09/19/14 10:00am
09/19/2014 10:00 AM
A pedestrian was killed crossing Sound Avenue Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A pedestrian was killed crossing Sound Avenue Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

UPDATE (6:40 a.m.): Southold police identified the victim of Thursday night’s accident as 86-year-old Howard Meinke of Laurel.

Police said Mr. Meinke was attempting to cross Route 48 in Greenport in a marked crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle headed east driven by 41-year-old Eric Melrose of Greenport. Mr. Meinke had been leaving the Soundview Restaurant with family after attending an Italian dinner fundraiser for Eastern Long Island Hospital Auxiliary, family members said.

Mr. Meinke was transported to Eastern Long Island Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.

No criminal charges have been filed, and the case is pending further investigation. Mr. Melrose’s vehicle was impounded for a safety inspection.

Police Chief Martin Flatley said Mr. Meinke’s wife had already crossed the street when Mr. Meinke was hit. The driver told police that he didn’t see Mr. Meinke until it was too late.

Mr. Flatley said the straight road often makes it difficult for pedestrians to gauge vehicle’s speeds; that, combined with the darkness around the crosswalk at night, likely contributed to the accident, he said.

Mr. Meinke was a former president of the North Fork Environmental Council and a frequent contributor to The Suffolk Times’ opinion section.

His letters typically touched on topic ranging from local environmental concerns to global warming to economic inequality.

“He was probably one of the most passionate people that you’d want,” said Bill Toedter, current president of the NFEC. “Nothing flew off the top of his head, everything was very thought out. He was concerned with getting the facts right, but sometimes his heart and passion for the North Fork overrode everything.

“It’s a big loss for the East End,” Mr. Toedter said.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski had been at the fundraiser and had spoken to Mr. Meinke just before the accident.

“We were pretty shocked, because we had just seen him,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of everyone involved.”

Mr. Krupski said the County Legislature had approved measures last year to divert the road — which has a 50-mph speed limit — further south to address safety concerns. Two other pedestrians had previously been killed in the same spot in 2007 and 2009.

Construction on the roadway is set to begin in 2016, with a divider being built in between the lanes of traffic for pedestrians to stop in.

“This is in the works,” he said. “We know it’s a dangerous part of the road.”

Mr. Krupski said he spoke with the Department of Public Works commissioner Friday morning about the plan, but added that the effort would take time since it still needed to be designed and utility poles would have to be moved.

“It’s a complicated project,” he said. “It’s not just a repaving.” Mr. Krupski said interim measures, like lowering the speed limit, may not make the area any safer.

“You can lower the speed, but that always comes down to enforcement,” he said.

Original Story: Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said a man was killed Thursday night while crossing Route 48 in Greenport as he was leaving a restaurant.

The man, whose identification is being held pending notification of next of kin, was apparently leaving Soundview Restaurant and crossing the street southbound around 8 p.m. when he was struck by the vehicle, the chief said.

Greenport Fire Department responded to the scene and transported the victim to Eastern Long Island Hospital.

Thursday’s fatality was the second one of the day in Southold. Just after midnight, a 30-year-old mother drove into the woods in Orient Point with her 18-month-old daughter. The mother was killed in the single-car crash.

Check back with more information as it becomes available.

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the area of the accident as Sound Avenue, not Route 48.

11/15/13 7:00am
11/15/2013 7:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | J. Kings's operation manager Pat Dean in Riverhead in the climate-controlled warehouse.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | J. Kings’s operation manager Pat Dean in Riverhead in the climate-controlled warehouse.

Lyle Wells, owner of Wells Homestead Farms in Aquebogue, used to store his excess produce in a shed. He couldn’t control the humidity or temperature and would lose about 40 percent of his stored crop because of the conditions, he said.

But since September, Mr. Wells has used Grapes & Greens — a food storage and processing facility in Calverton owned by J. Kings Food Service Professionals — to store a total of 212,000 pounds of fresh butternut and spaghetti squash harvested from his farm.

He’s losing only 5 to 10 percent of the crop now, meaning there’s more to be sold – and more profit to be made.

“It doesn’t take long [for the money] to add up really quickly,” Mr. Wells said.

Wells Homestead Farms is one of “dozens” of farms and six wineries from across the North Fork to use the facility since it opened for business this harvest season. And although the plant’s food packaging operations aren’t quite ready, its storage and refrigeration units have already made a “huge, huge difference” for local growers, said one participant, Jim Waters of Waters Crest Winery.

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“It’s been terrific,” he said. “It’s really opened up a lot of avenues and doors for us.”

“It’s been tremendously successful,” said J. Kings owner John King.

Before the facility’s cooling storage was up and running this year, J. Kings would pick up produce directly from farms and bring it to retailers for sale.

“If they just pick it in the fields and then bring it to Stop & Shop, the product gets warmer and warmer,” Mr. King said. “It was hot as hell when we were delivering it.”

As a result, he said, that produce wouldn’t last long on store shelves. But now, produce cooled at the new facility after being picked up at the farms will last about five days on store shelves.

The facility has 8,000 square feet of storage and holds about 100 pallets of produce.

The facility is also being used by vineyards to cool wines for storage, with about 600 pallets of finished wine on the premises. The wine or grapes can later be returned to the wineries or distributed to stores, Mr. King said.

Waters Crest in Cutchogue had been using a fellow wine-grower’s facility to store its excess wine and grapes. But that was only a short-term solution, Mr. Waters said. As the other company’s wine grew in popularity, the extra storage space began to run out, leaving Waters Crest with little room to grow. Thankfully, he said, Grapes & Greens came online at the right time — for him and others.

Smaller winemakers have been waiting for a storage facility they could use without having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on their own storage areas, Mr. Waters said.

“We’ve been needing something like this for years,” he said.

The need for a processing facility was highlighted in a study completed in 2011 by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Committee.

Citing a need to spur agricultural development on Long Island, the study recommended the building of “a strong agricultural processing center, or enterprise park, that would … provide distribution, cooling and storage of produce, allow meat processing” and perform other functions.

The Long Island Farm Bureau secured a $500,000 grant from the governor’s regional economic council initiative to get the project off the ground.

The facility officially opened last year after the Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals upheld a controversial town building department permit for the property in June in the face of concerns about potential traffic and noise. But its operations were slowed down.

One neighbor, Austin Warner, filed a lawsuit against the Riverhead ZBA, as well as Mr. King and his company, to overturn the ZBA’s decision, claiming the ZBA violated state open meetings law and allowed false information when making its approval decision, among other alleged violations. In February, a state Supreme Court judge sided with J. Kings and the town, saying Mr. Warner submitted “no proof that the ZBA broke the law.”

Though the facility remained open throughout the legal battles, it was unable to get up and running in time for last year’s harvest, said Jim Alessi, Grapes & Greens’ director of agricultural services.

“By the time we got things going it was already into the fall,” he said, “Now we’re in position and it’s paying off.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said the facility is providing “critical” assistance for farmers to expand.

“You can’t be as large an agricultural area as eastern Suffolk is without having basic necessities met,” Mr. Walter said. “Processing and cold storage are two of those things.”

Still, many farmers aren’t using the facility just yet.

Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela said the plant’s potential advantages are slowly catching on with farmers.

“The word is starting to get out,” Mr. Gergela said, adding he expects more farmers to use the facility next year.

While the wine industry has already used the plant “extensively,” Mr. Gergela said, farmers will find the facility’s processing unit valuable now that new federal food quality regulations are being considered.

He estimates compliance with the regulations, which will set new standards for water quality, cleanliness and worker protection, would cost the average farmer about $30,000 in new equipment.

By storing their food at Grapes & Greens, farmers could avoid most of those costs, he said. In order to use the facility, farmers pay a one-time $300 fee to help offset costs incurred by the Farm Bureau in applying for the grant. Beyond that, farmers also pay a handling fee of $29 per pallet.

“As time goes on we expect the farmers are going to realize ‘Jeez, we can’t have all the special things the government wants us to’<\!q>” due to the costs, Mr. Gergela said, adding they will find a benefit in a shared facility.

As for food processing and packaging, Mr. King said the legal delays held up health department permits.

But Mr. King said he’s not entirely sure if the packaging component of Grapes & Greens will take off as originally envisioned.

J. Kings has been packaging food in Bay Shore, but found packaged produce didn’t sell on store shelves as well as company officials had hoped.

“Long Island produce is so much more expensive than other produce, so it’s kind of hard to package it,” Mr. King said.

But he’s not giving up on plans to add packaging operations to the Calverton facility, he said.

“It’s in our best interests to get this to work,” he said.

10/16/13 12:05pm
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO |

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The Oysterponds school board has approved an agreement with the state to install new school speed zone signs.

New school speed zone signs are coming to Main Road in Orient near the Oysterponds Elementary School.

Superintendent Richard Malone said during Tuesday night’s school board meeting that the updated signs are needed because he’s seen cars speeding by the elementary school.

The current 30-mph signs are in effect weekdays between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. The town’s speed limit outside the school zone is 40 mph.

“I think it’s in the wisest interest of the children and parents here,” Mr. Malone said about upgrading the signs.

Timers will be installed to ensure yellow lights flash on the signs while school is in session. There isn’t a plan to install signs that inform drivers how fast they’re traveling, school officials said.

The school board unanimously approved the one-year contract with the state Department of Transportation, which is expected to cost the district $1,252. All work to repair any damage or destruction done to the new signs will be the state’s responsibility, Mr. Malone said.

In other district news, the school board unanimously approved the second phase of the district’s technology infrastructure project. The nearly $68,600 plan includes installing a new network, servers and phone system and adding wireless access points in each classroom. In May, representatives from Switch Technologies of Rocky Point gave a presentation about the school building’s technical infrastructure and suggested the district replace portions of its system.

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09/17/13 9:17am
09/17/2013 9:17 AM
JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | A detour is set up at Herricks Lane on Sound Avenue.

JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | A detour is set up at Herricks Lane on Sound Avenue.

Commuters backed up over the past couple of days on their way to work can breathe a sigh of relief on Wednesday morning, as Tuesday is expected to mark the end of a brief road resurfacing project on Sound Avenue.

Traffic was routed southbound on Herricks Lane this morning, down to Main Road where Riverhead police waved traffic through.

Drivers are suggested to use Main Road until the road opens back up. According to a Southold Highway Department deputy, the project – which included milling and repaving the road – has been running along as scheduled and the road should be back open on Wednesday.

09/14/13 8:00am
09/14/2013 8:00 AM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Southold Town Highway Superintendent Peter Harris suggests that commenters use Route 25 in Laurel during the time of the construction.

Motorists heading westbound on Sound Avenue in Laurel can expect to be detoured beginning Monday.

The Southold Town Highway Department is conducting a road milling and resurfacing project. The work will start Monday at the town line and continue east to Aldrich Lane, according to a statement released by the department.

Westbound drivers will be detoured onto Farmveu Road and then down to Route 25, according to the release. Eastbound traffic will be permitted in the work zone.

Once the repaving portion of the project starts, eastbound traffic on Sound Avenue will be detoured onto Herricks Lane south to Route 25.

Southold Town Highway Superintendent Peter Harris suggested that commuters use Route 25 during the time of the construction.

The project is expected to last two days.

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