Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone came to Riverhead today to announce a $400,000 “Jump Start” grant for bike paths and improved crosswalks intended to connect the train station area with Main Street.
The grant program provides funds to projects that enhance mixed-use, transit-oriented development in and around downtowns.
“Downtown is the heart of this great community,” Bellone said, speaking from a podium on the sidewalk near the LIRR platform on Railroad Avenue.
The county executive praised the town’s beautification efforts at the train station, where volunteers and town officials have planted a garden.
“The Town of Riverhead and the MTA have locked up a 10-year deal with a coffee shop,” to occupy long-vacant ticket office building at the station, Bellone said.
In June, the MTA board approved a 10-year lease with Hampton Coffee franchisee Cheffield Caffetteria to occupy the building as a coffee shop.
LIRR spokesperson Vanessa Pino Lockel said today the agreement with the vendor has not yet been signed, but it is close to being finalized.
Bellone said Riverhead’s initiative to allow the construction of workforce housing downtown will aid revitalization efforts because young residents “who are going to power our innovation economy” will sustain downtown’s local shops and restaurants.
Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said the new bike paths will complement the county’s bike-share program that Riverhead is participating in. The bicycles and racks should be delivered to Riverhead within a few weeks, she said.
Riverhead is “just getting started,” Jens-Smith said.
Legislator Al Krupski remarked on the transformation of the railroad station. It will encourage people to use the buses and trains, he said.
The train station, a stop on the Greenport branch, is also a stop for four Suffolk Transit bus lines. The town is looking to move the bus stop to a location west of the building, to an area where there’s room for the buses to pull out of the lane of traffic. The town has asked the county to provide two bus shelters for that location.
Krupski said today he was not sure about the status of that project, because the county has to coordinate with the MTA and “unfortunately things tend to move slowly,” he said.
The press conference was attended by council members James Wooten and Catherine Kent. Absent council members Jodi Giglio and Tim Hubbard both complained about short notice of the press conference. Both said they had less than an hour’s notice about the 9:30 a.m. press. conference.
“This was nothing but a pathetic scam to help Laura’s election,” Hubbard said. “I was notified at 8:42 a.m. today. There was no way I could make it there at 9:30am without more lead time,” he said in a text.
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