Riverhead Free Library is hosting an author talk event with Joseph Finora at Diliberto Vineyard & Winery in Jamesport next Friday, Feb. 28, between 5 and 6 p.m.
Taking his first stab at fiction writing, Laurel resident Joseph Finora has recently released his first mystery novel, “Red Like Wine: The North Fork Harbor Vineyard Murders.”
The novel tells the story of down-and-out New York City crime reporter Vin Gusto and his former girlfriend, photographer Shanin Blanc, who discover that more than wine is being made at the vineyard in a farming-and-fishing community that’s slowly becoming a wine destination.
When a renowned but reclusive winemaker turns up dead in a vat of his own juice, the couple tries to solve the crime while repairing their relationship and careers amid the murder and mayhem.
Mr. Finora, whom you might know from his involvement with the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League or his recent campaign for Town Trustee, is the first to admit the tale is inspired by his experience working as a New York City reporter, his relationship with his wife and the changing dynamic of the North Fork from a quiet town to an increasingly popular tourist destination.
“I have always wanted to write a murder mystery,” he said. “And I have always been in love with the local wine community. It’s a ripe setting for it.”
The novel, three years in the making, was the result of a lot of research about crime investigations and a lot of early morning writing, Mr. Finora said. His wife, Mary Grace, to whom the book is dedicated, also played a big part in the editing process.
“She is one of those straight-shooting critics,” he said. “She was not shy about telling me what she thought and pointing out how to make the storyline better.”
The 360-page novel is Mr. Finora’s first full-length work of fiction. However, he is no novice. A full-time writer, he’s penned thousands of articles as a freelance journalist, in addition to two business books — “Media Relations and Creative Marketing Tips for Financial Professionals” in 2007 and “Recession Marketing” in 2009.
The reviews of “Red Like Wine” have already been positive. Smoke Magazine has called it “a vintage read” and author Georgeann Packard said the writing is “crisp and natural,” adding that “you won’t be able to put Finora’s book down.”
Mr. Finora said he’s already working on his next novel.
“I am letting a few ideas settle, but I am definitely working on another fiction book,” he said. “I love writing in the early mornings. I can’t wait to get back to it.”
“Red Like Wine: The North Fork Harbor Vineyard Murders” is available locally at BookHampton in Matituck and Preston’s in Greenport and online at amazon.com.
Four-year term, three open seats
John M. Bredemeyer III
Occupation: Incumbent Trustee, professional assistant at Suffolk Community College, retired county health department employee
Party lines: Republican, Conservative, Independence
About him: Mr. Bredemeyer, 62, lives with his wife in Orient, where they raised two children. He is a graduate of Cornell University and has more than 35 years’ experience in environmental monitoring, pollution assessment and public and environmental health enforcement. He formerly worked in the marine unit of the Suffolk County Health Department’s office of ecology. He has worked on numerous environmental initiatives, including building and running a collector for atmospheric nitrogen inputs to the Peconic Estuary. Mr. Bredemeyer was first elected in 1984 and presently chairs to the town’s shellfish advisory committee. He is also a volunteer firefighter.
His pitch: Mr. Bredemeyer believes his experience and education with environmental issues has given him the understanding to make valuable contributions to the Board of Trustees.
In his words: “Your vote for me insures that you, the voter-taxpayer, get a ‘dividend’ on the huge public investment you have already made in my education, training and professional career.”
About him: Mr. Domino, 69, has been a Southold resident for the past 17 years. He holds a bachelor’s degree in biology as well as master’s degrees in engineering and education. He is a retired earth science teacher at Rocky Point High School and is currently CEO of Greenport Real Estate Investment LLC. Mr. Domino is a former U.S. Marine, past president of the North Fork Environmental Council and a 15-year member of the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force. Additionally, he is a former member of the Board of Trustees of the Suffolk County Department of Parks, Recreation, and Conservation, a certified DEC water sampler and a member of the Southold shellfish advisory committee. In 2012, he was appointed to fill the Town Trustee seat left vacant by current Town Board member Jill Doherty.
His pitch: Mr. Domino said that in his nearly two years on the board, he has placed community and environmental interests first, looking for ways to mitigate potential damage to the environment without compromising constituents’ property rights.
In his words: “As one of two incumbents seeking re-election to the Southold Town Board of Trustees, I possess a unique and balanced skill set that sets me apart from other candidates and makes me worthy of your vote.”
About him: Mr. Finora, 53, lives in Laurel with his wife and children. He is a self-employed financial media-relations specialist and business writer. Previously a journalist, he has also written two business books and one novel. Five years ago, he establish the North Fork Ospreys baseball team in Peconic. He is a longtime volunteer youth baseball and basketball coach and recently raised money for new dugouts and modernizing the Mattituck High School baseball field. This is his first time running for public office.
His pitch: Mr. Finora said he believes in fairness, openness and helping neighbors. He said there is a need for greater balance in Southold’s government and looks forward to hearing and resolving the concerns of Southold Town residents.
In his words: “Most people around Southold know me due to my affiliation with sports. I’ve recently worked as an umpire learning to enforce rules and settle disputes. This is a great place to live and raise a family, but there’s much to be done. What we do today will affect how we live tomorrow in Southold Town.”
About him: Mr. Funke, 66, retired to Cutchogue after living in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Germany. He is currently working toward earning a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s in environmental science. He spent more than 30 years insuring ships, cargoes and terminals. As a marine underwriter, he was part of the team implementing the Water Quality Improvement Act of 1970. He later went into software and hardware development for several small companies in New Jersey. This is his first time running for public office.
His pitch: Mr. Funke believes his experience as a marine underwriter taught him how government and the private sector can work together for a common goal. He said he wants to apply his skills to improve Southold’s waterways.
In his words: “The Sound and bay are unquestionably in a death spiral and I want to do what I can to help stop that.”
About him: Mr. Sanders, 45, has lived on the North Fork since 1996. He worked at Hargrave Vineyard before beginning a career in real estate in 1999. He previously owned a real estate business and retail store. He is currently an associate broker at Town and Country in Southold. He joined the Air National Guard in 2008 and has served two tours in Afghanistan. This is his first run for public office.
His pitch: Mr. Sanders said he wants to contribute a balanced approach to the administration of Southold’s wetlands and the protection of a residents’ right to enjoy their property.
In his words: “My civilian and military experience has instilled in me a strong work ethic and extensive administrative and interpersonal skills that I pledge to bring to the job of Trustee.”
About him: Mr. Wells, 60, retired to Southold in 2013 with his wife. He grew up on a farm in South Africa before immigrating to the United States in 1980 and beginning his career in information technology. Mr. Wells was vice president of television information technology at Disney, ABC and Fox. In those roles he was responsible for creating and managing three new IT departments, implementing sales and creating and staffing a new East Coast data center. Mr. Wells is currently working full time on his second novel. His first, “A Fado for the River,” was published in 2012. This is Mr. Wells’ first run for public office.
His pitch: Mr. Wells believes his experience in communication and problem solving in the corporate world will be an asset to the Town Trustees. He said he would seek win-win outcomes and work toward making the board’s processes more transparent for residents.
In his words: “Change is inevitable. As Trustee, I will ensure that change is managed in such a way that our shoreline is protected and our quality of life as both private citizens and public custodians is not diminished.”
Democratic Trustee challengers took aim at their Republican opponents Tuesday on the issues of water pollution and public beach access at a candidates’ forum sponsored by The Suffolk Times and hosted by Peconic Landing in Greenport.
Democratic challengers Geoffrey Wells, Joseph Finora and William Funke are opposing incumbent Republican Town Trustees John Bredemeyer and Mike Domino and Republican challenger Charles Sanders for three open seats on the board.
Here’s what the candidates had to say about the issues.
All the candidates agreed that water pollution, specifically nitrogen loading, is a major and ongoing issue facing Southold Town.
When nitrogen gets into streams, ponds, Long Island Sound and Peconic Bay, it causes an overgrowth of algae, which sucks up oxygen in the water, the candidates said.
Mr. Bredemeyer and Mr. Domino said the board is keenly aware of groundwater conditions and, as a waterfront community with a strong agricultural industry, monitoring nitrate levels is a top priority.
Mr. Bredemeyer said the Trustees base permitting on science and work with sister regulatory agencies, such as the state Department of Environment Conservation, to control water contamination.
It’s a system Mr. Domino says doesn’t need fixing.
“Things are getting better in Southold Town,” he said. “We have to use scientific data to find out what we need to address first.”
Mr. Finora said he believes Southold Town does a better job than municipalities further west, but he suggested there’s room for improvement.
He and Mr. Wells said the primary source of Southold’s nitrate problem is not the farmer, but failing residential septic systems.
“Leaching is happening on a daily basis,” Mr. Wells said. “It is a very serious situation.”
Mr. Wells suggested that the Trustees revisit the manner in which town septic systems are monitored and reach out to other communities dealing with the issue of nitrate pollution, giving Cape Cod as an example. In recent years, several towns on the Cape have adopted legislation to oblige homeowners to purchase new septic systems to reduce nitrogen output, according to news reports.
While stating that nitrates are “the single worst problem” facing the Trustees, Mr. Funke said it would be unfair to ask residents to pay for expensive upgrades to their septic systems.
Mr. Finora disagreed sharply with his fellow Democrat.
“Little by little, we are losing the battle,” he said. “People will realize it’s better to have clean water than green grass.”
PUBLIC BEACH ACCESS
Where does waterfront beach property cross over to public land?
The Democratic challengers argued that the present town government hasn’t been doing enough to protect Southolders’ right to walk along local beaches.
The issue was brought to the forefront of the campaign two weeks ago, when the full slate of Democrats running for town offices — all currently all held by Republicans — purchased an advertisement in The Suffolk Times claiming that “some people” want to take away residents’ beach access.
During the debate, Mr. Finora said the ad was designed in response to an issue the public was bringing up “time and time again.”
The New York State Public Trust Doctrine says that anything seaward of the mean high water mark on the beach is public land and anything landward of the mean high water mark on the beach is private property. The wrack line, where debris washes up on the beach, is often considered an informal high tide mark, but it can change from day to day.
Mr. Finora and Mr. Wells said the town is responsible for drawing the line in the sand.
“We need to create a system where the community is involved in deciding were the mean high water mark is,” Mr. Wells said.
Republican hopefuls said the law is on the books and it is an enforcement issue outside the town Trustees’ purview.
“If you are doing something inappropriate, the bay constable should show up,” Mr. Bredemeyer said.
Mr. Funke said beach access “doesn’t seem like it is that much of a problem” and agreed with the Republicans’ stance on enforcement.
“I’m not sure what we can do with the wrack line, we certainly can’t monument it,” he said. “The people that are involved should just step down and stop fighting.”
TRUSTEE REPORT CARD
The current Board of Trustees is doing fairly well, according to hopefuls on both sides of the party line.
When asked to give current Trustees a letter grade, Mr. Wells gave a “B” rating.
“They uphold code and work hard,” he said. “However, they don’t reach out to the community.”
Mr. Wells feels the Trustees need to step up communication efforts with the public and make the process of applying for permits more transparent and easier for the average citizen to follow.
Incumbent Mr. Domino disagreed, saying members are accessible to the public and rewarding the board an “A+” grade.
“We hit all the bullet points in the mission statement,” he said.
Mr. Sanders echoed Mr. Domino’s response, while Mr. Finora and Mr. Bredemeyer said the voters would answer that question on Nov. 5.
Mr. Funke declined to respond.
“How am I supposed to know?” he said.