Riverhead Town’s plans to acquire three downtown buildings as part of its town square proposal received support from most speakers at a public hearing Tuesday, but Manorville residents are upset that the town is giving this project priority over efforts to bring clean water to their hamlet.
“We’re here to discuss a very exciting project,” said Dawn Thomas, Riverhead’s community development director. “The creation of a town square in downtown Riverhead, which will require the purchase of several properties located on the south side of East Main Street.”
The town square proposal calls for acquiring and demolishing the adjacent vacant buildings at 117 and 121 East Main St. The latter is currently leased to Twin Forks Bicycle. The third building, at 127 East Main St., houses the restaurant Craft’d and other businesses. The town doesn’t plan to demolish that structure.
The estimated cost of acquisition and demolition is $5.5 million, officials said.
“This, combined with the existing parking to the south, will create a large lot that will be redeveloped through the combination of grant money and public and private partnership to create gathering space, pedestrian connectivity, open vistas from Main Street to the riverfront, while simultaneously getting rid of the vacant and/or blighted buildings that have hindered our revitalization for over 20 years,” Ms. Thomas said.
The town square is next to the former Swezey’s store, recently was purchased by the nonprofit Long Island Science Center as its new home, and the former West Marine building, which is owned by builder Wayne Steck, who plans to demolish it and construct apartments there.
The town has also met with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about fixing the flooding on downtown Main Street.
Elissa Kyle of Vision Long Island supported the plan, saying the Greenport’s waterfront park contributed to its revitalization and attracted visitors.
Cailin Kaller, executive director of Long Island Science Center, said large numbers of people visit the center each day.
“This is something that can very much help,” she said.
But Kelly McGlinchey of Manorville opposed the town square project, as did four other Manorville residents who wrote letters to the town.
“I do not think it is appropriate to buy buildings for a town square when residents of Manorville are going without clean drinking water,” she said.
“The town square is for recreation, it is a luxury and there are more pressing needs in this town than luxury. Clean water for your residents is not a luxury. It’s essential.”
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town is working with the Navy, which caused the groundwater pollution in Calverton, to clean up the groundwater in Manorville. She said it’s a lengthy process, and the town is conducting a survey on the groundwater in Manorville.
Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the Suffolk County Water Authority was supposed to test wells in Manorville, but has not as yet.
“If it is determined that there’s a problem with the water, we will be working very closely to make sure you get connected to public water,” she said.