Featured Letter: Another irresponsible giveaway

02/22/2014 7:00 AM |
Barbaraellen Koch file photo | Employees of the Dinosaur Walk set up shop in Riverhead in 2004.

Employees of the Dinosaur Walk set up shop in Riverhead in 2004. (Barbaraellen Koch file photo)

To the editor:

Riverhead’s town boards have been notorious for irresponsible giveaways of town assets at the taxpayers’ expense, including the fire sale of the industrial core at EPCAL to a developer who flipped the property at substantial profit soon after he closed the deal with the town. Unfortunately, the proposed sale of the East Lawn building and the old firehouse seem to follow in the tradition of dumb decisions by the town. 

Particularly suspect is the town’s reliance on outdated appraisals and their willingness to overlook the fact that the proposed buyer is the same developer whose inordinate delays once led the town to commence litigation to take back the Suffolk Theatre and who then got the town to subsidize his private project with IDA tax breaks. While the Suffolk Theater renovation is impressive, it’s hard to discern any public benefit to the community — cultural or otherwise — generated by the earlier project, which is now up to its third director in less than a year and whose most successful attraction seems to be “Psychic Night.”

Even stranger are the plans for a dancing dinosaur program at the firehouse. The program is allegedly popular in Japan, but one wonders whether such a silly and bizarre use would even be considered but for the fact that the proposed tenant is the husband of the director of the town’s Community Development Agency, a potential conflict of interest.

Attempts to justify the giveaway price with the fact that the properties have been neglected by the town do not inspire confidence for me in the supervisor or Town Board.

Given the town’s precarious fiscal condition, the board needs to maximize revenue from these prime downtown assets — not conduct what I believe would be another fire sale at the expense of taxpayers to benefit the friends and family of town officials.

Ron Hariri, Riverhead