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Lt. Governor tours downtown; says Riverhead should ‘keep trying’ for $10M grant

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul toured downtown Riverhead Monday with Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and County Legislators Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) and Bridget Fleming (D-Sag Harbor), stopping at the Suffolk Theater, the Riverview Lofts apartments and the Long Island Aquarium along the way. 

Ms. Jens-Smith said in a release the tour “will serve as an opportunity for the Lt. Gov. to personally see the hard work that is being done to revitalize Riverhead’s downtown.” It also was intended to showcase different areas that are “uniquely Riverhead,” she said. 

“I chair all the Regional Economic Development Councils for the State of New York, so one of the responsibilities that I embrace is the opportunity to go to downtowns like Riverhead to meet the local officials and to get a pulse of what’s going on on the ground,” Ms. Hochul said in an interview.

She said she seeks to “find out where the state of New York can be of assistance.”

She said she toured the 116-unit Riverview Lofts in part because Homes and Community Renewals, a state agency, “is putting significant funding behind this to make sure it happens.”

She said the state will look for ways to help the Suffolk Theater, which is seeking to expand.

“Lastly, we’re looking into how to capitalize on access to the river, because there’s a beautiful park and boardwalk, but there’s more we can do in terms of creating synergy between Riverhead and Southampton,” she said. “We talked about some of those projects as well.”

The towns of Riverhead and Southampton both recently lost out on a $10 million grant from the Regional Economic Development Council’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, where 10 grants of $10 million each are awarded in each of ten districts statewide.

Riverhead has sought upgrades to its downtown and to Railroad Avenue, while Southampton sought the funds to revitalize Riverside.

In an interview, Ms. Hochul said that while she helps announce the grants, she’s not involved in the evaluation process. The $10 million grant went to the hamlet of Baldwin in Nassau County.

Ms. Hochul, a Buffalo Democrat, said there were over 100 communities that applied for the grant and only 10 winners.

“I would say that some communities have much less development going on than we see here in Riverhead,” she said. “They need that catalyst and that jumpstart sooner. But I would certainly encourage communities like Riverhead to keep trying. When you see the development that’s going on here in Riverhead, it has a lot going for it already, but I would certainly say that every community is at a different point in its resurgence. Some need to be jump started, some are along the way, and some are near the end.”

Yvette Aguiar, Ms. Jens-Smith’s Republican opponent in this fall’s election, attempted to go along on the tour, but was told by a representative of the Lt. Gov. that it was a private event and was not open to the public.

Caption: Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul speaks with builder David Gallo at his Riverview Lofts site in downtown Riverhead. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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