Town seeks to acquire Science Center building: Eminent domain seizure a possibility

The Riverhead Town Board is seeking to acquire property owned by the Long Island Science Center at 111 East Main St. for “general municipal purposes,” according to a resolution the board approved by a 4-0 vote late last month.

The resolution directs the town attorney to take all actions “necessary and appropriate” to obtain the land. The town’s efforts could include the use of eminent domain, a process by which the government can seize private property for a public use, in exchange for just compensation as determined by the courts.

The owners of the LISC property say they were surprised by the town’s resolution and are still interested in keeping the property in order to expand the museum and potentially build a planetarium, according to Larry Oxman, president of the Long Island Science Center.

“I was very surprised by the resolution,” he said. “This came out of left field.”

Mr. Oxman said he had not heard from the town before the board’s vote on the resolution.

Supervisor Tim Hubbard disputed Mr. Oxman’s claim that he wasn’t aware of the town’s plans. “He had an idea what’s going on,” Mr. Hubbard said. “I don’t know if anyone specifically told him per se. But he wasn’t surprised.”

Asked about the town’s plans for the LISC building, Mr. Hubbard directed the question to Dawn Thomas, who handles economic development issues.

Ms. Thomas also declined comment. The building at 111 East Main St. is in the area where the town has begun a multi-phase project to build a new Town Square. Two other buildings have already been demolished to create a green open space across from The Suffolk.

The nonprofit Long Island Science Center was founded in 1990 and opened in 2019 at its current location at 40 Peconic Ave.— on the ground floor of the Summerwind Square apartment building, which formerly housed BNB Bank.

Several years ago, the LISC acquired the former Swezey’s building in downtown Riverhead, where it planned to expand. Currently, LISC is using space at Tanger Outlets. LISC has been awarded more than $1 million in grants toward the expansion project.