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12/27/14 10:00am
12/27/2014 10:00 AM

Regarding Hugh Prestwood’s response to editor Michael White’s column pointing to the “nephew effect” in policing:

What time capsule did Mr. Prestwood just climb out of? Is he that naïve to think that police experiences like the “nephew effect” don’t happen to white people, through which they get the benefit of the doubt from police and society? (more…)

09/07/13 8:00am
09/07/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Riverhead Free Library was one example touted by Thomas F. Cruso of the good the Riverhead IDA has done.

On behalf of the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency board of directors, this piece is written to correct statements recently published in the op/ed section of the News-Review. The agency believes it is important to disseminate accurate information about its operations.

• The agency has not induced any big box stores to open on Route 58.

• The agency, by law, is selective on what businesses it can and will induce.

• The executive director is not paid based on what tax abatements are granted.

• The agency is not supported by governmental subsidies.

If you are a patron of Riverhead Free Library or have been a patient at the newly remodeled and improved Peconic Bay Medical Center you have first-hand experience how a Riverhead IDA project can benefit our town. Yes, the expansion of the library and renovation and enlargement of Peconic Bay Medical Center were made possible through financing granted by the Riverhead IDA.

The more recent projects on Route 58 that are receiving real property tax abatements include a cancer care center, bringing innovative and state-of-the-art radiation therapy not currently available; the bowling and recreation center on Route 25, which was a blighted parcel for several years; and the first hotel to be built on Route 58.

These projects, respectively, received five-, seven- and 10-year abatements. Two older projects, an emergency veterinary clinic and a retinal care center, are fully on the tax rolls at the end of next year. Tanger Outlets has never received a real property tax abatement. Tanger received only a sales tax exemption for building materials and is now the highest taxpayer in Riverhead Town.

In keeping with the vision of the current administration, downtown has been the focus of the agency’s attention. Without agency assistance, the town would not have the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, Summerwind Square, the Dark Horse restaurant and apartments, the renovated Suffolk Theater, Ralph’s Italian Ices, Blue Duck Bakery and Papa John’s, as well as the soon-to-be-revitalized former Woolworth Building.

A world-class hotel, the Hyatt, and an exhibition center were a new project connected to the former Atlantis Marine World Aquarium, now known as the Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center. Surely, no Riverhead resident can question that the aquarium has been the catalyst for downtown’s revitalization, as well as the source for public infrastructure improvements to downtown that typically result from all IDA projects.

The “100 percent abatement” terminology leads the public to believe that businesses are not paying taxes to the town. On the contrary — and unlike with the Suffolk County IDA — standard Riverhead IDA projects continue to pay their current tax bill on the property, plus half of the increase in the taxes beginning the year after the company makes improvements to the property, which increases assessed value. The agency’s standard policy gradually increases taxes over a negotiated period of time. (The standard is 10 years.) Additionally, by law, businesses pay all the other ad valorem taxes on their tax bills, as set by Riverhead Town. There are instances, particularly in downtown, where the agency has used its authority to grant greater benefits to a project in an effort to ensure a project’s viability.

It doesn’t take statistics to prove that the inducements are working. Nevertheless, the public can be confident that the agency is held to strict reporting requirements by New York State.

Additionally, the agency provides other services to the community. The agency initiated and hosts the East End Employment Expo, Workforce Development Symposium and other free events and seminars open to the public. In October, the agency will tackle the highly charged subject of health care by coordinating a health care symposium with Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce.

Riverhead residents should know that many factors go into the decision to induce a project and negotiate a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement. The current administration appointed a new board that, over the last two years, has worked diligently to negotiate shorter benefit periods while still remaining competitive. The board members each reside, work and pay taxes within the Town of Riverhead. All board members are volunteers who do not receive a stipend for their efforts. There is no personal gain for the board to grant tax abatements.

We trust this information has provided the public with some facts and clarified the inaccuracies currently being written about the agency. We work hard to uphold the integrity and character of the agency for Riverhead and do not wish the public to be misled.

If you have questions regarding Riverhead IDA projects, please contact us.

Mr. Cruso is the chairman of the board of directors for the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency. He is writing on behalf of the entire board.

07/03/13 8:00am
07/03/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Farmer Phil Schmitt (left) and his sons Matt (center) and Phil Jr. loading boxes of cabbage onto a flatbed at the family’s Riverhead farm in 2011. Phil Schmitt says most food safety issues have come out of West Coast and large farm operations.

Land preservation does not pit farmland preservation against open space protection. It’s about hard work and a commitment to preserving the character of our community, towns, county and island for future generations. It’s about quality of life.

In the 1970s, Suffolk County led the way by starting the farmland preservation program. Why? Because the people had the foresight to realize the importance of agriculture to Suffolk County. The seal of the Suffolk County Legislature, symbolically, is a plow.

Over the years, the towns and county have borrowed and spent millions to achieve the goals of protecting open space and farmland. Open space was prioritized for scenic and recreational qualities and habitat and sensitive wetland areas also were protected. Acquiring a critical mass of land is crucial to the preservation of meaningful wildlife habitat. These areas also provide for the active and passive recreational activities and the access to the water that we all enjoy.

Farmland preservation is critically important and food production must not be trivialized as so few things are produced in this country. We all appreciate food quality and safety. Without active farmland we would have no choice but to become dependent on foreign nations for our food, which could be of questionable safety.

The value of locally produced food cannot be minimized. Fruits and vegetables picked at the prime of ripeness provide not only great flavor and meals, but also are at their peak of nutritional value. The health benefits of locally grown produce cannot be refuted.

My bill would not prioritize open space preservation over farmland protection, but rather give them equal footing. A benefit of farmland protection is that the government pays less per acre, doesn’t have to fence, clean or police the property and it stays on the tax rolls. The landowner is forever responsible for the stewardship.

Another goal of the legislation is to insure that the money spent is well spent. The Suffolk County Planning Department has a rating system in place for both farmland preservation and open space acquisition. The professional planners rate available parcels, and following their recommendations we should acquire the very best properties that reach a higher standard. The land should reach a certain threshold before the county invests in appraisals, etc. The designated portion of the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection money for acquisition has been heavily borrowed against leaving little to spend. Let’s make sure we preserve the highest quality open space and the best soils.

I’ll be happy to work with anyone and everyone to find a different funding source to continue the efforts to protect today’s land for tomorrow’s generation. My long record of land preservation in Southold, both in open space and farmland protection, tells the whole story.

My 28 years as an elected official have been spent saving both open space and farmland. I helped to make the difficult decisions about how to focus preservation efforts and prioritize spending our always limited resources. I look forward to bringing this commitment of preserving the best to the county level.

In 100 years my name and those in all the current and past preservation efforts will be forgotten. But the people who live on Long Island will benefit from and appreciate the hard work and resources that we used to preserve both open space and farmland.

Al Krupski is the Suffolk County legislator for the 1st District.

06/22/13 8:00am
GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

GOOGLE MAPS | The land Suffolk County is looking to preserve is on the west side of Park Road and fronts Sound Avenue.

We would like to clear up some misconceptions about the potential preservation of 15 acres of land on the northwest corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road, near Reeves Park.

We are writing to show our support for Suffolk County’s acquisition of the entire parcel, owned by Ed Broidy, as farmland preservation instead of parkland preservation. We feel this would ensure the property will continue to be farmed forever for future generations as a real working farm.

In a current lawsuit settlement between Mr. Broidy and the Town of Riverhead, the landowner would preserve seven acres along Sound Avenue as farmland and be able to build 15 homes to the north, on the remaining eight acres.

[Related: Don’t undermine preservation efforts]

Suffolk County is looking to purchase this property to create a park, which would include recreation trails and parking for the facility. This land has been farmed for 200 years and it is almost unthinkable to take a prime-soil farm out of production and replace it with a Suffolk County park. You only have to wonder what county officials were thinking about to put hiking trails in the middle of an open potato field. We have trails at our 2,000-acre Enterprise Park at Calverton property, 300 acres at the newly purchased North Fork Preserve and many other trails throughout Riverhead Town.

The land proposed to be preserved as park would require taking the entire property out of farming permanently and would require not only use of town Community Preservation Fund monies, which have been depleted in recent years, but also ongoing maintenance of the park with town resources — on behalf of all Suffolk County residents.

The Town currently owes over $76 million in debt in open space purchases and incoming CPF funds can no longer keep up with the annual debt service. CPF proceeds come from a tax on property sales. Unless the economy makes a big recovery, our reserves will be depleted in five years. At that time, our taxpayers will be facing a big increase in their taxes, as we would then have to dip into the general fund to make up for the debt payment shortfalls.

This potential debt would rival our suffocating landfill debt. It would be irresponsible to continue to spend money we don’t have. On the other hand, a farmland purchase of development rights by the county would add nothing to this debt, and is by far the better option to see the entire 15 acres preserved.

We would like to see this farm continue for another 200 years. The overwhelming majority of Reeves Park residents we have spoken to support a farmland purchase over the proposed park. On another note, to the Reeves Park residents, if this county park is built, the once-quiet Reeves Beach will be gone forever.

Step up, Suffolk County officials, and listen to our residents.

We had a conversation with the farmer who has been farming there and he indicated he would like to continue to farm the parcel. In speaking with Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, we are all in agreement that this would be the best benefit to the community.

It seems reasonable that an agreement can be reached among Suffolk County, Riverhead Town, the landowner, and the farmer to make this a reality. A win-win for all. It is much more desirable to preserve this entire parcel as farmland in keeping with our rural character, farm heritage and agritourism focus.

We believe preserving this parcel as farmland would be in keeping with the rural character of Sound Avenue and support the Scenic Rural Historic Corridor.

Ms. Giglio, of Baiting Hollow, and Mr. Gabrielsen, of Jamesport, are both members of the Riverhead Town Board.

06/14/13 8:00am
06/14/2013 8:00 AM
COURTESY PHOTO | John McManmon outside his family’s home in Aquebogue.

COURTESY PHOTO | John McManmon outside his family’s home in Aquebogue.

In politics, there is an old axiom about news coverage: It doesn’t matter what they say about you as long as they spell your name right.

Even so, I want to set the record straight. Last week, without bothering to call me for comment prior to publication, Times/Review executive editor Grant Parpan published an op-ed regarding my residency as a candidate for the New York State Assembly. It presented only half of the facts and a half-baked version of the law.

Here’s my side of the story.

I have been a resident of the North Fork since my family moved here and I was enrolled in kindergarten at St. John the Evangelist Grammar School in Riverhead. My first job was at Atlantis Marine World in Riverhead. I went to Riverhead Middle School and then Riverhead High School, where I played varsity baseball. I also represented Riverhead High School on News12’s Long Island Challenge quiz show.

After graduating from Riverhead High School, I went to Tulane University in New Orleans on an academic scholarship. When Hurricane Katrina struck, this very paper covered my experience. I returned to school in New Orleans. And I pitched in. I’m very proud of the disaster relief work I did in the years after the terrible storm. After I graduated from Tulane, I returned to my home, Riverhead. My next stop was Columbia Law School. When I graduated from Columbia, I returned to my home, Riverhead.

In 2011, I began a job at one of the country’s leading law firms, located in lower Manhattan. My practice there varies from representing some of the country’s best-known companies to, on a pro bono basis, being an advocate for families of children with autism. It’s a job infamous for 12- and 14-hour workdays and so, because it would be impossible to make a daily commute from my home, I spend weeknights at a modest apartment in Brooklyn.

I am now leaving my job to devote myself to our district and this campaign. I am doing so for several reasons. I think public service is a noble calling. I think politics should be a conversation about policy, and not a forum for personal invective. I want to do what I can to make sure that my community is a place where my friends and neighbors can find decent jobs, afford homes and build their lives.

Of course, I’m certain my political opponents don’t care about any of that. They have fixated on the apartment I maintain in Brooklyn. This is a red herring, but it appears Mr. Parpan has taken the bait. There is nothing wrong with someone maintaining a second residence, whether for convenience or necessity. If you know me well, you know that I am diligent and careful. I would not pursue this opportunity to serve unless I knew I was well within both the spirit and the letter of the law. Mr. Parpan and I may disagree about what the law should be, but he has no reason to suggest that I have been dishonest. My primary and legal residence has always been squarely in the middle of this Assembly District. It’s the center of my family life and social life. It’s the center of my political life. It always will be.

I’m running for New York State Assembly because my neighbors deserve a strong voice in Albany. If you’re considering my candidacy, I hope you won’t make the same mistake that Mr. Parpan did. If you still have questions about me or about my residency (or, heck, even about the very important issues facing the North Fork) please reach out to me at [email protected]. I’ll respond personally.

The author is the Democratic nominee for the 2nd Assembly District seat.

10/21/12 6:00am
10/21/2012 6:00 AM

Marine Staff Sgt. Edward Deptola

Let me try to get this straight.

A man serves our country in the U.S. Marine Corps during multiple trips over several years to war zones and is thought of so highly that he reaches the rank of staff sergeant at the age of 27. Forget the medals he has been awarded.

Then, in a lapse of judgment (something none of us has ever experienced) lasting a few seconds, he is now to be court-martialed. He is no longer a hero, is possibly guilty of vaguely worded phrases in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, is possibly to be considered in the company of those who have committed war crimes or even crimes against humanity and is most certainly an embarrassment to the USMC.

I have served on court-martials and on one occasion was the single officer serving as a Summary Court officer. The USMC code book was not too far from any of us. We frequently discussed a variety of simple and sometimes strange events during garrison life in 1960s Camp Lejeune, events such as beatings, temporary insanity (with loaded weapons) and accidental discharge of a weapon, to name a few.

Second-hand stories of horrific events in Korea and later in Vietnam still come to mind. One of my lance corporals shot a man in West Virginia but was let go with no paperwork when I promised the district attorney he would go to Vietnam within the month.

A radio operator I served with shot men in 1965 off the tops of buildings in downtown Santo Domingo. One of the finest Marines I ever served with accidentally killed a friend after they came off guard duty.

Military life comes with a wide variety of events, and sensible and sensitive people sort it all out to keep a non-event from exploding into a court-martial.

Something doesn’t add up to me, a former company commander long released from active duty. As a nation we seem to have completely lost our sense of balance and proportion. Whatever happened to common sense, which is not so common anymore.

I have three granddaughters, ages 13, 15 and 17. Each is healthy, athletic and physically tough. If any of them wind up as an enlisted Marine or work to become a commissioned officer, I would be proud to have them serve with Staff Sgt. Deptola.

In the meantime, we can live and sleep well knowing that in some foreign field a handful of super-competent American service women and men are making life somewhat miserable for those who would kill us. To put it yet another way, I’ve never been urinated on, but it doesn’t seem to be that big a deal compared with a thousand other events in my life.

A copy of this letter and others will go to our senators and representative after the election with the request they force an inquiry into who or what in the Department of Defense caused this whole incident to get out of hand. Failing that, my money goes to Staff Sgt. Deptola for his defense.

For the record, I have had no contact with this Marine or his family. But if I ever meet him, my first words will be, “Thank you for your service to our country.”

Mr. Clarke, the owner of Greenport Yacht and Shipbuilding, lives in Greenport and is a former village mayor.