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Suffolk Legal Aid Society looks to expand in Riverhead

The Suffolk Legal Aid Society is planning to move into space in the upstairs portion of the former Riverhead Fire Headquarters on Second Street, according to Bob Castaldi, the building owner. 

The former firehouse, originally built in the 1930s and expanded in later years, has about 9,000 square feet on the first floor and 4,000 square feet on the second floor.

The building was already granted benefits from the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency for a $986,000 renovation in 2015 when Long Beard Brewing Company sought to locate in the east side of the firehouse building.

However, the IDA is required to approve any new tenant proposed for a building that has already been granted IDA benefits, according to Tracy Stark-James, the IDA’s executive director.

The IDA approved the Suffolk Legal Aid Society as the new tenant Monday night. The Legal Aid Society will maintain its existing offices in the Cromarty Court Complex in Riverside while expanding into the old firehouse, Mr. Castaldi said.

Because the building doesn’t have an elevator, finding a tenant for the second floor has been difficult, he said.

The Legal Aid Society is planning to have a first floor conference room for meetings with clients with disabilities, he said.

The second floor has a waiting area, a conference room, 13 offices and a kitchenette area, according to Mr. Castaldi.

The firehouse never had an elevator but did have a chairlift.

The second floor is about 4,000 square feet, while the first floor is divided into two 4,000-square-foot sections, each built for breweries.

The first brewery, Long Beard Brewing Company, was located on the eastern portion of the building and was approved in 2015, while the second, North Fork Brewing Company, is on the western side of the building and was approved this year.

Mr. Castaldi said Long Beard “didn’t work out” but that North Fork Brewing Company “is going great.”

He said that other breweries have expressed interested in the eastern part of the firehouse.

The Legal Aid Society will receive the same IDA tax incentives as the breweries, which includes an exemption from sales and compensating use taxes on building materials used in the renovation, an exemption from county mortgage recording taxes, and a partial abatement of property taxes on school, town, county and fire district taxes. The percentage of the abatement decreases over a 10-year period.

The property tax abatements only apply to the next construction and not to what existed before.

The IDA vote was 3-0, with member Lori Pipczynski absent and one vacant seat which is expected to be filled by the Town Board Wednesday after press time.

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