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03/20/13 10:14am
03/20/2013 10:14 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Reeves Park residents placed candles at a memorial for Tommy Kelly near Sound Avenue on Sept. 11.

Suffolk County on Tuesday formally closed on the acquisition of a four-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Riverhead for creation of a memorial park for Sept. 11 victims and emergency responders.

The land was owned by Kenney Barra’s EMB Enterprises and had been proposed for a 28,000-square-foot commercial development in 2003 consisting of stores and a restaurant. That plan ran into opposition from community members and town officials, who rezoned the land to residential uses, only to have that zoning later overturned in court after Mr. Barra sued.

Former county legislator Ed Romaine put in a bill to acquire the land as a park in 2010, and the Legislature approved the $1.28 million acquisition last November, at Mr. Romaine’s last meeting.

Eric Biegler, president of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in the Reeves Park area, thanked Riverhead Town officials for their help at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I look forward to working with you guys in creating a wonderful park that Riverhead can be extremely proud of,” Mr. Biegler said.

A small 9/11 memorial has already been created at the site in memory of Thomas Kelly, a Reeves Park resident and FDNY member who died in the World Trade Center collapse on Sept. 11, 2001. Park Road is also known as Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive.

Thomas Kelly’s brother Bob, himself a retired New York City fire fighter and Reeves Park resident, has been calling for the creation of the memorial park.

“This land acquisition means so much more than just the purchase of open space,” Bob Kelly told county legislators in November.

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08/03/11 11:34am
08/03/2011 11:34 AM

When it came to opposing a proposed shopping center on the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue, members of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association in Reeves Park stood side by side with members of townwide environmental and civic groups like the Riverhead Neighborhood Preservation Coalition and the North Fork Environmental Council.

But on the subject of whether Rich Vlacci’s R&K Precision Autoworks on Sound Avenue should be granted a special permit to double the size of that business, they broke ranks during a Town Board public hearing Tuesday.

Residents Mike Foley and Dorothy O’Haire, both vocal opponents of developer Kenn Barra’s proposed shopping center, both of whom said they were founding members of the Sound Park Heights Civic Association, urged the Town Board to grant a special permit to R&K.

Mr. Foley, who is also an RNPC member, said he’s gone to R&K about a dozen times for car repairs over the years.

“Each time, I’ve gotten an honest and fair price and excellent work,” he said. “Everyone in Reeves Park will tell you, he’s always there for the community.”

He said Mr. Vlacci always cleans up his shop area at the end of the day and complies with town codes.

Mr. Foley said that when environmental groups “don’t make exceptions for people who do the right thing, then we lose credibility as groups.”

“If ever there were a site plan that should be approved, it’s this one,” Ms. O’Haire said. The proposed expansion looks more residential and fits in better with the area than what’s there now, she said.

Sound Park Heights Civic Association president Eric Biegler said the association supports Mr. Vlacci’s proposed expansion.
Former councilman George Bartunek, who is an NFEC vice president, said R&K is seeking to expand a use that doesn’t comply with its zoning.

“Over the years, nonconforming uses should lapse,” he said. “A 100 percent expansion of a nonconforming use is a terrible precedent.”

Dominique Mendez of RNPC said the fact that Mr. Vlacci does good work and is a nice man “doesn’t change the fact that he’s asking for a 100 percent expansion of a nonconforming use on Sound Avenue.” She said an expansion that big is too big, and that her group seeks to protect Sound Avenue against over-commercialization.

Jim DeLuca, a representative for Mr. Vlacci, said the building has been used commercially since 1954 and has been owned by R&K since 1986.

He said Mr. Vlacci’s reputation for restoring cars is such that the television show “Pawn Stars” on Friday filmed an episode featuring his work.

Mr. Vlacci said he’s “sworn to secrecy” about the content of the show until it airs.

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