02/29/12 6:05pm
02/29/2012 6:05 PM

A Riverhead man was charged with DWI Wednesday after his car was spotted in the Mattituck Plaza shopping center. Police had received a tip he was driving erratically.

A Riverhead man was charged with drunk driving at lunchtime Wednesday after Southold Town Police received a phone call that he was driving erratically, police said.

Grzegorz Luniewski, 36, was charged with felony DWI after police spotted his vehicle in the Mattituck Plaza parking lot on Main Road and they found him to be intoxicated, police said.

The incident occurred about 12:30 p.m.

Mr. Luniewski was transported to headquarters, processed and is expected to be held overnight for arraignment.

02/29/12 5:00pm

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Abby Scharadin of Southold wrestling for the ball with a Southampton player on Saturday.

Dennis Case is a sharp observer of the Suffolk County girls basketball scene, not to mention a knowledgeable coach. When the veteran Pierson/Bridgehampton coach was asked after a loss last month to Southold what makes the First Settlers a successful team, he had an insightful answer ready.

“They got a little bit of everything,” Case said. “They got size, shooting. They got good power girls. They have good subs. They have more than just five girls.”

Case was right on the mark in his analysis.

As its 12-0 league record indicated, Southold was the best team — and the most complete team — in Suffolk County League VIII this season. Having stated that, it must be noted that League VIII was a weak league in 2011-12. That, of course, is beyond Southold’s control. The First Settlers could only play the teams on their schedule.

League VIII surely did them no favors in preparation for the playoffs, though. So, it is a testament to Southold that it finds itself in this position: a Suffolk Class C champion with a 15-6 record and a March 7 date to play Nassau County champion Friends Academy (6-11) in a Southeast Region semifinal at Farmingdale State College. It is the last team from the Town of Southold still standing in this winter sports season.

“People think that after Riverhead, Long Island ends,” Southold coach Katie Hennes said. “This is a big opportunity for North Fork basketball.”

The First Settlers are still playing for a reason.

Southold is not the sort of team that’s going to fill the crowd with oohs and ahhs. It’s not the sort of team that plays with flash. It’s not the sort of team that relies on a star.

But that’s the point. Southold has advanced this far because it is a good team. As Case said, it has the pieces in place. Melissa Rogers and Nicole Busso can score points in the paint and pile up the rebounds. Sydney Campbell is a sure-handed point guard and possibly the team’s best pure outside shooter. Lauren Ficurilli, the team’s only senior aside from Kelly Bosco, is a fine all-around player who always seems to be making things happen.

And then there are players who are positive contributors coming off the bench, like sophomores Abby Scharadin and Justina Babcock, a 5-foot-3 point guard who does a nice job keeping things under control when Campbell needs a breather.

“This is one of the best seasons of my life,” said Rogers, who hurt her left wrist Saturday, but isn’t expecting that to prevent her from practicing later this week. “It’s really so much fun to play with these girls, to come out every day and have so much fun doing what we love to do.”

Southold seems to have done well in the coaching department, too. Its rookie coach, Amanda Barrilo, left the team late in the regular season to accept a job in North Carolina, but she has left the First Settlers in the capable hands of Southold’s junior varsity coach, Hennes.

It has all added up to a team Southold can be proud of.

Under the guidance of Hennes, a former St. Joseph’s College player, the First Settlers don’t seem to have missed a beat. Southold rolled over Case’s Pierson/Bridgehampton team in the county final and beat Shelter Island in the Suffolk Class C-D final. That was before Saturday when Southold was run over by Southampton, 56-21, in the Suffolk Class B-C-D final. Southold hung tough for a quarter and a half before speedy Southampton distanced itself.

The three playoff games at St. Joseph’s College gave Southold preparation for Friends Academy.

“We have a chance to do something special,” Ficurilli said. “I know all the girls are excited. Just making it this far is an accomplishment.”

Hennes has firsthand experience that helps her understand what her players are going through as they sit two wins away from an invitation to Troy for the New York State final four. She played for Sachem when it pulled to within one win of a final four. She knows what’s it’s like to play in a county final in front of a large crowd.

“I tell these girls, ‘You might never get this again,’ ” Hennes said. “Some of these girls may or may not go on to play college basketball, but these are things you have to cherish, and this is what athletes dream of.”

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02/29/12 3:00pm

Fire officials are saying acidic air sent four office workers to a hospital Tuesday night, though they’re not sure exactly the cause.

“Overcharged batteries, toner from a copy machine, it could have been a number of things,” said Riverhead Fire Department chief Nick Luparella.

The victims were later released from Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead after being treated for symptoms ranging from burning eyes and rashes to tingling lips and breathing problems, said fire department press officer Bill Sanok.

Firefighters received the call about 5:45 p.m., Mr. Sanok said.

A Riverhead fire chief and town police officer were also affected, but their symptoms disappeared after they left the building, Mr. Luparella added.

Hazmat crews at the scene got a low-level positive reading for acidity in the air inside the building, but the source of the air irritant could not be determined, he said.

Riverhead police, fire crews, ambulance volunteers, Brookhaven fire marshals and hazmat units responded to the incident and remained at the scene until about 12:15 a.m. The office building was checked Wednesday morning and reopened after test results came back clean.

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02/29/12 1:00pm

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Melissa Rogers, with an ice bag on her ailing left wrist during Southold's loss to Southampton in the Suffolk County Class B-C-D final on Saturday at St. Joseph's College.

The Southold girls basketball team doesn’t have a bona fide star player or a designated team captain, but the First Settlers do have team leaders. So, when one of them, Melissa Rogers, hit the floor hard after tripping over a player, hurting her left wrist in the opening moments of the Suffolk County Class B-C-D final on Saturday, Southold fans must have held their breath.

Apparently not Rogers’ coach or teammates, though. They know the 5-foot-10 junior forward well enough to recognize that it’s going to take more than a hard fall to keep her off the court.

Rogers remained in the game at St. Joseph’s College, playing well into the fourth quarter of the 56-21 loss to the Mariners.

“I just kept going on,” she said. “I’m very stubborn.”

No one seemed worried — Rogers least of all — by the sight of her sitting off on the side in street clothes with a splint wrapped around her wrist, watching the team’s practice on Monday.

Southold coach Katie Hennes said she expected Rogers to resume practicing later this week. Her availability for the team’s Southeast Region Class C semifinal against Friends Academy on March 7 at Farmingdale State College is not in question.

“I’ll be ready to go,” said Rogers.

That’s good news for Southold.

Perhaps similar to her team as a whole, Rogers’ play could be seen as something of a revelation this season. Although she has been a starter since joining the team as a freshman, she has proven to be more of an offensive threat, averaging about 10 points per game as well as grabbing about eight rebounds per game.

“Slowly but surely she’s found her niche, and she’s kind of our go-to girl,” said Hennes.

Rogers plays in the post along with Nicole Busso. The third post player varies, but is usually Abby Scharadin or Lauren Ficurilli.

“She’s been great,” Busso, who has played alongside Rogers for 10 years, said. “You can’t even ask for more from a player like her. She goes under the boards. She takes the fouls. She takes charges. She dives for balls. … She does a little bit of everything.”

Ficurilli said, “She’s always aggressive, and she always gives 110 percent, and I think when you’re looking at a player, that’s someone you want on your team.”

It didn’t take Hennes long to realize that Rogers is the type of player she wants on her team.

“I didn’t know a single soul when I walked into this gym,” Hennes said. “I could just tell that this is the type of kid that you want to build your program around. She’s hard working. She does exactly what you ask. She’s very coachable.”

Rogers said she has a high basketball IQ. “I watch basketball constantly,” she said.

At the same time, she said she has learned not to overthink on the basketball court. Because the action moves so fast, she has found that reaction and instinct make a difference.

Rogers scores points through a variety of low-post moves, putbacks and 15- to 18-foot jump shots. She struck for a career-high 21 points against Shelter Island in a Hampton Bays tournament game this season. But Rogers deflects credit for her point production to her teammates.

“It really has nothing to do with me, basically,” she said. “It’s the team playing together and the chemistry. We’ve been playing together since we were little kids. I may score the most, but I’m getting all the passes. I’m getting the shots, the looks.”

Rogers looked in pain and discomfort at times during Saturday’s game. She clearly wasn’t her usual self. With the ailing wrist, she shot 1 of 4 from the field and 0 of 2 from the free-throw line. She finished with 2 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and 1 block, an unusually low stat line for her.

The hurting wrist “definitely hampered me a little bit,” she acknowledged.

But Hennes knows that Rogers is about more than numbers. Rogers also brings intangibles to the court, such as toughness and hustle.

“That kid never gave up” against Southampton, Hennes said. “That’s the type of kid that you want on the floor, somebody who would give you everything they have and leave everything out there for you.”

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02/29/12 11:03am

A golden nematode cyst

Although more than 300,000 acres of western New York farmland were recently declared free of the golden nematode, a move that lifts strict regulations designed to eliminate the tiny but still lethal potato pest, Long Island farmland remains under a decades-old state and federal quarantine.

The golden nematode (Globodera rostochiensis) is a microscopic cyst-producing worm that mainly infects potatoes and tomatoes. The USDA considers the nematode “potentially more dangerous than any of the insects and diseases affecting the potato industry.” It’s a major pest in Europe but found domestically only in New York State.

First discovered on Long Island in Nassau County in 1941, the golden nematode was initially controlled by chemicals and subsequently by the development of nematode-resistant potato varieties and the regulation of infested land. Growers with infested acreage must follow a strict eradication strategy, including steam-cleaning equipment used on infested fields and a four-year crop rotation schedule that dictates the kind of crops a farmer can grow, said Sandy Menasha, a Cornell Cooperative Extension vegetable and potato specialist.

“If you are on infested land, you need to plant resistant potato varieties for two years, followed by a susceptible crop variety for a year and then a non-host crop the year after that,” she said.

In the two resistant-variety years, only the strongest nematodes survive, she said. Planting potato varieties susceptible to nematode infestation the following year incites the surviving nematode larvae to “hatch out.” Then in the fourth year introducing crops that the nematode cannot feed upon, such as corn, wipes out the remaining population.

But that rotation protocol is not popular with all local growers.

“I’ve got fields that state Department of Ag and Markets haven’t found nematodes on for over 30 years and still have to be in their quarantine program,” Jamesport potato farmer John Kujawski said.

The rotation schedule is necessary, Ms. Menasha said, because planting only nematode-resistant varieties would invite the worm to evolve, creating a sort of “super nematode.”

But if those varieties were not available for use in the rotation sequence, “people wouldn’t be able to grow potatoes out here,” Ms. Menasha said.

Even so, Mr. Kujawski, doesn’t feel he’s been done any favors by the development of the genetically modified crops.

“They aren’t anything to brag about and there’s always some kind of problem,” he said of resistant varieties he’s required to plant on 100 of his 500 acres. “The yield isn’t high and they get hollow heart, meaning there’s a hole in the middle. If a truck shipment shows over six percent have hollow heart in a sample, or two potatoes in a five pound bag, that shipment gets rejected. That costs a lot of money.”

In announcing the deregulation of the western New York acreage on Feb. 16, Ag and Markets Commissioner Darrel Aubertine called the move “a major first step” toward the goal of reducing nematode-regulated farmland by 90 percent by 2015. That would trim the 1.28 million quarantined acres down to 128,000.

But Mr. Kujawski isn’t holding his breath that his 100 acres will be deregulated that soon.

“If they find even one nematode, you’ll be in the program forever,” he said. The agency first found the nematodes in four or five of Mr. Kujawski’s 25 fields in 1964, and he’s been dealing with strict regulations ever since.

“Every year they change the rules about what we can do,” he said, “It’s all political b.s.”

Read more in Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

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02/29/12 9:00am

JAMES COLLIGAN FILE PHOTO | A DEC rep gave a presentation about deer hunting at Monday night's Greenport Village Board meeting.

A state Department of Environmental Conservation representative came to the Village Board Monday night to discuss the possibility of opening Moore’s Woods to deer hunters.

Environmental conservation officer Thomas Gadomski said he believes bow hunting is a preferred option in some municipalities because it’s less of a public nuisance and is safer than hunting with a rifle.

“Bow hunting is extremely safe,” Mr. Gadomski said. “I’ve been on this job 20 years and there has never been a third party that got injured while someone else was bowing.”

If the village were to allow deer hunting on the nearly 190-acre parcel, Mr. Gadomski suggested the board set up a hunting program that mirrors Southold Town’s.

The town, he said, typically divides a property into sections of five to 10 acres and allows only one or two hunters per section.

The board didn’t take any action Monday night, but the trustees said they planned to continue looking into the feasibility of permitting bow hunting during the next season, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, to cull the herd.

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02/29/12 7:00am

A Greenport man who sped away from an officer during a traffic stop on Flanders Road in Flanders Feb. 5 is also wanted on a warrant from Suffolk County Police, Southampton Town Police said.

A town police officer had responded to a home on Flanders Road after receiving a complaint about an intoxicated person, police said. A Chevy Tahoe with Indiana plates was located and the man behind the wheel first gave the officer a false name, then took off and could not be located, police said.

Police later discovered that the man was Robert Lechner of Greenport and that there is a Suffolk County police warrant for his arrest on a scheme to defraud charge, according to police.

02/28/12 10:35pm
02/28/2012 10:35 PM

JULIE LANE FILE PHOTO | Greenport Mayor David Nyce.

The Greenport Village Board is expected to soon schedule a public hearing to discuss piercing the state’s new 2 percent tax increase cap for this year’s budget.

The board had planned to hold the hearing next week until a Suffolk Times reporter pointed out that board members did not vote on setting the hearing date during its meeting Monday. That vote is now expected during a March 8 special meeting.

Village Mayor David Nyce said there’s a provision in state law that allows a municipality to raise the tax levy above the 2 percent cap through the adoption of a local law.

Mr. Nyce said that while the village faces a budget deficit, he wasn’t certain if next year’s spending plan might involve piercing the cap. Enacting the local law gives a municipality the authority to do so if needed.

“Adopting it doesn’t mean you have to use it,” Mr. Nyce said. “It’s another tool.”

Under state law, the Village Board has until April 15 to hold a public hearing to discuss its budget. It then has until May 1 to adopt a spending plan.

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02/28/12 5:13pm

Former Orient resident Dorythea Rieger died Feb. 18 at San Simeon by the Sound Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Greenport, where she had resided for 10 years. She was 92.

Born May 8, 1919, in Forest Hills to Mae Rose and Theodore Claras, she earned a B.A. from Columbia University in New York City and worked as a producer at CBS News.

Family members said she enjoyed tennis and sailing.

Predeceased by her husband, John, in 2005, Ms. Rieger is survived by her sons, Brad, of Water Mill, and Jan, of Charleston, S.C., and three grandchildren.

A service will take place at noon Saturday, March 3, at Orient Central Cemetery, followed by interment.

Arrangements are being handled by Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport.

02/28/12 4:30pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON FILE PHOTO

Southold Town Board members will begin working with with Greenport Village officials to coordinate the Memorial Day weekend Tall Ships visit to Greenport at this Tuesday’s Town Board work session, to be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday at Southold Town Hall.

Also on the agenda, which can be viewed at the bottom of this post, is a discussion of the village’s plan for new parking meters.

Southold Town is expected to hire a traffic control officer to monitor village parking. The officer would answer to the town police department, but be paid by the village.

Also up for discussion Tuesday are an update on the jetty at Goldsmith Inlet in Southold, the use of the town transfer station by unlicensed contractors and appointment of members to the town’s new Shellfish Advisory Committee.

At the Town Board’s regular meeting at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, a public hearing will be held on the acquisition of .7 acres of open space owned by the Manor Grove Corp. This property is part of a larger plan to preserve acreage surrounding Pipe’s Cove, which is just west of Greenport.

Resolutions to approve two new local laws on property maintenance and site plan amendments are also on the agenda.

FOLLOW ALONG LIVE WITH BOTH MEETINGS TUESDAY ON SUFFOLKTIMES.COM

Southold Town Board meeting Agenda Feb. 28, 2012

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