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Demolition of two downtown buildings set for Monday to begin Town Square project

Two buildings slated for demolition in order to create Riverhead Town’s Town Square project are scheduled to come down at 10 a.m. Monday, according to Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who said a ceremony is planned to commemorate the event.

The ceremony will take place behind the stores. 

The former Swezey’s Furniture Store and the former Twin Forks bike shop on East Main Street are both slated for demolition. The third building, which houses the restaurant Craft’d and other stores, is not going to be demolished Monday. 

Officials said plans for that building, at 127 E. Main St., “will include extensive renovation, through a private sector partnership.”

“It looks like we are going to have a really big crowd,” Ms. Aguiar said, adding that a representative from the governor’s office will be present as well Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

“We’re finally doing it, after all these years of kicking the can down the road,” she said. 

The town issued a press release about the event Friday that included comments from a number of officials, including Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) and others.  

The Town Square aims to open a scenic vista from Main Street to the Peconic Riverfront. 

The Town has committed up to $5.5 million to the project.

At Wednesday’s Town Board work session, Councilwoman Catherine Kent — the Town Board’s lone Democrat, who is running for supervisor against Ms. Aguiar — asked about the timing of the event. 

“I have to question the timing the demolition during our important season downtown,” she said. 

Deputy Town Attorney Anne Marie Prudenti said that the town required remediation of the buildings by the prior owner before the sale, “because we wanted to be more certain of the cost.

“That said, these structures are not sound enough to withstand continued weather conditions and snow loads on the roof,” she said. “Our engineering department has had to go out more than once to secure the soffits along the front of the building, which have deteriorated and our in risk of collapsing onto the sidewalk.”

Dawn Thomas, the town’s community development director, said the town also wanted to get the grass planted before winter.  

“We’re going to put in grass, we’re going to take down those fences and it’s not going to look like a wrecking sight,” Ms. Thomas said. The town is also going to put in water, lighting and electricity, she said. 

“We toyed with the idea of demolishing these buildings on an emergency basis because they are full of mold and the windows are gone,” Ms. Thomas said. “When they removed the rubber roof, which had the asbestos in it, that was the glue that held it together, so there’s just roof boards now, and now.” 

She said if the window blows through the windows, “the roof could just get blow right off. It really is urgent.”

The asbestos had been removed from the building by the prior owner, she said. 

In addition, Ms. Thomas said, there are timeframes on the grants the town received “and we have to move as quickly as possible to spend this money.”

“I asked the question because I had had some conversations with some of the downtown business owners over the weekend at the country fair,” Ms. Kent said. 

Ms. Aguiar said: “I toured the buildings last month with the fire marshal and the town engineer and they said they are ready to collapse.” 

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said there were birds living in the buildings and there are cushions and things that indicate people have have slept there, too.