Sides split on huge Main Street apartment plan

A proposal to build a five-story, 165-unit mixed use apartment complex on East Main Street drew both support and criticism at a public hearing before the Riverhead Town Board last Wednesday.

Several of the speakers supporting the project read from virtually identical scripts.

The proposal, from Healtherwood Luxury Apartments in Commack in conjunction with The Metro Group, would be the largest apartment complex in Riverhead.

It was first proposed in 2017, according to its attorney John Wagner. It is a market rate project, although the applicant did not give specific rent amounts. Sean Sallie of Heatherwood said they only lease property and don’t sell units. 

The application, called simply 203-213 East Main Street, is a market rate, mixed-use development planned for 1.42 acres that were once home to Sears and other stores in downtown Riverhead. The site has been vacant for several years. It is one of several apartment complexes that have either been approved or are pending. 

The application calls for 52 studio apartments, 80 one-bedroom units and 33 with two bedrooms. If built, the complex would also include 155 parking spaces. 

One of the speakers who supported the project said she was a single mom with three children. 

“I’m very interested in this project, she said, in tears. “I’m a struggling with housing right now.”

“I definitely support this project,” said Ida Palmieri, whose family owns 9 Brothers Building Supply in Calverton. “I think it will revitalize Main Street.”

Others raised questions. 

“This looks like a very impressive project, and they are definitely invested in the community,” said Garrett Moore of East Main Street, a Riverhead teacher. He said he’s concerned about slow response time from police, who he feels are overworked. 

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town will soon have 86 police officers, having added seven new officers to its budget for this year.. 

Cindy Clifford, president of the Heart of Riverhead civic association, said they are happy with the applicant’s reworking of the proposal and with the additional parking space. 

But, she said, they are disappointed that the applicant is seeking tax abatements from the town Industrial Development Agency, “which will again leave us bearing the brunt of paying taxes to support the services that the 165 units will no doubt access.”

In February, 203-213 East Main Street made a presentation before the IDA indicating that they would seek tax abatements. 

Form letters submitted in support of 203-213 East Main Street said the writers backed the project and the developers. The letters read, in part: “With the ongoing housing shortage on Long Island, it’s reassuring to know that this proposal for quality residential development is being considered for approval. 

The question of whether all the current downtown apartments would impact the Riverhead Central School District also was raised during the hearing. 

Town planner Greg Bergman said he recently pursued this concern with school officials, and learned that, of the four existing large apartment complexes downtown, Riverview Lofts, with 118 apartments had added six students to Riverhead schools. The Shipyard, with 36 apartments, and Summerwind Square, with 52, each added three students to district enrollment, according to Mr. Bergman. The largest influx of new students — a total of 30— came from the 45-unit Peconic Crossing project. 

Another question related to how 203-213 East Main Street would impact the 500 apartment limit that was put in place in the town’s 2003 master plan update.

Mr. Bergman said the 500 apartment limit is still in place. It applies only to units in the five buildings that have so far received Certificates of Occupancy in the Downtown 1 zone. If 203-213 East Main Street were approved, and received its CO, he said, the town would still be under that limit. 

The hearing on the proposal remained open until June 30 for written comments, officials said.