Editorial: Welcome to Riverhead — home of commercial development and MVAs

09/24/2016 12:00 PM |

A Jeep that was towing a jet ski on Route 58. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Scanning the headlines of this week’s News-Review you’ll likely notice that two types of stories appear throughout.

One type reports on the many crashes on our roadways, from the elderly man who plowed into Pizza Hut — a now annual occurrence — to the car thief who led police on a chase that resulted in collisions with several other vehicles. At least two pedestrians were also struck by vehicles this week.

Another theme reflected throughout the paper is ongoing development in Riverhead. These pages are filled with pieces about new proposals: a hotel and restaurant across from the aquarium, additional storefronts near Costco and more.

Reading about these projects, one has to wonder if the continued buildout of our town has made our roads less safe and resulted in weeks like this one, during which major crashes occurred almost daily.

Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting included discussion about a possible traffic light at East Main Street and Ostrander Avenue, where aquarium visitors already cross frequently and the aforementioned hotel is now in the works. Another option under consideration for that intersection is making a portion of Ostrander one-way heading north to mitigate downtown congestion.

That could improve that particular corner, where one developer has already built a hotel and exhibition center next to a major tourist destination and now wants to build a second hotel, but it’s hard to imagine that directing traffic away from downtown is good for the surrounding businesses. It could also be argued that not building anything else at that intersection would be the safest option of all.

The proposed construction near Costco is said to be bringing Home Goods and a pet supply store to Route 58. That news might be exciting if the same corridor didn’t already have a Home Goods and a pet supply store.

As with the new Walmart, that particular project will also likely lead to more empty storefronts elsewhere on Route 58.

It appears that, in Riverhead Town, there’s no plan to slow the continuous buildout of the past few decades, even if most of what’s being developed is only bringing more of the same types of stores.

What’s particularly troubling is that the new construction seems to be automatic and that conversations about how to deal with traffic safety and congestion are secondary.

The people of Riverhead deserve better than that. Their well-being should be a top priority for officials at Town Hall and for the developers whose projects they can’t seem to get enough of.

File photo: A Jeep that was towing a jet ski on Route 58. (Credit: Tim Gannon)