Citing costs, town looks to end lease for MTA’s Riverhead station

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The vacant railroad station was once considered for Long Island Wine Council offices, but the state rejected a proposal because wine would be served.

After almost 10 years, Riverhead Town officials are considering not renewing the town’s lease agreement for the long-vacant Riverhead Railroad Station building.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which owns the Long Island Railroad, put about $1 million in renovations into 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 non-profit organization.

The 101-year-old train station hasn’t been used as such since 1972, and despite the condition it be occupied, it hasn’t been used for much of anything since then.

The move would have no effect on the LIRR schedule. Passenger trains would continue to stop in Riverhead.

The lease expires on Sept. 30.

“I would only take if it can go to a for-profit business,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said at Thursday’s public Town Board work session. “If they insist on it being a non-profit, they can have it.”

Mr. Walter said the MTA empties the trash cans about once a week, but other than that, the town does most of the maintenance on the building, and the sheriff’s department sometimes deploys inmates to mow the grass and pick up litter if the town requests it.

“It costs us money for absolutely nothing,” Councilman Jim Wooten said.

The downtown Business Improvement District had agreed to use the station as its office in 2002, but pulled out after about a week because its executive director at the time was worried about her safety in an area where people are known to loiter at all hours of the day.

The Long Island Wine Council was interested in using the building a few years ago, but the LIRR wouldn’t allow the lease because alcohol would be served.

And in January 2009, the town allowed a soup kitchen operated by Open Arms Care Center to be run at the station after it lost its longtime home at First Congregational Church. But the current Town Board in early 2010 decided against allowing Open Arms to use the site, which is now run out of the nearby Salvation Army building.

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Check the July 21 News-Review for additional information.

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