State officials tour downtown, St. Isidore in considering historic status

Elizabeth Martin of the state parks department tours St. Isidore's with Georgette Keller of town landmarks preservation committee and pastor Robert Kuznik Wednesday.

Downtown Riverhead’s historic district, created by the Town Board in 2006, could be added to the National Register of Historic Places under a plan being considered by the state — and being pushed by the town’s Landmarks Preservation Committee.

Daniel McEneny and Elizabeth Martin of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation toured the downtown area this week with members of the committee and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, the committee’s Town Board liaison.

“There are no negatives to this,” Ms. Giglio said of the proposal to put part of downtown in the National Register. “There are only positives.”
She said the designation, which would ultimately be determined by property owners by way of a vote, would not come with restrictions on what residents can do with their property — unless they are looking to get grants or tax credits.

According to its chairman, Richard Wines, the committee may also try to add St. Isidore Church in Polish Town and several buildings at Hallockville Museum Farm in Northville to the National Register. The town committee’s original proposal was to nominate a section of Main Street running from Griffing Avenue to just east of Roanoke Avenue for the National Register, Mr. Wines said.

“But when we met with members of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation [in March], they suggested that we should consider a larger area,” he said. “So the area we are considering now stretches along Main Street from Griffing Avenue to Maple Avenue.”

The suggestion was made because state officials — who were invited to Riverhead to help advise the committee  — wanted to consider including all of the historic downtown buildings on the National Register, he said.

“The benefit of inclusion in the National Register is that it makes it easier to apply for grants for any building or any projects in that area,” Mr. Wines said.
Businesses listed on the National Register also get higher consideration for many grants for rehabbing historic structures, he said.

“Another benefit for the property owners is that if they want to fix up one of the older buildings, and any building over 50 years old qualifies, there’s a 20 percent federal tax credit available and a 20 percent state tax credit,” Mr. Wines said.

Being listed on the National Register also carries with it a prestige that’s good for local restaurants and shops to use in promoting their businesses, he said.

“The landmarks committee will only move this forward if there is continued support from the business community, property owners and the Town Board,” Mr. Wines later said of the process. “Ultimately, the state will hold a public hearing on the proposed district and property owners will be asked to vote for or against it.

“No district is ever created without that approval,” he added.

The proposals to include St. Isidore Church and Hallockville are separate from the downtown proposal.

The push to include St. Isidore, which was built in 1905, came from some members of the parish, Mr. Wines said.

The state officials met with the pastor there, the Rev. Robert Kuznik, during their tour on Wednesday.

Inclusion on the National Register would make the church eligible to apply for what are called “sacred sites” grants that can assist with projects like restoring stained glass windows, Mr. McEneny said.

But since buildings can only be added to the National Register with the consent of their owners, the approval of the Diocese of Rockville Centre will be needed for St. Isidore to be considered, he said.

“If they did decide to do that, listing on the National Register would carry great prestige and would be a great honor for the Polish community that built the building,” Mr. Wines said. “It’s so important to local history and so important to the cultural history of the area.”

As for Hallockville, the barn building at the farm museum in Northville is already on the National Register, but the Hallockville board of directors, on which Mr. Wines sits, recently realized that some of the other buildings on the site are not on the National Register, and are now seeking to get them included, Mr. Wines said.

Another idea that’s being investigated, but which is in its early stages, he said, is to have all of Sound Avenue included in the National Register.

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