Riverhead Town has received a $400,000 “Jumpstart” grant from Suffolk County that will help in the design and creation of bicycle and pedestrian paths connecting train and bus riders to downtown.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced the grant Monday at the Riverhead train station.
“The ultimate goal is to be able to transport people from the train station or bus station to our downtown,” Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said.
Mr. Bellone said: “The Jumpstart program is part of a comprehensive economic development plan designed to encourage, foster and enhance the planning and development of regionally significant developments in and around Suffolk’s downtown.”
Since 2013, the county has awarded $11.3 million in Jumpstart funding.
The County Legislature approved $5 million in Jumpstart grants Oct. 2. Riverhead was one of eight communities to receive funding. Mr. Bellone signed it into law Monday.
“So many exciting things are happening here,” Mr. Bellone said, listing the town’s ongoing cleanup of the train station, the MTA’s recent 10-year contract to locate a coffee shop in the train station, and some of the development in downtown Riverhead, such as the 116-unit Riverview Lofts affordable apartments.
“This is a really significant, really important downtown,” Mr. Bellone said.
“When people come off the train and they see something attractive like that, that really makes a difference,” he said.
He said the town needs to create affordable housing in and around downtown to support the local businesses and restaurants and to retain young people.
“We need to give them those places to live and put them in environments that are really vibrant, because that’s where they want to live, and that’s what’s happening in the Town of Riverhead,” he said.
Ms. Jens-Smith said the revitalization has been a community effort.
“To revitalize a downtown, we need to connect our transportation with our downtown, and this is the step toward doing that,” she said. “We have a lot of community input in this, we’ve revitalized our train station with our plantings, and it’s all been a community effort.”
She said, “To be able to have safe transportation other than using a car to our downtown, bike paths and safe crosswalks really help enhance what we have going on in our historical downtown.”
She said new apartments and shops will attract people to walk around Riverhead.
Mr. Bellone said electrification of the rail lines leading to Riverhead is the long-range goal, “and the only reason for that is because the MTA sees great things happening in town.”
County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue) said bicyclists are getting hit by cars on a regular basis, and communities are based on cars.
“Spending time and effort to make it safer for pedestrians and bicyclists is well worth the effort,” he said.
The town and county also recently partnered with Bethpage Ride and Zagster to initiate a bike share program at Enterprise Park at Calverton as well as downtown
The bikes are expected to be available in a couple of weeks, according to Jonathan Keyes of the county’s Department of Economic Development.
“We need to make this the most bike-friendly county around,” Mr. Bellone said.
The town and county will partner on the project. Ms. Jens-Smith said they will begin the design work “as soon as possible. We’re looking to have this move forward very quickly. The bikes will be coming in and then we will need safe places for people to be able to use those bikes and connect in our neighborhoods.”
Photo caption: County Executive Steve Bellone speaks at a press conference Monday morning at the Riverhead Train Station along with town and county officials. (Credit: Tim Gannon)