Last year, the number of criminal incidents reported in Riverhead was at its lowest point in more than a decade, continuing a downward trend that began in the early 2000s, according to annual police data.
Last year, the number of criminal incidents reported in Riverhead was at its lowest point in more than a decade, continuing a downward trend that began in the early 2000s, according to annual police data.
If you’ve ever read the News-Review, you’ve probably seen Tim Gannon’s byline.
Tim has been a reporter for the paper since 1996, covering everything from Town Hall and police news to 100th birthday parties and school board meetings.
While Riverhead Town officials have for years tried to bring new stores to downtown Riverhead, the developers and owners of large retail complexes continue to flock to Route 58, as evidenced most clearly by the new Walmart and Costco rising on the west side of the road.
To the east, there’s new set of medical and professional buildings. And even more shopping plazas are on the way.
Route 58 — or Riverhead’s tax base, as the town supervisor calls it — follows a different pattern from the downtown core, which is known more for its local restaurants and “redevelopment” efforts. This contrast has led some to complain of “overdevelopment” on Route 58.
But is it even fair to compare the two?
“It’s a different kind of animal,” said realtor Larry Oxman, who is also a member of the downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District’s management association.
Mr. Oxman said that although downtown is generating a lot of interest, developers of large retail stores continue to want locations on Route 58.
But building there comes at a price.
The rent on downtown leases is usually about half what a business owner would pay for a comparable property on Route 58, and downtown businesses pay less in common area maintenance costs because downtown is in a public parking district, said Mr. Oxman, adding that he’s representing two Route 58 properties currently for sale, both of which are getting a lot of interest.
While critics have decried the abundance of big box stores as a loss of local character, the buildings keep on coming, lured by large parking areas and proximity to other big-name retailers, such as Tanger Outlets, the thoroughfare’s anchor tenant, so to speak.
A new medical office complex is under construction at the intersection of Route 58 and Northville Turnpike.
Walmart, Fortune 500’s largest retailer nationwide, will soon vacate its current 120,000-square-foot space near Northville Turnpike and move into a 170,000-square-foot store directly across from the entrance to Tanger.
The Costco warehouse store that will sit just east of the new Walmart already has a building in place with the store’s name on it. It is not expected to open until later this year, as road and infrastructure work have yet to be completed.
The new Saber-Riverhead shopping center across from Costco already has several open stores, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops and Five Below.
So is there anywhere left to build on Route 58?
Yes indeed; in fact, a few proposals are already in the hopper.
The 12-acre property between Hudson City Savings Bank and the town highway yard is owned by Apple Honda’s Irwin Garsten, who has submitted a site plan application to build a 64,000-square-foot shopping center there.
The owner of the 1.5-acre lot at the southwest corner of Route 58 and Kroemer Avenue, Barclay Ehler, has a site plan in place to build a 14,400-square-foot retail store there. Once work begins, the county Department of Public Works plans to take part of that property to realign the intersection.
The former Rolle Brothers farm equipment site just east of Ostrander Avenue also is being proposed for development by owner Richard Israel, who hopes to create restaurants and retails stores there.
And Browning Hotel Properties plans to build a second hotel next to the 114-room Hilton Garden Inn it owns on the north side of Route 58, across from Tanger Outlets. The second hotel would be a 140-room Marriott Residence Inn, according to owner Lee Browning, who said he plans to file a site plan for the new hotel soon.
According to numbers on Riverhead Town’s tax roll for this year, commercial properties on Route 58 will pay a combined total of just over $14 million in property taxes in 2014.
The biggest contributors are Tanger Outlets, which will pay $4.3 million in property taxes, and Riverhead Centre, which will pay $1.5 million, including school, town and other taxes.
Supervisor Sean Walter has said that about $750,000 in property taxes will be added to the tax rolls next year following the completion of the Route 58 projects currently under construction — but even so, those properties are already paying pretty hefty tax bills.
Owners of Costco site are paying $431,069 this year, while the owners of the new Walmart property are on the hook for $124,928 in taxes.
The Saber-Riverhead center, next door to Riverhead Raceway, is currently paying $108,761 in property taxes, according to town records.
The three new shopping centers rising on the west end of Route 58 all began construction after the March 1 “taxable status date,” which means they were assessed based on what was on the property as of March 1 last year, said Riverhead Town Assessor Mason Haas. Next year, they will likely be assessed at higher amounts, he said, as the projects should be closer to completion by March 1.
Compare this with downtown, where, for example, 12 properties owned by the Riverhead Enterprises property group collectively generate far less in taxes than the Route 58 Stop & Shop — $195,315 compared to $261,110.
While Route 58 is sometimes criticized as being overdeveloped, Supervisor Walter disagrees, noting that’s what the stretch was meant for.
“I think it’s a tremendous thing, and the overwhelming majority of residents that I speak with … say they love Route 58,” he said. “They love the fact that the stores are there, but you can go to a rural setting just a mile away. Riverhead has always been a shopping district for the East End, and that’s our tax base. Without the taxes we receive from stores on Route 58, everyone’s taxes would be a lot higher.”
The state bill that would fast track development applications at the Enterprise Park at Calverton was approved by both house sof the state Legislature in late June, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign it into law.
Still, locally elected state officials say they are not worried, and that the governor is presented with hundreds of bills to sign in a given year.
“Obviously, I would like it signed sooner than later but I don’t think there is a cause to be concerned at this point,” said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.
“It just hasn’t been delivered to the governor yet,” said Drew Biondo, an aide to state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who was a sponsor of the bill.
Both men said they’ve been given no indication the bill has run into any opposition at the executive level.
“From what I’ve heard, the governor takes these bills in batches,” Mr. Walter said.
A spokesperson for Governor Cuomo said the governor considers about 100 bills a week. Once a bill is presented to the governor, he has a week to either sign it into law or veto it, she said.
She said the governor’s office doesn’t generally comment on bills until they are signed or vetoed.
The timing of the signing of the bill is not a concern at this point because the town still needs to adopt an environmental impact statement for the plan, Mr. Walter said, and that’s not expected to be done until next year some time.
“So this proposal wouldn’t really get rolling until next year anyway,” Mr. Walter said.
The bill establishes a generic environmental impact study, or GEIS, at the outset, to cover all possible development proposals for the town-owned land in Calverton that meet a re-use plan agreed upon by the town, county and state, officials have said.
Any fully engineered development proposal for land within the area covered by the study will be guaranteed approval within 90 days of the application being filed.
If an application isn’t approved in that time frame, it would receive a default approval.
Riverhead Town’s plans for developing the Enterprise Park at Calverton took a few steps forward this week, and are expected take a few more steps forward next week.
The Town Board on Friday unanimously approved a “home rule message” resolution in support of a revised version of a bill in Albany that would allow development projects to be “fast-tracked” at EPCAL.
And Supervisor Sean Walter said officials with the state Department of Environmental Conservation are not objecting to the town’s request to be the “lead agency” in the review of a proposed 50-lot subdivision the former Grumman plant property.
Town officials and the DEC have frequently disagreed over development approaches at EPCAL in the past, and who should hold lead agency status, which carries the most weight among all government agencies involved in permitting and approvals.
A “scoping hearing,” at which speakers can suggest issues to be examined in the environmental impact study of the subdivision, is tentatively planned for July 16.
“This is probably one of the most monumental pieces of legislation that will hit the East End and, in my opinion, all of New York State,” Mr. Walter said in voting for the home rule resolution Friday in Town Hall. “What this does is it gives the town a mechanism to have approval of projects at EPCAL in 90 days, and it is going to put EPCAL on the map in a way that nobody else in New York State is on the map.
“It’s been a long time coming.”
Council members credited Mr. Walter, who has made many trips to Albany to lobby for the bill.
The town also had George Hochbrueckner, a former congressman and state assemblyman, working on the case this year to get both the EPCAL legislation and the EPCAL subdivision approved.
Mr. Hochbrueckner was the congressman who sponsored the bill that saw the U.S. Navy give the land to Riverhead Town for economic development to replace the jobs that were lost when Grumman, which tested fighter jets at the site, closed up shop in the early 1990s.
“I started this in 1993 and I’m glad it’s finally settled in 2013,” Mr. Hochbrueckner said Friday.
The bill has undergone numerous revisions over the past two weeks until language acceptable to all parties was agreed upon this week, Mr. Walter said.
There are currently identical versions of the revised bill in the State senate and Assembly.
The revisions eliminate the original bill’s plan to create a commission made up of town, state and county representatives and instead leaves the approval process entirely within the Riverhead Town Board’s control.
The proposal would call for a generic environmental impact study of all development at EPCAL to be completed upfront with input from town, state and county agencies, and then subsequent development applications that conform with that overall plan would not need to do separate environmental studies, thus cutting the review time needed for the project.
It’s similar to a plan the town enacted for downtown Riverhead under the Cardinale administration, although that plan relied on Apollo Real Estate Advisors to complete the upfront study, whereas in this instance, the town has already begun the study under a contract with VHB Engineering, which also is creating the subdivision map for EPCAL.
The bill was on the floor of the full Senate for a vote on Wednesday but was set aside so that the changes could be made to the language.
The Assembly also made those same changes to the bill on Thursday, according to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who is sponsoring the bill along with state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).
Mr. Thiele, whose district covers the South Fork, has been acting as a sort of “defacto” North Fork assemblyman since the North Fork position was vacated earlier this year when Dan Losquadro resigned to become Brookhaven Town highway superintendent.
The bill must still be voted out of the local government committees in both houses and then be approved in a vote before the full houses of the Senate and Assembly by Thursday, June 20, which is the last day of the current session of the state Legislature.
Riverhead Town is throwing its hat in the ring in a competition among county, municipal and private entities all trying to entice Federal Aviation Administration officials to build a state-of-the-art air traffic control facility on their land.
Wherever the NextGen Integrated Air Traffic Control Facility is built in lower New York State or Long Island, it would bring with it some 800 highly technical and well-paid permanent jobs, as well as hundreds of construction jobs over 10 years officials say.
The FAA hopes to have the project online by 2019.
Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, after some pushback from Supervisor Sean Walter, convinced the Town Board to submit an application last week.
The submission also comes at the urging of Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), Ms. Giglio said.
“It would obviously be a boon to Riverhead so Congressman Bishop encourages them to apply,” said Bishop spokesman Oliver Longwell, noting that Mr. Bishop has not publicly endorsed a location, as several applications are coming from within his 1st Congressional District.
Riverhead officials are proposing town-owned land at the Calverton Enterprise Park, once the site of a Grumman fighter pilot testing facility.
“Congressman Bishop is fighting hard to have the new FAA tower built on Long Island,” Mr. Longwell said. “EPCAL does seem to fit the criteria but we’re not sure about [easement questions], as there are complicated environmental issues at the site.”
The facility, which would be satellite-based, unlike current radar-based air traffic control systems, would consolidate and replace the functions of the existing FAA Air Route Traffic Control Center at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip Town and the existing Terminal Radar Approach Control facility in Westbury, federal officials say.
As for the competition for the new facility, Islip Town has been pushing the FAA for some time to build it at MacArthur Airport and, locally, officials with Rechler Equity Partners have confirmed that they have submitted land they lease from the county at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton as a possible site for the FAA project.
Other Long Island sites that have been suggested include a 40-acre parcel on Nicolls Road near Suffolk Community College in Selden, Mitchell Field in Nassau County and possibly 95 acres owned by Jan Burman at EPCAL, according to Ms. Giglio. It could not be immediately confirmed which of these other locations were being officially considered through the application process.
Ms. Giglio said that if Mr. Burman’s land at EPCAL won the FAA facility, as opposed to town-owned land at the former Grumman site, the town would lose out on potential tax revenues it would receive if Mr. Burman’s land were developed by private enterprise, since the FAA would be tax exempt. Mr. Burman could not be reached for comment.
A number of upstate locations also have been mentioned as possible locations for the FAA facility, Ms. Giglio said, including Stewart International Airport in Newburgh and a site near Albany.
Ms. Giglio raised the issue at last Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session, which is open to the public, and made the argument that since the FAA is running advertisements seeking a new centralized location for the facilities, the town should at least try to lure it to EPCAL.
But Mr. Walter disagreed.
“We should be looking at this as a region and not stealing this,” he said.
Mr. Walter believes there is a danger that the FAA might move the facility off Long Island altogether and that Long Island officials should present a unified show of support for keeping it in Islip.
There are Riverhead residents who work at the Islip Town-owned airport who would lose their jobs, he said.
But Ms. Giglio countered that other Long Island towns are already trying to “steal” the project and that Riverhead officials should be most concerned with bringing it to Riverhead Town.
Because the FAA is exempt from town zoning, she said, a facility at EPCAL would not require new zoning or state Department of Environmental Conservation approvals and the town wouldn’t have to spend any money because the FAA has money earmarked and in place for the project.
“This would bring 800 high-paying jobs to the area,” she said.
The FAA wants to locate the regional facility within 150 miles of New York City and is seeking 34 to 49 acres for the project. The site must be in New York State and the landowner must be willing to sell the property to the FAA.
“The site must be suitable for construction of an operational air traffic control campus with approximately 250,000 square feet of buildings and parking for 800 employees,” the FAA said.
FAA officials would not disclose what sites have been submitted so far. The deadline for submissions is Jan. 31.
“It’s perfect for EPCAL,” Councilman Jim Wooten said during last week’s meeting.
Mr. Walter said the Town Board should at least have Islip Supervisor Tom Croci come to Riverhead to explain the importance of the facility to his town.
“I’m not concerned about Islip; I’m concerned about Riverhead,” Councilman George Gabrielsen said.
“It can’t hurt,” Councilman John Dunleavy said, although he questioned why the town always waits until the last minute on applications like this.
Mr. Walter ultimately gave in and directed town community development agency director Chris Kempner to prepare a proposal to locate the facility at EPCAL.
Back on July 12, Mr. Walter participated in an Islip Town press conference with other Long Island officials backing MacArthur Airport as the location for the NextGen facility.
Other officials at that press conference included then-Brookhaven supervisor Mark Lesko. Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Babylon Supervisor and Suffolk Democratic Party chairman Richard Schaffer and several other state, county and business officials, according to Inez Birbiglia, Islip Town’s communications director.
“It was pretty bipartisan,” Ms. Birbiglia said, as both Republican and Democratic officials backed the Islip site.
Ms. Birbiglia said on Tuesday that Islip Town was under the impression Riverhead supported the MacArthur Airport site for the FAA facility.
Islip Town officials believe MacArthur is the best site for the NextGen facility, she said.
“We have 80 acres available just a few thousand feet away from the existing ARTCC and the FAA employees already live in the surrounding neighborhood.”
The NextGen facility will be regional and will serve airports throughout the New York City region, so it’s not necessary that it be located at an existing airport, officials said.
The FAA’s NextGen control system was designed to eliminate older radar-based technologies and rely more on global positioning satellites, enabling aircraft to fly closer to one another in ever-crowded skyways while providing less separation in time and space during takeoffs and landings, ultimately alleviating flight delays that have plagued New York area airports over the years, according to Islip officials.
Tuesday’s landslide special election victory by Suffolk County Legislator-elect Al Krupski over Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter provided some interesting statistics for political junkies to chew on.
We broke down several facts and figures compiled from the preliminary election results:
• Mr. Krupski won with 6,561 votes to 3,182 for Mr. Walter. That’s a split of 67 percent to 33 percent, the highest percentage victory in the last decade for any special election held in Suffolk County.
• While voter turnout was only about 16 percent in the legislative district, 24 percent of registered voters in Southold Town showed up at the polls Tuesday. Turnout in Mr. Walter’s hometown of Riverhead was just under 17 percent. Voter turnout was particularly low in Brookhaven, where only 1,754 votes were cast, just an 8 percent turnout.
• The only election districts Mr. Walter won in his hometown of Riverhead were in Glenwood Village; along West Main Street, where only 34 votes were cast; and in Calverton, where he prevailed by just one vote.
• Mr. Walter fared best in Brookhaven Town, where he received 48 percent of the vote. He received 43 percent of the vote in Riverhead, 30 percent on Shelter Island and only 17 percent in Southold.
• Mr. Krupski received a higher percentage of the vote than all but five county legislators who faced opposition in the 2011 general election.
• Mr. Krupski also received a higher percentage of the vote than his predecessor, Ed Romaine, did his inaugural 1st District legislative campaign in 2005, when he received 63 percent of the vote even with a long history in county government.
• Mr. Walter received a total of 3,182 votes, about 1,700 fewer than he received in his previous supervisor run, even though almost 2,000 more people voted in this election.
Throughout his campaign for the 1st District seat in the Suffolk County Legislature, Republican Sean Walter repeatedly referred to his opponent’s party as the Babylon Democrats.
It’s not a terribly unfair remark, given that the county executive, the county Democratic chair and the Legislature’s deputy presiding officer all hail from that South Shore town.
County Legislator-elect Al Krupski now faces a major challenge -— how to balance the ideals of the North Fork with his obligation to the men and women who helped get him elected.
That balancing act was immediately on display Tuesday night as he posed for pictures with Suffolk County Democratic chairman Rich Schaffer, County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Wayne Horsley. Mr. Krupski, third from left in the photo above, was the Teddy Roosevelt to their Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln of Mount Babmore. It was exactly the kind of image Mr. Walter would have wanted us all to see before we headed to the polls.
Soon after that picture came shots of the newly elected legislator with leaders of the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association. Trust us, Suffolk’s finest will send him that picture as a reminder of their support when it comes time to negotiate a new contract.
Mr. Krupski is not in Kansas anymore. He’s not in Southold, either.
Hauppauge, home of the county Legislature, is a stressful place where he’ll be forced to make tough, often partisan decisions.
Will he be asked to bring development to the East End and turn his back on preservation? Doubtful. But he will almost certainly be asked to support initiatives that raise spending and increase taxes, particularly as the county continues to plug away at budget shortfalls.
As we noted in our endorsement of him last week, we believe Mr. Krupski has what it takes to balance his obligation to the residents of the North Fork with the needs of his party. Now it’s up to him to prove it.
Polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. today for the Suffolk County First Legislative District special election.
Republican Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Democratic Southold Councilman Al Krupski are vying for Ed Romaine’s seat, which he vacated after he was elected Brookhaven Town Supervisor in November.
Board of Elections representatives said Friday that voters will go to their usual general election polling places, except in Ridge, where voting has been moved from the Ridge Firehouse to the Ridge Elementary School, due to damage to the firehouse during Hurricane Sandy.
Voters who are unsure of their polling place can look it up here.
The first district stretches from Middle Island to Fishers Island and includes Shelter Island (until the district lines change next year).
Times/Review Newsgroup will be live blogging from the candidates’ headquarters tonight.
Mr. Walter and Mr. Krupski squared off in a debate Jan. 7. Click here for full coverage.
Name: Sean Walter
Current Job: Riverhead Town Supervisor
Current Salary: $115,148
Legislative Salary: $93,958
Sean Walter is the Republican, Conservative and Independence candidate to replace Ed Romaine as 1st District Suffolk County Legislator in tonight’s special election.
An attorney from Wading River, Mr. Walter pointed to steering new businesses to Main Street, improving the town’s financial picture and moving toward the creation of a subdivision at EPCAL as major highlights of his tenure as Riverhead supervisor the past three years.
He said his work on these major areas of concern to Riverhead residents are a reflection of what he can do in the Legislature.
“The economy and taxes are the biggest issues facing the First Legislative District,” Mr. Walter said. “We have to bring economic growth with balance. The subdivision of EPCAL fits right into that balance because it is the place in the district where we should have economic growth.
“I’ll be able to continue on with my plan there [as Legislator].”
Mr. Walter also said during his campaign his work to preserve farmland on the North Fork and to protect the agri-tourism market fits into the role he would play as a legislator.
When asked why someone from Southold Town would vote for him over a locally elected leader there — one who would serve in the Democratic majority, Mr. Walter said he “would be a loud, outspoken voice for the entire North Fork.”
“I don’t shy away from a battle,” he said.
Mr. Walter said several times during the campaign that he believes the Suffolk County Legislature should be abolished.
“Most of New York State is run by a board of supervisors,” Mr. Walter said. “Only the metropolitan area has the legislature system. I agree with Mr. Krupski on reducing the layers of government. We don’t need the legislature.”
Mr. Walter studied at Sullivan County Community College and the SUNY Binghamton, where he earned a Bachelors degree in Environmental Science, before attending St. John’s Law School.
His prior government experience includes working for the Town of Brookhaven Department of Waste Management, as the environmental manager for the 106th Rescue Wing of the New York Air National Guard in Westhampton Beach and as a deputy town attorney in Riverhead.
Sean left the Town Attorney’s office in January of 2006 and started a law practice in Wading River. The primary concentration of his practice involves land use as well as real estate, estates and litigation.
A Port Jefferson native, he and his wife Cathleen have lived with their three sons in Wading River since 1992. He is an active member of Riverhead Rotary, the Knights of Columbus and is part of the children’s liturgy team at St. John the Baptist in Wading River, according to his biography on the town’s website.