Several speakers urged the Town Board not to give the eastern portion of Riverside Drive over to Suffolk County, which wants to tear up the pavement and reseed the road, which cuts through the county’s Indian Island Golf Course. READ
Many people probably don’t realize Riverside Drive continues east of its intersection with County Road 105 and turns into a bumpy road with broken pavement and lots of misfired golf balls on the Indian Island golf course. READ
A fire on New Year’s Day that sent a man to the hospital with second-degree burns on his face was caused after someone in the house took ashes from the home’s wood stove and placed them under the back deck, eventually sparking a flame which gutted the Riverside Drive home.
According to chief fire marshal Craig Zitek, ashes placed outside insulated some embers that must have been in the pile.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people do that type of thing,” he said. “They don’t realize the coals that are left over from the burning woods. And ash is a very good insulator, so when it sits at the bottom of the fireplace or wood stove, those coals can stay hot for two or three days. Maybe longer. And if they come into contact with anything combustible, they will ignite it.”
About 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Riverhead police and fire departments — as well as emergency responders from Flanders, Jamesport, Eastport and Wading River Fire Departments — responded to the scene of the fire, knocking it down in about an hour. Close to 80 firefighters in total responded.
At the time of the fire, three individuals were inside the home, which belongs to artist Rani Carson, whom a neighbor described as retired. Ms. Carson had taught art classes at Suffolk County Community College.
Mr. Zitek suggested that individuals who are removing ash should place it in a metal garbage can, at least 10 feet away from a home.
“This way, if something does ignite, the only thing that’s going to burn is the garbage can,” he said. “We investigate a fair number of these each year.”
Mr. Zitek also suggested dousing the ashes with water outside.
As far as damage to the home itself, he said “unfortunately there’s a lot of damage.” Despite the fact that the fire occurred outside, firefighters had to rip open walls to check the status of wood beams, which — due to construction methods at the time — run all the way from the basement to the attic.
Michael White contributed to this article.
A Riverside Drive home owned by a local artist was gutted by fire Wednesday, sending one man to a hospital with burns to his face and requiring 80 volunteer firefighters from five nearby fire departments.
The fire broke out in the back of the two-story home shortly after 11 a.m., said Riverhead Fire Department spokesman Bill Sanok.
“When we arrived, there was heavy smoke coming from the back,” Mr. Sanok said. “The whole back of the building is torched.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by Riverhead Fire Marshals.
Riverhead police arrived on scene first, followed by the Riverhead Fire Department and shortly after, the Flanders Fire Department’s rapid intervention team.
Jamesport and Eastport Fire Departments followed suit, and a Wading River Fire Department ambulance reported on scene as well.
The home is owned by artist Rani Carson, whom a neighbor described as retired. Ms. Carson had taught art classes at Suffolk County Community College.
Mr. Sanok said three people were able to escape from the home safely, including the injured man.
The injured man was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for treatment of second-degree burns, said Lisa Corwin, assistant chief with the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps.
Fire squads had to take to the roof to cut holes in the roof and a second floor wall to allow the fire to ventilate as they fought it, Mr. Sanok said.
The fire was under control in about an hour and volunteers were still on scene as of 1 p.m.
Neighbor A.J. Lacombe, who lives across the street from the damaged home, said he was alerted of the fire by his barking dog and saw quite the surprise upon looking across the street.
“I went out to see the police were here, then came the firefighters,” he said. “I saw the flames over the fence, about six feet tall.
“It was a matter of minutes and it went right up.”
Making a left turn onto Riverside Drive while heading west on East Main Street may soon be a thing of the past.
The Town Board will consider asking Nelson, Pope and Voorhis, the consulting firm undertaking the downtown Brownfields Opportunity Area study, to looking into the feasibility of a left turn ban at the intersection of Riverside Drive and East Main Street. “It’s insane that you can make a left turn onto Riverside Drive heading west because you sit on the railroad tracks while you’re waiting to make the left turn,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.
He said he’s seen people on the tracks suddenly speeding up when the railroad gates start coming down.
The town’s contract with Nelson, Pope and Voorhis came in at $462,930, which is less than the $567,000 the town is eligible for through the state BOA grant. The town also wants Nelson, Pope and Voorhis to look at the possibility of getting Second Street added to the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that already includes much of Main Street in downtown Riverhead.
The Town Board will need to make a change order to its contract with the firm to add these two items, or issues.
EPCAL ON RETAINER
Mr. Walter says he is working on an agreement with Insurance Auto Auctions, the same firm to which the town leased runways after Hurricane Sandy last year, when the company needed space to store thousands of hurricane-damaged cars.
The deal would give IAA first dibs at the Enterprise Park at Calverton’s runways should another storm hit.
The Illinois-based company has offered to pay the town $25,000 now for what’s being called an “option contract,” Mr. Walter said.
Should the company use the site for storage, it would still pay a per-day, per-acre price to rent the runways. IAA also would have to lease at least 10 acres.
Last year, the town made about $2 million leasing EPCAL runways and taxiways to IAA, which needed land to store flood-damaged cars that were being auctioned off to junk dealers and recyclers.
NEW BUILDING INSPECTOR
The Town Board on Tuesday hired Brad Hammond of Farmingville to be its new senior building inspector, filling a post that had been occupied by a part-time employee since Leroy Barnes retired from the same position in mid-2011.
Mr. Hammond worked for Huntington Town and was No. 1 on the county civil service list for senior building inspectors. His annual salary will be about $70,000, officials said. Mr. Barnes salary, when he retired, was $108,945.
Councilman John Dunleavy was the only board member to oppose the move, saying the salary given to Mr. Hammond was higher than the normal starting salary for that position. He also said a town resident should get the job.
The town also has a planning director, as well as a planning and building administrator, who oversees both departments.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post reported the town sewer district will be receiving money from Suffolk County, however the measure still must go to a full vote of the county Legislature next month.
County and town officials are getting set to announce today that Riverhead Town is in line to win the lion’s share — $8.09 million in grants and up to $4.05 million in loans — of $26.39 million for funding for economic development projects throughout Suffolk.
The money would go toward the state-mandated, $20 million upgrade to the town’s sewer plant, which discharges into Peconic Byy near Indian Island.
However, resolutions to fund the grants, which are being introduced at Thursday’s meeting of the Legislature, won’t go to legislative vote until Oct. 8, county officials said. (See editor’s note above.)
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, county Legislator Al Krupski, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter and Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment are making the accouncement at a 3:30 p.m. press event at the town sewer plant.
Five communities are in line to receive funding for projects, with Riverhead being the largest recipient, according to Mr. Bellone’s office.
As previously reported in a New-Review cover story, which was later published online, town officials had admitted they didn’t have the money to upgrade the plant by the the state’s January 2014 deadline.
And they were pinning their hopes on the county grants, which they applied for in June.
As reporting in May, the town sewer district spent about $1 million drafting plans for the upgrade in 2009. Those plans involve converting and repurposing a number of existing tanks at the plant as a way to contain costs.
The sewer district currently has about $2.1 million available through a state grant, $700,000 set aside in a nitrogen-mitigation fund and a remaining district fund balance that can be applied toward the upgrade, town officials had said.
That still left the district about $12 million short of what’s needed.
Check back at riverheadnewsreview for full coverage.
Blocking left turns from County Road 105 onto Riverside Drive may have had the support of the previous Town Board, but it doesn’t have the support of most current board members.
And that may force residents there to wait longer for any potential relief from persistent traffic problems on the “cut-through” block.
Through traffic, speeding and cars backed up and blocking driveways as they wait to turn onto Route 25 were among the problems residents cited at a meeting Wednesday night in Town Hall called by County Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches).
But the county will not take any action until the new Town Board requests it, according to Mr. Romaine and Bill Hillman, chief engineer of the county Department of Public Works.
While the previous resolution still exists, only two members of that board are on the current board.
The previous Town Board, acting on requests from Riverside Drive residents, passed a resolution in September 2009 urging the county to prohibit northbound traffic on County Road 105 from making left turns onto Riverside Drive.
The resolution came about after a proposal to dead-end Riverside Drive before it connects to Route 105 failed to get Town Board support.
None of the current board members attended Wednesday’s meeting, but in interviews afterward, Supervisor Sean Walter and councilmen Jim Wooten and George Gabrielsen said that they don’t support banning left turns from County Road 105 onto Riverside Drive.
The town asked the county to install the left turn signal on traffic light at Route 105 and Riverside Drive several years ago at a cost of about $250,000, Mr. Walter noted.
I think it’s irresponsible for us to turn around and say don’t make a left turn here because the whole purpose of [the traffic signal] was to make the intersection safe,” the supervisor said. “If the county was just going to close that intersection off, they could have done that for probably a couple of thousand dollars.
“Also, if you do this you’re going you have the unintended consequences of creating additional traffic on Hubbard Avenue and other places,” Mr. Walter added. “This is just going to move the problem to another neighborhood. I’m the town supervisor for all the residents of the town. Not just those that live on Riverside Drive.”
Resident Pam Hogrefe, who supports the no left turn proposal, said the problem stems from traffic cutting through Riverside Drive to get to stores on Route 58. And the problem is only going to get worse, she insisted.
“The problem is that Route 58 is continuing to grow, so Riverside Drive’s problems will grow,” Ms. Hogrefe said.
According to Mr. Hillman, public works actually studied the traffic on Riverside Drive and confirmed that it is pass-through traffic. But the county’s study did not propose any solutions.
“From a county standpoint, our intersection works fine,” Mr. Hillman said.
Because Riverside Drive is a town road, he said, “it’s not the county or the state’s responsibility to figure out a solution.”
Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said several potential solutions to Riverside Drive’s traffic problems have been proposed and rejected for various reasons over the years.
Cutting off access to County Road 105 didn’t have the support of the Town Board, putting stop signs on Riverside Drive to slow traffic didn’t have the support of residents and putting speed bumps on Riverside Drive didn’t have the support of the town attorney.
Riverside Drive residents themselves also seemed to lack consensus on what potential solutions they would like officials to pursue.
Sue Frohnhoefer, who lives off Riverside Drive, said she opposes banning left turns and it should not be assumed that everyone on Riverside Drive and its side streets favors banning left turns.
Other solutions discussed include “traffic calming” methods such as increased police enforcement and “speed humps” to slow drivers down.
Mr. Walter said in an interview Friday that the one change he would like to see is for the state to ban left turns from Route 25 onto Riverside Drive because these cars are often backed up on the railroad tracks, which creates a danger.
It would seem the winds have shifted on what had been mostly favorable reaction to a proposed 275-foot-high wind turbine at the Riverhead sewer plant.
In the two weeks since a Feb. 15 Town Board meeting drew big support for the project, nearby residents of Riverside Avenue and River Avenue have sent over a dozen letters to town officials voicing concerns — and even opposing the project.
The proposed 750 kw wind turbine would cost the town, at most, $1.8 million to build but the energy it generates for the sewer plant would pay off that cost within 11 years and the turbine would generate $5 million in energy savings over its projected 25 year life, according to consultant Peter Rusy of DHL Power, which did a feasibility study on the proposal.
The turbine height would be 275 feet when its blade is turned vertically, officials say. They have insisted it will be under the town noise limit and will barely be visible to nearby homes because it will be obscured by trees. Officials said the turbine would be most visible from far away, like on Sound Avenue.
The town received one letter in support of the turbine. It came from Antonio Valeri of AVN Realty Corp in Bohemia, who has a business in Riverhead. He wrote, “development of economically feasible energy benefits all taxpayers in Riverhead. In my understanding, the long-term impacts to the town are significant and will reduce the tax burden for us after a mid-term increase.”
But the other 14 letters, which were from nearby residents, were less than supportive of the project.
They largely concluded that the town needs to hold a second public meeting to explain the project to residents, and they raised concerns with the height of the proposed turbine, its potential noise and with what they fear will be its negative impacts on their quality of life and property values.
Several suggested the town pursue solar power options instead of wind power. Others said the town should do an environmental impact study on the project.
“While we both agree that reducing energy usage and cost seems like a noble goal, we must state that we strongly object to any movement forward on this project until residents, especially those of us who live only a few hundred yards from the proposed installation site, have had the opportunity to learn more and come to a decision about how this project may impact our lives,” read one of the letters, from Dr. Michael Walters and Tara Suswal. They live on River Avenue, which is the street the sewer plant is on.
They said that potential negatives could include low-frequency noise, flickering shadows and decreased property values.
“I’m already sick and tired of the noise of ‘cesspool cleaning’ heavy trucks driving seven days a week, especially early in the morning at 6:20 a.m. in the summertime,” wrote Riverside Drive resident Rysard Duba. “I can’t imagine the noise coming 24/7 from the wind turbines built next to my property.”
Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview Tuesday that he doesn’t plan to call for another hearing on the turbine plan. “Do you know what’s interesting about this?” Mr. Walter asked. “Nobody wants us to build a nuclear power plant, nobody wants us to build coal-fired power plants, nobody wants us to go get gas in the Adirondacks and the Catskills. Nobody wants anything. But everybody wants to drive their car, everybody wants to heat their house. Here you have an opportunity to save 40 percent of the electrical costs of the sewer plant on a project that, worst case scenario, will pay us back in seven years.”
He said he and sewer district supervisor Michael Reichel plan to travel to Atlantic City in the next few weeks to visit a wind turbine field there.
“Using clean energy is one of these things that everybody in the country is clamoring for,” Mr. Walter said.