Letters to the editor: Textbook back-door politics at play

Gun Rights


Textbook back-door politics at play

I am writing this letter to express my outrage at what I have heard about the charter school on Sound Avenue and the parcel of land between Sound Avenue and Church Lane in Aquebogue. As a property owner with a backyard that is directly contiguous to the property being purchased, I have several comments and more importantly questions that I would like answered. I have heard through many sources (non-official), which is why I am writing to you as a local politician representing me. You have said you want complete transparency during your term in office.

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I have heard that the charter school is planning to expand in the future by purchasing a 70-acre plot of land directly on the side and behind the property that the school is currently operating. Their plans include increasing the enrollment over time, eventually reaching up to 1,000 students. In addition, they are planning to build several maintenance buildings, a parking facility and an athletic field on the property, the majority of which has development restrictions.

To fund this expansion, they are planning to offer bonds to the general public. How is the school, which is a private for-profit entity, planning to issue bonds connected to the Town of Riverhead? In addition to seemingly ignoring development rights issues let us also not forget the traffic nightmare this new facility will cause on both Sound Avenue and Church Lane. Sound Avenue will become increasingly dangerous as it has general traffic speeding along, being one of two main arteries of the North Fork. Church Lane has no ability to handle the flood of cars that will arrive in the morning for drop-off and in the afternoon for pick-up, not to mention all the buses that will be required to transport the children. 

Most importantly, both roads will create a very dangerous situation, which will only be recognized when tragedy strikes someone. Do we need another Vineyard 48 accident on our hands? Or someone to die because emergency medical services can’t get to a person in need due to traffic congestion? Will our politicians and town elected officials ever learn from history? 

This seems once again like Riverhead small-town, back-door politics at its finest. I’d like to know which elected officials have signed off on this avoidance of the laws their predecessors passed, and they were elected to uphold.

Joseph Fortunato


This is what passes for ‘transparency?’

I read Supervisor Tim Hubbard’s response to the news reporting about the secret meetings our town officials have held with a favored developer to build a “Luxury Spa” on the town’s Long Island Sound waterfront. The supervisor’s response is, in essence: Nothing to see here, we hold meetings like that all the time. Really, Mr. Supervisor? Your comeback is to double down on dishonesty? All I could think about was the scene in “My Cousin Vinny”: ”That’s it?” That’s all you’ve got?

Mr. Supervisor, maybe you missed a little thing called “The Open Meetings and the Public Officers Law?” Which would be understandable, because Riverhead hasn’t adhered to that law for as long as I can remember. Meetings that transact public business have to be open to the public.

Mr. Supervisor, perhaps you are familiar with the State Environmental Quality Review Act? Mr. Supervisor, your planning director and former town attorney Dawn Thomas actually tried to justify secret meetings by admitting she’s held meetings not open to the public before. She lamely cited Tanger Outlets as a precedent as to how secrecy is good policy. I think public participation might have helped us avoid many of Tanger’s pratfalls. The biggest project in town, and no one had a right to know?

Mr. Supervisor, you said yours will be the “most transparent” administration in the town’s history. Congrats, you achieved that goal…You are easy to see through.

Angela De Vito


This story was wrong in tone and facts

As the president of the Timothy Hill Ranch Board of Directors I feel compelled to respond to the tone and some inaccuracies of the Feb. 1, 2024, front page article in the Riverhead News-Review (“Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch files for bankruptcy”).

The headline and the second sentence, which said, “…the faith-based center owes more than $4.8 million in debts to roughly 65 creditors, including five individuals who have pending lawsuits against the Ranch,” created fear that the Ranch is overextended and going out of business. I state, unequivocally, the Timothy Hill Ranch is financially sound and continues to operate seamlessly. Staff levels remain the same, all residents remain and all programs continue as usual.

Of the “debts,” nearly 90% are secured mortgages on campuses in four states and our payables current. The tone of the article led many readers to believe otherwise. 

Last October, under advice of counsel, the Ranch filed for protection via Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Law. “Bankruptcy” is a scary word but Chapter 11 actually protects a corporation from being forced out of business, allowing time to settle large financial disputes. We are in such a dispute.  

In 2019, then-governor Andrew Cuomo waived the statute of limitations on sexual assault charges. Attorneys found four former Ranch residents willing to allege violations from more than 30 years ago. All four made accusations against other residents. None made accusations against staff members. Lawyers sought millions per person in damages. Our insurance company at the time no longer exists. Our current insurance company will not touch it. 

For three years the Ranch paid massive legal fees out of pocket defending against these charges. A multi-million dollar court judgment without insurance could cause serious challenges for the Ranch. Thankfully, we are close to an out-of-court settlement that will put this legal mess behind us. The article also mentioned an infant falling from a car, blaming a staff member for reckless driving. That is blatantly false! It did not happen. 

Sensational headlines sell papers, I understand that. The stakes are too high at the Ranch to let the tone of the article stand alone. The Timothy Hill Ranch is serving the underserved without the interruption. Thaddaeus Hill, our executive director, a nationally respected leader in faith-centered foster care, will continue to make sure of that. He, the board and dedicated staff are committed to “Transform lives through the love of Christ.” There are hundreds of wonderful, life-transforming stories — all verifiable. Please write some of those. You and any readers may tour the Ranch by calling 631-369-1234 to set up an appointment.

Cliff Clark

president, Timothy Hill Children’s Ranch board of directors


Mr. LaLota must act

This week, the United States Senate passed a bipartisan bill which will supply Ukraine with vital materials for the country’s continued war against Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Unfortunately, House Republicans are refusing to even bring the bill up for a vote because Donald Trump has voiced opposition to it. I ask all readers to call our congressman, Nick LaLota, to urge him to do everything in his power to get this important legislation passed. Abandoning the brave people of Ukraine will diminish our standing in the free world and will embolden Russia, China, North Korea and other enemies.

John Neely


Trump’s ‘day one’ would be a disaster

It’s so painfully obvious: If Donald Trump is reelected president, you can expect to see inaction or backsliding on four of the most important issues of our time — gun safety regulation, health insurance coverage, access to abortion and climate change. When he was in the White House, Trump generally toed the line of the National Rifle Association and threatened to veto a bill passed by the House of Representatives that would have required universal background checks for prospective firearms purchasers. (The legislation stalled in the Senate.) 

Out of office, he was no better, resisting new gun restrictions even after a school shooting two years ago in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers. Instead, he called for having armed officers in every school and the training of teachers who would carry concealed weapons. As president, Trump pressed hard, but unsuccessfully, to have Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has cut the uninsured rate in half from 2010; by last March, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 40 million Americans had health insurance coverage under the ACA, the highest number on record. Trump was unimpressed. By last November, he was posting on social media that “Obamacare Sucks!!!” and promising “much better Healthcare” while offering no details.

And don’t expect that the man claiming credit for appointing three conservative jurists to the Supreme Court who voted to overturn Roe v. Wade will work hard to mitigate the havoc that decision has wrought for women seeking abortions in states where access to the procedure is now drastically reduced. Trying to limit the damage done by ending Roe would jeopardize Trump’s standing with evangelicals, a hugely important part of his political base. 

Then there’s climate change, which Trump has called a “hoax” despite overwhelming scientific evidence that human activity is the prime driver of global warming. Ignoring that evidence, as president he pulled the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change adopted by nearly 200 nations that’s intended to substantially reduce the global greenhouse gas emissions responsible for heating the planet to dangerously high temperatures.

President Biden, on his first day in office, moved to bring the country back into the agreement. Given that he has famously vowed to promote “drilling, drilling, drilling” for oil on “Day One” in a second term look for Trump, if re-elected, to again withdraw the United States from the accord. “My guess is that pulling out of the Paris agreement will be considered in the first few weeks,” George David Banks, a former Trump White House climate adviser, told the Washington Post in December. “My guess is that they’ll have an executive order already written.”

Bottom line: We can’t afford four more years of Donald Trump in the Oval Office. Even with his bad memory, Biden is better than this.

John Henry

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