Eight new projects will take shape under $10M Downtown Revitalization grant

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has announced eight game-changing projects for Riverhead — including a rowing facility on the Peconic River, a welcome center at the library and expansion of the historic Suffolk Theater — that are part of the town’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative award.

The projects are meant to “enhance streetscapes and public spaces, expand arts and cultural activity” and increase housing and business opportunities, the governor’s office said.

They include creating a New Town Square, enhancing the Peconic River waterfront with educational activities and green infrastructure and installing traffic-calming design elements to improve pedestrian safety on Main Street.

Other downtown-altering projects on the list are an ADA-compliant rowing facility and community boat launch in the river, more public art downtown created by local artists and a mixed-use development on Griffing Avenue. 

In a prepared statement, Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar could not contain her gratitude: “For million around the world, this is the season for believing. Thank you, Gov. Hochul, for believing in the future of downtown Riverhead.”

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) was equally effusive: “This critical grant funding will boost economic development throughout the region, while fostering a great sense of community with the riverfront as the focus.”

The announcement of the projects is a victory lap for Riverhead, which won a $10 million grant from the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative program last January. 

The town had been a regional finalist for the grant in three of the past four years. This year, the state had the option of awarding $20 million to one community or $10 million to two. Riverhead and the Village of Amityville each won $10 million.

After the award, the town formed a planning committee to provide guidance on project selection, which centered on large-scale improvements downtown. Before receiving the award, the town had already purchased and demolished three Main Street buildings to make way for a new Town Square.

Former Greenport mayor David Kapell, who served on that planning committee, said the projects will restore the downtown “to its rightful place at the heart of life on Long Island.”

The emphasis on downtown areas was noted by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who said, “In Suffolk, our downtowns are the heart of our communities, and over the years Riverhead has worked incredibly hard to reinvigorate” its downtown.