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Developers pitch plan for Railroad Avenue redevelopment at qualified and eligible sponsor hearing

Representatives of the developer RXR, based in Uniondale, said that company owns 6,986 residential units and 30.4 million square feet of commercial property in New York and Long Island, and GGV (Georgica Green Ventures) of Jericho said it has secured over $800 million in financing for 17 mixed-use developments, including the 116-unit Riverview Lofts in downtown Riverhead and four projects in Southampton and East Hampton towns. 

Those were some of the numbers presented to the Riverhead Town Board by the joint-venture of RXR and GGV during a “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing Tuesday night. 

The qualified and eligible sponsor hearing is needed for the applicant to show that it has the ability and finances to complete the project they are proposing. A Q&E is also required in order to sell town land in an urban renewal area, such as Railroad Avenue.

The project, in this case, involves the sale of a two-acre town-owned site on Railroad Avenue, which RXR/GGV seeks to purchase for $7.29 million. They plan to build 243 market rate apartments there, along with approximately 12,800 square feet of flex/commercial space, ground floor retail and 176 parking spaces.

In addition, the project, described as a “transit-oriented development,” also calls for Suffolk County to transfer two parcels to RXR/GGV at no cost for construction of about 35 workforce housing units. Those units will target renters earning between 60% and 120% of Area Median Income.

This project, on Griffing Avenue, also involves construction of small retail and office space and a public parking garage with approximately 332 spaces. 

David Gallo, left, and Joe Graziose at Tuesday’s hearing. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Earlier this year, Riverhead Town declared the joint venture of RXR/GGV as master developer for this project.

Dawn Thomas, who heads the town’s Community Development Agency, said the project “is the culmination of 25 years of planning work and public engagement by the town in an effort to bring the most blighted area in our town back to life.”

The Town Board also is pledging $1.75 million to the effort, which it anticipates receiving from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The town won a $10 million grant for the DRI, but the decision on how to spend that money is up to the state, which has yet to announce which projects it will fund. 

“We’ve been at this for over 18 months,” said Joe Graziosi of RXR. “It’s not like we just showed up this evening.”

Joanne Minieri of RXR said the company has 500 employees and over $22 million of gross asset value, and owns $30 million of commercial property.

“We believe in striving for excellence and cultivating trusted, long-term relationships,” Ms. Minieri said. 

David Gallo, CEO of GGV, said his company was founded in 2010 with the goal of creating workforce housing in every community. 

“Over the last 12 years we’ve accomplished over 1,500 units at $800 million in development,” he said. 

Tuesday’s public hearing saw topics range from hiring building and construction trades to parking to the project’s impact on future enrollment in the Riverhead Central School District..

Several speakers urged the developers to use union labor on the job and, specifically, to use a project labor agreement, which is a collective bargaining agreement between building trade unions and contractors, according to the AFL-CIO.  

“Project labor agreements govern the terms and conditions of employment for all craft works, both union and non-union,” said Quinton Nigro of Riverhead, a representative of Sheet Metal Local 28. 

Regarding the project’s impact on schools, Councilman Bob Kern noted that more than 2,000 apartments have been proposed in the Southampton Town portion of the Riverhead’s school district. He suggested working with Southampton Town as well.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said that “when these projects are done, people are going to be begging to get into the Town of Riverhead. They are all going to want to live here.”

The Town Board has held the Q&E hearing open for written comments until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 30, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said.