03/02/14 1:00pm
03/02/2014 1:00 PM
The corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street downtown. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street downtown. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Sixty-nine percent of people say they eat out when they are in downtown Riverhead and 42 percent say they walk along the river.

Those were among the results of a Downtown Riverhead Revitalization Survey to which 812 people responded last fall as part of a study of the downtown area. The survey was conducted in conjunction with a $610,000 Brownfi elds Area Opportunity (BOA) grant the town received from New York State to explore ways to improve traffi c and redevelop a section of Main Street stretching from West Main Street near Forge Road to East Main Street near Fairway Avenue.

The Riverhead Town Board discussed the study at its Thursday work session with representatives from consulting fi rm Nelson Pope and Voorhis and Sustainable Long Island, which are working together on the study.

“This input will help defi ne a vision statement for the study area and provide input for redevelopment scenarios,” said Amy Engel, executive director of Sustainable Long Island.

The study includes a recommendation to make Peconic Avenue a north-only road leading into downtown Riverhead.

In addition to eating and walking along the river, the survey, delivered mostly online, listed a number of other choices people could make in completing the sentence, “When in downtown Riverhead , I usually …” Those options included going shopping, selected by 39 percent, according to Ms. Engel, attending outdoor events (38 percent), going to a pub or tavern, visiting attractions and visiting family or friends (28 percent each) and attending live music or theater (22 percent).

When asked what they wished there were more of in downtown Riverhead, the respondents’ top answer was “unique shops,” at 65 percent, followed by cafes or coffee shops (54 percent), entertainment (50 percent), restaurants (43 percent), family-friendly activities (41 percent) and better sidewalks and paths (37 percent).

A footbridge over the Peconic River, something Southampton Town officials are working on for Riverside, was mentioned by 26 percent of the respondents.

Thirty-fi ve percent said they usually spend between $20 and $50 when they’re in the downtown area, while 30 percent spent between $50 and $100 and 16 percent spent more than $100.

And what do they spend that money on? Meals was the top answer, at 86 percent, followed by snacks or beverages at 48 percent, merchandise, at 46 percent, and admissions, at 26 percent.

So just who are these 812 survey respondents? Fifty-three percent were residents of Riverhead hamlet. Of the total, 22 percent said they are in Riverhead every day and 20 percent said they are in Riverhead about once a week, Ms. Engel said. Forty-eight percent of respondents are between 35 and 54 years old; 40 percent were older than 55.

The BOA grant survey also looked at census information from River-head and neighboring areas.

That data revealed a median household income of $50,824 for 2013 in the Riverhead Census Designation Place, which runs roughly from Osborn Avenue and Mill Road on the west to County Road 105 on the east.

People within what the survey called a “primary shopping area” — those within a 15-minute drive of downtown Riverhead — had a median household income of $73,440 for 2013. Those within a “secondary shopping area” — a 30-minute drive, but also including all of Southold and Shelter Island towns — had a 2013 median income of $79,587.

“I think Riverhead has a lower median income now for a different reason than it did in the past,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “Now, I think the median income is low because we have a large senior citizen population and they are on a fi xed income.”

The BOA study also identified some types of businesses that the Riverhead area needs, including specialty food stores, book and music stores, furniture stores, auto parts stores and fl orists.

“Riverhead is unique, so the traditional retail gap analysis of the 15- and 30-minute drive time may not tell the whole picture,” consultant Charles Voorhis said. “One of the reasons spending is high is because you have Route 58.”

Mr. Voorhis said Route 58 provides things customers “need” while downtown has the opportunity to provide things costumers “want.”

Offi cials said town plans to hold the fi rst of two open house forums on the BOA study later this month to get more feedback from the public. The consultants hope to have a second public forum in the fall to release their recommendations.

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/19/14 4:00pm
02/19/2014 4:00 PM
Pickersgill in Riverhead

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | BID management association president Ray Pickersgill in downtown Riverhead.

The Riverhead Town Board is planning to vote at its meeting tonight to petition the Business Improvement District Management Association to hire its current president, Robert James Salon co-owner Ray Pickersgill, as executive director, for a salary of no more than $6,000 for 2104.

Supervisor Sean Walter says he proposed the measure in light of how much time Mr. Pickersgill — currently serving as the BIDMA president — has put into revitalizing downtown during his four years as BID president, which is an unsalaried position.

Mr. Walter said the money would come from the BID’s $96,500 budget, which the Town Board is also voting to approve tonight. He believes there is enough money in that budget — up from last year’s $81,600 budget — to fund the position.

“Ray has done so much work for the BID at the expense of his own business, and there’s money in the BID that would allow this,” Mr. Walter said. ”I think it’s time for the Town Board to recognize his sacrifice with more than just a proclamation.”

The supervisor said Mr. Pickersgill’s efforts as BIDMA president have brought thousands of people to downtown Riverhead through events like the recent indoor Farmers Market, the weekly Cruise Night car shows in the summer, and the annual cardboard boat races.

The Town Board is officially the governing body of the BID, but the seven-member BID management association runs the day-to-day business of the BID.

Mr. Pickersgill, who would have to give up his BIDMA seat, was uncertain whether he wants to keep that seat or take the executive director post, which is not a voting position. The BIDMA would also have to vote to create the position.

“I have mixed emotions,” Mr. Pickersgill said in an interview. “If I’m not the president, will I still have the control I have now to get things done?”

He said he wanted to talk to the executive director of the BID in Patchogue to gauge his experiences.

The BID has had a paid executive director in the past, but currently has no paid staff. Mr. Pickersgill said the board saved about $30,000 a few years ago by eliminating its secretary and its office, but he said he took up some of those responsibilities himself.

The BID is a taxing district comprised of 322 properties in the downtown Riverhead area. Its functions include capital improvements, holding events and trying to bring people to the downtown area.

02/12/14 6:25am
02/12/2014 6:25 AM

Update, 1:15 p.m.: East Main Street and Pulaski Street are both re-opened.

Original story: Parts of downtown will be closed this morning as highway department crews clear excess snow on the roads in preparation for further snowfall tomorrow.

Highway Superintendent Gio Woodson said East Main Street will be closed from Roanoke Avenue to McDermott Avenue, and Pulaski Street will be closed from Osborn Avenue to Marcy Avenue.

Mr. Woodson said the closures will start about 7:30 a.m. and last until about noon.

The National Weather Service is predicting that anywhere from four to eight inches of snow will hit early Thursday morning, affecting tomorrow morning’s commute. A winter storm watch is in effect starting at midnight Wednesday through 6 a.m. Friday.

01/27/14 1:03pm
01/27/2014 1:03 PM
NETFLIX COURTESY PHOTO | Taylor Schilling, center, and castmates in a scene from season one of 'Orange is the New Black.'

NETFLIX COURTESY PHOTO | Taylor Schilling, center, and castmates in a scene from season one of ‘Orange is the New Black.’

Apparently, “Orange is the New Black” can’t get enough of the Riverhead area.

The Netflix series, which we previously reported had been seeking “scary-looking” extras for scenes at the Riverside jail, will likely be filming in downtown Riverhead later this week. (Read more on northforker.com)

01/18/14 6:00pm
01/18/2014 6:00 PM

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | An indoor farmers market will start Feb. 1 inside the former Swezey’s building in downtown Riverhead.

An indoor farmers market appears headed for downtown Riverhead next month.

Ray Pickersgill, president of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, said a number of farmers have already committed to the market, which is slated to be in the former Swezey’s building on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for 16 weeks.

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to formally give its approval Wednesday. The BID Management Association gave its approval last Wednesday.

Mr. Pickersgill suggested the farmers market is a better value that Trader Joe’s, the popular health food store that some residents have been trying to attract to Riverhead.

“We have such a diversity of farmers. If you go to Trader Joe’s, you’re not going to find some of the stuff we have,” Mr. Pickersgill said in an interview. “We have a meat guy, we have an oyster guy, we have yogurt people, we have a guy who makes empanadas. We have everything covered. We actually have more vendors than we have room for.”

He said he’s hoping that if the market takes off, it can be expanded to more days or possibly year-round, since some farmers don’t have farmstands.

The target date to open is Feb. 1.

The eastern half of the Swezey’s building is owned by Riverhead Enterprises, which owns several buildings downtown, and the BID will lease the building from them for $3,000 for the 16 days. (The western, and main, half of the former Swezey’s store is owned by someone else.)

Many of the markets committed to joining in Riverhead used to participate in a farmers market in Sag Harbor, which isn’t taking place this year.

“Generally, there is an indoor winter farmers market somewhere on the End End, that ends before Memorial Day, when all of the outdoor markets open,” said Chris Kempner, who heads the town’s Community Development office.

Ms. Kempner said she spoke with Holly Browder of Browder’s Birds, a poultry farmer from Mattituck who had participated in the Sag Harbor market, and the idea came up to have one in downtown Riverhead.

“There’s considerable interest from all the vendors that participate,” Ms. Kempner said at Thursday’s Town Board work session.

She said Mr. Pickersgill suggested it be in one of the downtown buildings, and he began speaking with Riverhead Enterpise about 117 East Main, she said.

“I think it fits in with the whole East End tourism goal of promoting tourism past November,” Ms. Browder told the Town Board Thursday. “A lot of us small farmers need to make money year-round.”

She said many small farmers on the East End are committed to working year-round.

Vendors will pay a fee of either $150 for the full 16 weeks, $100 for 10 weeks or $25 per week to participate.

The Riverhead Farmers Market, as it’s being called, already has a Facebook site up, and that site had more than 440 “likes” in two days.

“We had the first meeting about this last Wednesday (Jan. 8) and it kind of took off like a freight train,” Ms. Kempner told the Town Board Thursday.

tgannon@timesreview.com