Grumman Memorial Park, Calverton. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Unless you like to live as a flamingo, standing on multiple legs is a sensible and extremely stable thing to do. This applies equally well to towns as to creatures; in order for Riverhead to be a stable, supported community we need more than one leg to stand on. Everyone loves our one leg of the agriculture community. This is the community that gives the town the unique flavor, something which many other communities around us have lost forever. While this community is important and vital to the town it cannot stand alone. We need the two other legs of the scientific community and the engineering community (technology).

My father was a WWII veteran who lived in East Hampton. After the war (and after finishing his high school education because of being drafted when he was 18) he went on to technical schools and worked with cooling units for the Long Island Ice and Fuel company located in the Hamptons at the time. Eventually he managed to get a position at Brookhaven National Laboratory and managed to move the family to Wading River, in the Town of Riverhead. Although he never received a college degree, his dedication allowed his only son who graduated from Mercy High School in Riverhead to study physics at the prestigious Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Likewise we had the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant, Calverton, run by Grumman. Testing, building and retrofitting a number of military aircraft, it was not only a source for engineering employment but for all those who were employed to support the workers and engineers at that facility. Both facilities supported technical people, clerical people, maintenance workers, and so forth. These people lived in the community and in turn supported the various establishments through the community through their patronage. Their children attended the school systems.

We have a unique opportunity to stand on multiple legs once again. Unlike other offers for the former Grumman property, which might give us a short term boost of cash and nothing else in terms of employment opportunities or a single buyer with a strange risky proposition with relatively little in terms of real job opportunities (this was the original Luminati offer) we have an offer from a builder and maintainer of long-term commercial rental properties. It is a company whose goal is to make a profit through such rentals — good, sound companies that produce products people need are what provides good, sound long-term rental revenue; the goals of this company are precisely in line with the goals of this town; revenue, employment and growth.

Meanwhile, in what is becoming a perfect technological storm, it was reported recently that a group of people want to take the soon to be closed McGann-Mercy High School and turn it into a STEM school, potentially bringing in students from all over the area for such advanced studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The combination of such a school, in addition to the facilities being offered by Triple Five could even encourage greater participation by the local colleges and universities such as SUNY Stony Brook. All of this influx of science and technology can only help improve our agricultural community as well. This is a win-win situation in every way.

Is the current situation perfect? No, but then again nothing is. A constant vigilance will always be required no matter what happens and the fate of the future is always in the hands of the present. But bickering and delay doesn’t help the community as a whole and we can’t stand forever like a flamingo on one leg. Let’s bring our town into the 21st century and maintain our rich agricultural heritage. We really can do both, but we have to decide quickly. This opportunity might not come again for a generation or more.

Christopher Beattie, who holds a degree in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s degree in computer science from Hofstra, is a computer programmer at Thomson Reuters. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the North Shore Chamber Choir and the Riverhead Republican Committee. He lives in Wading River.

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