Field Day Still On, For Now

Here’s the latest from Newsday:

A day after Suffolk County effectively nixed a two-day rock concert in Calverton, Riverhead officials and the concert promoter say they’re moving ahead with plans for the event and pleaded with the county to change its mind.
At a press conference this afternoon, Town Supervisor Robert Kozakiewicz, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller, and promoter Andrew Dreskin said they were still hopeful the town could convince other law enforcement agencies to lend them staff to assist the town’s small force.
But representatives for several local law enforcement agencies, including Southold and Southampton police, the Suffolk County Sheriff, New York State Police, and Nassau County said they either wouldn’t be able to spare any officers or couldn’t provide anything close to the 200 additional officers Hegermiller said was needed to control traffic and crowds at the concert, which is expected to draw up to 40,000 people a day.
On Tuesday, Suffolk County’s Department of Health Services denied the promoter’s application for a mass gathering permit, saying the town and the promoters had approached the county too late. The concert will take place in less than two weeks, on June 7 and 8.
Meanwhile, an environmental group sued Riverhead Town and the event organizers yesterday, charging the town didn’t do a proper environmental review before leasing the site to the concert promoters in February.
County health officials denied the permit yesterday after Hegermiller told them his force wouldn’t be able to handle the crowd – which is expected to number up to 40,000 people each day – without the help of the Suffolk County police.
But county police told Hegermiller Friday that they wouldn’t offer extra officers because doing so would require an agreement between the Riverhead town board and the Suffolk county legislature.
The legislature doesn’t meet before the concert. Kara Gerry, spokeswoman for Suffolk presiding officer Maxine Postal, said calling a special meeting to consider the concert is “highly unlikely.” Peter Scully, a spokesman for County Executive Robert Gaffney, agreed.
Bruce Williamson, chief of the county health department’s public health protection bureau, said the town and promoters simply approached the county too late. “There’s just very little time to do this right now,” he said.
But Andrew Dreskin, the concert promoter, said he filed his application for a mass gathering permit in March, giving the county enough time to plan the concert. The permit’s denial, he said, “has absolutely nothing to do with police and has everything to do with a political desire for this event not to take place.”
He said the county can’t issue a final permit until 48 hours before the show is set to begin. “And you know what? I have seven lawyers saying the same thing,” Dreskin said.
The county’s denial of Dreskin’s permit comes after weeks of outcry by residents who worried the concert would clog nearby roads and overwhelm local hospitals and emergency services. The concern was shared by Suffolk Police Commissioner John Gallagher, who said several roads, including the William Floyd Parkway, are not equipped to handle large amounts of traffic. “I don’t know that there are answers, but I do know that we didn’t have time to even explore the possibility,” Gallagher said.
The Field Day Festival was to have been a showcase for the 2,900-acre former U.S. Navy site. The town, which has been trying to sell the land, had hoped the concert – along with a larger rock festival in August – would help market the property.
But Joey MacLellan, a spokesman for Town Supervisor Robert Kozakiewicz, said he didn’t see the county’s decision as a setback to the town’s economic development attempts. “The town has done a really good job,” he said, adding that Riverhead is still exploring ways to allow the project to go ahead.
Dreskin said he is in talks with other law enforcement agencies to provide assistance, including police departments from other East End towns.
Dreskin and Riverhead Town officials also appeared in court yesterday to answer a lawsuit filed by the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, an environmental group, which charged the town didn’t do a proper environmental review before agreeing to host the concert. Environmentalists have said the concert coincides with the nesting season for the rare grasshopper sparrow, which lays its eggs in the fields where the concert is planned.
In their suit, the society claimed that concert preparations already were damaging the environment, and that the crowds would do irrevocable damage to the land. In court yesterday, the society asked Supreme Court Justice Mary Werner to issue a restraining order to stop concert preparations, and to issue a temporary restraining order to ban the concert itself.
Riverhead Town Attorney Dawn Thomas said suing the town was inappropriate because the town board has not yet decided whether to issue its permit allowing the concert to go ahead. The board plans to vote on the permit June 3. Dreskin argued that he already had committed $5 million to the event and asked that any injunction be accompanied by a bond to cover money he might lose.
Werner postponed the case until Friday and cautioned that the case was too complex to be delayed much longer. “It would be utterly irresponsible to give this an adequate review between June 5 and June 7,” she said.
Ticketholders expressed anger yesterday that the concert might not go ahead. Jon Desenberg, a 29-year-old management consultant from Washington, D.C., is driving to the concert with about eight other friends. With so many big-name bands on the lineup, also Beck and Liz Phair, “it just didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would fall through,” he said.
But Dreskin contends Desenberg has nothing to fear, saying he will only refund tickets “on June 9, if the event didn’t happen … Until then, this event is absolutely happening.”

By Jonathan

New York, NY