09/30/10 5:35pm
09/30/2010 5:35 PM

The countdown is running on a series of public hearings on noise, deer fences and parking in Southold Town.

Three hearings are set for Tuesday, Oct. 5, beginning just after 7:30 p.m. The first, and perhaps the most controversial, will be on the Town Board’s proposal for the first-ever Southold noise ordinance.

The proposal would limit noise to 65 decibels at the noise-maker’s property line between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Noise outside those hours would not be allowed to exceed 50 decibels.

Aimed at curbing loud amplified music, the law would exempt construction noise, church bells, snowblowers, outdoor residential equipment, agricultural equipment, non-amplified noise from athletic events, legal fireworks displays and fire engines responding to calls.

Violators would pay a fine not to exceed $500 after conviction on a first offense, and a fine not to exceed $5,000 after conviction for a third violation within 18 months.

Some residents have expressed concern over the past several weeks that the penalties could be negotiated down from the fees listed in the law, while others have said that the law would be too restrictive for live music events.

The second public hearing, immediately after the noise law hearing is concluded, will be on a law that would allow eight-foot deer fences on residential and commercial properties. Currently, the town allows deer fences only on agricultural properties, but as the deer population has exploded, many people have found that the animals are ruining their gardens and landscaping as well as leaving behind disease-carrying ticks.

The proposal would require that fences be made of woven wire fence fabric instead of wood or other materials that are more visually obstructive. It would allow fences only along the side and rear yards of properties and across side yards at the rear of houses to create backyard enclosures.

The third hearing will be on a proposal to limit parking at the end of Mill Lane, on the west side of Goldsmith Inlet in Peconic, after a summer in which nearby residents say their streets were overflowing with cars on sunny days. They belonged to people who do not have town beach parking stickers and so cannot park in the town lot at the end of the road.

If adopted, the law would require town permits for cars parked between the road end at the beach and Second Avenue. No parking would be allowed between Second and Miami avenues.

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09/30/10 5:30pm

The Village Market has been a fixture on Love Lane in Mattituck since 1896, but when the market’s doors close on Sept. 30, it will be the end of an era.

Mike Bourguignon has owned The Village Market, which serves breakfast and lunch specials, sells groceries and has a full deli with counter seating, for 22 years. In the past year, at his wife’s suggestion, he began quietly seeking a buyer for the business.

He found one right next door. Michael Avella, who owns The Love Lane Kitchen, is in contract to buy The Village Market, which he plans to turn into a specialty grocery store before Christmas. Both men expect the closing to be within the week.

Mr. Avella said he was excited by what he plans to continue the counter seating offered at The Village Market.

“People can expect a butcher, a baker, a fish monger, produce that will be almost exclusively local, high quality imported goods,” he said. “We’ll also have pastries, gelato, a coffee station and we plan to make our own doughnuts. It’s all in the design phase right now.”

Mr. Bourguignon was grinning from ear to ear Saturday night, when the market’s cook, Judy Thilberg, threw a surprise going away party for him at the market. It seemed as if everyone in Mattituck had crammed inside to say goodbye.

Mr. Bourguignon had worked at several delis throughout Long Island before he heard in 1988 from friends who owned a similar market in Quogue that The Village Market was for sale. When he first visited and saw the regulars hanging out in the deli, trading stories in the early morning or having a quick bite on their lunch breaks, he knew it was a place he wanted.

“This was always the place to be,” he said, as he stood surrounded Saturday night by a group of regular customers who were gently chiding him and reminiscing about their visits to the market.

“What am I going to miss? It’s obvious. All these knuckleheads,” he said.

Ms. Thilberg and the butcher, Mario Zulli, had both been on the staff when Mr. Bourguignon bought the market from Vicki McDowell and Marilyn Gatz.

Both Ms. Thilberg and Mr. Bourguignon said that they would take advantage of their new free time to travel. Ms. Thilberg plans to continue working at her brother’s auto body shop, Sap Enterprises, in Riverhead.

“The best part of the job was meeting all the interesting people over the years,” she said. “We’ll miss everybody.”

Ms. Thilberg’s sister, Carol Underwood, was already missing the market as she sampled her sister’s cooking at the party.

“I’m going to miss the chicken salad,” she said. “Judy is like a pillar.”

Ms. Underwood’s husband, Jim Underwood, was also feeling nostalgic. Just retired from his job as a health teacher at Mattituck High School a few blocks away, he came to The Village Market for lunch nearly every day during school.

“I’m going to miss their sausage and the news updates from people you’d see,” he said. “This place was like Mattituck online, but you didn’t need the Internet. This has been community home base. There’s going to be a big gap.”

Mr. Underwood said that when he returned to school with food to go the plates would be heaping. The crab cakes and lemon chicken were his favorites.

“I tried to make the lemon chicken. Judy told me how, but I couldn’t duplicate it,” he said.

Lisa Davis, who said she works not far from The Village Market, has been a regular for 22 years. “I wouldn’t miss their egg special on Saturday mornings,” she said. “It has a down-home, friendly feeling. They knew everybody. It’s going to be a big hole.”

Danielle Grathwohl’s first job was at The Village Market, when she was 14. That was before Mr. Bourguignon owned the market, and “he made it better,” she said. She worked as a cashier and, when it was slow, she made chopped meat.

“My mom said, ‘Work some place you can walk to,'” she said.

“My husband’s here every day with my children. Judy would give them cookies, so she became the cookie lady. My daughter was Little Miss Mattituck and she had her picture taken with Mike on the counter,” Ms. Grathwohl added.

Ms. Grathwohl said that she doesn’t know where she and her family will go for cookies and home cooking now that The Village Market is closing.

“It’s really the end of an era,” she said.

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09/30/10 5:27pm

Residents of Browns Hills in Orient are hopping mad at the Suffolk County Water Authority, which has proposed tripling what it charge tro manage their small public water system since its plan to bring a pipeline to Orient was shot down.

The water authority held a public hearing on the proposed increase, from $495 to $1,500 per month, at its Southold headquarters on Boisseau Avenue Friday night. About 50 residents attended and about a dozen spoke, angrily denouncing the rate proposal.

Browns Hills resident Venetia Hands chastised the water authority for wanting to charge residents “allocated costs” that included administration and infrastructure costs for the entire SCWA water system.

Ms. Hands prepared a financial breakdown of the costs of the system, which she calculated on large sheets of paper that she taped to the wall of the water authority’s headquarters. Business experts had told her, “Venetia, you’d be paying this if Browns Hills blew up tomorrow,” she said of the costs, which she said should be shared among all of the water authority’s 395,000 ratepayers countywide. She said that if the costs were reallocated over the entire ratepayer base, it would cost each SCWA customer an additional 16 cents per year.

Breaking down the costs of the Browns Hills system, water authority chief financial officer Larry Kulick said that water filters at each of the 24 houses in Browns Hills cost $370 a year to maintain, and that the water authority spends another $21,000, on average, running 380 different tests on the water every quarter. He said that testing alone costs $875 per household per year.

Mr. Kulick added that the SCWA has long subsidized the Browns Hills system and the proposed higher rates reflected the real costs. The increased fee, he said, included a hike in the levy for maintaining the system’s infrastructure, from $295 to $1,245 for each household, and an increase in the cost to deliver the water, from $200 to $255 per year for each.

Another speaker was William Ryall, who built a house in Browns Hills in 2000. At that time, he dug a well for a geothermal heating system, but connected to the local system for his drinking water. He took two glass bottles of water out of a backpack and placed them in front of the water authority board’s chairman, Jim Gaughran.

One bottle, Mr. Ryall said, contained water from his tap, and the other water from his geothermal well. He said he’d had the water samples tested last fall, and said the water from the tap connected to the SCWA well, which is under a farm field, contained 12.6 parts per million of nitrates, while the water from the geothermal well had 4 parts per million of nitrates. Ten parts per million is the accepted standard.

“I’m told that’s the equivalent of eating one hot dog per month. My water is pure enough. It doesn’t need to be filtered,” he said.

For the next two weeks, the SCWA will accept written comments addressed to its headquarters at 4060 Sunrise Highway, Oakdale, NY 11769 or [email protected] Members of the water authority’s board said that the earliest a decision on the rates would be made would be at their October meeting.

Mr. Gaughran said the board is waiting to hear from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation on a plan to re-route the rejected water main once slated for Orient to another community in Calverton. The Environmental Facilities Corporation was responsible for directing $1.9 million in federal stimulus money to the Orient water main project. He said the scope of the Calverton project would not be determined until the water authority receives feedback on whether some of the money must be used in Orient.

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09/30/10 12:00am

GARRET MEADE PHOTO
Mount Sinai’s Joe Wittpenn (No. 24) almost intercepted this pass intended for Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s Tremayne Hansen.

Mount Sinai Mustangs Coach Vinnie Ammirato knows that on any given Friday or Saturday his football team can be a good one. But he also knows that what his players do on the other days of the week will determine whether they can develop into a great team.
“I don’t think this team realizes how great they can be,” he said. “We did not have a great week of practice this week. We got off to a slow start here tonight. To be a great team, you have to practice great every day.

09/30/10 12:00am

TROY GUSTAVSON PHOTO

A relatively brief but torrential rainstorm caused localized flooding on area streets Tuesday afternoon. The intersection of Front and First streets in Greenport (pictured here) was particularly hard hit.

A brief but torrential rainstorm that caused localized flooding Tuesday afternoon could pale compared with weather anticipated for today, Thursday, as the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole — a torrential rain producer — merge with another storm system along the East Coast, wreaking havoc on the North Fork into tomorrow morning.

The Weather Channel is warning of “heavy, flash-flooding rainfall and gusty winds” today and into tomorrow, while the National Weather Service has issued a high wind watch for Northeast Suffolk County from 11 a.m. today until 6 a.m. tomorrow.

The National Weather Service warns of sustained winds from 25 to 35 mph with gusts of 45 to 55 mph and possibly up to 60 mph at the peak of the storm Thursday evening. High tide in the Peconic Bays will occur between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. today, depending on the location.

On Tuesday, during the brief but intense local rainstorm, the intersection of Front and First streets in Greenport was particularly hard hit by flooding. And a crew from the Southold Town Highway Department was called to Orient to clear fallen leaves from clogged drains on Village Lane.

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09/30/10 12:00am

The candidates seeking to represent the North Fork in the State Legislature next year have received a stern warning from one of the area’s largest business groups to either fix state government or face being thrown out of office in two years.

“You know folks, it’s getting tired,” North Fork Chamber of Commerce president Joe Corso said of oft-repeated campaign pledges to both create jobs and lower taxes. “No matter who’s in power, nothing seems to change.”

Mr. Corso’s comments came during the chamber’s meet-the-candidates dinner at the Portly Grape in Greenport. He was addressing incumbent GOP State Senator Kenneth LaValle and both Democratic Assemblyman Marc Alessi and his Republican challenger, County Legislator Dan Losquadro of Shoreham. Mr. LaValle’s Democratic foe, Rocky Point attorney Jennifer Maertz, was invited but did not respond, said Mr. Corso.

A spokesman for Ms. Maertz told The Suffolk Times the candidate had personal business Monday and had to miss two events that evening. No reason was offered for her not responding to the chamber.

The chamber had hoped to include congressional candidates in the discussion, but both Rep. Tim Bishop and GOP challenger Randy Altschuler were unavailable.

Mr. Corso said both the state and federal governments need to reinvent themselves.

“You can’t cut spending and you can’t cut taxes at the same time,” he added. “We’ve been hearing that for 30 years.”

Mr. LaValle, finishing his 34th year in office, promised a smaller government in the next two years.

Saying New York spends more on Medicaid then California and Texas combined, the senator called for “surgical cuts.” Spending on that program and state employees’ pensions is no longer sustainable, Mr. LaValle said, adding, “There are going to be dramatic changes there.”

The Republicans generally blamed Democrats, who control the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature, for the state’s fiscal troubles.

“We need to break their veto-proof majority and force them to deal with suburban representatives,” said Mr. Losquadro, the County Legislature’s minority leader.

Responding to a question about why Albany has become “a magnet for crooks,” the senator said that while suburban representatives have “exemplary” records, the same cannot be said for the New York City delegations, which dominate the Legislature.

Mr. Alessi said New York’s current financial troubles can be traced back to the mid-1990s era of deregulation, which included lifting caps on health insurance premiums. That not only hurts consumers, it drives up the cost of schools and local government, he added.

Calling himself “a policy wonk, not a politician,” the assemblyman said the state must develop a new model for funding education. With districts competing for a share of state school aid, “the way we fund education is making us turn on each other,” he said.

Mr. Corso said that unlike past years, voters will be paying close attention after the elections have passed.

“We need to look at the people we put in power and hold their feet to the fire,” he said. “If they don’t perform, we should vote them out in two years.”

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09/30/10 12:00am

“All your life is Channel 13. Sesame Street. What does it mean?”

To Billy Joel, those lyrics from his 1982 song “Pressure” were part of his description of the stresses of everyday living. But throughout the New York area, Channel 13 ¬­– and on Long Island Channel 21 as well — are a more welcome part of everyday life and represent the world of public broadcasting. Millions of viewers rely on that programming as an essential alternative to the mindless drivel, squawking cable commentators and sleazy reality shows that pass for news and entertainment. It’s hard to imagine television without “Sesame Street,” the “NewsHour” or specials such as Ken Burns’ “The Civil War.”

It’s not all about TV, of course, and millions of listeners happily include National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” in their weekday routine, at home, work or while driving. Here on the East End, Long Island University’s WLIU, formerly WPBX, was the Channel 13 of radio and Long Island’s only locally based NPR affiliate. For more than two decades, the school broadcast from Southampton College. But in 2006, SUNY/Stony Brook bought the campus and WLIU became a paying tenant in its own studio. Last year, Long Island University put the station on the market, and the future of East End public radio was very much in doubt.

Enter Peconic Public Broadcasting, a group of LIU veterans and supporters that stepped in to run the station with the hope of purchasing it outright. The $2.4 million sale price for the license and equipment includes $850,000 in cash plus technical support for LIU’s Brookville station. That’s a daunting sum for a noncommercial station run by many former WLIU staffers, who previously made a $213,000 down payment and obtained multiple extensions on the $637,000 final payment due June 30.

But now, through donations and a loan from Bridgehampton National Bank, PPB can close the deal and keep local public radio on the air.

Yes, the East End is served by a variety of commercial stations, many with deep community roots. But WLIU stands apart, and always has, and the silencing of that local signal would have been a significant loss.

All things considered, the lack of a morning edition would have been the talk of the nation.

09/30/10 12:00am

Peconic Public Broadcasting, the group that runs East End public radio station 88.3 FM, has raised the money to buy the station’s license and equipment from Long Island University.

The group will make the final $637,000 cash payment through a combination of donations and a loan from Bridgehampton National Bank, the station and the university announced in a statement Tuesday afternoon. The money to pay back the loan will be raised through the station’s capital campaign.

PPB has already made down payments totalling $213,000 on the $850,000 owed the university since the group, headed by radio station staffers, beat out two other suitors seeking to purchase the station last October. At that time, PPB signed a $2.4 million deal to buy the station for $850,000 cash, with the remainder to be paid as services to the university in the form of technical support for LIU’s radio station, WCWP in Brookville.

The university, which has owned 88.3 FM for more than 20 years, had given the group Sept. 28 as the final deadline for making the $850,000 payment. The previous deadline was June 30, which has since been extended three more times at PPB’s request.

The final deal requires the approval of the Federal Communications Commission, which LIU expects to receive within the next few weeks.

“We are pleased that this transaction may now be completed and are heartened to know that the rich tradition of community-based public radio on Long Island’s East End, which the university has proudly cultivated for decades, will continue to flourish,” said LIU president David J. Steinberg.

“We have reached an important milestone in the community’s effort to save local public radio,” said veteran station manager Wally Smith. “This is one more example of the East End community working together at every level to preserve an important community resource.”

LIU had run the radio station from its Southampton campus, which it sold to SUNY Stony Brook in 2006, for more than two decades. LIU announced its intention to sell the station last year, citing $1 million in annual losses for running it, including rent the school has been paying to Stony Brook.

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09/30/10 12:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO
Chef instructors Jerry Dicecco (center) and Bill Lengyel (right) teaching a culinary class on different types of cheeses.

While vacant buildings scar much of downtown Riverhead, there’s one business there that’s growing by leaps and bounds — the culinary arts school run by Suffolk Community College.

The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Program is Suffolk Community College’s fastest growing course offering and now, in its third year, has about 400 students, according to Richard Freilich, program director. Before the college opened the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center at 20 East Main Street in Jan. 2008, the culinary program, which had been housed at the college’s Eastern Campus in Northampton, had only 75 students, he said,

Now, even more growth is expected.

“I would say we’re looking at a 30 to 40 percent increase for next year, and this year, we’ve had an over 50 percent increase,” Mr. Freilich said.

He attributes the surge to several factors, including the popularity of television shows that have “elevated chefs to superheroes” and programming such as that on the Food Network.

“That, along with the fact that we have a facility that is state of the art,” he said.

In addition, the program has more than 30 adjunct professors who themselves work as chefs or restaurant owners or are involved in culinary or hospitality businesses, Mr. Frielich said.

“This is the only accredited culinary arts program on Long Island, so if you’re on Long Island and interested in pursuing a culinary arts education, your choices are to enroll here or to leave Long Island,” said Drew Fawcett, the college’s Associate Dean for Institutional Advancement.

While single-year tuition for some top culinary schools in the country is more than $20,000, Suffolk Community College tuition is $3,776, he said.

Mr. Freilich said the culinary students now come from “all walks of life.” Some are retired, some are people who work in the field and are looking to increase their knowledge, some are students coming out of high school or BOCES culinary programs and some are students who transferred form other culinary schools.

“My father owned a restaurant for about 15 years and my mother grew up as a foodie,” said student Peter Wiegel of East Setauket, in his last year in the culinary program. “I was in school in South Carolina for business and I decided to change my whole direction. I researched it, and this was the most convenient and affordable option. It couldn’t really be beat.”

He said he hopes in the future to be either a chef or to own a restaurant.

Nicole Jordan of Babylon said she’s worked in restaurants for the past 10 years “and decided to take my talents a little bit further.” She’s now in her third year in the program.

The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center houses the culinary, baking and hotel management programs, along with courses in practical nursing and a dietetic tech program, according to Dave Bergen, associate dean of the culinary program.

The practical nursing program is also in great demand, he said.

“We have a 30-seat limit in the [practical nursing] program, and we had roughly 230 applications,” he said.

Most culinary program graduates can get middle management positions, which could include anything from assistant manager for a restaurant to assistant food and beverage director for a hotel or assistant baker in a bakery, Mr. Freilich said. There also are a number of internship programs available to the students, including one in Florence, Italy, that students from the program will be participating in for the third straight year, he said.

The culinary students also participate in a number of community programs, cooking for meetings of groups like Eastern Long Island Executives, the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, and the North Fork Promotional Council, according to Dr. Evon Walters, executive dean of the college’s Eastern Campus.

This year, the culinary program is holding some courses on Saturdays as a result of the enrollment boom, according to Mr. Freilich. But he says there’s plenty of room left.

“We can fit as many people as wish to come,” he said. “This facility is large. We haven’t tapped out this facility yet.”

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09/30/10 12:00am

Sometimes when you’re looking all around for news, you miss the story happening right under your nose. Times/Review staff members were shocked last week to learn that our health insurance coverage is changing as of Oct. 1 and our initial choice was between two policies — one that would require an employee to spend $2,850 out of pocket and the other, $3,000 before any benefits were paid by the insurer.

A third option has now been added to the mix and it’s a more traditional health insurance policy, although premiums for most people and co-pays are higher.

The original options offered would provide no payment for anything except an annual physical examination and a few “wellness” procedures such as mammograms. No doctor’s office coverage, no prescription drug coverage — essentially, nothing until an employee satisfied that $2,850 or $3,000 deductible.

What’s happening to us is typical of what’s happening throughout our community and, indeed, throughout the nation.

Is this what the hard-fought debate over health care reform gave us?

Our agent blamed Obamacare and said insurers are saddled with high costs to pay claims, so they have dramatically raised their premiums. That’s his political view.

Before you shed any tears for the insurers, take a look at their profits. WellPoint, Empire’s parent company, turned a profit of $2.5 billion in 2008, and that was considered a bad year. UnitedHealth Group, Oxford’s parent, anticipates revenues of $93 billion by the end of the current fiscal year. And Emblem, the company offering that $3,000 deductible policy, is still reporting profits, although smaller than the giants, since it’s a relatively new entrant into the for-profit marketplace.

Emblem is a for-profit entity that took over two nonprofits, GHI and HIP, in 2007, and is gradually increasing profits. WellPoint and UnitedHealth continue to gobble up smaller companies and see their profits grow.

No, friends, the insurers aren’t going broke paying our claims. And when health care reform is fully effective in 2014, the companies will gain an estimated 36 million to 50 million new customers paying their premiums.

If you didn’t closely follow the debates over the health care package, you might conclude that higher premiums and co-pays and fewer covered services were President Obama’s gift to insurers.

But what the president and others who favored health care reform sought was to stop the escalating costs of premiums while extending coverage to more people. But among the compromises necessary to get any reform package passed was to agree to delay caps on premiums until 2014.

You can bet the for-profit insurers, concerned about that 2014 reality, weren’t going to sit still in the interim. What they’re doing this year and will continue to do unless stopped is to escalate premiums and cut services every year until 2014.

The one bright spot on the horizon for New Yorkers is a move in the New York State Legislature to begin capping those premium increases next year. It’s too early to say how that will fare with our state legislators, but if you care about what this means to your pocketbook, it’s time to wake up and watch what’s happening in Albany.

Yes, some of the reforms will cost insurers more money, but the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the average premium increase to cover those costs should be between 1 percent and 2 percent. That’s hardly the big increase most of us are facing this year.

New York State Insurance Department data shows that since 2000, premiums for New Yorkers have averaged a 97 percent increase. I’m guessing that your income from 2000 to today hasn’t increased by 97 percent.

Is Obamacare perfect? Hardly. As one of my colleagues said the day we were told about our insurance options, this wouldn’t be happening if we had a single-payer system. And before you start screaming about government-controlled health care, just ask your friends who are on Medicare how they like the program and their benefits. Those I’ve spoken with are quite happy, thank you.

The president and Congress were able to take only baby steps this year because the fear-mongers won the verbal battle that forced so many compromises to dilute the final package.

It’s time to put political philosophy aside and look at real consequences of what’s happening to make top company executives and shareholders richer and the rest of us a lot poorer.