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Riverhead, Southampton each vying for $10M state grant

Riverhead and Southampton towns, which applied jointly for a state grant aimed at downtown revitalization last year, will each be filing separately this year for the same $10 million.

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to approve a resolution Wednesday to authorize an application for the state’s Regional Economic Development Zone’s “Downtown Revitalization Initiative” for downtown.

“I’d prefer to go with Riverhead but they want to go it alone, so we have no other choice but to go it alone ourselves,” said Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman in an interview. “We’ll have to compete against Riverhead.”

Dawn Thomas, the Riverhead Community Development Agency director, said the purpose of the grant is to help the town implement initiatives it has planned.

“We’ve had many plans for downtown,” she said, noting the East Main Street Urban Renewal study; the Comprehensive Plan update and the Brownfield Opportunity Area study.

The town now has a chance to be designated an Opportunity Zone by the U.S. Treasury department, she said.

The state has 10 economic development zones statement and plans to award a $10 million grant to a downtown area in each one. The Long Island one includes all of Suffolk and Nassau counties.

The grant has been offered two years now and both times an area in Nassau County received it. Westbury was the first followed by Hicksville. Because of this, Ms. Thomas feels Riverhead’s chances are good.

“I just want to make sure we’re not going to be doing any many more studies,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.

“It’s an implementation strategy,” Ms. Thomas said. “We’re basically saying ‘Here is why we are ready, here are the things we’ve done in the past, here are the things we’ve planned for, and here is why they may not have worked out,” Ms. Thomas said.

Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said a planning team will come in to work with the town to help it accomplish its goals.

Mr. Schneiderman said he suspects Southampton’s application will focus on Riverside, but he’s not sure.

“It helps that we’ve done a lot of the planning work already in Riverside,” he said. “We’re ready to go with development in Riverside. We have a place for the proposed sewer facility and we’ve had interest from developers in that area, so we could see a good deal of economic development. A $10 million grant would go to great use.”

The deadline to apply is June 1.

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