Riverhead’s Community Life Center wins broad support

An artist's rendering of the proposed Family Community Life Center
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Family Community Life Center

Riverhead’s First Baptist Church has raised $1.1 million toward the construction of a complex that will include a public 24-hour adult and child day care center, 132 affordable housing units, a performing arts center and an Olympic-size swimming pool and indoor walking track on 12 acres owned by the church on Northville Turnpike, their fundraisers announced this morning.

At a community breakfast at Suffolk County Community College’s culinary school on Main Street in Riverhead, where many attendees described the project as “visionary,” politicians ranging from Congressman Tim Bishop to County Executive Steve Bellone to town leaders all leant pledges to support the project, which has been a vision of Reverend Charles Coverdale and his wife, Shirley Coverdale, for 25 years.

The project needs to overcome several land use hurdles in order to become a reality, including a zoning change from one-acre zoning to a “community benefit zoning district.” The Riverhead Town Board will hold a public hearing on that zoning change at its Nov. 6 meeting, after the Nov. 5 election. It will also need to be hooked into Riverhead’s sewer district through a new main line.

Sandra Dunn of the Horace and Amy Hagedorn Fund announced at Monday’s breakfast that her foundation is giving a $25,000 grant to the project. Ms. Dunn, who lives in Hampton Bays, said she believes the plan will help to combat segregation and poverty on the East End.

“We truly believe that it’s a social justice project,” she said.

The center would be open to the public at large, and would include housing units ranging from 800 to 1200 square feet.

Congressman Tim Bishop said he was sorry he didn’t bring a check to the meeting, but said “this is just a wonderful project. It’s very badly needed. I don’t have $25,000 but I will do what I can to bring the federal government to the table on this project.”

Mr. Bellone also said he was sorry he didn’t bring a check, but the county will be there if future funding is needed.

“I think it’s absolutely extraordinary that we’re here today, given the scope and breadth of this project,” he said.

County Legislator Al Krupski said he’s seen a lot of community development projects in the past, and this is one of the most well-thought-out ones he’s come across.

“I question your judgement that you let the elected officials speak and not the clergy,” he joked with Ms. Coverdale.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter brought a passage from Ecclesiastes with him to make up for the fact that he isn’t a clergyman.

“Folks this is an appropriate time for this,” he said, adding that the county’s recent $8 million grant to Riverhead’s sewer district will help make the project possible.

“Congressman Bishop, we need a gravity main to come down to the project. You can help us with that,” he said, then added to Mr. Bellone, “we also need county development rights credits.”

“I’m outa here,” said Mr. Bellone.

“Were that every community had a project like this, our country would look like an entirely different country,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who added that she’s tired of raising money for her re-election campaign and hopes to help raise money for the center after Nov. 5.

Riverhead Town Councilman John Dunleavy urged attendees to come to the town’s public hearing on the zone change.

“Riverhead does need a community life center,” he said. “Let’s get it done.”

Ms. Coverdale was heartened by the reception.

“We simply had to ask and things are falling into place,” she said.

More information on the center is available here.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, 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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