The Riverhead Business Improvement District oversaw a pilot project last Thursday that could lead to the replacement of several large trees downtown.
The BID paid $3,000 remove an old oak tree from in front of the Embroid Me store on East Main Street and replace it with a flowering pear. The oak’s roots had started to crack and raise the sidewalk, which will also be replaced. The pear trees do not bear fruit, however, so they will be no free pears downtown.
If the pilot project’s outcome meets with the approval of BID board members, more oaks, which have damaged sidewalks elsewhere downtown, could be replaced, said BID president Ray Pickersgill. The BID is also working with the town highway department to replace and repair patches of sidewalk that have become dangerous, Mr. Pickerskill said.
BID board member Anthony Coates said the group is now developing a strategy to replace more trees and more sections of sidewalk. He anticipates that about a dozen trees will ultimately be replaced.
The town received a $1.2 million federal grant in 2004 to replace downtown sidewalks. But because Route 25 is a state road, Riverhead opted at the time to let the state do the work, which relieved the town of the obligation to pay the $250,000 matching portion of the grant. State officials subsequently said they don’t anticipate doing that sidewalk work until about 2014. Supervisor Sean Walter said earlier this year the town is now hoping to get that grant money back and do the work itself.
The BID is a taxing district that collects from downtown businesses for promotions and capital improvement projects.