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Southampton, Riverhead, both vie for $20M grant

Riverhead Town isn’t the only local municipality seeking a New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant, which this year can provide up to $20 million.

The town’s neighbors to the south are seeking the same grant in hopes of sprucing up the much maligned hamlet of Riverside, which shares a school district and a ZIP code with Riverhead but is part of Southampton Town.

The Downtown Revitalization Initiative “is intended for communities that are ripe for development to transform them into vibrant communities where tomorrow’s workforce will want to live and work,” the Southampton Town Board’s Sept. 14 resolution authorizing the grant application read. 

Riverhead Town hopes to win the grant to help with its Town Square project, which aims to open downtown access from East Main Street to the Peconic River.

The Riverhead Town Board approved the resolution authorizing their grant application on Aug. 17. 

Now in their fifth year, Downtown Revitalization grants have been awarded annually except for 2020, when they were suspended due to the pandemic. Awards of $10 million are given to one municipality in each of 10 “economic development” regions within the state. 

This year, however, the state has made a change, allowing awards to go as high as $20 million, at the state’s discretion. 

Southampton and Riverhead applied jointly at one time in the past, and they have also filed separately. 

To date, Nassau County municipalities have had an advantage in the Long Island region, with Westbury winning a grant in 2016, Hicksville in 2017 and Baldwin in 2019. Central Islip, the 2018 winner, has been Suffolk County’s only DRI grant recipient. Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said in an interview that creating a sewer district in Riverside has been their top priority, although he’s unsure of the price. 

“I’ve heard estimates bounced around from $10 million to $40 million,” he said.

“The sewer is the key to everything because, truthfully, no one can invest under the Overlay District zoning in Riverside without the sewer.”

Other priorities in Riverside, Mr. Taldone said, are completion of the maritime trail on north side of Flanders Road and expansion of the Children’s Museum on Flanders Road.

Back in March 2019, when then-Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul toured downtown Riverhead, she was asked why Riverhead hadn’t received the $10 million grant that year. 

She initially said she was not involved in the selection, but added, “Some communities have less development going on than we see here in Riverhead. They need that catalyst and that jumpstart sooner.”