Tag Archive | "Riverhead"

Water Quality, Economic Development Top Bellone’s East End Agenda

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Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, WLNG’s Dan Duprey and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone last Wednesday as Mr. Bellone stopped by the Sag Harbor radio station on a tour of the East End. Photo by Mara Certic.

By Mara Certic

During a whistle-stop tour of the East End last Wednesday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared that encouraging economic growth and improving water quality remain among his top priorities.

“I’ve always tried to recognize, even when I was a town supervisor in Babylon, there are a lot of regional things that impact all of us locally,” Mr. Bellone said at a panel discussion with local government officials at the County Center in Riverhead Wednesday morning. “What is happening on the East End in a multitude of ways impacts what’s happening on the West End and vice versa.”

Mr. Bellone and representatives from Southampton, Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and East Hampton discussed the need for economic growth west of the canal. “We need jobs on the East End that will allow our young people to live here,” the County Executive said. “I think transportation is key.”

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst agreed, saying that public transportation plans “mostly have been sitting on the shelves for dollar and cent reasons and must be dusted off and attended to now.”

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who accompanied Mr. Bellone on his tour, mentioned some improvements that have already been made to public transportation in eastern Suffolk County.

“Now, year-round, for the first time … we have seven-day-a-week service,” Mr. Schneiderman said, in reference to Suffolk County Transit buses now operating on Sundays.

Mr. Bellone and Mr. Schneiderman announced last July that Suffolk County received $4 million in federal funding to expand its Sunday bus service which started in in January 2014. The service is now year-round rather than seasonal in nature.

Mr. Bellone emphasized the need for a good county bus system for workers, for those he referred to as “non-choice riders,” but also suggested that transportation market solutions could be broader-based. He stressed that a good bus system could have wide appeal, and would serve to take some cars off the road during the busy summer season.

“I would love to work with you on developing all those transportation plans,” Mr. Bellone told his colleagues on the panel. The county will be bringing on new transportation experts, he said, whose aim will be to continue to increase and improve train and bus systems.

Mr. Schneiderman discussed the difficulties of living under the New York State-mandated 2-percent property tax levy cap. He added, however, that in order to work around this, Suffolk County has an assembly and senate bill that would install speed cameras in every school district, one per district, within a quarter mile of schools. Mr. Bellone explained that the municipalities would earn ant revenue generated from tickets issued through speed cameras and handle all of the contracts involved. This bill – which also places cameras in Nassau County and increase the number in New York City –passed last week in both the New York State Assembly and the State Senate.

Using innovation and technology to develop a sewer system to improve water quality is one of Mr. Bellone’s main goals, he said. There are 360,000 homes in Suffolk County without a sewer system – using a cesspool systems instead – equal to the number of non-sewered homes in the entire State of New Jersey. Suffolk has received a $500,000 grant from IBM in order to determine the best sewering system for each watershed area and to create a program to assist with the expense of implementing those systems.

During a live interview with WLNG’s Dan Duprey in Sag Harbor Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Bellone discussed his program Operation Medicine Cabinet, which would encourage the safe disposal of prescription drugs in an environmentally friendly way to protect local waters.

This program placed secure receptacles in each of Suffolk County’s police precincts to allow residents to dispose of prescription drugs anonymously. The Sag Harbor Village Police Department has its own drop box on Division Street. Mr.Bellone last month announced the expansion of Operation Medicine Cabinet to senior centers throughout Suffolk County.

The County Executive continued his tour of the East End in Montauk, where he visited with local business-owners and fishermen. Plans to meet with farmers in Southampton later that afternoon were postponed due to weather.

Fishermen aired concerns about methoprene mosquito-spraying during a roundtable discussion with the county executive and legislator at the Clam and Chowder House at Salivar’s Dock in Montauk. The use of methoprene has been linked to killing and stunting the growth of lobsters.

Mr. Schneiderman introduced a bill in July 2013 that would restrict the use of methoprene in estuaries, using alternatives such as Bacillus Thuringiensis Israelensis (BTI) that has not been shown to harm the development of lobsters or other crustaceans. Similar bills have been passed in both Connecticut and Rhode Island.

There is some debate as to what danger, if any, is caused by methoprene, but Mr. Schneiderman continues to seek support for his bill.

“They started using methoprene in 1996,” he said. “In 1995 there was about 4 million pounds of lobster in the Long Island Sound. Now there’s nothing. The sound is pretty much dead to lobsters now.”

 

Pork and Craft Beer Festival Brews in Bridgehampton

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A plate of pork dish available at the Topping Rose House Restaurant. Courtesy of Topping Rose House.

A plate of pork dish available at the Topping Rose House Restaurant. Courtesy of Topping Rose House.

By Tessa Raebeck

Why pork?

“Well, ’cause it goes great with beer,” said Ty Kotz, executive chef at the Topping Rose House, which will host its first Pork and Craft Beer Festival Saturday afternoon.

With the rapid growth of craft breweries on Long Island, East End chefs now have the opportunity to expand local menus beyond homegrown produce and meat to also include the homebrewed.

After spending an afternoon enjoying beers at a few of the local breweries, Chef de Cuisine Kyle Koenig and his wife, Jessica, the restaurant’s beverage director, came up with the idea for the festival, which will feature myriad  innovative pork dishes and craft beers from eight breweries.

Topping Rose House Restaurant Executive Chef Ty Kotz. Photo courtesy Topping Rose House.

Topping Rose House Restaurant Executive Chef Ty Kotz. Photo courtesy Topping Rose House.

“We decided, let’s partner with Niman Ranch, where we get a majority of our pork from, and let’s try to get very local brewers together and do a few of our favorite things—to barbecue and have some really great beer,” Mr. Koenig said Monday.

Niman Ranch and New York City-based DeBragga, which supply meat to Topping Rose, quickly signed on as sponsors, as did The Independent, Southampton Publick House, Great South Bay Brewery, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Moustache Brewing Company, Long Ireland, Crooked Ladder, Port Jeff Brewing Company and Montauk Brewing Company. A representative of the Montauk Shellfish Company will also be on hand shucking fresh Montauk pearl oysters.

“It’s kind of like any chef’s hobby to do tons of stuff with pork,” Mr. Kotz said. “And we kind of just started going nuts, so we’re going to have this huge spread.”

The chefs are preparing five different types of sausages grilled on a live station, tables of charcuterie, house made terrine, various vegetable sides, house made sauerkraut, sliders, chicharrones, and bacon, to name a few dishes—and the menu is still being expanded.

“We’re still throwing stuff on the bandwagon, our flyer is just a smidgeon of what’s actually going to be produced,” Mr. Kotz said.

Two machines will spin hand-carved pork shawarma, layered meat similar to Greek gyros and Turkish kebabs that spin on a stick vertically. A pork belly will be marinated Indian-style, then sliced to order, put in a pita and served with fresh vegetables. The other spit-grilled meat will be a Mexican-style pork shoulder al pastor.

Guests can also enjoy several porchettas, dishes in which the chefs take the whole loin of the pig, wrap the belly around the loin and cook it as a single piece, resulting in a savory, fatty and moist roast.

“It’s boneless, but because it’s essentially the loin wrapped in bacon cooking, it’s very tender and juicy and you get this incredible, incredible flavor,” Mr. Kotz said.

One table will feature charcuterie slicing with prosciutto Americana from La Quercia, an Iowa company that uses all heritage breeds of pigs to make rare American-made prosciutto.

“It’s just extraordinary,” Mr. Kotz said, “because they don’t salt it as much, so you can actually taste more of the pork.”

Pastry Chef Cassandra Shupp is “doing all kinds of stuff” for the festival,  Mr. Kotz said, including making “everything” potato rolls and pretzels that are the chef’s take on everything bagels.

“Everything sticks to what we do here,” Mr. Kotz said, “and that’s local and farms.”

All the meat at the festival is naturally raised and antibiotic free with no hormones.

“So, not only is it just a bunch of pig, it’s pig you want to put into your body,” he continued. “It’s what we believe in and what [Topping Rose Chef Tom Colicchio] believes in. It’s really pushing for better food in our food system in America.” Knowing the benefits of better nutrition,  the restaurant tries to “really practice what we’re preaching” he added.

A pig roasting at the Topping Rose House. Photo courtesy Topping Rose House.

A pig roasting at the Topping Rose House. Photo courtesy Topping Rose House.

Expanding that practice from the plate to the pint glass was an obvious and easy choice, as the local breweries were eager to join in on the festival.

“They were all like, ‘absolutely,’” Mr. Kotz said, “We didn’t have to twist their arm to be a part of this. This is an excuse to get a lot of people together with a lot of great food.”

Incorporated in 2010 and opened just two years ago, the Montauk Brewing Company has grown rapidly, with its beer now available on draft in about 200 locations from Montauk to the Queens border of Long Island.

Montauk Brewing is bring its flagship beer, Driftwood Ale, and the newly released Guardsman Stout to Saturday’s festival.

“The style is an extra special bitter, and relies on its balance between malt and hops for its drinkability,” Montauk’s Vaughan Cutillo, co-founder and brewer at MBC, said of the Driftwood Ale.

“Driftwood Ale turned out to be a beer that paired well with our local foodshed—from beef to fish to local greens and, most importantly, pork—the beer just worked and we couldn’t be happier,” he added.

Released this winter, the Guardsman Stout is a smooth, bold beer that’s dark in color with a “roasty” finish.

“Our beer recipes to date have accompanied a variety of dishes from our local community, and we would like to continue this tradition,” Mr. Cutillo added. “Doing too much with a beer can sometimes destroy the intentions of the chef. Instead, our beer truly pairs with the meal. The beer and the meal are enjoyed and their nuances complement one another.”

The Pork and Craft Beer Festival is Saturday, May 3, at the Topping Rose House, 1 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike in Bridgehampton. VIP admission is $125 and grants access to an exclusive hour with the brewers and chefs at 12 p.m. For $100, general admission grants access to the festival, which runs from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information or to reserve a space, email mpoore@craftrestaurant.com.

East End Heroin Task Force Formed to Battle Growing Threat

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By Kathryn G. Menu

State government leaders announced this week an initiative aimed at combating heroin abuse on the East End, as law enforcement, public health and court officials acknowledged the growing threat the drug—and other opioids—in Suffolk County.

On Monday, New York State Senator Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo announced the formation of the Heroin Addiction Legislative Task Force, or HALT.

The legislators said the group was created to identify causes of and solutions to fight the growing heroin epidemic. The task force will specifically look at the five East End towns, according to Assemblyman Thiele.

The creation of the task force was spearheaded by Senator LaValle, after Senate leaders formed a statewide task force in March.

On Wednesday, Assemblyman Thiele said state officials representing the East End recognized approaches to battling the epidemic would need to be tailored for the region—a region with many law enforcement jurisdictions, local court systems, and its own set of obstacles when it comes to mental health care and treatment.

“The increase in heroin use has reached alarming levels and we need to take action to address this critical situation,” said Senator LaValle. “A broad based East End approach will help us to identify areas where we can be productive in combating the scourge of heroin and other opiates. The initial meeting will be the first in a series that will assist us in determining the types of resources that are needed on the East End.”

“The issue of heroin abuse certainly became more high-profile after [the actor] Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death, but if you talk to people in drug treatment programs and law enforcement, this has been a growing problem in the state for several years now,” said Assemblyman Thiele in an interview Wednesday.

“We don’t have a county police department or district courts, we have town and village police departments and town and village courts, so from a law enforcement perspective, dealing with this issue on the East End is different than the rest of Long Island,” he continued.

According to Assemblyman Thiele, the first meeting will be held on May 16 at 10 a.m. at the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Center on Main Street in Riverhead. That session, he said, will focus on bringing together law enforcement officials, counselors, representatives from treatment groups, as well as town and village justices and government leaders to talk about the epidemic before the task force begins to look at targeted solutions that can aid the East End.

On Wednesday, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said he expects the village will be represented at the forum.

“I think this is a great initiative because this is a problem and it seems to be growing at a crazy pace and is affecting a lot of people,” he said. “Either myself of one of the members of the village board will attend that first session.”

“This first meeting we largely expect it to be us as legislators doing a lot of listening,” said Assemblyman Thiele. “Before we can decide what government can do from a policy perspective we have to talk to the people on the ground dealing with this issue.”

The creation of the task force comes on the heels of two major heroin arrests by the East End Drug Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional agency led by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota’s office that includes officers from town and village police departments across the North and South forks.

In February, nine men—six from the Riverhead area—were charged with multiple felonies for their alleged involvement in the sale of “Hollywood” heroin, a particularly potent brand of the drug that was sold to residents on the East End, including Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. During the course of a years long investigation into that ring, police said they confiscated 2,000 bags of heroin and thousands of dollars in cash.

In April, Suffolk County Police announced the arrest of 14 individuals in connection with an alleged sales ring that ferried heroin from Brooklyn throughout Suffolk County. According to Mr. Spota, that ring had flooded Suffolk County with 360,000 bags of heroin with a street value of $3.6 million.

The arrests come at a time when law enforcement and mental health care professionals are reporting an increase in the amount of heroin and opioid abuse in Suffolk County.

According to a report issued in 2012 by a special grand jury empanelled by Mr. Spota, heroin use between 1996 and 2011 accounted for a 425-percent increase in the number of participants in the Suffolk County Drug Court Program. Opioid pill abuse, according to the report, accounted for a 1,136-percent increase in the number of drug court participants. According to data issued by the county medical examiner’s chief toxicologist Dr. Michael Lehrer, there were 28 heroin related deaths in Suffolk County in 2010, which increased to 64 in 2011 and to 83 in 2012 with 82 deaths officially reported for 2013, although that figure is expected to rise as investigations into other deaths are completed.

 

 

 

 

Bridgehampton National Bank Donates $25,000 to Local Food Pantries

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The Bridgehampton National Bank (bridgenb.com) Annual Apple Campaign, which was started in 2011 to provide contributions to local food pantries, culminated Monday with the distribution of $1,000 checks to each of 23 food pantries from Montauk to Greenport to Deer Park and Melville. At a presentation and reception at the BNB Bridgehampton office, pantry representatives Bridgehampton, East Hampton, Southampton, Springs and Sag Harbor were on-hand to accept the funds.   Maureen’s Haven, which helps the homeless on the East End, also received a check for $2,000. This is only part of the $25,000 donated by bank customers, employees and the company itself.

“This is one of the community programs we are most proud,” said Kevin M. O’Connor, president and CEO of Bridgehampton National Bank.  “It is a true collaboration between the bank, its customers and employees, working together to help those most in need in our communities. It is the essence of what it means to be a community bank.”

The Apple program began nearly five years ago with a conversation initiated by the East Hampton Food Pantry. They suggested the “apple” as a means of recognizing donations. With 26 branches across Suffolk and Nassau Counties, BNB took its Apples bank wide. The program is an annual holiday tradition which runs through the end of January.  In lieu of a holiday gift, BNB donates in the name of its employees, customers enthusiastically participate and BNB matches donations and fills in any gaps to reach the goal and fund one pantry in each of its markets. In addition to the financial gift, branch staff collected non- perishable foods during the months of November, December and January, which are also distributed to local pantries.

From Farm to Bottle, “Hops and Brews” to Explore Long Island Alcohol

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Hops growing at Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

Hops growing at Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

By Tessa Raebeck

Long Islanders have been enjoying homegrown potatoes for generations, but rarely has the local harvest been in their vodka.

At “Hops and Brews” this Sunday, a farmer, a brewer and a spirit maker will discuss the various manifestations of the rapidly growing alcohol industry on Long Island. Panelists John Condzella of Condzella Farms in Wading River, Duffy Griffiths of Crooked Ladder Brewing Company in Riverhead and Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits in Baiting Hollow will reflect on the collaboration between local producers and the strength of Long Island’s wide variety of goods.

Duffy Griffiths, head brewer at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Crooked Ladder.

Duffy Griffiths, head brewer at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company. Photo courtesy of Crooked Ladder.

The second installment of the “Conversations With…” lecture series presented by the Peconic Land Trust, “Long Island Grown: Food and Beverage Artisans at Work” will be moderated by Laura Donnelly, a resident of East Hampton, pastry chef, author and the food editor for The East Hampton Star.

“Some Long Island farmers are making really unique or non-traditional products as they strive to meet a growing demand for locally grown and produced items,” said Kathy Kennedy of the Peconic Land Trust, “We’re excited to be able to showcase some of them.”

“I am very excited to have a chance to moderate this panel,” said Ms. Donnelly. “I am a huge fan of craft brewers and love trying local beers and ales.”

With the recent—and fast—growth of craft beer on Long Island, small hops farming has become economically feasible, creating a symbiotic relationship between farmers and brewers. The hops farmer needs the craft breweries to survive and the craft breweries need the supply from their local farms.

Brewers working with wet hops must do so within 24 hours of the harvest, so finding a local source is crucial to a successful wet hop brew. John Condzella, a fourth generation farmer at Condzella Farms, recognized this demand, adding Condzella Hops to his family farm six years ago.

Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits. Photo courtesy of Rich Stabile.

Rich Stabile of Long Island Spirits. Photo courtesy of Rich Stabile.

“I wanted to grow a unique crop, something that no other farm was doing,” explained Mr. Condzella. “During college I developed a love for craft beer; I know that was an important catalyst for my hops growing endeavors.”

Initially, Mr. Condzella was picking his hops by hand, enlisting the help of family, friends and local volunteers, until a Kickstarter campaign last spring enabled him to purchase a Wolf WHE 170 Hopfen Pflückmaschine, a German machine that picks them for him. In 2013 alone, Mr. Condzella harvested 800 pounds of hops.

“I think demand on Long Island is growing, the industry is very young. Most local brewers aren’t accustomed to using local whole cone hops. Mainstream hops pellets from around the world are their hops of choice,” Mr. Condzella said.

Hops grower John Condzella of Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

Hops grower John Condzella of Condzella Farms. Photo courtesy of John Condzella.

The demand is indeed growing: Some of that farm-to-growler beer will be available next year at the Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, which opened in July 2013.

Head Brewer Duffy Griffiths said the brewery will start using local hops in September, “when the fresh hops round comes out.” Condzella’s Hops is an option, although Crooked Ladder hasn’t yet chosen its supplier.

“It’s a matter of just using whole hops and supporting your local industry, rather than buying them from the Pacific Northwest or having them imported, so we try to keep everything local,” Mr. Griffiths said. “It helps out the area.”

Keeping everything local is at the core of Long Island Spirits. Founded in 2007, it is Long Island’s first craft distillery since the 1800s. The flagship product, LiV Vodka is made from Long Island potatoes, many of which are grown on the 5,000 acres of farmland surrounding the North Fork distillery.

Supplied by a variety of local farmers, the marcy russet potatoes arrive at Long Island Spirits in one-ton sacks. Three days a week, the distillery goes through roughly eight tons of potatoes. Every 25 pounds of potatoes makes about one liter of LiV Vodka.

The distillery also makes Rough Riders and Pine Barrens whisky and a collection of Sorbettas, liqueurs infused with fresh fruit.

“We’ll use local raspberries or local strawberries,” explained spirits maker Rich Stabile. “We’re using real fruit infused with the vodka that we grow on Long Island, made from Long Island potatoes.”

“We all know Long Island potatoes are the best,” said Ms. Donnelly. “Rich believes it is the sweet, buttery flavor of the potato that makes his LiV vodka so good. I have tried this vodka and it is excellent.”

“Long Island farmland is some of the best agricultural land in the world,” said Mr. Condzella, whose family farm started with dairy in the 1800s and evolved to a potato operation in the 1920s. “Our maritime climate, fertile soils and abundant sunshine are great for growing most crops, and hops are no exception.”

“Hops and Brews” is Sunday, April 6, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bridge Gardens, 26 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. To reserve a seat, call Robin Harris at 283-3195, ext. 19, or email events@peconiclandtrust.org.

Hamptons GLBT Center Hires Program Manager

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The Long Island GLBT Network has expanded its presence on the East End by hiring two new staff members at its Hamptons GLBT Center at the Old Whalers’ Church on Union Street in Sag Harbor. Manny Velásquez-Paredes and Lilianne Ogeka have recently been named the center’s program manager and program assistant, respectively, and have been charged with increasing services and programs for the East End’s GLBT community.

With the new staff in place, the Hampton’s GLBT Center can remain open on a full-time basis, expand its youth and senior services, and continue its outreach and visibility within the local community.

“The network is extremely pleased to welcome Manny and Lili to its organization. In their new roles, Manny and Lili will help lead the strategic direction of our Hamptons center and expand the network’s many programs and services in health, advocacy, education and more, and strengthen even further our ties with the community and encourage overall growth on the East End,” said Dr. David Kilmnick, chief executive officer of the network.

As program director, Mr. Velásquez-Paredes, a Riverhead resident, will manage the center and create engaging programs for the East End’s GLBT community and its allies. With more than 18 years of management experience in customer relations, events planning and non-profits, Mr. Velásquez-Paredes is a marketing and communications professional focusing in multicultural/diversity marketing/branding of the Hispanic and GLBT communities.

As the program assistant, Ms. Ogeka, a Quogue resident, facilitates programs and events that serve the GLBT community, as well as coordinate activities for the Hamptons Youth Group. Ms. Ogeka is a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she received her bachelor of science degree in physical education, health education and adapted physical education, as well as a minor in psychology.

For more information, visit liglbtnetwork.org.

East End Drug Task Force Busts “Hollywood” Heroin Ring

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By Kathryn G. Menu

When the East End Drug Task Force last week busted a ring of heroin dealers in Riverhead officials say was trafficking in a particularly potent brand of the drug, it cast a light on the growing problem of opiate addiction across Suffolk County, including the East End.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota on February 19 announced the arrest of nine men, who officials say were involved in the sale of  “Hollywood” heroin,  a brand he said commanded a premium price on the street because of its strength and brought buyers to Riverhead from Sag Harbor to Ronkonkoma and the North Fork.

The defendants, who all face multiple felony charges, were arrested between October and February.

“This heroin distribution network is based in New York City, where the alleged local East End dealers would travel to buy the heroin from three Harlem men and return to the East End with sleeves of heroin, each containing 100 individual doses packaged for immediate sale to users,” said Mr. Spota.

Mr. Spota said the three defendants from Manhattan have “lengthy criminal histories” and a cumulative total of 28 felony and misdemeanor convictions—almost all of them for drug-related crimes.

The “Hollywood” heroin ring included six men Mr. Spota referred to as the “Riverhead crew.” Robert Baker, 46, of Riverhead; Leon Langhorne, 38, of Riverhead; Leroy Langhorne, 41, of Riverside; Joseph Thomas, 41, of Mastic; Jerome Trent, 58, of Riverhead; and Farrow Sims, 42, of Calverton allegedly sold what Mr. Spota said was a particularly potent brand of heroin, marked with a red lettered stamp “Hollywood” on each dose.

Heroin with the red “Hollywood” stamp, said Mr. Spota, was a premium brand of the drug police learned during the course of the investigation that local users would pay a premium price for. According to Mr. Spota’s office, the price of “Hollywood” branded heroin is up to 50 to 100 percent more expensive than other street heroin.

“On average, street heroin in Suffolk can cost as much as $10 per bag, but the heroin stamped with the word “Hollywood” cost $15 to $20 a dose—because of its potency,” said Mr. Spota.

According to Mr. Spota, drug task force detectives made purchases and witnessed others buying the heroin in parking lots of retail businesses along Route 58 in Riverhead. He said enough evidence was gathered by the team to arrest and indict the defendants using confidential informants, undercover officers and, eventually, wiretaps.

The East End Drug Task Force is a multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement unit that includes detectives and officers from the New York State Police, Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County Sheriff, as well as town and village police departments including East Hampton Town and Village, Riverhead, Shelter Island, Southampton Town and Village and Southold.

Drug sales took place along Route 58, in parking lots of the Tanger Outlet Mall, Walmart, gas stations, Home Depot and the Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as in the McDonalds parking lot on Route 24. Addicts using the “Hollywood” heroin, said Mr. Spota, were primarily from Sag Harbor, Greenport, Miller Place, Rocky Point, Ronkonkoma and Southampton.

The heroin was purchased by the “Riverhead crew,” according to Mr. Spota, from three men from East Harlem. Jose Calvente, 65, Jose Morales, 75, and Carlos Ramos, 52.

Mr. Calvente, Mr. Morales and Mr. Ramos all face various counts of felony charges including criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and conspiracy. Mr. Calvente and Mr. Ramos were held in Suffolk County Jail in Riverside in lieu of $250,000 bail and Mr. Morales was remanded to the Suffolk County Jail in Yaphank, also in lieu of $250,000 bail.

The six men in the “Riverhead crew” also face multiple felony charges, including various counts and degrees of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. Mr. Baker, Leroy Langhorne, Leon Langhorne, and Mr. Sims face counts of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree, a felony. Mr. Baker, both Langhornes and Mr. Sims also face felony conspiracy charges; Mr. Trent has been charged with misdemeanor counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, and criminal use of drug paraphernalia in the second degree; and Mr. Sims faces a misdemeanor count of criminal possession in the fourth degree.

Mr. Baker was remanded to Suffolk County Jail in lieu of $250,000 bail; Both Leroy and Leon Langhorne were released on their own recognizance, as was Mr. Trent. Mr. Thomas was remanded to Suffolk County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail and Mr. Sims was remanded in lieu of $200,000 bail.

During the investigation, over 2,000 bags of heroin were confiscated, as was thousands of dollars in cash.

According to Mr. Spota, heroin with the “Hollywood” stamp was first noticed by local law enforcement on the East End when overdoses, none fatal, occurred in 2011. Heroin use is not a new problem in Suffolk County, said Mr. Spota—a sentiment echoed by Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, the executive director of the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (LICADD) and Southampton Town Justice Deborah Kooperstein, who also serves as a justice for the East End Regional Intervention Court.

The low cost of heroin is cited by all three as having an impact on the increase in abuse. They also cite an increase in the abuse of opioids—narcotic painkillers that can be legally prescribed by a doctor that share similar qualities to drugs like heroin, an opiate derivative.

In 2012 a special grand jury was empanelled by Mr. Spota and issued a 99-page report on the plague of opioid abuse in Suffolk County and recommendations on how to combat that problem in the wake of a 2011 pharmacy robbery that left four dead in Medford. According to the District Attorney’s office, in that case David Laffer, 33 at the time, admitted he was in search of prescription painkillers for himself and his wife when he gunned down two store employees and two customers at the pharmacy. Laffer pled guilty to five counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

According to a 2012 report, between 1996 and 2011, heroin use “rose steadily accounting for a 425 percent increase in the number of participants in the Suffolk County Drug Court Program. During this same period, opioid pill use accounted for a startling 1,136 percent increase.”

“To compare, cocaine use resulted in a 29-percent increase during the same period, but declined 13 percent between 1996 and 2001,” reads the report.

“Between 2006 and 2010, heroin arrests rose from 486 to 1315, an increase of approximately 170 percent,” the report continues. “Opiate abusers in Suffolk County fell into a vicious cycle of alternating between expensive opioid analgesic pills and the cheaper heroin creating a large overall class of opiate abusers and addicts.”

According to Dr. Reynolds, LICADD has seen the increase in abuse firsthand. In the last five years the council went from serving 100 families dealing with opiate abuse monthly to 850 in January of 2014.

“It has been a steady climb,” said Dr. Reynolds.

Making the jump from prescription pills to heroin, said Dr. Reynolds, can often be tied to economics and availability. With prescription opiates now more expensive and difficult to obtain, those who are hooked can sometimes look for the less expensive street heroin for their fix.

Dr. Reynolds noted heroin use is not limited to one demographic, but is a drug abused across the board.

“In a lot of ways, today it is a solidly middle class phenomena,” he said, “whereas back in the day it was mostly an issue in poorer minority communities that were decimated by drugs like heroin.”

Teenagers to those leading seemingly successful adult lives—and everyone in-between—are susceptible to becoming addicted to a drug like heroin, said Judge Kooperstein.

“Right now in the drug court, the youngest person we are working with is 18 and we had a graduate yesterday who is 58,” she said, noting most people in the East End Regional Intervention Court system are heroin addicts.

“Heroin is here because it is cheap,” Judge Kooperstein said, agreeing with Dr. Reynolds that this is a drug being abused, like others, in all communities, not just those tucked away from suburbia.

“You can’t divorce yourself from this,” she said. “It’s everywhere.”

Final Push for Affordable Care Act

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Susan Morrissey of Morrissey Advisory Services, a Sag Harbor insurance broker, says there is still confusion over the Affordable Care Act.

Susan Morrissey of Morrissey Advisory Services, a Sag Harbor insurance broker, says there is still confusion over the Affordable Care Act.

 

 

            By Stephen J. Kotz

It’s pretty much all over but the shoutin’. After more than three and a half years of fiercely partisan political warfare, the federal Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare, will be completely phased in this year.

Insurance brokers and state run exchanges, or marketplaces where the uninsured can shop for health care policies, will likely see a continuing brisk business for the next month or so, as the final open enrollment period ends on March 15, with mandatory coverage required to begin by April 1.

“It ruined my hunting season,” said Karl Washwick, drolly, of the rush to buy new policies meeting the requirements of the law this year. The owner of the Washwick Agency, an insurance brokerage in Riverhead, Mr. Washwick said the final push to implement the health care legislation had proved to be a logistical nightmare for everyone from consumers to insurance companies themselves.

“If anyone had asked me I would have said this is a recipe for disaster. It’s insanity to ask everyone in New York State to switch policies on the same day. It’s the same as telling everyone to renew their driver’s license the same day. Can you imagine the lines if they did that?” He said a phased-in implementation would have saved lots of headaches.

Susan Morrissey of Morrissey Advisory Services, a Sag Harbor health insurance brokerage, agreed that there was still a lot of confusion among consumers.

“At times I’ve felt like I’m a social worker,” she said of all the counseling and hand-holding she has had to do with her clients in sorting out their options from among dozens of plans with various prices that are available.

Although plans that went into effect last year and expire later this year remain valid, any new plan that goes into effect this year has to include pediatric dental and vision care as well as mental health benefits, Ms. Morrissey said.

On top of that, Mr. Washwick said, if they were not already, consumers have to be prepared for a new age, in which just about all plans have high deductibles. “Generalizing across companies and policies, it means about a $6,300 out-of-pocket at most for an individual and double that for a family,” he said.

Both Ms. Morrissey and Mr. Washwick said the vast majority of companies they represent, which are typically in the small business market, have continued to offer insurance for their employees.

But if a company does not provide insurance or a consumer is self-employed, they have two basic options: buy an individual plan from a broker or visit the New York State insurance exchange site, nystateofhealth.ny.gov .

“There are two stores to buy insurance from; you can buy from the state store or the Washwick store,” said Mr. Washwick. The first difference is that someone who buys through the state exchange might qualify for a price subsidy if their income falls below $45,000 for an individual or $95,000 for a family.

Although the prospect of a subsidy sounds inviting, Ms. Morrissey said it’s still a case of buyer beware. “A lot of people might not know that although the same insurers are on the exchanges as you can get from a broker, the networks aren’t necessarily as good,” she said. “People buy policies and then have trouble when they find out that they can’t go to their regular doctors.”

She pointed out, for instance, that Stony Brook University Hospital, recently announced that is not accepting any plans sold on the state’s exchange.

“The only reason you’d use the exchange,” she added, “is if you think you are going to get a subsidy.”

Americans who do not buy insurance face a fine of $95 or 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater, an amount many healthy young Americans may be willing to pay to avoid paying monthly premiums, Ms. Morrissey said.

The Affordable Care Act had good intentions, she said of the effort to make sure all Americans have health insurance. But she said, so far, it’s had mixed results and will likely need some serious tweaking. While an individual policy would have cost about $1,000 last year and policies are now available for as low as $590, people will still end up going to the emergency room when they need health care if they have a limited network of doctors to choose from.

“From the eagle view in Washington, D.C., it’s fabulous,” Mr Washwick said of the $6,300 out-of-pocket limit for an individual. “You get cancer and your total cost is one-third the price of buying a Toyota,” he said. But to the average Joe, it’s ‘Why do I have insurance?’”

The dilemma still vexing this country, according to Mr. Washwick, is that Obamacare “is not health care reform, it’s health insurance reform.”

The question “is how do you get people healthier?,” he said. “The overwhelming number of health care claims are lifestyle claims. Supersize me. Marlboro Lights, please. Yeah, I’ll have one for the road.”

The Roaring ’20s are Back at Suffolk Theater Anniversary Gala

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2014 Gala InviteBy Tessa Raebeck

Celebrating its anniversary, the Suffolk Theater in Riverhead hosts a ‘20s dance party, asking guests to “take a step back in time to celebrate the evolution of jazz” with Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks. Grab your flapper dresses and bowler hats; the theater encourages guests to “dress in your ‘20s best” for the gala, starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 1.

Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks act and perform on HBO’s hit series “Boardwalk Empire,” appeared in the Martin Scorsese film “The Aviator,” and are frequent players both in film soundtracks and onscreen. Well-known on the jazz festival circuit, the band specializes in 1920’s and 1930’s jazz and is highly regarded as one of the genre’s preeminent acts. Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks won a Grammy in 2012 for their contribution to “Boardwalk Empire.”

Before the music, which begins at 8 p.m., guests are invited to come early for cocktails and a dinner with a special “Gala Menu” at 6:30, 7 or 7:30 p.m. Guests will have the option to purchase dinner at an additional price after they are seated.

Following the “big band sound” of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, at 10 p.m. a DJ will entertain in the Deco Lounge at the After Hours Speakeasy Party.

Tickets to the gala and speakeasy party are $45, not including dinner. The prix fixe dinner is $35 (not including tax and gratuity). Those who wish to attend only the After Hours Speakeasy Party can buy tickets for $10 beginning at 10 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit suffolktheater.com or call the box office at 631.727.4343.

Winterfest: Live on the Vine Brings Six Weekends of Wine and Music to the North Fork

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Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks Perform at the Live on the Vine Kick-off Event January 17 at the Suffolk Theater. Photo by Lenny Stucker.

Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks Perform at the Live on the Vine Kick-off Event January 17 at the Suffolk Theater. Photo by Lenny Stucker.

By Tessa Raebeck

Blues, soul, rock, jazz and country music are awakening the vineyards of the North Fork this winter as Winterfest: Live on the Vine combines over 100 musical performances with the natural beauty and exceptional wines of the East End.

Started as Jazz on the Vine in 2006, the annual six-week music festival returns this year as Live on the Vine, with a wider range of musicians, including many Grammy recipients and Grammy-nominated artists, performing at local hotels, restaurants, vineyard tasting rooms and other venues. Designed to stimulate local businesses – and entertain local residents – during the off-season, the festival offers countless specials on accommodations, restaurants and transportation for ticket holders, including ‘Winterfest Getaway’ package deals. Hopper Passes, new this year, allow festivalgoers to see multiple performances in a single day, weekend or throughout the entire festival, without paying separate entrance fees at each show.

Winterfest: Live on the Vine kicked off January 17 at the Suffolk Theater with a sold-out performance by blues-rock icon Johnny Winter. The music continues with multiple performances each day over six weekends, ending Saturday, March 22.

This Friday on Valentine’s Day, the Alexander Clough Trio, a jazz ensemble from Brooklyn, will play a free show at Bistro 72, a restaurant and lounge at Hotel Indigo in Riverhead from 7 to 10 p.m. Also in Riverhead at the Suffolk Theater, Myq Kaplan of Comedy Central’s show “Last Comic Standing” will present a stand-up routine, “Valentine’s Candlelight Comedy,” with dancing to follow.

Throughout the day on Saturday, February 15, 10 North Fork vineyards are hosting shows, with a performance by Gene Casey & The Lone Sharks at the Hotel Indigo Ballroom in Riverhead closing out the day. Another 10 concerts are scheduled for Sunday.

General Admission tickets for Winterfest: Live on the Vine cost $20 and include a glass of wine. Hopper passes do not include wine and are $30 for the day, $50 for the weekend or $200 for the entire six-week festival. For more information, visit liwinterfest.com.