03/01/13 2:59pm
03/01/2013 2:59 PM

YMCA OF LONG ISLAND RENDERING | The YMCA released this design of a proposed facility when it was eyeing a site in Aquebogue.

After almost 15 years of trying to build a YMCA facility in Riverhead Town or the Riverhead area and getting nowhere, Peconic YMCA co-founder Joe Van de Wetering said his board — which hasn’t made any firm decisions yet — just might end up calling it quits.

This comes after new leadership at the parent group, YMCA of Long Island, rejected a site at the Enterprise Park at Calverton that the town was willing to offer up for free.

Riverhead Town officials approved the measure last year, and had been hoping to get a lease signed by December or January.

“At some point, you’ve got to say, let’s be realistic and throw in the towel,” Mr. Van de Wetering told the News-Review, acknowledging that ending their effort is one of the options being considered.

Mr. Van de Wetering said that while he’s hopeful something can be worked out, “We’ve got some basic conflicts with the [Long Island] YMCA” group, which must be on board and approve of any Y facility built in the region.

Peconic YMCA publicly announced its plans to bring a YMCA to Riverhead in January 2000, at which time it appeared the group had a site near County Road 105 and Route 25 in Aquebogue. But those plans fell through, and the group has since looked at a number of other properties, some connected with unpopular development proposals, some in locations that met opposition from neighbors and some that the Peconic YMCA board ultimately decided against.

The Calverton proposal, while farther west then the group initially wanted, got further along than any of the others and appeared to be on the verge of being constructed after the Town Board agreed to donate 7.3 acres at EPCAL for the Peconic YMCA and had begun negotiating a deal to lease, and eventually give, the property to the YMCA in exchange for certain services spelled out in the agreement.

But in December, YMCA of Long Island’s president and CEO, Anne Brigis, who replaced longtime president and CEO Michael Famiglietti in July, notified the town that the YMCA was considering a location on Riverhead School District property rather than EPCAL.

The town then directed its outside attorneys to stop work on the EPCAL lease agreement.

“I’m very disappointed in the YMCA of Long Island,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said this week. “They came out here, and we spent a lot of time and energy negotiating on the Calverton site. Members of their board of directors testified at the public hearing as to what a great site it was.”

Mr. Famiglietti, who retired in July, had supported the EPCAL site.

“I’m very disappointed they are not coming to Calverton and I wish them the best of luck,” Mr. Walter said. “But I have a feeling the decisions that they are making are probably going to affect their backers.

“The Long Island Y may have actually killed a Riverhead YMCA project, and that really is unfortunate for the residents of the East End.”

The supervisor said that as far as he’s concerned, the EPCAL deal is dead and the town will probably try to sell that property, which runs along Route 25.

He said he still doesn’t know what brought about the YMCA’s “180-degree turn” on the EPCAL site.

Mr. Van der Wetering said the YMCA of Long Island is waiting for the Peconic YMCA board to decide what it wants to do, adding that YMCA of Long Island is willing to look at other sites — in addition to the school district property — which would involve starting from scratch.

As for the EPCAL site, YMCA of Long Island officials “have basically told us that it is out of the picture,” he said.

Fritz Trinklien, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island, who had worked with Peconic YMCA and visited the area many times — in Town Hall, with potential donors, civic leaders or the News-Review editorial team — has been taken off the project, Mr. Van der Wetering said.

“They have a new regime that’s in charge and they want to see things done differently,” he said.

The Peconic YMCA board initially wanted a site closer to the Riverhead Zip code and felt EPCAL was too far west. But the seven-acre site was essentially being donated by the town and the Peconic YMCA board ultimately decided to go with it, Mr. Van der Wetering said, adding that it’s frustrating to see that plan fall apart again after so many years.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” he said. “It’s always something standing in the way. We just never expected to see this happen.”

Ms. Brigis has not returned calls seeking comment.

A call to Scott Sammis, president of the YMCA of Long Island’s board of directors, also was not returned.

Riverhead School Superintendent Nancy Carney said last week that she has not heard anything new from YMCA of Long Island officials since December.

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05/18/12 11:46am
05/18/2012 11:46 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The site in question is located between the Grumman F-14 memorial (above) and the Stony Brook Business Incubator on Route 25.

If there is public opposition to Peconic YMCA’s latest proposed location for a facility in Riverhead Town?

July 17 might be the day Y officials find out.

The Riverhead Town Board has scheduled a public hearing for 7:05 p.m. on that date, in Town Hall.

The public is being given a chance to weigh in on the town’s proposal to first lease, and then transfer, a 7.3-acre parcel of town-owned land at the Enterprise Park at Calverton to the nonprofit YMCA of Long Island.

The site in question is located between the Grumman F-14 memorial and the Stony Brook Business Incubator on Route 25.

The public hearing is technically what is known as a “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing, which is required in order to sell or give away town land in a state-designated Urban Renewal area such as EPCAL.

The purpose of the hearing is to determine if the YMCA has the financial wherewithal to carry out the plan it proposes, in this case, a YMCA facility that will feature an indoor pool, strength training room, multi-purpose classrooms and more.

The town cannot deed or sell land until its subdivision at EPCAL is complete, so officials propose to initially lease the land to the YMCA so the group could get the ball rolling sooner on building a facility.

While the YMCA would be getting the land at no charge, it still would have to pay the costs of water and sewer hookups, and it would have to pay $25,000 per year to offset membership fees for Riverhead residents deemed eligible for financial assistance, according to the proposal.

In addition, the YMCA would have to provide free quarterly vocational classes to Riverhead residents, and bimonthly youth and adult recreation programs to Riverhead residents, according to proposal.

The hearing notice also says the deal will have a reverter clause, in which the land would go back to the town if YMCA doesn’t complete its project.

Peconic YMCA, a group headed by Joe Van de Wetering of Calverton, has been searching for a site for a Riverhead YMCA for more than 10 years, with numerous proposed locations being shot down due to community opposition, or due to the fact the plans were tied in with a commercial development project that fell through. Or due to the YMCA’s own decision that certain sites were impractical.

Group officials have maintained they would prefer a site in the Riverhead zip code, and had said in the past that Calverton was too far west.

But after a plan to build a YMCA on a 10-acre site on Route 25 in Aquebogue ran into community opposition earlier this year, they agreed to the latest EPCAL proposal, in part because it had the support of the Town Board, according to Fritz Trinklein, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island.

Peconic YMCA has raised over $6 million in pledges and needs about $8 million total to get phase of the project, Mr. Van de Wetering said.

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03/10/12 9:00am
03/10/2012 9:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The entrance to an Aquebogue farm, just west of the land the YMCA wants to build on.

The latest proposed location for a Peconic YMCA appears to be running into opposition, just as all its predecessors did.

The Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association has scheduled a meeting for Saturday, March 10, to discuss the impacts of the YMCA proposed for Main Road in Aquebogue, as well as the overall zoning in that area. The meeting, set for 10 a.m. at the Jamesport Meetinghouse, was publicized on a new “Save Main Road” website and Facebook.

The meeting is open to the public.

Peconic YMCA last month announced plans to purchase a nine-acre property across from Vineyard Caterers on Route 25 in Aquebogue and build a 40,000-square-foot YMCA facility there.

Peconic YMCA has been looking for a site in the Riverhead area for more than a decade. Several proposed locations, including one on Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue, ran into community opposition. Others, such as county-owned parkland near Stotzky Park, were dropped because of the difficult process needed to alienate parkland.

Peconic YMCA officials themselves didn’t like the idea of building a Y at EPCAL, saying it was too far west. Other proposed locations, such as one on Riverside Drive and another off Manor Road in Calverton, were tied to large development projects that never happened.

Since the latest location was unveiled, the News-Review has received a steady stream of letters both pro and con.

Georgette Keller, president of the Jamesport-South Jamesport Civic Association, told the Riverhead Town Board Feb. 7 that there was opposition to the proposed Main Road site.

“A 40,000-square-foot building on Main Road is unacceptable,” she said at the time.

Supervisor Sean Walter told Ms. Keller at that meeting that he supports the proposal to build a YMCA and he supports the proposed location.

“I support them 110 percent,” Mr. Walter said.

Other Town Board members had expressed some concern about traffic at the Main Road site, which is on a slight curve, and even Mr. Walter said the state Department of Transportation might require Peconic YMCA to install a traffic signal.

One issue that appears to be key for the YMCA to proceed at that site is whether it conforms with zoning.

The property is zoned RB-80, which basically allows two-acre minimum lot size residential uses. But a use allowed in that zone by special permit is an “educational institution without boarding facilities or dormitories, private.” A special permit requires a Town Board public hearing.

Fritz Trinklein, director of strategic planning for YMCA of Long Island, insists that a YMCA fits that definition.

“I would say a great majority of what we do is educational,” he said Tuesday. “It could be a rumba class or a strength training class or swimming instruction. Educational activities are a mainstay of what the Y does.”

Ms. Keller wasn’t buying that at the Feb. 7 meeting.

“It’s not an educational facility, it’s a recreational facility, therefore it’s outside the code,” she told the Town Board.

Ms. Keller could not be reached for comment this week.

Mr. Trinklein believes some of the residents’ concerns are not warranted.

He said a YMCA will only increase traffic by 2 to 3 percent, based on what’s happened at other YMCAs. And he said the proposed Peconic YMCA would be located toward the back of the Aquebogue property and would be screened by existing trees, which they plan to keep. The building would cover only about 11 percent of the land, he added. The centerpiece of the proposed YMCA is an Olympic-size indoor swimming pool, and Mr. Trinklein says surveys have indicated that residents want an indoor pool. A recent survey in Southold Town showed that an indoor swimming pool was the respondents’ number one priority; Peconic YMCA got similar results on a survey it conducted several years ago.

Peconic YMCA still has not purchased the Aquebogue site, and has not submitted any formal applications for the proposed facility.

The Jamesport Meetinghouse (not to be confused with the Jamesport Community Center) is on the northwest corner of Route 25 and Manor Lane in Jamesport.

Mr. Trinklein said he does not plan to attend the meeting.

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03/07/12 11:55am
03/07/2012 11:55 AM

PeconicYMCA, which hopes to close on land in Aquebogue in the near future, released a promotional video Wednesday morning touting the benefits of a new facility in Riverhead Town.

Peconic YMCA released its first promotional video this morning touting the benefits of the new facility they hope to build on Main Road in Aquebogue.

The group, which says it has raised $6.1 million of the $8 million needed to move forward with a new YMCA in Riverhead Town, is hoping to close soon on an 8.9 acre property across from Vineyard Caterers.

The $8 million would include both construction and land acquisition costs, YMCA officials have said. The money raised includes $3 million from the Glen Cove-based YMCA of Long Island.

Watch their new promotional video below: