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01/15/13 6:00am
Republican Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter (left) in debate with Democrat Al Krupski at Martha Clara Vineyards Monday night, as both men seek the Suffolk County Legislature’s 1st District seat.

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Republican Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter (left) in debate with Democrat Al Krupski at Martha Clara Vineyards last Monday night, as both men seek the Suffolk County Legislature’s 1st District seat.

Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. today for the Suffolk County First Legislative District special election.

Republican Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Democratic Southold Councilman Al Krupski are vying for Ed Romaine’s seat, which he vacated after he was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor in November.

Board of Elections representatives said Friday that voters will go to their usual general election polling places, except in Ridge, where voting has been moved from the Ridge Firehouse to the Ridge Elementary School, due to damage to the firehouse during Hurricane Sandy.

Voters who are unsure of their polling place can look it up here.

The first district stretches from Middle Island to Fishers Island and includes Shelter Island (until the district lines change next year).

Times/Review Newsgroup will be live blogging from the candidates’ headquarters tonight.

Mr. Walter and Mr. Krupski squared off in a debate Jan. 7. Click here for full coverage.

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01/13/13 2:00pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A house in Jamesport on Miamogue Canal is in contract after being on the market since last February.

It’s too early to say whether 2012 marked the year that local real estate prices bottomed out, but agents throughout the North Fork saw hopeful signs of an upward trend in housing sales this year, which they’re hoping will lead to more stability in prices here.

The first quarter of 2012 saw robust growth over the same quarter in 2011, though 2012’s unseasonably warm winter doubtless was more conducive to house-hunting than was the snowbound winter of 2011.

Statistics show the year continued with a strong summer season that lasted until right up to the time Hurricane Sandy hit, according to Suffolk Research Service, Inc., a Hampton Bays firm that tracks East End real estate sales. By the third quarter, the service reported sales in the five towns were up 28.8 percent over the same quarter in 2011, and the median price of homes sold also rose by 10.8 percent.

But as Long Islanders began digging out from under Sandy’s wreckage, local realtors noted that banks that had been nearly ready to close put deals on hold after Sandy and required new appraisals to ensure the houses had retained their value.

“After Sandy, every single deal in contract was on hold and it took forever,” said Prudential Douglas Elliman agent Victoria Germaise, who works out of the firm’s Mattituck office. “Most of the banks aren’t local and the people they sent out didn’t know what they were looking at as far as storm damage. A lot of those deals are finally closing, so we’ll see some sales in the first couple months that were last year’s deals. So, it was even a better year than the numbers are going to indicate.”

“It certainly felt like any deal pending on or near the water needed a full assessment,” said Joseph DeSane, senior managing director of Corcoran Group’s Southold, Shelter Island and Westhampton offices. “The banks were immediately responsive to needing to understand that the property was going to be insurable, there was no damage, and everything was intact. We did see some delays for those reasons.”

Fourth-quarter sales figures were not available by presstime, but real estate agents expect them to refl ect post-Sandy uncertainty in the market.

Town & Country Real Estate also reported strong sales in the third quarter, the most recent period with available data. The company recorded a 100 percent leap in the number of homes sold in Jamesport, a 39 percent rise in Mattituck and a 39 percent jump in Orient. Southold sales volume slumped slightly, from 24 homes sold in the third quarter of 2011 to 21 sold for the same period in 2012.

Ms. Germaise said last year’s heavy sales volume led to a depletion of market inventory, and with fewer houses available for prospective buyers, prices will likely begin to rise. But that might depend on the price range.

She said North Fork buyers in the $300,000 to $400,000 range will likely have difficulty talking down the price.

“Sellers have already seen their asking price diminished 30 percent since they put [their property] on the market,” she said. “Houses in the threes and fours have come down as low as they’re going to come down, and we might see an uptick in price in this range as the season gets into swing.”

Mr. DeSane agreed that the reduced inventory is good for prices.

“There are fewer houses on the market. As supply and demand change, properties go for closer to their asking prices,” he said. “Buyers are still well positioned. It’s a good time to be a buyer. We’re finally starting to see sellers understand where they’re fitting into the market. Before, it was a guessing game.”

Ms. Germaise said many houses in the $500,000 to $700,000 range, particularly those in new housing developments surrounding golf courses, may still be due for price reductions, as the houses were initially marketed to retirees who are now choosing instead to move south.

“Those developments got crushed because of the downturn,” she said. “A lot are just struggling to break ground on new homes, whereas some resales are just sitting there forever. They have to reinvent themselves for younger families.”

This past year also saw a marked improvement in revenue for the Community Preservation Fund, a land preservation program administered by each of the five East End towns and fi nanced by the 2 percent real estate transfer tax. In Southold and Riverhead towns, the first $150,000 of a sale is exempt from the tax, while on the South Fork the fi rst $250,000 is exempt.

As of the beginning of November, Riverhead’s CPF program had brought in $2.03 million, up from $1.62 million in the first 10 months of 2011, a 25.3 percent increase.

Southold Town had taken in $3.44 million, up from $2.9 million in the same period, an 18.6 percent rise.

Shelter Island received $1.05 million, up from $740,000 in the fi rst 10 months of 2011, a whopping 41.9 percent increase.

“CPF revenues are trending higher than last year. Only Southampton Town has collected less money in 2012 than 2011,” said State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who drafted the state law that created the CPF, in a press release announcing the statistics.

CPF gains are also sometimes an indicator of a strengthening market at the higher end, since the tax is only assessed on the portion of the sales price above the threshold. Since the 2008 economic meltdown, much of the sales activity has been at the low end of the market.

Overall, though, the picture painted of last year by market statistics suggests the market has bottomed out, leaving agents to speculate when and how quickly home values might begin to rise.

“It looks really, really healthy. I would say we’ve definitely seen the bottom,” said Ms. Germaise. “Things are stabilizing. Hopefully that middle ground will come back.”

Mr. DeSane said the offices he manages have been busy so far in January, with strong interest in both sales and the summer rental market.

“We are starting to see prices stabilize and inch up. Nationally, across the board, home values seem to be on the incline. That’s a good sign for us. We’ll have to see how stable home prices are going forward.”

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01/13/13 8:00am

North Forkers will have a chance to hear one of Long Island’s most knowledgable ghost hunters this afternoon when author Kerriann Flanagan Brosky comes to the Cutchogue-New Suffolk Library to discuss the ghosts of the North Fork.

Ms. Brosky, who has written five non-fiction books of Long Island history (some about ghosts, and some not), will also share sections of her recently released first novel, “The Medal.”

“The Medal” is the story of a Northport bakery owner in her late 20s, who is taking care of her ailing father when she becomes involved with the legend of Padre Pio, an Italian saint who was known for his healing abilities and for bearing the stigmata of Christ on his hands.

The lecture begins at 2 p.m.

“My main discussion will be the ghosts of Long Island, what it’s like being a ghost investigator and my research as a historian,” said Ms. Brosky, a Huntington resident who was writing about Huntington history when she met clairaudient medium Joe Giaquinto, who introduced her to the world of ghost hunting.

“People say to me, ‘you don’t look like a ghost investigator. You look like a soccer mom,’ ” she said. “What I do has a lot to do with local history.”

Ms. Brosky will discuss the Wickham murders of 1856, the haunting of the Jamesport Manor Inn and other ghost tales from nearby.

“The North Fork is a hot spot. So is the whole East End,” she said. “Every place has ghosts, but there tend to be more in places that have their history intact.”

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01/09/13 6:42am

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Republican Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter (left) in debate with Democrat Al Krupski at Martha Clara Vineyards Monday night, as both men seek the Suffolk County Legislature’s 1st District seat.

In their advertisements, the candidates vying for the 1st District seat in the Suffolk County Legislature are portrayed as very different men. Republican Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter’s ads show him taking a sledgehammer to downtown Riverhead and vowing to shake up the Legislature. Ads from his Democratic opponent present Al Krupski as a farmer and small businessman with a tireless work ethic.

In front of a packed house at Martha Clara Vineyards, Mr. Walter again vowed change during a Monday night debate sponsored by Times/Review Newsgroup, while Mr. Krupski touted his ability to collaborate effectively with other elected officials.

The January 15 special election is being held to fill the nine months left in the term of former county legislator Ed Romaine, who vacated his post in November after being elected Brookhaven Town supervisor. The 1st District runs west from Southold Town and Shelter Island to Riverhead Town and parts of eastern Brookhaven.

If Mr. Krupski were to be elected, county Democrats would have a veto-proof majority in the Legislature, which Mr. Walter said would be an unhealthy outcome. Mr. Krupski pointed out that, as the only Democrat on the Southold Town Board, he had a long history of bipartisan cooperation.

“Once you get elected, you don’t worry about party. You worry about people,” Mr. Krupski said. “I don’t buy into Democrat versus Republican, east versus west. You’re never going to go anywhere in government if you toe the party line.”

Mr. Walter said politics at higher levels of government don’t work that way.

“I’d love to believe that’s true, but it’s not,” he said, adding that county Democrats have “strings attached” to the $50,000 they’ve invested in Mr. Krupski’s campaign.

“I don’t understand what Mr. Walter is saying,” argued Mr. Krupski. “That certainly hasn’t been my experience in 28 years in government.

Both men counted quality of life as their most important issue, but while Mr. Krupski touted his record on land preservation, clean water and controlling development in Southold, Mr. Walter said quality of life is a balancing act.

Times/Review Executive Editor Grant Parpan, who moderated the one-hour debate, asked the candidates if the district’s legislator should be a member of the Shelter Island Ferry Study Group, a committee Mr. Romaine opted out of.

Mr. Walter said the 1st District legislator should be part of it for the remaining year, at least. Mr. Krupski was unequivocal, saying the county has always been involved in oversight of ferry rate hikes, so it is essential the legislator of whatever district he/she is in sit in on the discussions.

Mr. Parpan noted during the debate that he received several questions from the public about whether the county should play a role in gun control. He asked the candidates to weigh in.

Mr. Walter said he was appalled at politicians’ attempts to politicize gun control in the wake of the December 14 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

“I’m disgusted,” he said. “I’m not answering your question.”

Mr. Krupski said there should be clear leadership from one level of government on the issue.

“If the state is going to take it up, that’s the way it should be,” he said. “There should be only one layer of government taking the lead on that.”

Mr. Parpan asked Mr. Walter if he really believed the county Legislature should be abolished, as he has publicly stated in the past.

“Most of New York State is run by a board of supervisors,” Mr. Walter said. “Only the metropolitan area has the legislature system. I agree with Mr. Krupski on reducing the layers of government. We don’t need the legislature.”

In closing, Mr. Krupski addressed that issue, but with a slightly different view.

“I want to represent the East End,” he said. “I’m not the sort of person who, when something’s broken, you smash it. I like to take it apart, fix it and make it better.”

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01/06/13 12:00pm
New Suffolk house doesn't have a first floor after Sandy

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Until its fate is decided by Southold Town, what’s left of this New Suffolk house will stand high and dry on wooden cribbing.

The top part of a house on Kimogenor Point in New Suffolk now standing on cribbing is all that’s left of the structure damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

There’s no word yet from the town building department on whether enough of the house remains to allow homeowners to rebuild.

The Kimogenor Point Company, which has owned the private peninsula and the houses on it since 1915, earlier in 2012 planned to raze the structure and rebuild. But its request for a variance, filed long before the storm hit, was denied at that time by the Southold Zoning Board of Appeals.

The town eventually granted permission to expand and renovate the existing house, but the project was delayed again after the homeowners learned they would need to move it from its existing foundation and place it on pilings to meet new FEMA regulations, ZBA chairwoman Leslie Weisman said this week.

Ms. Weisman said once work began to put the house on cribbing, the walls apparently fell off.

The project is currently awaiting review by the town building inspector. The town code says if it’s determined that less than 25 percent of the structure remains, it cannot be rebuilt because the original structure was non-conforming.

Chief building inspector Mike Verity could not be reached for comment.

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12/10/12 12:39pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Volunteer Amy Davidson of Riverhead helps out Thursday afternoon cleaning tables and a board in a makeshift classroom at 127 East Main St. that will be used for East End Arts classes while the Carriage House is being repaired from damages that occurred during Hurricane Sandy.

The carriage house at East End Arts in downtown Riverhead is usually teeming with visual artists and young musicians busy honing their skills.

But during Hurricane Sandy, it was an island in the lake of the downtown parking lot alongside the bank of the Peconic River, and the lights in the carriage house have been dark ever since.

This week, East End Arts moved its programs that are usually run in the carriage house to a vacant storefront owned by Riverhead Enterprises at 127 Main Street, just to the west of the East End Arts campus.

Riverhead Town owns the carriage house, and workers from the town’s Building and Grounds department are now beginning the work of restoring the building so it can be used again.

“It was sprayed with mold abatement stuff. They’re putting in new walls, heating and plumbing,” said East End Arts Executive Director Pat Snyder on Friday.

Volunteers from the community spent Thursday and Friday cleaning out the new work space on Main Street.

Ms. Snyder said the Long Island Academy of Fine Arts was the most recent tenant in the space, which has a room that has been set up with work tables and chairs for artists to use. She said many individual music lessons that had been in the carriage house have been moved to East End Arts’ school of the arts, which was undamaged in the flood.

“I have no idea how long this will be, but I wouldn’t expect more than a month or two,” said Ms. Snyder of the temporary arrangement.

Riverhead Building & Grounds Supervisor Guy Cawley, who is supervising the project, was not immediately available for comment.

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BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | East End Arts moved its programs from its carriage house to temporary building on Main Street.

12/09/12 8:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The dining room table set for the holiday dinner at Jack and Patricia Orben’s Aquebogue home.

For many, one of the greatest joys of December is getting a glimpse of other peoples’ lives and decorating styles while gathering by the hearth at holiday parties.

If you’re so inclined, take note: A select group of North Forkers is going all-out and opening their homes for two upcoming benefit holiday house tours.

This weekend’s Oysterponds Historical Society house tour, which features 14 private and public buildings, has been a tradition for decades. In addition, the Jamesport Meeting House is hosting its first-ever holiday tour of nine houses in the Jamesport and Aquebogue area.

Richard Wines and Nancy Gilbert, who run the Meeting House, decided to hold the holiday tour this year after three years of successful September house tours.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The dining room sideboard decorated with a Christmas tree.

The Jamesport tour will be held Saturday, Dec. 15, the day after the annual “Carols and Cookies” event on Dec. 14 at 6:30 p.m. at the Meeting House, Main Road and Manor Lane.

“Not all the houses are historic, but a bunch of them are,” said Ms. Gilbert. “Every house is different. Every house is being decorated by the owner and they’re all incredibly unique.

“A lot of people have collections of ornaments that have come down in their families and special things they bring out for Christmas,” she added. “One house has a 1950s theme with wonderful yard ornaments, while another house, which was built in the 1920s, has really early ornaments from that period.”

Among the tour participants are Patricia and Jack Orben of Aquebogue, who have opened their house on Peconic Bay in Aquebogue to past Jamesport Meeting House tours. Ms. Orben, who shows the flair of an interior decorator, also has a personal affection for Christmastime and, as of Nov. 30, had already been decorating for days in preparation for the event.

The Orbens were married on Dec. 17, 1960, and they display the Christmas wreaths that were hanging at their wedding, as well as stockings Ms. Orben puts out for her 10 grandchildren and decorations she’s purchased over the years from her niece’s fundraisers for the American Red Cross.

Ms. Gilbert and Mr. Wines’ Winds Way homestead, a collection of historic buildings on Peconic Bay Boulevard, is also on the tour.

“I tend to go out in the garden and cut a bunch of stuff and bring it in, but Hurricane Sandy didn’t help in that regard,” Ms. Gilbert said. “Every house has a distinct personality. Some people are quite ornate and elegant and some are simpler. People really do things in keeping with the house they’re living in. It reflects their personality.”

The Jamesport tour runs from 1 to 5 p.m. and starts at the Meeting House. Tickets are $30 in advance, available at 779-2831 or jamesportmeetinghouse.org, or $40 at the door. All proceeds go toward ongoing preservation work at the Meeting House.

The Oysterponds Holiday House Tour is also a mix of old and new, ranging from Arlene and Bob Shannon’s lovingly restored 275-year-old home, constructed by the Tuthill family, to the more contemporary home of interior decorator and renovation designer Cindy Schmidt at Pebble Beach in East Marion.

“Her house is absolutely beautiful,” Catherine Chaudhuri, who is organizing the tour for the historical society, said of Ms. Schmidt’s house. “This year, we have a lot of traditional decorations with Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, a mixed bag of everything.”

She said homeowners with fireplaces will likely have cozy fires going and several participants plan to bake cookies for visitors.

In addition to private homes, the Oysterponds tour also includes seven public buildings, including Poquatuck Hall on Village Lane, which will be decorated by the Oysterponds School PTA, which will provide baked goods, cider and a 50/50 raffle. Other tour stops are Orient United Methodist Church; Old Point School House, where the Beach Plum Christmas Shop will be open; the Village House, which is under renovation; and Webb House, which Ms. Chaudhuri says is “always decorated beautifully by volunteer Constance Tupper.”

The self-guided tour, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m., begins at Orient Congregational Church, where people will pick up tickets, which are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. To order advance tickets, call 323-2480.

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12/05/12 3:08pm

A Riverhead High School student avoided what could have been an attempted abduction while walking down Osborn Avenue near Pulaski Street School Wednesday morning, school officials said.

Superintendent Nancy Carney said security guards and administrators at Pulaski Street School, Riverhead Middle School and Riverhead High School are on the lookout for a Hispanic man in a black sedan who repeatedly asked a female student if she needed a ride to school this morning.

“She said no. He kept asking. She walked away quickly and saw him go into Bagel Lovers,” Ms. Carney said, referring to a bagel shop across the street from the high school.

The student flagged down a sheriff’s deputy, who told the girl to go directly to school as the deputy went looking for the suspect, according to a post the student’s mother wrote on a News-Review Facebook page.

Administrators then called Riverhead police, who responded to the school, officials said.

“They did a complete investigation,” said Ms. Carney.

Ms. Carney said the student described the man as clean-cut, between 25 and 35 years old and wearing green flannel pajama pants.

She said the car had a New York license plate with a “Q” in it.

“We’re very proud of her for doing the right thing and telling us immediately so we’re all on the lookout,” said Ms. Carney. “We’re reminding kids not to talk to strangers. We’re asking parents to talk to their kids and remind their kids not to talk to strangers or go near any cars they’re not aware of.”

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