Letters: Anthony Coates, YMCA and the Animal Shelter

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Anthony Coates was offered a $65,000 per year non-union job from Supervisor Sean Walter, but the Town Board put off voting on the controversial resolution Tuesday night.


He’s the right man for the job

As a person who knows a bit about getting public policy legislation approved in Albany, and also about the sad history of efforts to develop EPCAL, I strongly support Anthony Coates’ recruitment to advance the town’s EPCAL agenda.

Only about 4 percent of bills introduced in the New York State Legislature ever get approved; an infinitesimal number in the year of their introduction. Winning approval requires an exceptional combination of government, political and campaign skills, of which Mr. Coates is uniquely possessed.

While previous town administrations have falsely scapegoated the environment as obstacles to EPCAL development, Mr. Coates has already met with environmentalists to reconcile our interests with the shared interest of advancing economic development at EPCAL. Protection of water quality and the critters that live there need not prevent productive development of the property and Mr. Coates obtained significant understanding and cooperation during a recent exchange with the East End’s leading environmentalists.

The Town Board should view Mr. Coates’ professional compensation as a smart investment in the economic vitality of Riverhead Town and a small price to pay for finally getting EPCAL out of the realm of laughingstock and into the world of reality.

Richard Amper

Executive director, Long Island Pine Barrens Society


Not buying it

Sean Walter’s failed attempt to get a job for his “political conscience” Tony Coates is starting to look more and more like Nixon’s cover-up of the bungled Watergate break-in. Love him or hate him, it cannot be denied that Tony can be engaging, often intelligent and politically savvy. But trying to slip a taxpayer-funded job for Tony through (when a financially strapped town has laid off employees) without disclosing material information within his personal knowledge, calls into question the supervisor’s own integrity and judgment. In light of Tony’s intimate access to Town Hall and the supervisor, including potentially inside information, his background, associations and qualifications are a legitimate matter of public concern.

This concern is heightened where he is proposed as the town employee to lobby state officials in something as important as development at EPCAL.

What is outrageous and irresponsible is the supervisor’s intentional omission of Tony’s substance abuse issues and ties to what have been reported — in this newspaper and elsewhere — to be some of Long Island’s most notorious criminals, in lobbying for the appointment, as well as the sourced information that the supervisor helped foot the bill for the rehabilitation stay. (The supervisor denies this.)

The supervisor’s last attempt to circumvent the vetting process involved the $500,000 “no-bid” contract to an outside consultant for EPCAL. The same consultant that, by negligence or malfeasance, overstated the projected tax revenues for a much-maligned Jamesport project by 100 percent; it was approved by the Town Board over vehement public objection.

I personally wish Tony well and commend him for getting help. Rather than misleading the public and board, the supervisor should hope that, even if there is no opportunity in Town Hall for him, Tony recovers enough to get back to giving good political advice — including telling Walter to stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

Ron Hariri

Editor’s note: According to town officials, the hiring of the Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. (VHB) firm to conduct studies at EPCAL was not subject to competitive bidding requirements because the firm provides specialized professional services. Court decisions and advising agencies have determined that such “unique services” are not subject to the bidding process under municipal law, said town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz.



It is an insult to Riverhead taxpayers for the town to hire Tony Coates. I’m surprised at you, John Dunleavy, because I thought you were one of the most honest and upstanding politicians Riverhead Town ever had. There are probably over 10,000 residents in Riverhead who have better qualifications than Mr. Coates and who are not friends of Mr. Walter and have not been to rehab.

Mr. Gabrielsen, Mrs. Giglio and Mr. Wooten, please don’t wimp out on this one. Stand your ground and do right by the taxpayers.

If all else fails, perhaps the town could hire a limousine with a driver to take Mr. Coates to Albany, with a stop on Broadway to see “How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.” Just befriend the supervisor!

Jim Dreeben


Look elsewhere

The proposed Y facility in Aquebogue consists of two major components, a state taxpayer-funded pre-school and an indoor pool.

There will be activity programs, but disappointingly no indoor recreation center for basketball, volleyball, tennis, etc. commonly found at YMCAs. Y officials talk about phase two for a gym but, as we all know, phase two never happens. This is not going to be your mom-and-pop YMCA most people would expect. The indoor recreation center — recommended by the Riverhead recreation advisory committee for the past two years — was ignored by this particular YMCA consortium. I feel our youth’s needs should be a top priority at this facility.

There were other suggested sites as well. One was an eight-acre county-owned parcel adjacent to Stotzky Park. Even at this centrally located site, an indoor recreation center was recommended by the committee. When discussing the need for indoor basketball, one of the Y’s responses was to let people play at the state armory, obviously a location away from the Y. Something is wrong with this picture. Also, the county was willing to lease to the YMCA at no charge. The YMCA refused, because when building a facility on county land, it is stipulated that one would be subject to pay prevailing wages during construction. Y officials told me this would drive the cost of the project up a substantial amount. The Y could get around paying prevailing wages only if the county gives it sole ownership of the property, but this alienation of parkland would have to pass two sessions of the state Legislature. The YMCA refuses to go this route, as it would be a long and cumbersome process. The town also offered acreage at EPCAL.

I would like to discuss the location at Aquebogue.  At first blush, this appeared a somewhat good location. But finding out this was not commercially zoned land, but RB80 residentially zoned property, immediately raised concern by some Town Board members.

The neighbors justifiably were upset and concerned about this location. Despite YMCA representative Fritz Trinklein’s accusation of Town Board members flip-flopping, we are actually filling the duties of our office by listening to the people that elected us. For sure, Mr. Trinklein has been disingenuous in his dealing with the town and the people of Riverhead, not only in Aquebogue but in the two years that I have been trying to work with the YMCA at other sites. The last issue is with the traffic. All who have lived here, including fire department members, know this would be a traffic nightmare. There have been numerous accidents at this deadly curve in the road.

This property would be coming off the town’s property tax rolls, and would be a Riverhead taxpayer-subsidized country club that will also be used by Southold and the South Fork. Let’s look for a YMCA that really includes the affordable needs of our Riverhead youth and families at a centrally located area.

George Gabrielsen

Councilman, Riverhead Town


We aren’t about big

I live out east because I like it out here. I don’t want the area to become like Western Suffolk.

It is our job to keep our rural character the way that it is. Tourists, who spend money, come out here to get away from it all — the houses, the big buildings, all the stoplights. You get the picture.

It seems the SIIMBYs (stick it in my backyard) don’t like this rural quality we enjoy. They want a really big building built out here.

This 40,000-square-foot YMCA should be built in a more centrally located area of Riverhead so people all over can have easy access to it.

How about near a school or park so our children can have easy access to it?

Have you noticed the Ys in Patchogue, Bay Shore and Huntington are centrally located in their towns? None are out in the country, away from the people. Why here? Possibly an exclusive country club kind of thing?

If it’s a pool everyone wants, why doesn’t the Town of Riverhead build it?

Dean Sambach


Not about anti-YMCA

I am not against a YMCA in the Riverhead area.

I am against the destruction of nine acres of heavily wooded land when trees are our most effective way of combating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The United Nations estimates that 17 million acres of rain forest alone disappear each year, and somewhere and at some time we must make a stand in order to save woodlands and take control  of our climate in the future.

I am against making the beautiful hamlets of Aquebogue and Jamesport into an extension of Route 58; keep the development confined to that barren and ravaged area.

I am against the ZBA constantly tinkering with property zoning. The spirit of the law in this sense is an educational facility. Would a pizzeria owner who showed first-graders how to make pizza dough be able to claim his business to be an educational institution as well?

I am against another traffic light stopping traffic and beginning to make a trip east on Route 25 in Aquebogue as frustrating as a trip west on Route 25 in Commack.

Mark Hobson


She will succeed

I wanted to thank you for the article highlighting the efforts of Move the Animal Shelter Inc. and its founder, Denise Lucas. It’s a breath of fresh air to see the efforts and dedication from a community member to address the needs and conditions of our animals.

I have worked closely with Denise over the last five months, and when she was made aware of my legislation to create a series of dog parks in the community, she immediately wanted to help and began reaching out to friends and companies and networking to obtain enough in donations to fund the lion’s share of these parks.

Riverhead is well known to have beautiful parks and gathering places, and in this economy more and more are taking advantage of them. I am confident that Denise and her organization, which grows every day, will accomplish the goal of assisting Riverhead in erecting a state-of-the-art shelter, putting in the best that is available, and making it a haven for education and adoptions; and a place that can house felines as well. I applaud her efforts and appreciate the positive direction and energy to create a change. The only misphrasing in last week’s article came when Paul Squire referred to Denise as an animal activist. Believe me, she is a community activist, and one that will be successful.

Jim Wooten

Councilman, Riverhead Town


Get serious on shelter

In response to the recent animal shelter coverage, if you look at the budget history of the shelter, it reached a peak in 2009, with a budget of $254,000 and four full-time employees. Estimating 40 percent of salaries for benefits, the total cost was closer to $334,000, 80 percent of which went to personnel.

The shelter was an institution unto itself. Back then, the average shelter population was approximately 12 dogs and no cats, which are still not allowed.

The Town Board has been slashing the budget ever since.

It is to the point where operating a functional, humane shelter is untenable and problems are exacerbated. Management makes matters worse, banning volunteers, dictating ludicrous restrictions and failing to embrace simple, progressive measures toward improvements. The shelter now has more dogs and fewer volunteers than ever.

The Town Board needs to be realistic, commit to privatization and begin working with NFAWL as a partner and not some outside contractor they are trying to lowball.

Sue Hansen