12/12/14 3:15pm
12/12/2014 3:15 PM

New York State has awarded Riverhead Town $700,000 for an agricultural tourism center and permanent farmers market location at the vacant Second Street firehouse, it was announced Thursday.

The money is coming in the form of two New York Regional Economic Development Council awards meant to help fund the renovation of the historic structure, and establish the “Town of Riverhead County Agritourism Visitors Center,” which would also serve as the location of the ever-popular farmers market.

But the decision of whether to follow through with that vision may not be up to the town. The firehouse is currently being sold to Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi for $500,000 and the closing is expected in January, said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter.

Mr. Walter said the town applied for the grant in August, an effort that was spurred by August Ruckdeschel, an economic development specialist with Suffolk County, and Riverhead community development director Chris Kempner.

“The firehouse was a wonderful location for it,” Mr. Walter said after receiving notice of the award. “We have been moving the farmers market from place to place, and wanted to have a permanent home for it, as the other buildings are still for sale.”

“It is great for us and it is great for Mr. Castaldi,” he said. “This will give him a leg up and hopefully be the impetus for a shining star for Second Street, the way the theater is for East Main Street.”

Mr. Castaldi told the News-Review that he believes it would be a great place for an information center, noting “everything that’s going on with the firehouse is up in the air until we actually go to closing.”

“I am very interested in the idea of the center,” he said. “It is a great possibility. It has got to be looked into a little more and it all has to be planned out.”

In July, Mr. Costaldi said that while the market has had success on Saturdays, it is unclear whether that success would continue if expanded to several days a week. In September, he said a brewery is one possible idea for the firehouse.

Since November, the farmers market has been open Saturday and Sunday.

Calling Riverhead the gateway to Long Island’s twin forks, Mr. Castaldi said he envisions the center as a starting point for tourists, where people could stop for maps and information before moving on to the wineries and growing lot of breweries.

“They can take off from here and maybe come back and have dinner or stay at one of the hotels,” he said. “It would really put the spotlight on Riverhead.”

Mr. Castaldi said a dollar amount has not yet been placed on the renovation, as a plan has yet to be finalized.

Mr. Walter said the idea is “great for Riverhead and it will help to clean up an area of Second Street that we hadn’t really focused on.

“We have tremendous police presence down there, and having a number of people on Second Street is only going to help,” he said, adding that the market presently brings about 1,000 people to its current location downtown every weekend.

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08/05/14 12:34pm
08/05/2014 12:34 PM
The Second Street firehouse was obtained by Riverhead in 2011 in a land swap with the Riverhead Fire District. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch file)

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

There will be no townwide referendum on the town board’s decision to sell the Second Street firehouse to Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi for $500,000.

The 30-day permissive referendum period, during which residents could have submitted a petition challenging the sale and forced a public vote on the issue, ended last Wednesday. (more…)

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

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.

08/29/13 9:45am
08/29/2013 9:45 AM


The Riverhead Town Board is expected to vote on a resolution to deny a controversial excavating permit application for Driftwood Family Farms,  whose owners have been seeking permission to excavate 415,160 cubic yards of material from a 41-acre Route 25 farm in Calverton.

The board discussed the resolution briefly at its work session Thursday and is expected to vote on the issue at Wednesday’s regular meeting scheduled for 2 p.m.

Property owner Steve Mezynieski argued before the Town Board earlier this year that he was excavating the land to eliminate hills and slopes on the property, which is just west of the FedEx building, to make it better for farming.

Town officials, meanwhile, expressed concern that the proposed excavation was a sand mine in disguise.

Then on Aug. 19, Robert Somers of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets wrote in a letter to Mr. Mezynieski — and copied to Riverhead Town and the town attorney’s office — that the state only allows farms to excavate when it is in aid of agricultural activities, and that this case doesn’t meet that criteria because only a portion of the property appears to be in agricultural production, based on aerial photos.

Mr. Mezynieski is the manager of the department’s Agricultural Protection Unit.

Also at Thursday’s work session, the board discussed hiring EGA Architects and Cashing Associates Engineering for $87,500 to come up with a plan to turn the Route 58 armory into a town police and court headquarters.

In addition, the board discussed new regulations regarding clearing for commercial projects near residences.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon reported live from Thursday’s work session.

To find out what else happened, click below.

August 29, 2013 – Agenda by Riverhead News-Review

08/15/13 9:50am
08/15/2013 9:50 AM


Click on the blog box below for a recap.

The Riverhead Town Board will discuss what to do with the Second Street Firehouse, which it now owns, at its work session Thursday morning.

The board will also discuss its taxi cab ordinance and the issuance of a request for proposals to use both the Second Street Firehouse and the East Lawn Building on East Main Street.

The meeting starts at 10 a.m., following a 9:30 a.m. executive session regarding litigation over the highway department’s new salt barn.

News-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be live blogging from the meeting.

Click below to follow or comment and see the agenda below that.

August 15, 2013 – Agenda by Riverhead News-Review