07/05/14 3:09pm
The James Benjamin Homestead, circa 1782, is believed to be the oldest house in Flanders. It's on th eNational Register of Historic Places. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The James Benjamin Homestead, circa 1782, is believed to be the oldest house in Flanders. It’s on th eNational Register of Historic Places. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Did you know that the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders was once the site of a roller rink known as Ben’s Roller Dome? Or that the long-shuttered Bayview Market at the corner of Longneck Boulevard and Flanders Road was built in 1910 and was used as a meeting room for the Flanders Fire Department when it first formed in 1948?  (more…)

07/03/14 3:30pm
Columnist James Varney believes intellectual diversity might not be welcome thing on Long Island's East End.

Columnist James Varney believes intellectual diversity might not be welcome thing on Long Island’s East End.

Does the Hyatt Place hotel in Riverhead have lefty-leaning computers in its lobby?

That’s what a columnist from New Orleans is claiming after he stayed there recently and found that the guest computers in the hotel’s lobby blocked websites he considered to be conservative leaning.

Yet the computers freely allowed more liberal leaning sites, he wrote.

(more…)

06/27/14 5:19pm
The Costco Wholesale store was packed Thursday, its opening day. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The Costco Wholesale store was packed Thursday, its opening day. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Despite a number of controversies over the past year, the Riverhead Costco store was issued a temporary certificate of occupancy in time to meet its announced June 26 opening date on Thursday.

And it was greeted by large crowds of shoppers. Costco

“We are thrilled to be bringing Costco’s low warehouse prices to the residents of Riverhead,” warehouse manager Jon Jovel said in a press release. “They have been asking us to open here for a long time, and we already have made an impact on the local job market. We look forward to contributing to the community in many ways.”

Town officials had previously said the store would not be issued a CO, allowing it to open to the public, unless it met all of the conditions of a May 15 amended site plan approval issued by the town Planning Board.

The approval required the developer of the site, Brixmor Property Group, to  replace a wooden fence around the property with a chain link fence with privacy slats, and to plant all of the trees buffering neighboring properties that had been previously called for in the earlier approval — and, lastly, to replace trees that have since died.

It also required them to spread out excess sand on the property over a 20-acre portion of the site, resulting in the grade of the land being raised by 3.5 feet over the prior Planning Board approval from the fall of 2012.

Residents in the Foxwood Village development to the north and the Millbrook Community development to the east had complained about the lack of screening between their homes and the shopping center after Brixmor, with Town Board and Planning Board approvals, clearcut the entire 41 acre site, even though the builders only planned to develop a portion of it.

According to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, the store was issued a temporary CO and not a permanent one because the traffic light, which it shares with another shopping center across the street, had not been fully accepted by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, and because the developer needed to sprinklers and hydroseed — a type of fast growing grass — on a 20-foot section of lawn around the parking lot.

Mr. Walter said both were being done, and he doesn’t anticipate the store will have any problems getting the permanent CO.

He said all the other requirements of the amended site plan approval have been met.

The Costco site is actually separately owned from the rest of the shopping center, which is called The Shops at Riverhead and is owned by Brixmor. However, another part of the amended site plan allowed the developers to build just the Costco store initially, since they didn’t have any tenants yet for the rest of the project.

Robert Hall, a Foxwood Village resident who has represented the homeowners there at planning meetings on the development for several years, was not happy that the town granted the CO.

“They said that unless they completed everything on the amended site plan, they wouldn’t get a CO,” he said. “I don’t believe they’ve completed everything.”

Although new spruce trees were planted along the border with the Foxwood and Millbrook communities, he said the builders never removed the arborvitae trees that were previously planted. He said he and many other residents agree the trees “look like junk.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

Caption: Neighbors have complained about these arborvitae shrugs. (Credit: Tim Gannon, file)

06/23/14 8:00am
State Senator Lee Zeldin, left, and primary opponent George Demos.

State Senator Lee Zeldin, left, and primary opponent George Demos.

They’ve been slamming each other in campaign advertisements for weeks, with each linking the other to Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, in one form or another. And come Tuesday, Republican voters will decide whether Lee Zeldin or George Demos will be their candidate to oppose incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) in the fall.  (more…)

06/18/14 7:00am
Long Ireland Brewery co-owner Greg Martin (center) harvests hop cones with assistant brewers Liam Hudcock (left) and Fred Keller at Condzella Farm in Wading River in 2012. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Long Ireland Brewery co-owner Greg Martin (center) harvests hop cones with assistant brewers Liam Hudcock (left) and Fred Keller at Condzella Farm in Wading River in 2012. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Shortly after announcing that New York State was loosening some of its restrictions on wineries, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state will do the same for craft brewers.

(more…)

06/13/14 8:00am
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library director Joy Rankin.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Riverhead Free Library director Joy Rankin.

Come August, downtown Riverhead will hear night creatures call and see the dead start to walk.

More specifically, hundreds of people will dress like zombies and start dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

At least, that’s the plan for Riverhead Free Library director Joy Rankin, who is calling the event “The Thrill of It All.”

Ms. Rankin is working with East End Arts and local dance studios to put the dance together as part of EEA’s kickoff of its “JumpsArt” program on Aug. 8.

“When I first came to Riverhead, I thought, ‘What is something I’d like to see every year? Something that pulls the entire community together?’ ” said Ms. Rankin, who became library director last August.

It was during a meeting with Pat Snyder, executive director of East End Arts, when she came up with the idea of having people get together to emulate the 1983 “Thriller” video, where ghosts and zombies famously danced with mega-pop star Michael Jackson.

“Any time you can bring the community together through the arts, I’m totally for it,” said Ms. Snyder, adding that the event is still a work in progress. “That’s what we’re all about.”

For Ms. Rankin, a community-wide dance event is right up her alley.

“I have a dance [and choreography] background,” she said. “I graduated from a performing arts high school in Syosset. Everybody knows the ‘Thriller’ video. Whether it’s people who saw it when they were young or people today who are fans of zombie-type movies and television shows such as ‘The Walking Dead,’ everybody has some story about how they were first exposed to ‘Thriller.’”

“Somebody might say they can’t dance, but everybody can walk like a zombie,” she said.

A quick Google search turns up multiple links of groups dancing to “Thriller” and the Guinness Book of World Records even has a world record for largest “Thriller” dance — 13,597 people participated in a Mexico City event Aug. 30, 2009.

There’s also an event called “Thrill the World,” where people from all over the world re-enact the dance at the same time.

Can Riverhead top that?

“About 200 people would be great,” Ms. Rankin said.

In addition to the library and East End Arts, three local dance schools — Redancers, Peconic Ballet Theatre and Studio East in Westhampton — will also assist with choreography and dance instruction, she said.

While the “Thriller” dance is only being planned as a one-time event, Ms. Rankin hopes to work on a different community project each year. In 2015, she hopes to roll out a local version of “The Amazing Race,” based on the award-winning reality show where contestants rush around the world to participate in games and complete tasks.

Anyone who wants to get involved with “The Thrill of It All” should contact the library at 727-3228, ext. 131, Ms. Rankin said.

05/30/14 12:36pm
Nile Rodgers at Town Board work session on Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Nile Rodgers at Town Board work session on Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Music legend Nile Rodgers made a visit to Riverhead Town Hall Thursday to iron out details of the upcoming “We Are Family Festival” at Martha Clara Vineyards on Aug. 8 and 10.

And it’s something he hopes to be doing for years to come, apparently.

“I know that we can do something incredible here that is on par with the Sundance Film Festival,” said Mr. Rodgers, who envisions the music festival being an annual event to help local charities.

The Town Board, which discussed the event with Mr Rodgers at its work session Thursday, is expected to vote on a resolution to approve the August event at its formal meeting Tuesday, and board members appear to support the event.

“We had such a great time last year,” said Peter Herman, the co-executive director of Niles Rodgers Productions. “Everyone was just so cooperative and welcoming. And I think it gave Niles and I the feeling that this is home. This is something that’s a community effort and not just us coming in and doing this one time and going away.”

When Mr. Herman told the board that they are hoping to plan the event for not only this year, but also next year, Mr. Rodgers added, “and the year after that, and the year after that.”

“I think it puts Riverhead on the map for good things,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Mr. Rodgers, whose group Chic had a number of hits in the 1970s and 1980s and who has been a successful producer of many other well known hits for other artists, was involved in last year’s “All for the East End” concert at Martha Clara, which raised about $70,000 for a variety of East End charities and nonprofit organizations.

This year, AFTEE will be a beneficiary of the concert, but it won’t be organizing it, as it did last year — news that had surprised AFTEE organizers when it came out. That job will be handled by the Nile Rodgers Foundation, which also will raise money for local charities in what’s being called the “We Are Family Festival,” named after the non-profit “We Are Family Foundation” run by Mr. Rodgers, who also produced the song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge.

Unlike last year’s concert, which was a one-day event held on a Monday, this will be a two-day event held on a Saturday and Sunday.

There will not be a downtown concert on Aug. 8, the Friday before the event, as originally planned, Mr. Herman said. He hopes to have a downtown event on the Friday before a music festival in 2015, and says it takes about a year to set up these type of events.

Last year’s performers included Chic, Adam Lambert and Avicci. The event drew about 5,000 people, according to Mr. Herman.

The promoters have yet to announce what performers will be playing this year, or what charities will benefit, although Councilman George Gabrielsen suggested that some local recreation programs are in need of money.

This year’s event also is proposing to have two stages with performers at the same time, so that when one act finishes, there will still be music playing, Mr. Herman said.

Mr. Rodgers said he was impressed by how smoothly last year’s festival went.

“We do this every day of our lives and I’ve seen the most chaotic situations, but this town handled it so well last year, it’s just amazing to me.”

He said initially, he wasn’t sure he wanted to do the festival again this year, because the past year has been one of the most successful of his life and he’s been getting a lot of offers from other places.

Mr. Rodgers won three Grammy Awards earlier this year for his work with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams.

“But I wanted to come back here because it just felt right,” he said.

Mr. Walter said he only heard one complaint about last year’s concert, and that was from a Southold Town resident, while Councilman John Dunleavy said he didn’t hear any complaints.

Mr. Gabrielsen, who lives in Jamesport, said he heard complaints from residents on Bay Run Lane, a small road that is right next to Martha Clara.

Mr. Herman said they want to work with anyone with complaints to try and alleviate their problems.