06/12/14 7:00am
06/12/2014 7:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A bridge proposal would connect downtown Riverhead with county-owned parkland on the south side of the Peconic River.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A bridge proposal would connect downtown Riverhead with county-owned parkland on the south side of the Peconic River.

By definition, a bridge needs two sides to move someone from one place to the next.

And one proposed pedestrian bridge — spanning the Peconic River to link downtown Riverhead to Riverside — now has the official support of both of those sides, as a majority of Riverhead Town Board members OK’d a measure last week to apply for a state grant application to fund the project.

(more…)

06/06/14 2:00pm
06/06/2014 2:00 PM
SecondSt_Firestation_BE_R

The Second Street firehouse was obtained by Riverhead in 2011 in a land swap with the Riverhead Fire District. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

Forget about moving Town Hall to the Second Street firehouse.

The new plan is to sell that building to Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi. Which, ironically, was the old plan too.

After Town Board members hastily passed a resolution at Thursday’s work session to sell the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi without his knowledge — and at a higher price than what he had previously offered — Mr. Castaldi said Friday that he’s still interested, but he has to determine if it will make sense economically for him to do so.

The resolution passed Thursday would sell the building to Mr. Castaldi for $500,000, whereas his prior proposal — a proposal made in February that the town board seemed to embrace before three council members changed their minds — was to buy it for $375,000.

The Town Board also is planning to apply for grants to turn the firehouse into a Suffolk County Regional Agritourism Visitors Center, although the resolution to sell the building to Mr. Castaldi includes no restrictions on what he could use the building for.

“I’m looking into it to see if it’s a workable situation,” Mr. Castaldi of the agritourism proposal in an interview Friday. He was not present at Thursday’s work session where the issue was discussed, and said he didn’t even know it was being brought up until afterwards, when he got a flood of phone calls.

Town Board members had informally agreed to sell the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi in February for $375,000, which was the highest offer the town got through a request for proposals for the site.

At the time, Mr. Castaldi had proposed to lease the building to “Dino A-Live,” an interactive dinosaur theater company from Japan.

But when an engineering study on the cost of renovating the town-owned Route 58 armory building into a justice court and police headquarters found it would cost $13 million to make that conversion, three Town Board members backed off that plan and some suggested that an alternate plan might be to move Town Hall to the firehouse. In turn, the idea was to use the current Town Hall building as a justice court, with the police taking over the entirety of the building they now share with the court.

That also meant support waned for selling the firehouse to Mr. Castaldi.

During a presentation on the armory project last month, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio asked that a similar study be done on the cost of moving Town Hall to the firehouse and justice court to Town Hall, rather than the armory proposal. She said on Thursday the cost for such a study would be $175,000, ”which we don’t have.”

That being the case, she said at Thursday’s meeting that she would now support selling the building to Mr. Castaldi, although she still thinks the $13 million armory project is too expensive. To fix space woes at the justice court, she suggested putting a modular building behind the current court for use as court space, with a sally port for transporting prisoners.

05/18/14 8:00am
05/18/2014 8:00 AM
Downtown Riverhead looking west. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Downtown Riverhead looking west. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Trader Joe’s? Multiplex movie theater? They’ve been bandied about before for downtown Riverhead. And it looks like planners are still trying to get them to come.

Planning firm Nelson, Pope and Voorhis — conducting a Brownfields Opportunity Area study for the town — presented an update on its plans so far last week in town hall, informing the Town Board of a “Dare to Dream” concept it’s giving a shot in the hopes that one of the popular ideas might finally stick.

The proposals — the type of projects residents have repeatedly called for — were done without talking to the property owners whose properties are included in the “dream” proposals and were strictly meant as a means of bringing up the idea, said Catherine Eiseman of NPV.

“It’s kind of a dream scenario,” she said. “It might stimulate some ideas.”

Some of these ideas would require an assemblage of smaller properties into one larger parcel, she said.

One idea was to create a “river-oriented recreational development” on land on the south side of West Main Street, across from Snowflake and east of Bouy One. Ms. Eiseman says Bouy Oone “would be the anchor” and the idea would be for a bed and breakfast-type business.

There’s an auto repair shop and two houses in that area now.

A walking trail along the river, connecting to an existing boat launch in the area, also is envisioned.

Another idea she floated called for assembling properties across from Spicy’s on West Main Street in hopes of bringing a grocery store. Maryhaven Center of Hope and an auto glass business are among the businesses on this spot now.

The study envisions about a 14,000 square foot building with a “Trader Joe’s-type” store and a line of smaller retail stores fronting West Main Street. In addition, NPV also envisions a two-level parking garage behind the stores.

Supervisor Sean Walter has said that Trader Joe’s has rejected his attempts to get them to come to Riverhead in the past.

Also discussed was the idea of attracting a multiplex movie theater, something town officials have been trying to do for years without success.

“It’s come up over and over again in our public outreach,” Ms. Eiseman said.

She suggested that a multiplex might be built outside of the downtown area as part of a visitor’s center that would act as a “new entrance to downtown.”

In addition, she said, NPV is exploring the idea of finding publicly-owned properties that could support a combined multiplex and indoor parking structure. No specific location for a multiplex was suggested.

The town’z zoning currently doesn’t allow movie theaters anywhere but downtown. Mr. Walter, who tried unsuccessfully to bring Regal Cinemas to the former Woolworth building a couple of years ago, said recently that Regal also rejected his idea of building a multiplex at the site of old Walmart building on Route 58, which would have needed a zone change anyway.

Mr. Walter has said he’s called every movie theater company he can find in hopes of bringing one to Riverhead.

One area where a multiplex was proposed, but not built, was on Railroad Avenue, which coincidentally was another area the BOA study singled out in its “Dare to Dream” section.

Ms. Eiseman said the area across the railroad station could be redeveloped as mixed-use building with apartments on the upper floor and a parking garage.

A group led by John Burke of Riverhead has proposed almost that exact project, with apartments, a parking garage and a multiplex. However, they will need to purchase all of the Railroad Street properties across from the railroad tracks, as well as a town’s parking lot, to do so.

There will a public “open house” presentation on the progress of the BOA study on Tuesday, May 20, from 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the Suffolk Community College Culinary Arts school on East Main Street.

A similar presentation was held in March.

05/18/14 6:00am
And they're off! Runners and walkers begin the fourth annual Riverfront 24, which raises money to help local veterans organizations. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

And they’re off! Runners and walkers begin the fourth annual Riverfront 24, which raises money to help local veterans organizations. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Runners and walkers are circling a half-mile loop of the riverfront parking lot around the clock. And it’s not because they’re lost.

Their efforts are part of an event to help veterans in need this weekend. (more…)

05/17/14 5:39pm
05/17/2014 5:39 PM
Saturday was the last week the farmers market will be held indoors. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Saturday was the last week the farmers market will be held indoors. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The Riverhead Farmers Market has by most accounts been a huge success operating out of a vacant former downtown storefront in the winter months.

And now, farmers and sponsors of the market are hoping that the following it generated will follow the market outdoors starting next Saturday.

Today was the last day the weekly market will run out of the former Swezeys’s Furniture store site, where it’s been held every Saturday since Feb. 1.

Beginning next Saturday, May 24, and running through Nov. 1, the farmers market will be held outside, with the vendors located on the grass along the Peconic River in the downtown parking lot, according to Ray Pickersgill, the executive director of the Riverhead Business Improvement District, which runs the market.

“I’m predicting we’re going to have a large turnout” for the outdoor market, Mr. Pickersgill said. “I am advertising it as to biggest farmers market on the east end and I will make it the biggest farmers market. I’m trying to get at least 40 booths if I can.”

Linda Carey of Linda’s Baking Company has been a vendor at the market since mid-March and she’s already got an outside booth, selling her baked goods on the outdoor loading dock of the building.

“We love it here,” she said. “We’ve got a water view.”

She hasn’t committed to the outdoor market yet but said she’s leaning toward it.

04/24/14 3:50pm
04/24/2014 3:50 PM
Ultimate Fitness is expected to be open within weeks. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Ultimate Fitness is expected to be open within weeks. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A 25,000-square foot fitness center in downtown Riverhead’s newly-renovated Woolworth building is targeting an opening early next month, as interior construction work on the apartments above the gym is set to begin.

Maximus Health & Fitness, which relocated from its location on Route 58, should be open in the first or second week of May, constructions workers said as they set up exercise equipment inside the space.  (more…)

04/04/14 4:02pm
04/04/2014 4:02 PM
State workers trimmed trees on Friday to prep for Monday's work on E. Main Street. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

State workers trimmed trees on Friday to prep for Monday’s work on E. Main Street. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Construction is expected to start Monday on Main Street as the State Department of Transportation begins installing four miles of new sidewalks along Route 25, through downtown Riverhead.

While state workers were cutting trees this week downtown, work is expected to start in earnest on Monday. Hours will generally be Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., however officials said construction could also take place during off-peak hours to minimize effect on businesses.

(more…)