Riverhead Town has been hoping for years to win a competitive Downtown Revitalization Grant from New York State, and it turns out that 2022 will be this town’s year.

Downtowns in Riverhead and Amityville will each receive $10 million through the Downtown Revitalization Grant, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced on Thursday, Jan. 13, after several weeks in which Riverhead officials waited for the announcement of the Long Island region’s grant awardees. This is the fifth year this grant program has been in effect.

“Ensuring local communities have the resources they need to thrive is critical to New York’s economic resurgence,” said Ms. Hochul when announcing the awards Thursday. “Amityville and Riverhead both play important roles in the overall economic health of Long Island and I have no doubt that with this this funding, they won’t only recover from the impacts of Covid-19, but will flourish in the long term.”

Potential projects identified in Riverhead’s grant application include the Riverhead Town Square, the Railroad Avenue Transit Oriented Development Project, implementing downtown flood mitigation strategies and improvements to the Suffolk Theater and the Vail Leavitt Music Hall.

“A local planning committee will be formed to provide advisory guidance on how to move potential projects forward in the most efficient and effective manner possible,” said Community Development Director Dawn Thomas. “The DRI award will allow Downtown Riverhead to finally realize its full economic development potential.”

According to the state, “Riverhead’s downtown is a compact, diverse, mixed-use neighborhood that the town aims to make vibrant and serve as a recreational, shopping, and tourist destination with the revitalized Peconic River waterfront as its focal point. Despite historical challenges for the downtown, Riverhead has stayed committed to its revitalization. With the momentum of completed and ongoing projects, including a new aquarium, the reopening of the Suffolk Theater, and multiple housing projects, Riverhead aims to increase public gathering space capitalizing on the Peconic River waterfront, create new pedestrian/bike access, and improve pedestrian/bike safety to create a critical mass of economic activity in the downtown for residents and tourists alike.”

Amityville and Riverhead will now begin the process of developing Strategic Investment Plans to revitalize their downtowns with up to $300,000 in planning funds from the $10 million grant.

Local Planning Committees made up of municipal representatives, community leaders, and other stakeholders will lead the efforts, supported by a team of private sector experts and state planners. The Strategic Investment Plans will examine local assets and opportunities and identify economic development, transportation, housing, and community projects that align with each community’s vision for downtown revitalization and that are poised for implementation.

The Strategic Investment Plans will guide the investment of the grant funds in revitalization projects that will advance the community’s vision for its downtown, leveraging and expanding upon the state’s $10 million investment.

“I am beyond excited that Downtown Riverhead was selected as the fortunate recipient of such a large infusion of state grant funds,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar. “I am grateful that the application prepared by the Community Development team was so well received by NYS Empire State Development and ultimately selected by Governor Kathy Hochul as one of this year’s winners.”

“Congratulations to both Riverhead Supervisor Aguiar and Amityville Mayor Siry, and to all who worked so hard behind the scenes to secure this competitive award,” said Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski, whose district includes Riverhead. “This significant funding will make a huge impact on both municipality’s ongoing downtown revitalization efforts, and I am excited to see the results. Riverhead has a wonderful and productive resource in the Peconic River, and I am gratified the Town has incorporated showcasing the waterfront into their plans. This will not only connect people to our natural environment, but will continue to draw people to the downtown and boost the area’s economy. Many thanks to Governor Hochul, Lt. Governor Benjamin, Secretary of State Rodriguez, and the LI Regional Development Council.”

“After serving on the Riverhead Town Board for 10 years under three administrations and being part of many downtown revitalization efforts, this is the necessary shot in the arm that Riverhead needs to reach the pinnacle in terms of successful downtown revitalization,” said State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, whose district includes Riverhead. “I applaud Supervisor Aguiar and the Town Board’s diligent efforts, working closely with the CDA, to take bold action to acquire the parcels necessary for the Town Square and already beginning the demolition process to knock down blighted buildings to make a clear view to the river. That was the start of great things to come for downtown.”

“Riverhead’s application was truly outstanding and fully deserved to be selected,” said State Senator Anthony Palumbo. “I am confident that Downtown Riverhead is fully ready for transformative economic redevelopment. I am committed to helping Riverhead accomplish our mutual downtown revitalization goals any way I can.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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