Railroad Avenue in August 2014. File photo: Denise Civiletti

In the former supervisor’s opinion piece she asserts that “hindsight” is not the way to plan for the growth and future of downtown Riverhead and that project’s need “closer scrutiny.” While I completely agree with this sentiment, the “facts” identified as support for her assertions are completely incorrect. Perhaps she is confusing hindsight with revisionist history.

For example, she claims that the “current majority” of the town board has not done the planning necessary to redevelop and revitalize downtown. Specifically, she cites to the new mixed-use building proposed on Osborn Avenue and Court Street on the site of the long-abandoned, blighted “Stand Up MRI” building and claims that the project is being “fast-tracked.”

What the former supervisor fails to mention, perhaps because she is unaware, is that the town has worked on the redevelopment of this Railroad Avenue area for over 30 years to no avail. Everyone that knows downtown is aware of the vacancy, homelessness and crime of the area. The truth is that the entire town board (not the “current majority” as asserted by the former supervisor) commissioned a planning study which was discussed publicly many times and on which public hearings were held. (Did Ms. Jens-Smith attend any of these meetings? Did she submit any letters, comments or suggestions in connection with this study?) The planning study, again adopted by the entire town board, resulted in the creation of a new overlay zoning district. This district was again discussed and reviewed by the town board and publicly heard. (Not sure where Ms. Jens-Smith was for any of that as well.)

That new overlay district, contrary to Ms. Jens-Smith’s “hindsight” was adopted by the entire town board unanimously. The truth of the matter — the real history — is that all of these projects have been supported by the entire town board and because of that they are drawing private investment that will result in long-overdue revitalization, economic development and jobs for our town.

The 205 Osborn Avenue project will bring a $17 million private investment to an incredibly risky area after 30 years of trying. Not only do these projects have the potential to transform this area from a scary one to a safe, active one, they are also slated to increase public parking for the entire downtown using private money. Each structured parking space costs a significant amount of money. This does not include security and long-term maintenance. Riverhead taxpayers cannot afford and should not have to pay that.

So, while Ms. Jens-Smith’s revisionist history would have all these projects slow down (after 30 years of waiting) she completely disregards the benefits that the projects bring: revitalization, jobs, economic development and a better Riverhead.

The current town board has been incredibly responsible about carefully planning projects and equally responsible about ensuring that they are not unnecessarily delayed. They have done a great job putting politics aside for what is best for the Town of Riverhead.

If Ms. Jens-Smith was not paying attention by accident or an oversight during these past few years then that is unfortunate. However it does not mean that she is entitled to her own facts. I encourage anyone that is actually interested in learning about these long-planned projects to check our the town’s web page. They are all there and have been for quite some time.

Joann Waski is a resident of Jamesport.

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