10/07/14 3:56pm
Tom Cutinella's family embrace after the teen's funeral Tuesday morning. The 16-year-old was killed after being injured while playing football last week.

Tom Cutinella’s family embraces after the teen’s funeral Tuesday morning. The 16-year-old was killed after being injured while playing football last week. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Tom Cutinella was a gifted athlete, an exceptional student and a patriotic young man who planted flags at Calverton National Cemetery and had dreams of going to West Point, his father Frank said to hundreds during a eulogy opening his funeral service Tuesday morning.

But while the teen loved his country and competing in sports, to Tom, his family always came first.  (more…)

10/02/14 8:06pm
10/02/2014 8:06 PM
Members of the Shoreham-Wading River football team walk out onto the field during Thursday's vigil. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

Members of the Shoreham-Wading River football team walk out onto the field during Thursday’s vigil. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo)

The scoreboard at Shoreham-Wading River High School reflected a 0-0 game with 54 seconds left Thursday afternoon as hundreds of community members stood around the football field.

But there was no game under way.  (more…)

06/30/14 10:40pm
06/30/2014 10:40 PM
Marco and Ann Marie Borghese purchased their Cutchogue vineyard in 1999. (Credit: Jane Starwood, file)

Marco and Ann Marie Borghese purchased their Cutchogue vineyard in 1999. (Credit: Jane Starwood, file)

The story of how Marco and Ann Marie Borghese discovered the North Fork and quickly purchased Long Island’s first vineyard from its original owners is told often, and it’s worth repeating. (more…)

05/30/14 7:00am
05/30/2014 7:00 AM
A man scales a bluff 50 yards to the east of where, the night before, a Lake Grove teen was killed in a tragic fall. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

A man scales a bluff 50 yards to the east of where, the night before, a Lake Grove teen was killed in a tragic fall. (Credit: Grant Parpan)

Just about anyone who grew up on the East End can recall a time they scaled a bluff.

Whether horsing around with friends, passing the time during a day at the beach or seeking a shortcut, locals rarely think about potential consequences before hiking to the top of a cliff overlooking Long Island Sound.  (more…)

11/05/13 10:00am
11/05/2013 10:00 AM
RACHEL YOUNG FILE PHOTO | Patrick Gaeta curing bacon earlier this year.

RACHEL YOUNG FILE PHOTO | Patrick Gaeta curing bacon earlier this year.

When Patrick Gaeta launched North Fork Bacon earlier this year, the Wading River resident’s objective was simple: to offer customers premium bacon, smoked and cured the old-fashioned way, by hand.

North Fork Bacon, which is made from Berkshire pigs sourced out of upstate New York, popped up on the menus of multiple local restaurants this summer, including as a burger topping at Blackwells at Great Rock in Wading River. For a time, it was available for sale in one-pound packages at My Butcher, also in Wading River.

Now Mr. Gaeta, 31, is taking the next step in the future of North Fork Bacon by setting up shop in the retail space formerly occupied by The Pizza Pie, a 13-year-old pizzeria in the historic Wading River business district owned by Mike Roth that closed its doors in October.

Mr. Gaeta, a full-time x-ray technician at Long Island Bone and Joint, received the keys to his new storefront Nov. 4 and is shooting to open for business by March 1, he said. Joining him as a business partner in the venture is his friend and former co-worker, Michael Troyan.

“Lets face it,” Mr. Gaeta said. “Every town you go to has some form of diner, a deli that just blasts out sandwiches, three to five pizzerias and a Chinese food place. I want to bring a style of barbecue and restaurant to the area that many people haven’t seen and aren’t familiar with.”

Last month, Mr. Roth, who is also the president of the Wading River Chamber of Commerce, told the News-Review he might not stay in business much longer.

“I’ll just try to hold on as best I can,” he said at the time.

To better reflect menu offerings — egg sandwiches, omelets, waffles, barbecue sandwiches and cured meats smoked in-house are all planned in addition to bacon — Mr. Gaeta said the name of the business will change to North Fork Bacon & Smokehouse. The restaurant will serve breakfast and lunch, he said, and will only be open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the first few months of its debut. To ensure freshness, North Fork Bacon & Smokehouse will close its doors once all the day’s food is gone, Mr. Gaeta said.

“No one wants to see trays of prepared food coming out of the walk-in [freezer] and then heated up,” he said. “We’ll be doing everything fresh daily.”

Despite the fact that many of the storefronts in the historic Wading River business district sit empty, Mr. Gaeta – whose first job was at the now-closed Trotta’s Pizza Café in Wading River, located in the same retail space he’ll be moving into — isn’t concerned about being able to attract customers.

“We’re the only major thoroughfare to Wading River Beach,” he said of the business district’s location at the intersection of Sound Road and North Country Road. “Traffic is always going through there and with a place serving quality food, it’ll bring a crowd.

“I think of where I like to eat,” Mr. Gaeta said. “If the quality is there, it’s worth the trip.”

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10/31/13 10:27am
10/31/2013 10:27 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Wildwood State Park in Wading River.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Wildwood State Park in Wading River.

New York State Parks Department officials say septic systems at five state parks – including Wildwood State Park in Wading River – are not in compliance with current septic treatment standards and will be upgraded.

The announcement follow the Peconic Baykeeper’s notice that it intends to sue the parks department in federal court for using outdated systems at those same parks because the systems violate the U.S. Clean Water Act

“State parks began its review of the septic systems immediately after becoming aware of the allegations made by Peconic Baykeeper,” said Dan Keefe, a department spokesman.

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Parks officials announced last Monday that the department has entered into a consent order, or agreement, with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to update 30 septic systems at the parks, which were found to be outdated and no longer compliant with current septic treatment standards.

The cost of the updates, which will include four of 20 septic systems at the Wading River park, is at more than $5 million, Mr. Keefe said.

The agreement also includes a $250,000 project to install nitrogen reduction technology at one of the park locations, according to a parks department press release.

On July 16, Peconic Baykeeper president Kevin McAllister announced his intent to sue the state for violating the Clean Water Act by failing to have National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits, which are aimed at controlling the amount of pollutants entering the nation’s surface waters.

According to the July 16 legal notice, Wildwood park has been utilizing Class V large-capacity cesspools, which were banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in April 2005 to protect drinking water.

Federal law requires at least 90 days’ advance notice of a lawsuit, so the action against the parks department could not be filed until now, Mr. McAllister said.

“We’re not going away. Our plan is to go forward with this,” he told this newspaper.

“The consent order does not go far enough – it doesn’t address the nitrogen loading coming from these systems,” Mr. McAllister said. “Some 1,000 toilet flushes are entering the groundwater from those facilities each day … it doesn’t sound as though they are going to make the commitment to real upgrades which would denitrify the wastewater.”

Mr. McAllister said he and attorney Reed Super plan to file the lawsuit sometime next week.

“We want to see denitrification systems. If they are going to be ripping these things out of the ground, it’s an opportunity to do the right thing. New York State should be leading the way with respect to more advanced wastewater treatment,” he said. “Their version of upgraded is not our version.”

The actions Peconic Baykeeper has filed against the state DEC and parks department are being undertaken in partnership with Long Island Soundkeeper, based in Connecticut.

10/06/13 10:00am
10/06/2013 10:00 AM

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | A prop in the haunted village portion of Darkside Productions’ haunted house in Wading River.

Walking through a simulated haunted house, Mike Meola says, should trigger the same conflicting emotions one feels when riding a roller coaster.

“Your body is telling you, ‘Oh my god, I shouldn’t be upside down,’ but your brain is like, ‘Yeah, this is awesome!’ ” he says.

It’s with these feelings in mind that Mr. Meola, who has operated the Darkside Productions Haunted House in Wading River for the past 16 years, continuously looks for ways to scare and excite people when he transforms an old potato barn and surrounding field on Route 25A into a haven of horrors each fall.

“You’re going to see some really cool stuff,” he says. “You’re going to get that startle and you’re going to have that adrenaline rush.”

Making all that happen, however, is no easy task.

Northforker.com: Haunted houses and trails on the North Fork

Preparations for the Halloween season at Darkside Productions, Mr. Meola says, typically begin at the end of July and include building sets and creating props, like the menacing scarecrows hanging around in a field at the site’s haunted village. Ninety percent of the props are homemade, he says. The remaining 10 percent are purchased from Halloween specialty stores.

In addition, Mr. Meola hires about 50 actors each year to terrify visitors at Darkside Productions’ 30 “scare spots.” He works closely with each actor on improvisation and timing, he says. For safety reasons, the actors are prohibited from touching visitors.

Then there are the sets. Mr. Meola, a carpenter by trade, builds new wooden structures each year for his 3,000-square-foot haunted house and 10,000-square-foot haunted village — only to have to tear them down at the end of each Halloween season, which runs from Oct. 4 to Nov. 3. Most props are bundled into a storage unit during the off-season.

“Basically we tear down 90 percent of [the sets] each season because you can’t really store them out here,” Mr. Meola says. “Then we have to put everything back, change it, tweak it. It’s a tremendous amount of work and a lot of people don’t realize it. For 16 years, this has been my life.”

But it’s one he wouldn’t change. Mr. Meola has always had a love of the macabre, beginning when he was just 6 years old and saw “The Exorcist” for the first time.

“That movie scared the crap out of me, but I liked the feeling,” he says. “It was the first movie to actually make you feel like there was something under your bed, something in your closet, things that go bump in the night.”

Oscar Gonzalez, owner of the new Voodoo Field of Horrors haunted house in Mattituck, understands that feeling well, having first seen “The Exorcist” at age 10 in his native Costa Rica. Mr. Gonazalez’ love for horror quickly grew from there, later compounded by the existence of a year-round haunted house operated in Costa Rica by his former boss.

“That’s where my passion came from,” he says.

Mr. Gonzalez, a personal trainer who lives in Hampton Bays, got his start creating his own haunted houses two years ago when he and his partner, John Sieni, a co-owner of La Maison Blanche hotel on Shelter Island, transformed the inn and restaurant into the “Haunted Mansion” for an event that raised money for breast cancer research.

This year, Mr. Gonzalez said, he opted to move the event to the mainland so more people can attend. He has created a 1,500-square-foot wooden structure on the site of Patty’s Berries and Bunches on Sound Avenue that he says cost $6,000 in materials alone. The haunted house sits on the property across the street from Harbes Family Farm. Voodoo Field of Horrors opens Oct. 11 and runs through Oct. 27.

On a sunny afternoon last week, a sense of darkness loomed over Voodoo Field of Horrors. During a walk-through of the haunted house, Mr. Gonzalez pointed out the rooms’ various props, most of which he created, including a seven-foot-tall evil clown and a man being transformed into a frightening insect.

“I try to look for ideas on the Internet,” Mr. Gonzalez says of the inspiration behind his props. “As soon as I build a prop, I can design a scene.”

In a section of the haunted house Mr. Gonzalez refers to as “the baby’s room,” a demonic doll equipped with two bloody knives for hands waits in a shadowy corner to scare visitors. The rest of the room contains props like an old wooden rocking horse and a dilapidated antique carriage Mr. Gonzalez picked up at a thrift store. Not surprisingly, the effect is thoroughly unsettling.

“We try to target the fears of people,” Mr. Gonzalez says. “When I designed this haunted house, I designed it to target those fears — claustrophobia, darkness. I want to make you feel like you want to get out of here.”

In Wading River, Mr. Meola shares a similar vision.

“We try to put something for everybody in here because there are things that really terrify certain people,” he says. “Fear of bugs, fear of being alone, fear of dolls, fear of clowns.”

Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Meola agree that their ultimate task is to create a spooky but completely safe experience.

“As much as we want to be scary, we’re here to entertain you,” Mr. Meola says.

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09/22/13 10:00am
09/22/2013 10:00 AM

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | Just 5 1/2 hours before Dana Palmgren (left) and Denise Gluck were scheduled to be married they realized their wedding bands were missing. Above, the couple wearing new rings.

Just hours before her wedding on Sept. 7, Denise Gluck of Wading River went to polish the never-worn wedding bands ready and waiting for her and her wife-to-be’s big day. Or so she thought.

When Ms. Gluck opened the matching white-and-red ring boxes about 11:30 a.m., she found they were empty.

She and Dana Palmgren, who have been together for 12 years, were scheduled to be married just 5 1/2 hours later at Mt. Sinai Congregational, United Church of Christ.

Ms. Gluck, also a nine-year Wading River Fire Department volunteer, flew upstairs to the couple’s bedroom closet to search the moving box in which the rings had been stored. Just days earlier, on Aug. 28, the couple had moved into their newly built Lewin Drive home with the help of nine men from a South Fork moving company.

“By the time I even reached the top of the stairs, I knew that they were gone,” Ms. Gluck said. “I still looked, though, hoping.”

“I thought she was joking,” Ms. Palmgren said last week.

Minutes later Ms. Gluck was on the phone with the Riverhead Police Department. The two bands, valued at $4,200, had been stolen from the home, it was determined. Police are urging anyone with information to contact detectives at 727-4500.

The morning of the move, Ms. Gluck said, she’d looked at the bands before placing them into a moving box along with several other valuables.

The rings were both white gold, she said. Ms. Palmgren’s was described as a classic gold band, while Ms. Gluck’s had alternating groups of straight and round diamonds on the front of the band.

The moving box had unknowingly been left unattended, Ms. Gluck said, and she and Ms. Palmgren said they believe one of the nine men working for the moving company that day had stolen the rings.

“They left the ring boxes. I didn’t even think to look,” Ms. Gluck said. “I didn’t think anything of it.”

Ms. Palmgren said the couple was particularly upset because “[the workers] knew we were getting married, and we were good to them.”

Shortly after discovering that the rings were missing, the soon-to-be married couple hopped into a car and headed to Rocky Point Jewelers in hopes of finding plain bands for the wedding, but such rings were out of stock. By the time they made it back home, their photographer had already arrived.

“We had 20 minutes to get ready,” Ms. Gluck said.

They managed to make it to the church on time and then used their engagement rings as wedding bands.

Ms. Gluck said the moving company’s owner fully cooperated with police, but investigators gave the women little hope the bands would ever be found. Last Tuesday, the couple replaced the rings. “We just felt like something was missing, like we were incomplete,” she said.

The two met when they were both studying nursing at Suffolk County Community College. They now work together in Peconic Bay Medical Center’s emergency department, where Ms. Palmgren is an ER nurse and Ms. Gluck is a manager of nurses.

Looking back on the day’s events, they say they didn’t let the theft ruin their special day.

“I’m just glad we had the shock here, and not in front of the pastor,” Ms. Palmgren said. “There are so many worse things that could have happened.”

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