Riverhead awarded $10 million ‘Downtown Revitalization Initiative’ grant

Downtown Riverhead received a major boost Thursday morning as state officials announced it has won the $10 million ‘Downtown Revitalization Initiative’ grant.

Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin formally announced Riverhead and the Village of Amityville as the latest winners during a Zoom meeting with Town officials.

“This is a huge opportunity to make New York stronger, economically and environmentally sustainable,” Mr. Benjamin said, and held up a check to the camera on the Zoom call showing the Town of Riverhead.

Mr. Benjamin said over 90 applications had been submitted and called it a “very rigorous process.”

“This investment is going to provide a boost to the local economy, attract tourists and reach visitors which will increase commerce for businesses and restaurants, create jobs and improve quality of life so residents and visitors can enjoy a revitalized and renewed downtown area,” Mr. Benjamin said.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar expressed “deepest thanks” to the state for the “mega tool” to make the town’s vision a reality.

“Unequivocally, Riverhead now has a bright future,” she said.

The announcement comes as work continues on the development of a new town square

The town had applied each year the grant was available since the program launched in 2016, but previous Long Island winners had gone to Westbury, Hicksville, Central Islip and Baldwin.

County Executive Steve Bellone joined the call and said downtown revitalization is “absolutely critical” to Long Island’s future, keeping young people here and creating jobs.

“This grant from the state of New York is really going to help drive these initiatives forward,” he said.

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar celebrates the news with Town Board members (from left) Frank Beyrodt, Bob Kern, Ken Rothwell and Tim Hubbard. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Assemblywoman Jodi Gilgio called the grant “a dream come true.”

“Many of us have dreamed for many years of a revitalized downtown,” the former Riverhead councilwoman said. “Thank you to all the people who believed in the beauty of our Main Street.”

To win the grant, communities submit application to the state’s 10 Regional Economic Development Councils. The councils nominate a downtown to receive the grant and in this case there was $20 million available, which allowed for two winners in the Long Island region. The state had previously announced winners this year for other regions of the state.

“Each participating community develops a Strategic Investment Plan that identifies specific projects that align with a unique vision for revitalization of the downtown area,” according to the state website. “Local planning committees oversee the effort.”

Mr. Benjamin said the efforts by both Riverhead and Amityville will not only boost their specific areas, but provide an opportunity for the state to learn what works best and how that can be applied throughout the rest of the state.

“I look forward to the great ideas that come out of this process,” he said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul toured downtown Riverhead in 2019, while then in the role of lieutenant governor, and encouraged the town to continue applying for the grant. At the time, Baldwin had just been announced as the Long Island winner.

“When you see the development that’s going on here in Riverhead, it has a lot going for it already,” Ms. Hochul said in 2019.