The Riverhead train station remains unoccupied. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
A little less than a year ago, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced it had finally found a tenant for the long-vacant Riverhead train station, which was built 105 years ago and closed as a station in 1972 due to low ridership.
Islandwide Transportation, a Mastic cab company, had signed a 10-year lease last August to use the train station as a waiting room and depot.
Fast-forward to this year: The station is still empty and officials are talking about allowing the Guardian Angels, who began patrolling the Railroad Avenue area last week, to use the building.
The Angels, however, would have to wait until the situation with Islandwide is resolved, as the MTA is planning legal action against the cab company for back rent, MTA officials said.
“EMD Transportation, doing business as Islandwide, is delinquent on its rent and has been for some time,” MTA spokesman Sal Arena said by email.
“To the best of our knowledge, the cab company has never actually used the Riverhead Station space,” Mr. Arena said. “Efforts to locate the company and its principals have been unsuccessful. We are now ready to take legal action to regain control of the space. Any decision about future use of the station building will have to await the outcome of that litigation.
“Meanwhile,” he added, “we will be reaching out to update town officials and to discuss how the space might be used down the road.”
Officials did not say how much Islandwide owes in rent, but the agreement they signed specified rent in the amount of $19,000 for the first year of the lease. That rate was scheduled to rise gradually, reaching $24,790 by the 10th year.
Islandwide was also supposed to make improvements to the station at its own expense, and to keep the waiting room and bathrooms open for Long Island Rail Road customers during peak railroad hours. Mr. Arena said that while no work has been done on the station by Islandwide, that would not have precluded them from occupying the building.
Representatives of Islandwide did not respond to the News-Review’s request for comment.
Finding a tenant for the Riverhead train station has been a losing battle over the years.
Riverhead Town actually leased the building from the MTA for a dollar in 2002 after the MTA did about $1 million in renovations there.
Under that agreement, the town was supposed to keep it occupied by a nonprofit organization for the next decade, but was unable to find any takers, even when the building was offered rent-free.
The Riverhead Business Improvement District moved its office there in the late 1990s but departed after about a week because its lone employee didn’t feel safe there.
Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa said during a recent tour of the area that he’d like to use the train station as a headquarters and training center, although town officials said at the time they were unsure of the status of the lease to Islandwide.