The Long Island Science Center won $1.12 million state grant to further its development efforts at the former Swezey's building on East Main Street adjoining the planned town square. Photo: Adobe Stock

The Long Island Science Center has won a $1.12 million grant from New York State to help construct its new home in Riverhead. 

The money was given through Empire State Development’s Market New York tourism grant program, and is designated for the science center’s rooftop planetarium, functional agritech and wind/solar exhibit, facade enhancements and a maker space — where local students can work with mentors.

The science center purchased a building in the heart of downtown Riverhead at 111 East Main Street for a new center in early 2020. The building adjoins the site of the future town square, with the future science center building even being integrated into prospective designs for the project.

The center previously won $775,000 in 2019 to expand its facility and programs in Riverhead. The science center is currently operating out of a “pop-up site” at Tanger Outlets and will be there until the end of 2022.

Larry Oxman, the president of the center’s board of directors, said the grant win left him almost speechless. “We’ve been working hard for so long,” he said in a phone interview yesterday.

The new center will include a space for lectures and community-based discussions. “It broadens our reach in the Long Island community and opens the door to people from many disciplines,” Oxman said.

Executive Director Cailin Kaller said the grant is a “huge step” towards making the project come to life. She said the center will still need to raise a few million dollars more to fund the project’s completion. “The plan is to scale it so we can move forward with what we raise,” she said. 

Kaller also praised the work of the science center’s grant writer Chris Kempner. “She’s been such a fabulous partner, understanding the vision we’re putting together and making that come to life in a grant,” she said.

The Town of Riverhead did not receive any funding from the $277 million dispersed in Round XI of the Regional Economic Development Council initiative. 

Riverhead Town is seeking $20 million in funding in the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The town is a finalist for the award. If Riverhead’s $20 million grant application included $2 million in funding for the science center development.

Empire State Development has announced the winners in each of the state’s 10 regions except Long Island. An announcement is expected at any time.

In addition to the Long Island Science Center project, Twin Stills Moonshine of Riverhead won a grant of $88,000 to invest in a production expansion, and the Town of Southampton received a $120,000 award to complete the expansion and renovation of the Riverside Child Enrichment Center on Flanders Road.

The East End Tourism Alliance received $137,250 for a “Al Fresco Tourism Marketing Plan” that will “host and promote themed activities and events that offer visitors, from diverse backgrounds, a wide range of opportunities to both celebrate and learn about Long Island’s extraordinary natural assets,” according to Empire State Development.

“The economic toll of the pandemic has been felt in every corner of the state, which is why we must ensure that our equitable economic recovery does the same,” Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a press release. “This new round of funding, rooted in a bottom up approach that partners with local leaders and utilizes unique regional strengths, will be another important tool as we work to transform communities across New York State into places where people will want to live, work and visit for generations to come.”

Denise Civiletti contributed reporting.

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