June 4, 2003, Wednesday
County Predicts Long Island Concerts Won't Happen
By ELISSA GOOTMAN (NYT) 877 words
RIVERHEAD, N.Y., June 3 --
With the two stages, banner and portable toilets that now stand on a former airfield here, one
could get the impression that everything is nearly set for the thousands of people expected to
arrive starting Friday afternoon for a two-day concert featuring bands like Radiohead and the
That impression, however, would be far from accurate.
Days before the Field Day Music Festival is scheduled to begin, concerns about a
lack of police officers to provide security have made chances increasingly dim that the
concerts will take place, at least in Riverhead.
Two news conferences are planned for
Wednesday about whether the concerts will take place, one for 10 a.m. by the Riverhead Town
Board and a second for 11:30 a.m. by Suffolk County officials. Promoters also planned to issue a
Even as workers today prepared the concert site, a former Grumman aircraft plant,
for the more than 35,000 people who had been expected to pitch tents and spread out blankets for
concerts on Saturday and Sunday, county officials said promoters had failed to get all the necessary
Before the concerts can take place, the county Health Department must issue a
mass-gathering permit and the Riverhead Town Board also is required to issue a special events
At a lengthy meeting before a standing-room-only crowd at the Riverhead Town Hall
tonight, people spoke out for and (mostly) against the concert, raising fears of drunken driving,
the possibility of lost town revenues and worries of terrorist attacks.
The Town Board postponed
taking action on two resolutions that would have eased the way for the concerts to take place as
scheduled. Board members said the resolutions could not be approved until the county Police
Department was on board with a plan to provide security for the concerts.
When the board
first proposed postponing action on the resolutions, there was an outburst from members in the
crowd who wanted the issue put to rest.
''Why don't you resign, all of you?'' one man shouted.
Robert F. Kozakiewicz, the town supervisor, indicated after the meeting that the resolutions
were postponed to protect the town from a lawsuit by the promoter.
Christopher Kent, a lawyer
for the company putting on the concerts, said today that all legal options were being considered
to hold the concerts in Riverhead, but efforts are under way to find an alternative site.
He said, with 30 bands booked, ''We're going to have a concert somewhere.''
p> Peter A. Scully, a deputy Suffolk County executive, said the county was concerned
about public safety problems that could result from thousands of people arriving for a concert
that most likely would not take place.
''It's time to get on to the unfortunate reality that
ticket holders will need to have their money refunded,'' he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Scully
said, the Suffolk County attorney's office was preparing legal papers, to be filed ''in the event
it appears that the promoter intends to move forward in the absence of the required permits.''
The main sticking point, officials said, is that there are not enough police officers to
handle security and traffic.
The Riverhead Town Police Department includes only 74 uniformed
members, which county officials say is not enough to handle the concerts. The county and state
police, as well as other Long Island police departments, have refused to provide officers.
Last week, the Suffolk County Health Department denied the application of Andrew Dreskin,
the executive producer of Field Day, for the mass gathering permit.
Mr. Dreskin said today
that he believed he could still get the permit from the Health Department until 3 p.m. Wednesday,
48 hours before the concert gates had been scheduled to open.
He also said he believed it was
improper for Suffolk County to refuse to provide police for the concert, then refuse to give a
permit because of the lack of police.
Earlier this year, the Riverhead Town Board passed a
measure approving the Field Day festival. The festival, it was agreed, would pay the town $150,000
to lease its land.
Last week, a State Supreme Court judge in Central Islip refused to issue an
injunction to block the concert.
As of today, the Field Day Web site was still optimistic,
promising a ''unique experience'' featuring music, art and morning yoga classes.
to a killer music lineup, we plan to spotlight emerging and contemporary artists, and there will
be tons of other interesting things going on throughout the site,'' the Web site said. It did,
however, offer the following disclaimer: ''All Info Subject to Change.''
Photos: Richard Amper addressed the Riverhead Town Board yesterday about concerts planned for this
weekend.; A man who calls himself Razor helped set up yesterday for concerts planned for this
weekend in Riverhead. (Photographs by Doug Kuntz for The New York Times)
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company