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Public transit advocate blasts plan to move bus stop from railroad station; officials now looking at other options

Four Suffolk Transit bus lines serve the Riverhead train station stop. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Town officials are rethinking their plan to move the bus stop away from the LIRR station on Railroad Avenue to Cedar Street, following objections voiced by public transportation advocate Vince Taldone.

Riverhead officials had asked the county to move the bus stop from its present location on Railroad Avenue, in front of the long-vacant ticket office, to Cedar Street a short street that connects Court Street to Railroad Avenue. Town officials sought the move as part of their plan to utilize the empty building as office space for Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

The town has been negotiating a license agreement with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for use of the building and was planning to erect fencing to restrict access to the sides and rear of the building, in order to secure the building for use by the ambulance corps.

People waiting at the bus stop on Railroad Avenue last month. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Councilman John Dunleavy, who has been working on the project, said last month he had asked County Legislator Al Krupski to get the bus stop relocated. Dunleavy said the town also wanted the benches on the sidewalk outside the ticket office — sheltered from the elements by the building roof overhang — removed to eliminate loitering. Dunleavy said he did not know if a bus shelter would be erected on Cedar Street.

“That would be up to the county,” Dunleavy said.

Krupski aide John Stype acknowledged the town had made the request and said there would be a meeting between town and county officials to discuss it before any decision is made.

“They have to look at the whole picture,” Stype said June 29.

Taldone, a public transit advocate and board member of the advocacy group Five Towns Rural Transit, objected to the plan, calling it “a poor transit planning decision” that is “nonsensical and ultimately cruel.”

In a July 5 email to elected officials and planners, Taldone said the station house building “provides protection from rain, wind and sun better than any other stop on Eastern Long Island” for the “many hundreds of people who use the station house stop.” The station house is a “transit hub” that serves four different bus lines, Taldone said.

“So if it ain’t broke, why are we fixing it?” Taldone asked.

The rationale for the move — and fencing off three sides of the station house building — is to make people using the building “less uncomfortable for the allegedly ‘unsavory types’ hanging out there,” Taldone wrote. “Does that mean too many black and brown people? I hope not.”

Taldone said the proposed new bus stop location would require people to cross the street to meet cabs and catch the train.

“It is the opposite of all good planning,” Taldone said.

Town officials asked the county to move the bus stop to this location on Cedar Street, across from the railroad station. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps president Keith Lewin said the corps did not ask for the bus stop relocation. The organization didn’t ask to use the railroad office, either, he noted. The ambulance corps headquarters isn’t large enough to accommodate office space for administrative staff needed for paperwork, especially since the town began requiring RVAC to bill people transported by an ambulance as a result of motor vehicle accidents. RVAC is currently using an office in Riverhead Town Hall for that purpose.

Officials have told Taldone they are now considering keeping the bus stop on Railroad Avenue.

The east side of the ticket office building, where the sidewalk is protected by a roof, would remain accessible to bus and train riders, Taldone said. A bus shelter would be added on the east side of the station, where it would be in direct view from the platform and opposite the crosswalk, Taldone said.

“I like the idea and think we may be able to support it,” Taldone said. He said he and other public transit advocates have been invited by Krupski and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter to a meeting in Riverhead Town Hall on July 21, to discuss the available options and issues related to the station.

Image detailing plan proposed by town, presented by Riverhead chief of staff Larry Levy to the town board in September 2016.
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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.