08/31/13 7:19pm
08/31/2013 7:19 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead police Sgt. John Vail (center) scans the ocean as Police Officers Christopher Parkin (left) and Rich Freeborn watch on.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Riverhead police Sgt. John Vail (center) scans the Sound as Police Officers Christopher Parkin (left) and Rich Freeborn watch on.

Police and firefighters from across the area swarmed Long Island Sound just west of Iron Pier Beach in Riverhead Saturday afternoon after someone reported a possible small aircraft crash a few miles off the beach.

Authorities later said they were unable to find any sign of the supposed aircraft after a roughly hour-long search.

The report initially came in as a call to police from a group who were driving near the beach, police said. The group thought they saw an ultra-light aircraft flying near the Sound, but when they turned around, they could see no sign of the plane, police said.

Riverhead police, Riverhead and Jamesport Fire Departments, the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, a Suffolk County police helicopter and the U.S. Coast Guard all rushed to the scene, said Riverhead police Lt. David Lessard.

Riverhead police and Jamesport Fire Department vessels were in the water searching for any sign of the plane near the off-shore oil terminal, but could find no evidence of a crash.

At 6:07 p.m., authorities called off the search. Lt. Lessard said the weather may have played a role in the false alarm.

“With the haze, maybe they didn’t see what they thought they saw,” he said.

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08/31/13 3:00pm

COURTESY PHOTO | Katie Tardif (left) with fellow cast members from “The Vineyard.”

As the premier season of ABC Family’s “The Vineyard” winds down, Cutchogue native Katie Tardif finds herself as a central character in the drama that comes with reality television.

In the latest episode, Ms. Tardif, 25, finds herself torn between her boyfriend Matt and fellow cast member Luis D’Agostino.

Ms. Tardif, who lives in New York City and has worked for the past year as a merchandise manager at the David Glazer Showroom in Manhattan, traveled in May to Martha’s Vineyard, an island south of Cape Cod notable for its affluence. The eight-episode series follows a group of seven women and four men – some of them Martha’s Vineyard locals and others, like Ms. Tardif, island transplants – living and working together for the summer.

If you missed the latest episode, it’s available online.

There are two episodes left in the season. The show airs at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays on ABC Family.

08/31/13 12:00pm
MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Shirley Covedale at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead property, where she’s long pushed to get an apartment complex and community center built to provide affordable housing and other services, such as 24-hour child care, to East End residents.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Shirley Covedale at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead property, where she’s long pushed to get an apartment complex and community center built to provide affordable housing and other services, such as 24-hour child care, to East End residents.

The Suffolk County Democratic Committee announced this month the creation of a Black and Hispanic Democratic Committee that will operate within the party.

The new group’s co-chairs will sit on the Democrats’ newly expanded executive committee, up to 43 members from 41. This way, party officials explained, Democrats from Suffolk County’s black and Hispanic communities are guaranteed a stronger voice in the party when it comes to choosing and supporting candidates moving forward.

Shirley Coverdale of Riverhead was named as one of those co-chairs. The other is Dafny Irizarry of East Islip, president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association.

For 31 years, Ms. Coverdale has served in varying capacities with First Baptist Church of Riverhead, where her husband, the Rev. Charles Cover-dale, is the pastor. She’s the executive director of the Family Community Life Center, an affordable housing and recreation center long planned for the church’s property on Northville Turnpike. She also sits on the boards of the Long Island Organizing Network, a nonprofit community advocacy group, and Long Island Housing Partnership, an affordable housing agency.

Ms. Coverdale sat with the News-Review to discuss the role of the new committee.

Q: How did you come to get involved?

A: I was contacted, as were other community leaders. This came out of concerns within these two communities, which essentially have the same agenda. The idea was to come together and get more traction in terms of their political voices being heard. Assemblyman Phil Ramos, party leader Rich Schaefer and County Executive Steve Bellone also thought this would be a good idea. So a group of us got together and it was decided internally, before we had really done much of anything, to select a co-chair from each community. The really nice thing about it is Rich Schaefer has recognized it as an offi cial extension of the county party. So both co-chairs will sit on the executive committee.

Q: What are some of the biggest issues facing the black and Hispanic communities today?

A: One fairly obvious one is the disparities in our schools. The resources that are distributed across schools systems are clearly uneven. I’ve been outspoken about the fact that we can go back to the ’50s and talk about Brown vs. Board of Education and we’re also supposed to be getting an equal education from the public schools but that’s just woefully untrue. It will take people lifting their voices to make a difference with that. Perhaps through more diversity that better refl ects [the black and Hispanic] populations in Albany, to have a more meaningful discussion on how to implement more meaningful, regional kinds of solutions. Right now, it’s not even a discussion.

Q: This is where the work of committee steps in?

A: It’s about being able to be fairly represented. We’ll be looking at minority candidates running for offi ces and non-minority candidates running where there are significant minority populations, to make sure that people’s needs are fairly represented, that the agendas espoused by the would-be elected official is what we need in our communities. Some of the poorest districts on Long Island, largely minority districts, pay some of the highest property taxes and get far fewer resources for what they’re putting in. Someone’s got to look at that and hold people accountable for that kind of discrepancy.

Q: How do the challenges differ between the two groups, and geographically, between the East End and western Suffolk?

A: This economy out here in eastern Suffolk is extremely dependent on the [Hispanic] immigrant population. Our farming and fi shing industries generate over $1 billion to the GDP of New York State. We don’t get a fair share of that money back. And if it were not for those workers, who’s doing the work? We can see a shift in the population and if we’re not dealing with the reality that the world is changing then we’re always going to be at odds with one another. And for what? But at the end of the day, everybody wants a safe, healthy environment in which to raise their families and decent jobs that allow them to do so. Whether it’s a rural community — though Riverhead is hardly the outpost it used to be — or a more urban one, the dynamics are pretty much the same.

Q: Where do you see the committee in five years?

A: If we’ve done our job, then we will have districts that have more diverse representation, not just among elected offi cials, but hopefully through employment opportunities. Not opportunities that are just window dressing. Whether it is in our schools, among administrators and teachers and so on. If this group is doing what it’s supposed to do, you’ll see change refl ected in that way. Across Suffolk County, the black and Latino populations constitute about 23 percent of the population and there are many areas where those percentages are much higher. In some cases, they’re the majority but that’s not refl ected through jobs that affect people’s lives.

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08/31/13 10:00am

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The bedroom at The Farmer’s House Bed and Breakfast where couples can purchase elopement packages for a more intimate, smaller wedding.

Shortly after Joyce and Robert Barry launched the The Farmer’s House Bed and Breakfast at their Cutchogue home three years ago, the couple began receiving inquiries from guests about a service they hadn’t explored before: elopement packages.

“I can’t tell you how many couples are frazzled because their parents insist on these huge weddings their kids never wanted,” Ms. Barry said. “People have said to me, ‘Oh, I wish I could have had my wedding here, at the bed and breakfast.’ ”

Stirred by her guests’ wistful laments, Ms. Barry obtained a certificate allowing her to perform wedding ceremonies. She also set to work creating an elopement package that begins at $1,800 and includes a ceremony, a bridal bouquet and a two-night stay in one of the house’s luxury suites. Additional items, like a gift certificate for dinner at a local restaurant, are available at an extra cost.

“They’re very intimate and quiet,” said Ms. Barry, who hosts three or four weddings a year and generally limits them to a maximum of 20 guests. “It’s really about the bride and the groom. There’s so much stress involved when there shouldn’t be. It should be about the commitment a bride and groom have to each other and to have your most intimate friends and family witness that, without all the hoopla.”

The Farmhouse isn’t the first North Fork bed and breakfast to offer elopement packages. Sylvia Daley, who has run Quintessentials Bed and Breakfast and Spa in East Marion for the past two decades, began offering small wedding services to guests eight years ago.

“People started phoning me about it,” Ms. Daley said of her decision to begin hosting elopements. “Or, when guests came here and got engaged, they would say, ‘Do you do weddings?’ That’s when I started learning more about it.”

Budget-friendly elopement packages are not just a local trend but a service offered at small inns across the country. At Historic Heights B&B in Minneapolis, couples can get married for $1,000 or less with a package that includes 20 guests, an officiant, champagne, appetizers, cake and a room and gourmet breakfast for bride and groom. Travel to the Bluff Mountain Inn in Sevierville, Tenn., for the Elope to the Mountains package and the owners there will provide all the requisite wedding accoutrements, plus a wedding planner, for just under a grand.

At East Marion’s Quintessentials, elopement packages range from $1,200 to $1,800 and include a ceremony that takes place in a fully dressed gazebo at the property’s “secret garden,” a wedding cake, champagne and a bridal bouquet. Spa services, videography and photography can be added on for an additional fee.

Ms. Daley, who is an ordained minister, thinks it’s “wonderful” that couples are opting for small, intimate weddings. She said she performs six to 10 ceremonies a year.

“With the economy, a lot of people realize that it might not be a bad idea to have a simple wedding ceremony with two or four of their best friends and then go out to dinner afterward,” she said. “They can save the money they would have spent on a big wedding for a house or go on a honeymoon at a later date.”

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08/31/13 8:00am
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck High School graduate Kate Freudenberg won the women's singles final in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament at Tasker Park in Peconic Saturday morning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mattituck High School graduate Kate Freudenberg won the women’s singles final in the Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament at Tasker Park in Peconic earlier this month.

With the U.S. Open getting underway this week at Flushing Meadows on the opposite end of Long Island, perhaps this is an inopportune time to ask if tennis is, indeed, a dying sport. After all, the full attention of the wide world of sports will be on our national championships over the next fortnight, but still there are indicators that the sport is in eclipse, in these United States in general and on this North Fork in particular.

The indicators are numerous. Although American Serena Williams currently reigns supreme among women professionals, only one American man is in the world’s top 20 — John Isner, at No. 17. Long gone are the halcyon days of McEnroe, Agassi, Connors and Sampras. Europeans and South Americans have dominated the men’s game most recently and there appears to be no end in sight to this trend.

Locally, the tennis scene is in even more trouble. Earlier this month, three of the seven divisions of the 35-year-old Bob Wall Memorial Tennis Tournament — women’s doubles, mixed doubles, men’s open doubles — were not contested due to a lack of entries. Again this year, tournament director Jim Christy pretty much had to beg players to enter the mid-summer event. And that was not the case a decade or more ago, when upwards of 75 local players would enter the Wall Tournament.

So, what happened? First and foremost, the population of the North Fork is aging, which means there are fewer young people around to pick up the game. Then there is the reality of there being no tennis-only club, indoor or outdoor, between Quogue and Connecticut. Both private country clubs here, North Fork and Laurel Links, have two Har-Tru courts, but the tennis scenes at both clubs are modest by all accounts.

Old-timers may recall a local effort some 25 years ago to establish an indoor-outdoor tennis club on the Horton’s Lane, Southold, property now occupied by Lucas Ford, but that bid fell through when the Southold Town Planning Board required extensive and expensive landscape screening around the perimeter of the entire four-acre property. So, in the intervening 2 1/2 decades, if you live on the North Fork and want to play tennis in the winter, get ready for the one-hour round-trip drive to Quogue or Westhampton. (Note: When I used to play at the indoor courts in Westhampton during the wintertime, it seemed like every third player on the adjoining courts had driven over from the North Fork.)

There are some exceptions to this trend, of course, most notably the “drop-in” tennis scene at the Tasker Park courts in Peconic, where players of intermediate ability and up, sometimes up to 20 of them, show up daily for some round-robin play.

And then, of course, there is the so-far-under-the-radar bid, about which I am bound to a certain level of secrecy, to establish a South Fork-style indoor-outdoor tennis facility here on the North Fork. All I can say about it is that some legitimate players — in terms of both their tennis and business credentials — are involved in this effort.

And all I can do is cross my fingers.

The return of the U.S. Open also marks the anniversary of one of my most mortifying moments as a columnist, wherein I opined, in this space in 2002, that Pete Sampras was over the hill and should consider retirement. Two weeks later, he won his fifth U.S. Open championship.

I was reminded of the ignominy this week via a New York Times Sunday Magazine piece on Roger Federer, in which East Hampton’s own Paul Annacone, who coached both Sampras and Federer, was quoted as saying: “Betting against aberrations like Sampras, Federer — why do that? You are just setting yourself up to have your own foot rammed in your mouth.”

Yes, indeed: columnist opened mouth, inserted foot.

08/30/13 5:00pm
08/30/2013 5:00 PM
KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO  |  Miss Gammon at Greenport Elementary School welcomes her class to kindergarten Wednesday morning.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | The first day of school at Greenport Elementary School and most other North Fork schools will be later than usual this year.

The first day of school is rapidly approaching, but the timing of the Jewish New Year means most districts will have a later start date this year.

For most students in the area, the first day of the school year traditionally falls on the Wednesday following Labor Day — this year, that’s Sept. 4. But because Rosh Hashanah begins that evening, most schools have pushed their start dates to Monday, Sept. 9.

Students in the Mattituck-Cutchogue, New Suffolk, Southold and Greenport school districts will all start school Sept. 9, which is in keeping with the majority of public schools on Long Island. The exception is Oysterponds Elementary School, which has a start date of Sept. 4.

“Traditionally, I don’t think the Oysterponds School District has included the Rosh Hashanah holiday in their schedule,” said Oysterponds superintendent Dick Malone.

Our Lady of Mercy Regional School in Cutchogue is also starting Sept. 4.

Since it’s not a federal holiday, public schools on Long Island are not required to observe Rosh Hashanah.

“Starting earlier gives us a longer break at Christmastime. We have a full two weeks when we’re closed,” Mr. Malone said.

Southold superintendent David Gamberg said factors besides Rosh Hashanah, like superintendents’ conference days scheduled for Sept. 3 and 4, played a role in determining the first day of school.

But Mr. Gamberg said the primary reason Southold students have a later start date this year, is that New York state testing for 2014 will extend into late June.

“That has caused many districts to readjust their calendars — to start school later and finish school later,” he said.

Students at Bishop McGann-Mercy High School in Riverhead have the latest start date, with Tuesday, Sept. 10 as the first full day of classes. That’s because seniors have orientation Thursday, Sept. 5 and junior high students have orientation Friday, Sept. 6. Grades 7, 8, 9, and 11 have a half-day of school Sept. 9.

“The rationale for that is that the Riverhead Public School District, Middle Country Public School District and Hampton Bays Public School District were not providing busing until the ninth,” said Mercy principal Carl Semmler.

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08/30/13 3:16pm

Thomas A. Feeley Jr. of Southold died Aug. 29. He was 87 years old.

The family will receive visitors Monday, Sept. 2 from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. at Coster-Heppner Funeral Home in Cutchogue. A funeral service will take place Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick R.C. Church in Southold. Burial will follow  at Calverton National Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to Southold Fire Department or Southold American Legion Post 803.

A complete obituary will appear in a future edition of The Suffolk Times.

08/30/13 3:00pm
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Southold school board president Paulette Ofrias, left, and Superintendent David Gamberg during Wednesday night's meeting. Ms. Ofrias read a resolution

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Southold school board president Paulette Ofrias, left, and Superintendent David Gamberg during Wednesday night’s meeting. Ms. Ofrias read a resolution explaining why the school district is against current student assessment methods.

The Southold school board approved a resolution Wednesday night calling on state and federal officials to overhaul the current method of standardized testing tied to teacher evaluations.

The resolution is addressed to key officials responsible for the state-mandated annual professional performance review plans, known as APPR, including Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Education Department Commissioner John King, as well as the state legislature and Board of Regents. The school board is asking the state to “reexamine” the APPR plan and create a system “based on multiple forms of assessment” as opposed to “extensive standardized testing,” according to the resolution.

The school board is also calling on Congress to “overhaul” the No Child Left Behind Act, legislation created under former President George W. Bush’s administration that mandates public schools to measure “adequate yearly progress” through the use of student test scores.

“Our nation’s school systems have been spending growing amounts of time, money and energy on high-stakes standardized testing, in which student performance on standardized tests is used to make major decisions affecting individual students, educators and schools,” the school board’s resolution states. “The Southold Board of Education supports educational accountability in public schools, but believes that the current over-emphasis on standardized testing has caused considerable collateral damage in our schools, including reducing instructional time, narrowing the curriculum, increasing student stress, reducing love of learning and teaching, and driving excellent teachers out of the profession.”

The school board voted 3-0 to approve the resolution, which Superintendent David Gamberg plans to send a copy to state and federal officials. Scott DeSimone and Scott Latham were absent from the meeting.

In June, the Riverhead school board passed a similar resolution encouraging state and federal regulators to cut back on the overreliance of standardized testing.

Mr. Gamberg described the action as a method to inform policy makers that the district believes “the current trend of overtesting” is having a negative impact on schools.

“At bare minimum, it’s on the record,” he said about the adopted resolution. “If anyone were to do an investigation of how many Boards of Education are saying this, they would find Southold.”

The Southold school board’s action comes a few weeks after the state released the 2012-13 school year’s math and English Language Arts assessments students in grades 3 through 8 took in April. The results showed a significant drop in test scores compared to the previous school year.

For the first time, the math and ELA assessments included elements of what’s known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The Common Core is a new set of national standards designed to raise the bar for classroom instruction and help “prepare students for college and careers in the 21st century,” state officials say. The initiative primarily requires instructors to teach more non-fiction and more rigorous math to students at a younger age.

In Southold, 65.2 percent of students failed to meet the state’s math proficiency standard and 64.4 percent failed to meet the ELA standard. Statistics statewide for New York schools in which students took the assessments showed 69 percent failed to meet proficiency levels in math and 68.9 percent in ELA. School districts in Suffolk County generally fared better than the state overall, with 66.8 percent failing math and 63.7 percent failing ELA.

The results of the new assessments, which are significantly lower compared to the previous school year, are also expected to be tied to the APPR plan. This teacher evaluation requirement originated in 2010 after New York was awarded a grant of nearly $700 million under the federal Race to the Top program. For individual school districts to qualify for part of the grant, the state required each to implement its own APPR program this year.

“This won’t stop of us from doing the good work that we have been doing and we will continue to do for students,” Mr. Gamberg said about the state mandates.

Mr. Gamberg also said he doesn’t believe any New York school district is against accountability and coming up with new ways to make sure students are career and college ready upon graduation.

“Everyone wants that,” he said. “How you get there is another story.”

Scroll down to read the resolution.

Southold school board meeting agenda, Aug. 29, 2013.

08/30/13 1:00pm

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | The federal government is pushing forward with plans to move the research facility on Plum Island to Kansas State University.

The federal government is pushing forward with plans to auction Plum Island to the highest bidder, despite repeated concerns raised by lawmakers and environmental groups that there is not enough information to support the sale.

The General Services Administration and Department of Homeland Security issued its “record of decision” last Thursday night. The recommendation is one of the last steps before the property is put to auction.

The agencies hope to close the research laboratory at Plum Island and use the profits from the island’s sale to cover the cost of constructing a new, $1.1 billion animal disease research laboratory in Manhattan, Kan. A facility at Kansas State University is necessary in order to study zoonotic diseases — illnesses that can be transferred from animals to people, said Homeland Security spokesman John Verrico.

The existing Plum Island lab does not have the capacity to study those types of diseases, Mr. Verrico said.

Additionally, Homeland Security wants to locate the research facility closer to veterinary schools and livestock, so samples can be received and processed faster, he said.

Meanwhile, elected leaders have taken issue with the the sale and taken steps to prevent development at the land.

Last month, Congressman Tim Bishop (D- Southampton) introduced “Save, don’t sell Plum Island,” a bill designed to overturn the 2008 congressional mandate for the federal government to sell the island.

Meanwhile, Southold Town approved new zoning laws Tuesday that would prevent any significant development of the island.

The record of decision comes two months after the General Services Administration released is final environmental study that suggested up to 500 homes could be built on the island.

The study had environmental groups up in arms, pointing to several holes in the document, including citing the discovery of mammoth bones on the island that were later found to be discovered on Plum Island, Mass., not New York.

The General Services Administration and Homeland Security issued a joint statement saying the agencies issued the record of decision after considering “all the factors discovered and analyzed” during the National Environmental Policy Act process.

Mr. Verrico said there is no estimate of what the 840-acre island could fetch at auction, but said the sale was at least five years away.

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