Greenport’s recovery began well before 2002

01/05/2011 1:27 PM |

You can’t believe everything you read in the newspaper.

That’s the explanation, according to Dennis McDermott, founder and former owner of The Frisky Oyster in Greenport, for the rather surprising quote that appeared last month in this newspaper and its sister publication, the Riverhead News-Review.

In a story written by News-Review editor Mike White about Dennis’ plan to open a new downtown Riverhead restaurant, to be called the Riverhead Project, he was quoted as saying, “Greenport looked a lot like Riverhead does now; there were a lot of empty storefronts. With the success of The Frisky Oyster, there’s been this whole gentrification of Greenport. But it wasn’t our intention to sort of turn a whole town around; it sort of just happened. That demographic — affluent, cosmopolitan — was always there. We just tapped into it.”

In a phone conversation this week, Dennis did not deny saying what Mike White quoted him as saying, but that earlier comment does not fully reflect his true feelings about Greenport’s renaissance, he said.

“In no way do I think I’m responsible for the gentrification of Greenport,” he said on Monday. “That’s just not me.”

He went on to credit former Greenport Mayor David Kapell’s “master plan” and the subsequent arrival, after TFO opened in 2002, of such high-end eateries as Fifth Season and Scrimshaw. “They saw that a restaurant could succeed in Greenport, and that’s all I did,” he said. “End of story.”

Well, not exactly the end. Even before 9/11 and TFO, there were some pioneers who precipitated Greenport’s resurgence. They include, but are not limited to, businesses like there-since-the-beginning Claudio’s, The Cheese Emporium and The Greenport Tea Company, all of which Greenporter/La Cuvée owner Deborah Rivera — who, not incidentally, came to town in July 2001 — credits with first attracting her to the village.

And Dave Kapell himself told me this week that he and his family might never have moved to Greenport if weren’t for Mayor Joe Townsend Jr. in the 1970s.

Which is to say — as most of us, including Dennis McDermott, seem to agree — that Greenport’s recovery began well before 2002.

As for downtown Riverhead’s long-awaited recovery — which Dennis hopes to participate in and facilitate with the opening of his new restaurant sometime this spring — I wish him well but, based on recent and not-so-recent history, he best be prepared for the long haul.

“Sometime on the night of Nov. 4, 1966, or the wee hours of Nov. 5, [27-year-old Greenport resident] Carlos DeJesus disappeared. According to contemporary press reports, he was last seen drinking in a local bar. Some six weeks later, his partly decomposed body washed up on the beach at Orient [Beach] State Park. He had been stabbed many times, weighted down with rocks, and, according to local lore, castrated.”

Thus goes an early draft of an article by Southampton Press columnist Reynolds Dodson, who began his own investigation of the DeJesus murder after a column about race relations on the East End elicited a tip from an anonymous informant who claimed to have direct knowledge of the crime.

Reportedly, the motive for the crime was that DeJesus was black and was having relations with a white girl, which in 1960s Southold was an incendiary act.

Mr. Dodson has spent the better part of the last four months looking into the DeJesus case and, as he wrote in a subsequent column, “In trying to unravel it, I have had to talk with a number of African-Americans, and the stories they tell are hair-raising.
“They involve cross burnings, noose incidents, Klan marches, police brutality, house burnings, uninvestigated murders, rapes and other travesties. And this is not in Alabama, folks, this is on the East End.”

What has most surprised and perplexed Mr. Dodson is the reluctance of those who lived here at the time of Carlos DeJesus’ murder to help shed light on it. But perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise because of persistent suggestions that the original investigation was shut down because the perpetrator or perpetrators were politically connected.

Unfortunately, Mr. Dodson has been unsuccessful in his efforts to review the original case file, which presumably is the property of the Suffolk County Police Department’s homicide squad. To date, a Dec. 3, 2010, Freedom of Information request filed by Mr. Dodson and The Suffolk Times has been ignored by the police, according to one staff member, because they’ve been too busy with the ongoing investigation of the four female bodies recently unearthed at Cedar Beach in Babylon.

We have most recently enlisted the assistance of the State Committee on Open Government, and filed an appeal with the county attorney’s office, and I will report back here when we get a definitive ruling on our records request.

Meanwhile, I’m writing about the DeJesus case here and now with the hope that someone else out there has information that will help bring his killer(s) to justice. If so, feel free to contact Reynolds Dodson at [email protected] or me at

As this is written on Tuesday evening, word has just reached us that longtime Times/Review sports contributor Chuck Adams has died suddenly at the age of 55. I’m still getting over the shock, but I want to add this to what sports editor Bob Liepa and reporter Julie Lane are writing elsewhere in this week’s paper:

Chuck was a truly amazing individual who never seemed to let his disability get in the way of his life or his work. (My first recollection of him is of covering the U.S. Open tennis tournament in his wheelchair.) And perhaps most noteworthy was his incredible persistence in writing (and publishing!) his autobiographical novel, “Something More.”

Rest in peace, Chuck.

[email protected]



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