This Week in History: Disabled 12-year-old saves two children from drowning

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | This Week in History features two stories about development on Route 58, pictured above.

The following stories were excerpted from News-Review issues published 5, 10, 25, and 50 years ago this week:

5 years ago …

Route 58 gets county’s eye

Riverhead’s Route 58 corridor was named one of five major growth and development areas in Suffolk County, we reported in the Jan. 18, 2007 edition of the News-Review.

The report, released by the Suffolk County planning department, projected a 143 percent jump in the amount of retail space in Riverhead in coming years, noting that the Route 58 corridor is now one of the largest concentrations of shopping center development in Suffolk County, along with areas in four other communities. The report also predicted a 62 percent increase in residential development and a 224 percent jump in industrial development in Riverhead.

The report warned that if all proposed development projects in Riverhead and the other four communities mentioned proceeded as planned, it would mean significant changes for those five communities and Suffolk County as a whole.

Then-County Executive Steve Levy called a meeting of town supervisors to discuss a regional county/town strategy for dealing with the issues and impacts of major development.

Update: Development on Route 58 continues with a recently opened Lowe’s, a proposed Costco, recently-approved plans for a Marriott hotel and the latest proposal, a 118,650 square foot shopping center on the corridor’s western end. Industrial development, however, has remained mostly stagnant.

10 years ago …

Round about on traffic

“Lose the traffic circle and make Route 58 four lanes. That’s a recommendation that previously has been made by the county and now has been made in Riverhead Town’s draft master plan recommendations,” so read the lead of a story that ran in the Jan. 17, 2002 edition of the News-Review

The article stated that the county was not open to widening Route 58 unless the plan called to eliminate the Roanoke Avenue traffic circle. Town officials said the public had been split on removing the traffic circle.

One resident even suggested making Route 58 one-way heading east and Route 25 one-way headed west, though engineers said such a plan could hurt businesses on both roads.

John Shapiro of APPS, the firm that oversaw the town’s master plan update, told the audience at a public hearing not to worry about government funding.

“When government money comes, it comes fast,” he said.

Update: It wasn’t until eight years later when a widened, four-lane Route 58 was completed in June 2010. The $8 million project, paid for through county funds, has made driving through the busy thoroughfare much easier for commuters, residents and shoppers. The traffic circle remains, but is now a two-lane roundabout.

25 years ago …

Kidnap victim is found safe in trunk

Riverhead’s Melvin Anderson was found safe after he was abducted and tossed into the trunk of his own car and driven around for two hours before being rescued by Suffolk County Police, according to the front page story of the Jan. 22, 1987 edition of the News-Review.

“I figured I was finished if the police hadn’t stopped them,” Mr. Anderson told the News-Review shortly after the terrifying ordeal.

Mr. Anderson, then 51, said two men forced themselves into his car while it was stopped on Railroad Avenue in Riverhead. The men, who picked up a third accomplice along the way, demanded money from Mr. Anderson, who gave them $21. They then forced him into the trunk and continued driving.

The car was eventually stopped in an Amityville parking lot by two county police officers on a stakeout. One of the suspects got into a fight with an officer while being handcuffed and took control of his police cruiser before smashing it into a wall.

Mr. Anderson, who was banging on the trunk during the stop, was found safe.

The other suspects escaped.

50 years ago …

Note: This following is a recap of a story that originally ran in the Jan. 18, 1962 edition of the News-Review. The recap was printed in the Jan. 22, 1987 edition, and appears in its entirety below.

Two children rescued by 12-year-old

Two small children, who had fallen through the ice of a Riverhead pond Thursday afternoon, were saved from possible drowning in 12 feet of water, through a dramatic rescue by a 12-year-old boy, a victim of cerebral palsy.

David Dougherty, son of Mr. and Mrs. David Dougherty of 125 Northern Blvd., Riverhead, had just finished ice skating on Merrits Pond, taken off his skates and donned hipboots, when he saw two children walking on the ice at the northern end of the pond.

He warned the children that it wasn’t safe to go back. Suddenly, five-year-old Bridgette Harrison fell through the ice, and in an attempt to save his sister, Joseph Patrick also fell in.

Young Doughery first tried to wade to the children, and finding the water too deep, took off his jacket and boots and swam 30 feet to them.

He grabbed the girl around the neck, and the boy got on David’s back. He told them to start kicking their feet, and swam them safely to shore. Neither of the children panicked, but little Bridgette was crying.

David led them to his house, and Mrs. Dougherty took the children to the home of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Harrison of Duryea Street. Bridgette’s pigtails were frozen solid.

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