The Long Island Rail Road’s long vacant, 104-year-old Riverhead train station finally has a tenant.
Beginning next month, Islandwide Transportation, a taxi company based in Mastic, will begin operating out of the station as part of a 10-year lease with the Long Island Rail Road.
The move comes as Riverhead Town officials had complained about the lack of maintenance at the station and surrounding grounds.
Supervisor Sean Walter had suggested the town order the LIRR to clean up the station, or else the town would do so with the cost being assessed to the LIRR, as is often done with privately-owned properties that need cleanup.
However, as the Town Board was discussing this at last Thursday’s work session, a group of inmates from the Suffolk County jail’s Labor Assistance Program were cleaning it, according to Kristin MacKay, a spokesperson for Sheriff Vincent DeMarco.
LIRR spokesman Sal Arena said their own crews also cleaned up the station grounds last Thursday and Friday. He said they were not aware of the Sheriff’s cleanup of the site.
As for Islandwide’s agreement, the waiting room and restrooms inside the 1,500 square foot station will be open to LIRR customers during peak weekday travel hours, from 5:30 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. and from 7 to 8 p.m., according to Mr. Arena.
The Riverhead train station was first opened in 1845 and the current building dates back to 1910.
The LIRR’s parent, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, had issued a request for proposals for the station in 2012 and received three responses, with Islandwide determined to be the best, according to Mr. Arena.
A second cab company and a proposal to locate a café there were the other proposals, which were not identified by name.
The LIRR has a ticket vending machine at the station but closed its ticket office in the early 1972 due to low ridership.
“We hope Islandwide Transportation’s presence at the station will provide an extra convenience for our customers and improve conditions there,” said LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski in a press release. “It’s also a plus that the waiting room and restroom will be reopened, at least during part of the peak travel periods. Riverhead is a resurgent, vibrant community that has worked hard to improve its business district. The LIRR wants to be part of that effort.”
Islandwide will pay the LIRR an escalating annual rent that starts at $19,000 in the first year of the lease and rises annually to reach $24,790 in the tenth year. It will also make any needed repairs at its own expense and be solely responsible for all maintenance associated with the station building and surrounding exterior area, according to the LIRR.
The MTA did about $1 million in renovations to the Railroad Avenue station in the late 1990s and then leased it to the town at no charge in 2002, with a condition that it be occupied by a nonprofit organization. But the town was never able to find a tenant for the station, even when it has offered the building rent free.