Riverhead Town Board members looking to sell Route 58 armory

Armory on Route 58 in Riverhead

A majority of Riverhead Town Board members now support selling the Route 58 armory, which was once envisioned as a possible police and justice court headquarters. But first, they’ll need to persuade the state to remove a covenant restricting its use to police and courts.

When the New York State National Guard vacated the building in 2010, Riverhead Town asked local state legislators to turn over the unoccupied structure to the town. In September 2011, the state approved a bill to transfer the 5.7-acre property, including the building, to the town for $1. The town had actually sold it to the state in 1953 for $500.

The goal of converting the building for police and court use hit the skids when an engineering company estimated the cost of doing so at $11.3 million. The report, from Cashin Associates, also estimated that constructing a new police and court headquarters elsewhere would cost $21.8 million.

The 2011 state legislation restricted the town’s use of the property to the police department, justice court, and public safety and recreational programs developed and operated by police. It also specified that if the town stopped using the property for those uses, it would go back to the state.

Supervisor Sean Walter said he’s now trying to get state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) to draw up a bill to remove the reverter clause so the town can sell the property.

In addition to the cost of the building for police and court use, the state turned the heat off when it left the premises, damaging the pipes, Mr. Walter said.

“I would sell it,” Councilman John Dunleavy said in an interview. “We can’t use it for anything, there’s junked cars in the back and the place is falling apart.”

Mr. Dunleavy said he thinks the town could get about $4 million for the property.

Councilman Tim Hubbard also backs selling the armory and using the money to purchase property downtown.

“It would cost too much to try and restore, plus the location on Route 58 makes it very valuable to sell,” he said.

Mr. Hubbard said he thinks anyone who buys the armory building would probably demolish it and start from scratch.

“It’s more valuable for its land value,” he said.

Councilman Jim Wooten, meanwhile, thinks the town should keep the building and use it for recreational purposes.

“I like it because it’s contiguous with Stotzky Park, and we could make that into a world-class recreation center,” he said. When the state owned the building, the town held recreation programs there, he added.

Greg Blower, a spokesman for Mr. LaValle, said the town’s attorneys and legal counsel from the senator’s office have had discussions about the armory, but so far “nothing definitive has been asked of us by the town.”

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the armory would be an ideal location for the YMCA, which would involve either selling it or giving to the YMCA, since there’s no option to lease.

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Photo: The armory property on Route 58 in Riverhead. (Credit: Krysten Massa)