aquebogue facility, we wrote in the Jan. 9, 1997 issue of the Riverhead News-Review.

AMP Circuits ran a 24-hour operation on West lane, where employees manufactured electronic circuit boards.

The news came as a particularly jarring surprise since the company had only recently added 100 jobs at the facility.

10 years ago …

100 wins and still counting

The Riverhead boys basketball team posted a 47-42 win over East Islip on Jan. 3, 2002 to notch head coach Jerry Wiesmann his 100th career victory.

“You don’t think about these things when you’re coaching,” he said after the game. “You’re concerned about your kids and clean uniforms and who’s going to class and who’s healthy.”

WRIV play-by-play announcer Pat Kelly, who broadcast all of Wiesmann’s first 100 wins presented him with a ball that was signed 100-51, the coach’s career record at the time.

Postscript: Wiesmann was replaced as Riverhead coach against his will in 2006. He finished his career with a 147-73 record.

Restaurateur Cliff Saunders Jr. dies at 74

Longtime North Fork restaurateur Cliff Saunders Jr. of Laurel died Jan. 3, 2002, we reported the following week. He was 74.

Mr. Saunders was the owner of several popular eateries, including the Rendezvous and the Elbow Room.

He purchased the Elbow Room property in Jamesport in 1958 after trying a variety of careers as a gas station owner, an ad salesman and a butcher. He also owned Jamesport Travel Agency for more than 25 years.

Postscript: His restaurants remain, in my opinion, the best place to get a steak on the North Fork.

 5 years ago …

Town dumps ZBA’s Keller; Rose Sanders named to seat

Former Councilwoman Rose Sanders was back in the public eye last week as a split Town Board appointed her to a seat on the Zoning Board of Appeals, replacing 20-year member Martin Kellr, read the lead of the Page 3 story in the Jan. 11, 2007 issue of the News-Review.

She was appointed with the support of Councilwoman Barbara Blass, who cast the swing vote after earlier that night voting against a measure to appoint civic activist Larry Williams to the post.

Mr. Keller said he first heard he might be replaced two days before the vote.

“It’s unfortunate what happened,” Mr. Keller said. “It just goes to show what type of government we have. It’s a shame.”

Postscript: The shoe was on the other foot when Ms. Sanders was voted off the ZBA last week.