06/10/15 11:49am
06/10/2015 11:49 AM
The Riverhead train station remains unoccupied. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The Riverhead train station remains unoccupied. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

A little less than a year ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it had finally found a tenant for the long-vacant Riverhead train station, which was built 105 years ago and closed as a station in 1972 due to low ridership.

Islandwide Transportation, a Mastic cab company, had signed a 10-year lease last August to use the train station as a waiting room and depot.

Fast-forward to this year: The station is still empty and officials are talking about allowing the Guardian Angels, who began patrolling the Railroad Avenue area last week, to use the building.

The Angels, however, would have to wait until the situation with Islandwide is resolved, as the MTA is planning legal action against the cab company for back rent, MTA officials said.

“EMD Transportation, doing business as Islandwide, is delinquent on its rent and has been for some time,” MTA spokesman Sal Arena said by email.

“To the best of our knowledge, the cab company has never actually used the Riverhead Station space,” Mr. Arena said. “Efforts to locate the company and its principals have been unsuccessful. We are now ready to take legal action to regain control of the space. Any decision about future use of the station building will have to await the outcome of that litigation.

“Meanwhile,” he added, “we will be reaching out to update town officials and to discuss how the space might be used down the road.”

Officials did not say how much Islandwide owes in rent, but the agreement they signed specified rent in the amount of $19,000 for the first year of the lease. That rate was scheduled to rise gradually, reaching $24,790 by the 10th year.

Islandwide was also supposed to make improvements to the station at its own expense, and to keep the waiting room and bathrooms open for Long Island Rail Road customers during peak railroad hours. Mr. Arena said that while no work has been done on the station by Islandwide, that would not have precluded them from occupying the building.

Representatives of Islandwide did not respond to the News-Review’s request for comment.

Finding a tenant for the Riverhead train station has been a losing battle over the years.

Riverhead Town actually leased the building from the MTA for a dollar in 2002 after the MTA did about $1 million in renovations there.

Under that agreement, the town was supposed to keep it occupied by a nonprofit organization for the next decade, but was unable to find any takers, even when the building was offered rent-free.

The Riverhead Business Improvement District moved its office there in the late 1990s but departed after about a week because its lone employee didn’t feel safe there.

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa said during a recent tour of the area that he’d like to use the train station as a headquarters and training center, although town officials said at the time they were unsure of the status of the lease to Islandwide.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/31/12 2:04pm
08/31/2012 2:04 PM

 

Hometown Taxi owner Bryan DaPalma of Southampton and Supervisor Sean Walter talked about relocating part of his taxi business to the Riverhead train station.

Media members outnumbered prospective tenants at Friday’s tour of the 102-year-old Riverhead train station, which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is trying to lease out.

The MTA has issued a request for proposals from companies who might want to lease space at the station, which hasn’t been used as a railroad station since 1972. The station has been vacant for most of the time since then.

The deadline for submitting proposals is Sept. 28.

The MTA gave a tour of the building at noon, and only two prospective renters showed, though representatives from three media outlets did, along with some Riverhead Town officials, including town historian Georgette Case.

One company that is definitely interested is Southampton-based Hometown Taxi, which runs cars throughout the East End.

Owner Bryan Deparma said he’d like to use the building to dispatch cabs. The company currently runs cars in Riverhead but has to monitor them from an office in either Southold or Southampton, he said. It also has contracts for medical transport to local hospitals, and a contract Maureen’s Haven to transport homeless to local shelters in the winter, he said.

“This is perfect for what we want to do,” he said of the train station, though he said the building might be a bit big for his needs.

“I don’t need a big space,” he said. “If I just could use the ticket counter” and someone else could occupy the rest of the station, “that would work”, he said.

The only other prospective tenant to take the tour was Ike Israel of Riverhead-based Richmond Realty Corp., who said the company just wanted to see what was available.

Anthony Coates of Riverhead, an adviser to the town supervisor, did not take Friday’s tour, but told the News-Review in an interview that he and his 20-year-old daughter, Courtney, who is a business student at Stony Brook University, plan to submit a proposal to rent the train station as a restaurant/cafe type establishment.

Mr. Coates, who has been involved in the restaurant business in the past, said that with the recent closure of Riverhead establishments like East Enders and Off Main,  “there’s no place to capture a quick doughnut or muffin in town.”

John Coyne of the MTA’s real estate department, who gave the tour, said the public authority has contacted some businesses, such as Dunkin’ Donuts, about the possibility of leasing space in the Riverhead station, as well as in other MTA train stations.

The MTA doesn’t usually receive proposals to rent its stations until its close to the deadline for submissions, he said, adding that depending on what the response is, the MTA may push the deadline back.

A decision on whether to rent the entire site to one company or subdivide it among more than one company also will depend on the response, he said.

Mr. Coyne said he’s grateful Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter was able to get publicity for the tour and the lease opportunity by reaching out to the local media.

The MTA undertook about $1 million in renovations to the Railroad Avenue station 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 has had little success in finding a tenant since then, even when it offered the building rent-free.

Mr. Walter said the conditions the MTA had put on the lease in the past made it difficult to find a tenant.

The MTA taking the lead in looking for tenants is a new strategy, he said.

“I was getting ready to write a letter to the MTA telling them we were condemning the building because of the condition it was in,” Mr. Walter said in an interview. But before he got the chance to send the letter, Police Chief David Hegermiller suggested he talk to Long Island Rail Road president Helena Williams, whom the chief knows.

Mr. Walter said he called Ms. Williams earlier this year and she told him she would issue the RFP for the train station. Of the town’s inability to get anywhere with the MTA in the past, she told him he wasn’t talking to the right people, the supervisor said.

tgannon@timesreview.com