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10/09/14 11:05am
State Senator Lee Zeldin (left) and Congressman Tim Bishop (right) took turns a podium in Polish Hall to address questions Wednesday night in Riverhead.

Republican state Senator Lee Zeldin (left) and Democratic Congressman Tim Bishop (right). (Credit: Grant Parpan)

The two major party candidates for the 1st Congressional District squared off at a contentious debate — at least, contentious between incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop and the GOP-dominated crowd — in a packed Polish Hall in Riverhead Wednesday night.

State Senator Lee Zeldin of Shirley, a Republican and Iraq War veteran who unsuccessfully ran against Mr. Bishop in 2008 before seeking office in Albany, enjoyed a political home-field advantage among the nearly 250 who showed up at the event, organized and sponsored by RiverheadLocal.com, an online news website.

RiverheadLocal co-publisher Denise Civiletti moderated.

At times during the debate, specifically when Mr. Bishop faulted Tea Party members in Congress for much of the gridlock in Washington, the crowd degenerated into shout-downs and name-calling.

“You’re a liar!” yelled one attendee, after Mr. Bishop said “compromise has become a four-letter word in Washington under Tea Party control.” (more…)

10/04/14 3:00pm
10/04/2014 3:00 PM
Betty Harris, Howard Waldman, Hattie Turner, and Ron Schmitt at Thursday's annual Heidi's Helping Angels fundraiser. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

Betty Harris, Howard Waldman, Hattie Turner, and Ron Schmitt at Thursday’s annual Heidi’s Helping Angels fundraiser. (Credit: Joseph Pinciaro)

The story of Heidi Behr is well-known in the Riverhead community at this point.

And though the ending was a tragic one — the 23-year-old Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps volunteer was killed in a crash with one of her fellow volunteers, leaving behind her young son — the positive values she embodied were celebrated Thursday night, as three other members of the community were recognized for doing the same thing Ms. Behr did: put their own time, safety and even sometimes their lives on the line in the name of helping others. (more…)

11/02/13 6:36pm
11/02/2013 6:36 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO |  More than 100 animals were available for adoption Saturday at Polish Hall.

Polish Hall in Riverhead was transformed into a giant pet adoption center for four hours Saturday, as the Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons teamed up with five other non-profit or municipal animal shelters for a Pet Adoption and Agility Expo.

“We want to make pet adoption as easy as possible,” said ARF’s Executive Director Sara Davison.

The expo provided “one-stop shopping” for people seeking to adopt dogs or cats from the six participating agencies, which included ARF, Kent Animal Shelter, North Fork Animal Welfare League. RSVP, Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and  Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter.

The dogs were outside the building, the cats inside. More than 100 animals were available for adoption.

In addition, there were agility courses on site for both cats and dogs. All animals at the event were spayed, neutered and vaccinated, and checked by a veterinarian.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A few cats relax Saturday while waiting for adoption.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Dressed for the occasion.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A Persian cat available for adoption.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Cats try their luck on the agility course.

10/10/13 10:09am
10/10/2013 10:09 AM

Heidi’s Helping Angels is hosting its annual steak dinner tonight to raise money for the scholarship named in the memory of Heidi Behr, a Riverhead ambulance volunteer who died at the age of 23 in a tragic ambulance crash in May 2005.

The dinner to benefit the Heidi Behr Memorial Scholarship will be served at Polish Hall at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 5:30 p.m.

Riverhead police officers Eric Cohen, Kerri Davis and 911 dispatcher Melissa Elco will be honored at the dinner for their heroic actions this past February, when they saved an unconscious 15-month-old boy in Riverhead.

The cost of the event is $35 per person, which includes a cash bar.

If you’d like more information or are unable to attend but would like to make a donation, contact Jim Stark at 631-727-6060 or Ron Schmitt at 631-722-4944.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Rich Podlas (left) and Chuck Thomas (middle) were honored for their service to the Behr family at the first dinner in 2011.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Rich Podlas (left) and Chuck Thomas (middle) were honored for their service to the Behr family at the first dinner in 2011.

10/01/13 9:00am
10/01/2013 9:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Candidates for open public offices across town attended Monday night's event.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Candidates for open public offices across town attended Monday night’s event.

More than a dozen candidates vying for open seats in public office to represent Riverhead and the North Fork lined up at Polish Hall Monday night to introduce themselves to voters and answer questions posed by the audience members as part of a “Meet the Candidates Night.”

The event — which was co-hosted by the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and the Long Island Farm Bureau — featured the candidates running for the offices of town supervisor, town council, assessor, highway superintendent, state assemblyman and county legislator.

Farm Bureau executive director and event moderator Joe Gergela set the tone early in the night, reminding the candidates the event wasn’t a debate and that they should only answer the questions they were asked.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Town Supervisor Sean Walter and challenger Angela DeVito chat during the event during a break in the speeches

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter and challenger Angela DeVito during a break in the speeches.

But many of the roughly 50 audience members were connected to political campaigns of the candidates in the room, and Mr. Gergela later admitted that he had to screen questions from the audience that were too inflammatory.

Some questions posed to the candidates were focused on the town’s economy, specifically concerning development at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, as well as agritourism.

Incumbent Supervisor Sean Walter said that while he was disappointed by delays in getting EPCAL developed, he was confident that pending state legislation to allow the town to fast-track developement applications would “provide an incentive like no one else has.”

“That’s a game changer, folks,” Mr. Walter said.

Mr. Walter, a Republican, said he was confident that by subdividing EPCAL, the town would be able to earn back enough money to balance its budget and make smart reinvestments in the town.

Both Councilwoman  Jodi Giglio and Councilman John Dunleavy agreed that subdividing EPCAL would be the best way to earn revenue for the town.

“You can’t sell what you can’t subdivide,” Mr. Dunleavy said.

But Angela Devito, the Democratic challenger for supervisor, said there was still “a lot more work to be done” on getting EPCAL producing revenue for Riverhead. She warned that speculators may purchase the land but stall development, and said the town would need to invest in infrastructure at EPCAL to make it feasible for industry.

“[Developers] are not going to cover all that cost,” she said. EPCAL’s distance from major metropolitan centers also makes it difficult and not cost efficient for industries to transport goods to the site, she said.

Democractic challengers for town council, Bill Bianchi and Millie Thomas, said the town could induce more industries to move to EPCAL by negotiating for lower fuel and electricity prices.

Legislature candidates Al Krupski and Albie DeKerilis were asked about balancing the need for agritourism and farmers to flourish with traffic concerns by residents.

Both Mr. Krupski, who was elected in a special election in January to complete the term left by former legislator Ed Romaine, and Mr. DeKerilis agreed farms need customers to survive and that the agritourism market is an important portion of the region’s economy and identity. But both men also said traffic is a concern.

Mr. Krupski said he’s begun working with state officials to promote the North Fork during the “shoulder seasons” like the early winter to alleviate the burden of traffic in the fall. Mr. DeKerilis said he would look into providing more trains or buses if elected to get some cars off the streets.

The Assembly candidates — Democrat John McManmon and Republican Anthony Palumbo — were asked their opinion on the state SAFE Act, a gun control law which passed by the Legislature in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Highway Superintendent George "Gio" Woodson introduces himself at Monday night's event. Mr. Woodson said he should be reelected based on his department's success despite an inadequate budget. His challenger, Michael Panchak, said the town would need to start investing in its equipment to meet emissions standards.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson introduces himself at Monday night’s event. Mr. Woodson said he should be re-elected based on his department’s success despite an inadequate budget. His challenger, Michael Panchak, said the town would need to start investing in its equipment to meet emissions standards.

Mr. Palumbo said the legislation was “certainly a political move,” and that he believes the SAFE act would not prevent another school shooting and needed to be tweaked. He also questioned whether the law was intended to boost Governor Andrew Cuomo’s potential presidential bid.

Mr. McManmon, a Riverhead High School graduate, said he would have supported the SAFE Act, noting that he knows his view may not be politically popular in the area. He argued that laws should target reducing gun violence and not focus on gun control.

Both Mr. McManmon and Mr. Palumbo said they would be interested in joining the Assembly’s education committee if election, with Mr. McManmon saying retaining Long Island’s educated youth with quality jobs was key. Mr. Palumbo said he would seek to eliminate “unfunded mandates” handed down by the state’s education department.

One question posed by the audience specifically focused on Mr. Dunleavy and the clear cutting of the Costco property on Route 58. Mr. Dunleavy pointed out that the Costco developers didn’t break the town’s code in clearing the land, saying “everything was done legally.”

Assessor candidate Greg Fischer also spoke at the event, stating his “revolutionary” plan to use the powers of the assessor’s office to assess certain businesses at a more favorable rate, to encourage “the right kind” of growth. The other candidate for assessor, incumbent Laverne Tennenberg, was unable to attend the event.

After the event, Riverhead Chamber of Commerce executive director Mary Hughes said she was pleased the candidates turned out and remained respectful throughout the event.

She also said she had hoped more residents would have attended.

“I don’t know if it’s … [because] it didn’t get promoted enough, or is it just lack of interest by the public?” she said. “I don’t know.”

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01/27/13 8:44am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTOS | The crowd at the 5th Annual Rockin’ for the Homeless event dances to the music of Rattlesnake Dawn Saturday night.

The 5th annual Rockin’ for the Homeless benefit concert was held at Polish Hall in Riverhead Saturday night, raising money for John’s Place Mattituck Homeless Outreach and Hurricane Sandy rebuilding efforts on Long Island.

The concert featured award-winning Long Island talents including Gene Casey and The Lone Sharks, Who Are Those Guys, Rattlesnake Dawn and Boot Scoot Boogie.

Emceed by WLNG’s Lisa Dabrowski, the event included food, door prizes, a chinese auction and raffles.

01/25/13 11:30am
01/25/2013 11:30 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Crowds packed last year’s event at Polish Hall.

Come on out for “a rockin’ good time!”

The fifth annual “Rockin’ for the Homeless” benefit is this Saturday, Jan. 26, from 6-10 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.) at Polish Hall in Riverhead.

Last year the event raised over $12,000.

“We’ve always exceeded our expectations.”said Tom Gahan, event director. “It’s a great time for a great cause.”

Sponsored by John’s Place Mattituck, a homeless outreach center in Mattituck, the event will feature Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, Who Are Those Guys, Rattlesnake Dawn and Boot Scoot Boogie, with live music playing throughout the four hours.

There will be door prizes, raffles, a Chinese auction, food and a dance floor, of course!

Proceeds from the night will be donated to the outreach center, which operates out of Mattituck Presbyterian Church, with a portion being donated to hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Tickets are $25 per person until today, Friday, and $35 at the door. They can be purchased at Barth’s Pharmacy in Riverhead and Mattituck, Polish Hall and the Mattituck Presbyterian Church office. For tickets and more information call 298-4145, ext. 2, or visit rockinforthehomeless.org.

[email protected]

03/11/12 4:00pm
03/11/2012 4:00 PM

JOHN NEELY PHOTO | U.S.M.C. Sergeant Michael Scalfani (right) with General Kropp.

More than 300 people packed into Polish Hall Saturday night to pay tribute to about 55 local veterans of the armed forces who have served since the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

The event, called Operation Forever Grateful, was hosted by Riverhead Town and organized by Councilman John Dunleavy, along with Liz Stokes and Linda Hulse.

“It’s been written that a nation is known by the people they honor,” said retired Major General Anthony Kropp of Mattituck, who interrupted a vacation in Florida to speak at the event. “Riverhead should be very proud.”

“It’s nice to see appreciation,” said Corporal Bobby Peeker of Aquebouge, a 2007 Riverhead High School graduate who served four years in the Marines, in an interview outside Polish Hall. “It’s better than what he probably got when he was in the service,” alluding to his father, Bob, who served in the Marines in the 1970s and is now a Riverhead Town Police Lieutenant.

“It was a different era,” Lt. Peeker said. “I served from 1976 to 1980. It was right after Vietnam. Everybody had a bad taste in their mouth.”

Unlike his son, Lt. Peeker served at a time when the country wasn’t at war. Corporal Peeker said he has been involved in direct combat in Afghanistan.

Lt. Peeker said his brother and nephew are also Marines and were also present Saturday.
“We’re a bunch of Jarheads,” he said.

Also present Saturday was Marine Corporal Alfred Grossklaus Jr. of Aquebogue, a 2005 Riverhead High School graduate who was shot in the back and badly injured during an ambush by insurgents in Afghanistan last June.

He’s up an walking, although he said he still has “some issues” from his injuries. A Purple Heart recipient, he was discharged from the military in December.

“We definitely know we’re appreciated, but it’s nice to have something like this,” he told a reporter.
“It’s nice to do something like this,” said Staff Sergeant Michael Sclafani of Wading River. He served in Iraq and actually was inside Saddam Hussein’s palace.

“I think with the support for the troopers with the past two wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan, with that flood of support, that the older guys are starting to feel the support again,” said. “Guys from Vietnam that didn’t get the respect, are finally getting their due. It’s overdue, but it’s finally happening.”

“This was spectacular,” said Army First Sergeant Tim Wiwczar of Flanders, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan and been stationed all over the globe, in an interview.

One of the featured speakers Saturday was Army Sergeant Sam Cila of Riverhead. He joined the New York National Guard’s “Fighting 69th” shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 and was badly injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq on July 4, 2005, that eventually led to the lower part of his left arm being amputated.

He said he felt “lost” and suffered depression following his injury, but pulled out of it with the support of his family and “teammates.”

Sgt. Cila has become a successful endurance athlete who has competed in Ironman triathlons and who, along with other wounded veterans, was last year asked to participate in a 100 kilometer bike ride with former President George W. Bush in Texas.

He also now works with various groups that help other veterans and recently became president of the Long Island Chapter of Canine Companions.

“The turnout is what I expected it to be because Riverhead loves its veterans,” said Ms. Stokes Saturday.

While some Vietnam veterans were unhappy that the Operation Forever Grateful didn’t include older veterans, Ms. Stokes said other events are planned.

“This is dinner number one,” she said. “Stay tuned, because more in coming.”