I read with sadness last week Vince Tria's negative letter to the editor about the revitalization of downtown. I like Vince. He has, however, lost a lot off his fastball, and his negativity and that of his radio station, WRIV, is really out of step in a Riverhead on the move.
Best as I can tell, Vince's thesis is that the enormously successful summer of activity that Riverhead has witnessed will not solely change downtown. A cardboard boat race that brought thousands downtown. A Fourth of July weekend that brought many thousands to the Peconic to renew American freedom and concerts all summer won't ultimately and solely change downtown. We know that, Vince. But it's a hell of a start.
The way you change downtowns on Long Island is, first you get people to go downtown. You get them off Route 58. You show them that downtown is a nice, safe and family-friendly place to be. You then get shopkeepers to want to be downtown because they understand the beginning of critical mass and soon being downtown is commonplace and businesses thrive and invest.
Vince, your old boss former Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale displayed grand plans for downtown and you know what? They were all nonsense. Nothing ever happened and all that rhetoric turned out to be poppycock. Not an inch of downtown was renewed. Not a storefront restored. If I remember correctly, Vince, you served as the "downtown czar" and as the president of the BID [Business Improvement District] and, while you are a friend, the record is clear, downtown became a ghost town while you held those positions. While you and your sponsor, Mr. Cardinale, reigned, we lost Ben Franklin, West Marine, Eastenders, Crave Computer, Bagel Lovers and Sears; the bird store flew the coop and dinosaurs once again became extinct, as that museum left town.
Contrast that with today, just a few months after your tenure, One Peconic is open for business and Dark Horse Restaurant is a gorgeous addition to Main Street. The Summerwind project breaks ground soon. There is the clanging of pilings being driven to build the new Hyatt hotel downtown. The Red Collection furniture store is now open. Sandi and the Blue Door moves across town and a new restaurant moves into her spot. Haiku has opened and there are nails being driven at The Suffolk Theatre. Things don't happen overnight but in nine months I'd say that's a heck of a start.
Vince, I used to know you as a person dedicated to making things better, but, the fact that you let your WRIV make fun of Riverhead daily and that you seem to want to rule or ruin projects downtown really doesn't move Riverhead forward -- you are personalizing and politicizing downtown's restoration. This about making things happen. Nothing is built in a day. Come back to the fight. Take your radio station and make it a force for good, lend your good labor to the cause and join the fight to revitalize downtown.
There is an old saying that "if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem." Well, Vince, you and WRIV need to stand up and be counted. It isn't about the last election or the next one, it's about public good. And you aren't helping.
Mr. Coates is a downtown Riverhead resident and adviser to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.