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Town historian’s office to remain in East Lawn building


The Riverhead Town historian finally has a new home, and it’s not far from her current home.

In fact, it is her current home.

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to approve a lease with Long Island Aquarium co-founder Joe Petrocelli to keep Town historian Georgette Case’s office in the East Lawn building on East Main Street.

Mr. Petrocelli and his company, J. Petrocelli Contracting, are in contract with the town to buy the dilapidated 165-year old building from the town for $150,000 and restore it in a manner consistent with its historic character.

The agreement requires Mr. Petrocelli to offer at least 350 square feet to rent to the town for the historian’s office.

According to Supervisor Sean Walter, the space would be rented at an initial rate of $10 per square foot per year for the first three years “with an annual 3 percent increase for each year of the initial three-year term,” plus a three-year extension at the same rate.

The Town Historian’s office currently occupies about 400 square feet in the East Lawn building.

The agreement also requires that the “restoration be consistent with and maintain the historic character of the building.”

Mr. Petrocelli has also filed a petition to have the property added to the town’s public parking district to eliminate the need for private parking spaces. The lack of available parking spaces at the site — in fact, it only has access to three — killed at least one previous deal to sell the building.

Ms. Case, whose office has been located in the East Wind building for years, has expressed concerns in the past that the building’s poor condition could jeopardize some historic books and documents stored there, seemed happy with the current plan.

“I’m excited about it,” she said at Thursday’s Town Board work session, where the issue was discussed.

Mr. Petrocelli “was very kind and said whatever part of the building I want, he was willing to give me,” Ms. Case said.

The town’s sale of the building to Mr. Petrocelli has yet to be finalized, but officials said it was close.

Ms. Case said she wanted to lease the downstairs portion of the building, with the exception of a common space. Officials said the space being eyed for lease is about 700 square feet.

While the exact amount of space the town will lease for the historian’s office has yet to be decided, Deputy Town Attorney Ann Marie Prudenti said the town has reserved up to 1,000 square feet for a possible lease for the historian’s office, which would cost the town $12,000 annually. According to Mr. Walter, details about utility payments have not been ironed out, though he believes the town would be responsible for paying electric with the owner paying for heat.

He also said he foresees the town leasing out closer to 750 square feet.

The building previously housed the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, Riverhead Community Awareness Program and Riverhead Housing Development Corporation.

Supervisor Sean Walter, along with Councilmen John Dunleavy and Tim Hubbard, supported the proposal. They were the only board members present for the discussion.

“This building used to cost us $21,000 per year just for heating and air conditioning,” Mr. Walter said.

Ms. Case envisions turning the area previously leased to the Chamber of Commerce into a book storage area and research room.

Ms. Case said she plans to keep her office in the East Lawn building while the renovation is taking place.

“Dust is not good for the documents and it’s not good for me, so we have to be very careful in how the renovation takes place,” she said.

The Town Board had considered a number of locations for the historians office, including the former Riverhead Fire Department building on Second Street, which was sold to Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi.

“See: We finally found your spot and it only took six years,” Supervisor Sean Walter said to Ms. Case Thursday.

Photo Caption: The East Lawn building on East Main Street. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that the lease would cost the town $10 per square foot per month. While a resolution handed out by the town states those numbers, Supervisor Sean Walter stated that the resolution is incorrect, and the contract would cost the town $10 per square foot per year.

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