11/24/12 5:00pm
11/24/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Reeves Park residents placed candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11. A new park would be dedicated to his memory.

In North Fork County Legislator Ed Romaine’s final meeting, the Legislature voted Tuesday to acquire a four-acre site on Sound Avenue and Park Road for use as a memorial park for first responders and victims of September 11.

The acquisition came more than a year after property owner Kenney Barra signed a contract to sell the land, and several months later than expected, Mr. Romaine (R-Center Moriches) said.

The county paid $1,277,645, or $305,000 per acre, for the 4.2 acre site on the northeast corner of Sound Avenue and Park Road (also known Thomas Kelly Memorial Drive). The vote was almost unanimous, but Legislator Tom Barraga (R-West Islip) voted against the acquisition and Legislator DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityvile)was not in the room when the vote was taken.

Eric Biegler, the president of the Sound Park Civic Association in the Reeves Park area, and Bob Kelly, a Reeves Park and retired New York City firefighter whose brother Tom was killed in the World Trade Center attack of Sept. 11, 2001, had urged the Legislature to approve the acquisition prior to the vote, as did Riverhead Town deputy supervisor Jill Lewis and Riverhead deputy town attorney Ann Marie Prudenti.

The town has committed $50,000 toward maintenance of the park, which will also have a reflecting pool, benches and a walking trail, according to Ms. Lewis. The $50,000 is not included in the acquisition cost, Mr. Romaine said.

“Riverhead has no funds available for acquisition because they were very aggressive in trying to prevent overdevelopment,” Mr. Romaine said.

The county will pay for the land through voter-approved drinking water protection money.

Reeves Park residents have been pushing for the acquisition for almost 10 years, after Mr Barra had proposed to build a shopping center there. The land was zoned for commercial use, but a town consultant had recommended it be rezoned for residential use as part of the town’s master plan update in 2003. Despite that recommendation, the town Planning Board, and later the Town Board at the time, adopted the Master Plan without the rezoning recommendation.

When the Town Board subsequently went back and rezoned the land to resident, under pressure from Reeves Park residents, Mr. Barra sued and later won.

Mr. Biegler told the legislators Tuesday that the value of maintaining open space farmland on the East End benefits the entire county.

“People come from all over Suffolk County to pick strawberries on the North Fork or to take tours at wineries,” he said, adding that there aren’t too many places in Smithtown or Huntington where they can do that anymore.

“This property is unique,” he said.

“This land acquisition means so much more than just the purchase of open space,” Bob Kelly told the legislators. In addition to helping to maintain the area’s rural character, “it would also serve as a true hamlet park and memorial to all those who perished in Sept. 11.”

Mr. Kelly said he lost a lot of friends in Sept. 11, as well as his brother Tom, who was a firefighter in Brooklyn and responded to the Twin Towers.

“If you spoke to the families of these people, they would acknowledge that this is a special place, and they would like for this memorial park to see the light of day, in honor of my brother and all those we lost that day,” he said.

Legislator Tom Cilmi (R-East Islip) questioned the price per acre, which he though was “an awful lot of money

But he ended up voting for the acquisition.

“While I’m somewhat offended by the price of this, I’m humbled by your description of the purpose and the meaning behind this proposal,” he said.

He and others thanked Mr. Romaine, who was the sponsor of the bill to buy the land, and was in his last meeting as a county legislator.

His was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor earlier this month, and will be sworn into that office on Monday afternoon.

“I’ll miss this body,” Mr. Romaine said.

“And we will miss you,” Bill Lindsay, the presiding officer of the legislator, told Mr. Romaine.

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11/08/12 10:48am
11/08/2012 10:48 AM
LIPA, Sandy, Reeves Park, Riverhead, Long Island

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Roberta’s house in Reeves Park is the only property in the neighborhood still without electricity after Sandy, she says.

By now, a lot of people have their electricity back in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

I got mine back Tuesday, and when you first get your power back it seems, to you at least, that Sandy is no longer a problem.

But there are many without power. And in some cases, it doesn’t seem to make sense why some houses have power and some don’t, or why fate chose the people it chose to leave in the dark.

Such is the case with Roberta. She lives in Reeves Park and still had no power as of Wednesday afternoon, though she says everyone else in her neighborhood does.

Even without electricity, Roberta, who didn’t want her full name used, has her hands full.

Her 87-year-old mother, a stroke victim, is paralyzed on one side and can’t get around by herself. Her 13-year son has Down’s syndrome. And Roberta doesn’t drive.

When LIPA repairmen came around over the weekend to restore electricity to the rest of her neighborhood, they told Roberta they couldn’t restore hers because the tree that had fallen on her house, pulling power lines down with it, had also crushed the electric meter box.

LIPA told Roberta she would have to get a private electrician to fix the box before they could come back and reconnect the power lines to her house. She had the box fixed, but getting LIPA back to restore the wires wasn’t proving too easy.

“I asked when they were coming back and they didn’t have an answer,” she recalled. “I said, ‘But you told me I had to have all this work done and you would come back.’ And now it’s getting cold.”

On Monday, a neighbor took them to stay at her house.

Roberta said her mother and son are both “out of their routine” and are constantly asking when they’re going home.

A few years ago, I guess, it could have been me grappling with a similar situation.

I had a brother with Down’s syndrome, and my mother was old and had “small strokes” that made it tough for her to get around or communicate. We took it a few steps further, too. We also had an even older father who was perfectly healthy but loved to get mad about things like this and the psychotic dog, which allegedly bit a guy who then sued us for $2 million.

And sometimes, the Down’s syndrome brother would open the gate and let the psychotic dog out of the house, which gave my father something else to get mad about, and I’d have to try to catch the dog before it attacked somebody.

But that was then. Now, it’s just me.

My other brother, who lives nearby, was mentioning the other day that it’s a good thing we didn’t have this kind of storm and power outage back then. There was Hurricane Gloria, but that happened in mid-September when it was warmer — and in 1985, when all those people were younger.

Something like this, in the cold, would be much harder.

As Roberta is discovering.

She has since found that she couldn’t even get LIPA on the phone anymore.

On Monday, the neighbor, who also didn’t want her name use, decided to contact the media. She contacted us. I went down there.

At first, I thought maybe she was calling the wrong numbers at LIPA. So I called the number I had just called the day before, since my power was out too, and, like Roberta, it seemed like everyone else in my neighborhood had gotten power back already.

No dice. Once you’ve made a report, an answering machine tells you they have the report, and it hangs up on you.

So I tried calling the LIPA public relations people. Certainly, they wouldn’t be the ones to come down and fix the power, but sometimes a little press attention will get some action.

The LIPA spokesperson, Karen Ryan, looked into the situation and eventually called back. She said a LIPA crew could be at Roberta’s house at an “estimated time” of 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

Of course, on Wednesday, a Nor’easter, and more outages, were forecast. Roberta asked if they could make it Tuesday. The LIPA spokesperson said there are thousands of people in the same situation, and that there were other homes in Reeves Park without power and that Wednesday 9 a.m. estimate was the best they could do.

So Roberta took it.

I drove by Roberta’s house on Wednesday morning at about 10:30 a.m. and again at 1 p.m. The wires were still sitting on the ground, and the new storm was getting stronger. She was still without power today.

LIPA needs to assign a unit to answer calls such as Roberta’s.

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09/26/12 10:42am
09/26/2012 10:42 AM
Thomas Kelly, FDNY

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTOS| Reeves Park residents placed candles at a small memorial for Tom Kelly near Sound Avenue earlier this month on Sept. 11. A new park would be dedicated to his memory.

Plans to build a 9-11 Memorial Park on a four-acre parcel Suffolk County is proposing to buy on the corner of Park Road and Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow took a step forward last week, when the Suffolk County Parks Trustees approved the park plan at their meeting in Montauk.

Suffolk County still needs to actually purchase the lane, which requires an authorizing resolution from the county Legislature.

The property is owned by EMB Enterprises, headed by Kenney Barra, who had originally sought to build shops ton the parcel until the plan ran into opposition.

His attorney, Peter Danowski, has recently questioned whether the county plans to move forward with the purchase, citing the time it’s taken, although officials recently said the acquisition is moving forward.

The park would be dedicated to nearby Reeves Avenue resident Thomas Kelly, a NYC firefighter.

Bob Kelly, Tom’s brother, recently told the News-Review he hopes the park will happen within the next year.

He envisions the site as a memorial for all those who died on that day, as well as the families, loved ones and those who have gotten sick and died from working in the toxic air in the days and weeks that followed.

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