Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down for 2014

The Riverhead Town Animal Shelter. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
The Riverhead Town Animal Shelter. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

ThumbUpRound of a-paws for shelter move

After years of hard work, advocates of moving the town animal shelter were able to breathe a sigh of relief as town leaders approved relocation of the shelter to a new space in Calverton.

The Youngs Avenue shelter had gone through years of turmoil before attention turned to building a new one. A controversial head of the shelter resigned in late 2011 and Denise Lucas — named the 2012 Person of the Year by the News-Review — led a charge the following year to build a new one.

In February 2014, Town Board members brought up the idea of moving the shelter to a parcel where the infrequently used Henry Pfeiffer building sits. The town approved the deal by June, although state approval is still needed. The town has done its part.

Hopefully, New York State will follow suit soon.

ThumbdownA budget and a prayer

Riverhead Town’s budget for 2015 may very well end up secure.

It was announced last month that the Long Island Power Authority gave PSEG the authority to negotiate with a company planning to lease (or even buy) land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. This could plug a $700,000 hole in this year’s budget.

But the fact that huge holes in the budget needed to be plugged in the first place — and the fact that more exist — still has us giving the 2015 budget a thumbs down.

This newspaper editorialized about the spending plan, which faced a $4 million shortfall when talks began over the summer, on several occasions. Each time, the thought of taking a chance on some plan possibly pulling through to pay the town’s bills next year — and the Town Board’s apparent support for the plans — caught our attention as inherently defying conservative fiscal principles, something the town has clearly needed for years.

But the plan has so far worked to a degree, with these funds now expected to come from EPCAL, though negotiations have yet to occur. And it remains unclear when the town will see the funds.

In the meantime, the town won’t be getting $600,000 from the county that the supervisor and town attorney said it was entitled to — money the town budgeted for — from the county’s open space fund as a reimbursement for capping the landfill.

While the supervisor said this month that “it will all work out,” all town residents can do is hope and pray. In our book, that’s a thumbs-down approach to budgeting.

ThumbUpKeeping history alive

Long Island duck farming reached its peak in the 1950s, with more than 90 farms producing 7.5 million ducks annually — about two-thirds of all nationwide production.

Sadly, just one farm remains today. But what a success story.

Crescent Duck Farm in Aquebogue still exists because of the way the Corwin family budgets — in a manner that helps them stay ahead of the regulatory curve. Doug Corwin said he invests in new technologies each year to meet ever-changing standards, most recently spending $3.5 million to update the farm’s wastewater treatment facility.

Mr. Corwin said in September he hopes his family will keep the farm active for years to come.

“Am I going to die with this being here?” he asked. “I sure hope so.”

We do, too.

ThumbdownScare tactics defeat historic designation

A two-year effort to get a stretch of Main Road from Aquebogue to Laurel deemed an historic place by the state and federal governments came to an end in October, when the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission withdrew its application in the face of a campaign against it, led by some area businesspeople.

The campaign consisted of misinformation, scare tactics and slippery slope-style arguments — all in the name of property rights. Ironically, it can be argued the people who defeated the measure infringed on their neighbor’s rights, by denying the owners of 354 district-eligible parcels the opportunity to apply for grants and tax credits for historic renovations. Under the program, only those who accepted government money would have been subject to any restrictions. Oh, well.

ThumbUpHamlet centers on the mend

A tale of three hamlet centers unfolded this year in the Riverhead area. It’s largely a happy story: downtown Riverhead is again abuzz with activity, Wading River’s historic district is rebounding and a vibrant, Main Street-like environment is envisioned for blighted Riverside.

Even though Riverside lags far behind other business centers, Southampton Town’s appointment of a master developer to spearhead revitalization efforts there is a major step in the right direction. In downtown Riverhead, the 2013 reopening of the Suffolk Theater was followed this year with the renovation of the Woolworth building.

A gym and bagel store now occupy that East Main Street building’s ground floor and tenants will start moving into its 19 second-floor affordable apartments in February. Wading River, which was featured in an April cover story for its lack of stores or foot traffic, saw three unique new eateries come to the Duck Ponds area: North Fork Bacon & BBQ, Mesquite and the planned My Creperie.