NY Times June 4, 2003, Wednesday METROPOLITAN DESK

County Predicts Long Island Concerts Won't Happen

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 Beastie Boys.

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 statement.

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 permits.

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 permit.

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.

''In addition 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.''

CAPTIONS: 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

Europa Studio Project
Overseas Records
631-725-9308 ext. 12
Sponsored By Villasoftheworld.com