The Riverhead Town Board is to vote tonight on whether to approve a key permit that, if denied, will mean a rock concert in Calverton scheduled for this weekend can’t go forward.
But even if the town board approves the special events permit, the concert promoter needs to persuade Suffolk County to change its mind about another crucial permit – something a county health official said yesterday is very unlikely.How the town board votes tonight may depend on whether the concert promoters have lined up adequate police protection by the time the meeting starts at 7 p.m.
The Field Day Festival, scheduled to feature headliners such as the Beastie Boys and Radiohead and expected to draw people from as far away as Iceland and Australia, was thrown into doubt last week when Suffolk County denied the promoter a mass gathering permit, citing a lack of adequate law enforcement. Riverhead’s police chief has said his tiny force won’t be able to handle the crowd of at least 50,000 alone. Two weeks ago, Suffolk police declined to help, saying there wasn’t time to sign a deal with the town.
Concert promoter Andrew Dreskin has said he hopes to persuade the county to change its mind and issue the mass gathering permit. Dreskin and Riverhead town officials have been negotiating with New York State Police about importing as many as 200 troopers from upstate to address the county’s concerns.
Lt. Glenn Miner, a State Police spokesman, said his agency still hadn’t made a decision.
Riverhead town board member Ed Densieski said yesterday that he would vote for the permit “if the public safety portion of the proposal is met.” If no one offers help, Densieski said he would consider voting for the permit anyway, provided final approval was contingent on lining up adequate police protection. “I’m in support of doing everything that we can do to make this happen,” Densieski said.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Robert Kozakiewicz said if “we don’t have a guarantee on law enforcement … the answer is I would be inclined to vote no.”
Dreskin said he was confident the town would approve his permit. And if the State Police were to decline to participate, Dreskin said he has other options. He declined to be specific.
Last week, several agencies, including other East End police departments, the county sheriff and the Nassau County police department, said they wouldn’t be able to help.
Even if the Riverhead Town Board approves the special events permit, Dreskin still would need to persuade the county health department to rescind its denial of the mass gathering permit. Under state law, Dreskin must obtain a permit 48 hours before the event begins. Since the gates would open at 3 p.m. Friday, that would give him until 3 p.m. tomorrow.
But Bruce Williamson, chief of the county health department’s bureau of public health protection, said yesterday that the two-day deadline applies only to whether a promoter meets water and sewage requirements, and that the county can make its decision earlier based on lack of police protection.
The chances the health department will reverse its decision, Williamson said, is “extremely unlikely.”