Downtown Riverhead project, Peconic Crossing, gets $350K from county

Peconic Crossing Rendering

The developers of Peconic Crossing, a 45-unit affordable apartment project proposed for West Main Street in Riverhead, will receive $350,000 from Suffolk County to pay for infrastructure improvements such as sidewalks, lighting and drainage.

The Suffolk County Legislature approved the expenditure at its meeting Nov. 23 by a vote of 14 to 2, with two absences.

However, the project did encounter some questions from the two opposing legislators, who cited the cost.

The money comes from the county’s Affordable Housing Opportunities Program, which also provided $313,000 in bonds in 2013 for infrastructure improvements at another affordable apartment building in Riverhead, the 52-unit Summerwind Square on Peconic Avenue.

Peconic Crossing LLC is a joint venture between the nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Long Island and for-profit Conifer Realty LLC of Rochester.

With the county money secured, the $18.5 million project is expected to close on its funding sources by Dec. 15, with demolition of the existing building likely to start in January and construction of the new building planned for February 2017, according to Marianne Garvin, the president and CEO of CDCLI.

The project calls for demolition of the former Long Island Science Center at 11 West Main St. and construction of a four-story multi-family apartment building in its place, according to Ms. Garvin.

“CDCLI and Conifer have developed 710 rental homes over the years,” she told the Legislature before last Wednesday’s vote, referring to other affordable projects the companies have collaborated on.

“These include Wincoram Commons and Copiague Commons, which were supported with the county’s infrastructure program,” Ms. Garvin said. “We could not have built those 266 apartments without your support. Similarly, we cannot build Peconic Crossing without the county’s infrastructure program, and I hope you will support our request for $350,000 to offset improvements such as sidewalks, lighting, drainage, utilities, connections to the sanitary system and bulkhead and boardwalk construction and the like.”

The Peconic Crossing project, according to Ms. Garvin, will provide the following:

• Five apartments for households making up to 50 percent of the area median income, which is $52,550.

• 35 apartments for families making up to 60 percent of the AMI, which amounts to $62,060.

• Five apartments for families making up to 90 percent of the AMI, or $94,590 per year.

Sixteen one-bedroom and 29 two-bedroom apartments are also planned and preference will be given to artists and to residents who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The building will have a fitness room, a community room, an on-site laundry room and an on-site management office, according to Ms. Garvin, and will be Energy Star rated for energy efficiency.

Plans also include a ground-floor artist gallery fronting Main Street and 34 parking spaces in the rear of the property. In addition, Ms. Garvin said, Peconic Crossing will feature a rooftop terrace with views overlooking the Peconic River.

“This is part of a broader plan for downtown Riverhead and it is supported by the town supervisor,” she said.

County legislators Tom Cilmi (R-Bay Shore) and Robert Trotta (R-Northport) cast the two votes against the funding.

Mr. Cilmi said the county needs to come up with a budget for such projects.

“We can’t just look at each project in a vacuum and keep approving $350,000 expenses one after another,” he said.

He also questioned why artists are being given preference.

“I love artists,” Mr. Cilmi said. “I’m just not convinced we should be giving tax breaks and hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the economic climate we’re in, to subsidize that type of housing.”

Arthur Krauer, Conifer’s senior project director on Long Island, said Riverhead Town had asked that artists be given preference.

Legislator Robert Calarco (D-Patchogue) said the Artspace apartments in his district have helped spur economic activity there that has benefited the entire village.

Mr. Krauer said the U.S. Fair Housing Act doesn’t allow housing projects using federal funds to market to specific areas, such as town residents, but it does allow them to give preference to artists.

Mr. Trotta said the price of $1.85 million that Peconic Crossing paid for the half-acre property is very high.

Mr. Krauer said land is at a premium on Long Island, noting that Conifer is about to pay $11 million for two acres in Hempstead.

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