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Business owners want town to demolish housing office for parking

209 East Ave building copy

The Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association is recommending that Riverhead Town demolish a building it owns downtown to create additional parking. 

The building is currently used as an office for the Riverhead Housing Development Corporation, a non-profit group that administers the federal Section 8 rental assistance program in Riverhead.

At Wednesday’s BIDMA meeting, board member Larry Oxman brought up the subject in the middle of a discussion on potential downtown parking solutions.

“I thought that building was supposed to be folded into the town parking district,” he said, adding that such a move would straighten out the eastern entrance to the Second Street lot.

The building in question is located at 209 East Avenue, on the northeast corner of that road and the entrance to the parking lot.

When it was mentioned that Section 8 is in the building now, BIDMA member Dee Muma said, “They can be somewhere else. We need parking.”

The BIDMA has been considering a number of potential solutions to the increasing shortage of downtown parking.

Mr. Oxman then suggested a vote in support of demolishing the building and folding the property into the town parking district, which the eight BIDMA members present voted unanimously in favor of.

Commercial property owners in the parking district — who are not required to provide their own parking — pay a tax into the district.

In 2009, the Riverhead Town Board under the administration of then-Supervisor Phil Cardinale purchased the roughly 300-square foot property from architect Martin Sendlewski for $315,000 with the goal of eventually demolishing it and using it for additional downtown parking for Apollo Real Estate Advisors, a Manhattan developer who had introduced plans to build a movie theater, restaurants and stores in downtown Riverhead in the vicinity of the former Woolworth site.

Mr. Sendlewski had just received approval from the town to build a five-story office building on the East Avenue site, which drove up the selling price. The building had previously been used as his office.

As it turned out, Apollo’s plans never went anywhere, and they eventually sold the Woolworth building, which is now a gym with 19 apartments and several stores.

The 209 East Avenue building was never demolished for parking and fell into disrepair over the years, even showing signs that squatters had moved in, according to officials.

The town has since spruced up the East Avenue building, with the help of local builder John Parker, who donated some services, and allowed RHDC to move in, according to Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

“Eventually, I think that building gets torn down, I don’t disagree with that,” Mr. Walter said. “It was not a good purchase to begin with because there’s very few parking spots that can be created from that lot. I don’t know why they bought it.”

He estimates probably no more than 10 spaces could be created from the 209 East Avenue property.

Mr. Walter said the town doesn’t charge rent to RHDC, but it does require them to pay for utilities, including electric and heat.

Representatives from RHDC could not be reached for comment this week.

Caption: The BID Management Association would like to see this building at 208 East Avenue demolished to create more parking. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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