Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar outlined her administration’s accomplishments and the town’s progress over the past two years, including efforts to revitalize downtown and the progress of the sale of town-owned property at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, during her State of the Town speech last night.
During the speech, given in the presence of town officials, business leaders and residents at a joint meeting of the Riverhead Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis clubs, Aguiar also highlighted the town’s increased financial stability, and its recent and future infrastructure improvements . She also reaffirmed her commitment to bolster funding for public safety.
“After a difficult campaign last year, it was humbling and gratifying to be overwhelmingly re-elected for another term as your town supervisor,” Aguiar said. “It is exciting to be provided with the opportunity to address many of Riverhead’s leading voices and discuss the future of our great town as we rebound from the pandemic. I am here to share with you unequivocally, Riverhead’s future is bright and full of promise.”
“I am committed to continue working with our Town Board, town employees and, most importantly, the public to ensure all of Riverhead’s potential is realized, with a balance,” she said.
During her speech, given at the Sea Star Ballroom on East Main Street to a crowd of more approximately 75 people, Aguiar highlighted the two largest economic development projects downtown: Railroad Avenue transit-oriented development and Riverhead Town Square. Both projects have town-designated master developers and are in negotiations with the town for public-private partnerships.
“Downtown Riverhead is truly in the midst of a transformative and reimagining stage,” Aguiar said. “Just a few months ago, following a lengthy public engagement process, the Town Board selected a master developer for our town square. The developer has demonstrated over 25 years, a commitment to downtown, as the visionary of the Long Island Aquarium, the Hyatt and the Preston House. We are excited to continue this mutually beneficial relationship to revitalize our downtown.”
“Similarly, after an RFQ issued in 2021, this past February, the Town Board selected master developers to lead our Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project at the train station area,” Aguiar said. “This is presently the most blighted area in downtown. This project will vastly increase public transportation options for our residents to live, work and play in downtown Riverhead and beyond. We expect to have shovels in the ground in less than a year.”
“The Town Board and I look forward to starting the qualified and eligible hearing process on both of these projects, which will include further opportunities for public engagement,” she added. “I will work hard to encourage development is completed in an expeditious manner, in order for residents to benefit from a revitalized downtown, as quickly as possible.”
On the sale of property at the Enterprise Park at Calverton, Aguiar said the town took “another bold step” this year to close the sale to Triple Five affiliate Calverton Aviation and Technology of 1,644 acres of town-owned property for $40 million. The town agreed to transfer the property to the Riverhead IDA, and file a joint application with CAT to the IDA, in order to shift the burden of Department of Environmental Conservation approvals to the business after unsuccessful attempts from the town to move the deal forward.
“This landmark action by this Town Board allows the sale to advance prior to the completion of a subdivision,” Aguiar said. “The transfer of title to the IDA will allow much greater local control of the redevelopment process and require CAT to take continuous and immediate action to ensure its financial commitment to expend at least $1 million in infrastructure improvements to the runways on the property within the first two years.”
“This development will generate millions of dollars within the town, school district, ambulance and fire districts. Perhaps, most importantly, it will create thousands of quality jobs for the eastern Suffolk County region, and once again allow the site to reclaim its place as one of Long Island’s key economic development generators,” she said.
Aguiar said she will recommend that $10 million of the $40 million dollars from the town’s sale of property go towards “property tax relief and lower our property taxes for our residents, along with further increasing our Police Department personnel.”
Aguiar flaunted the financial accomplishments of the town, including the 2022 budget, which resulted in a slight increase of property taxes, and the increase of the town’s bond rating by Moody’s Investor Services, which she said “provided another sign of Riverhead’s fiscal strength and stability.”
“As Chief Financial Officer, I have stated in the past, my administration will continue to take a proactive approach, in all budgetary matters, and I am proud of the accomplishments achieved to protect our taxpayers,” Aguiar said.
Aguiar said public safety is “without a doubt one of the top concerns of this administration” and said she is waiting for funds from the state to bolster the town’s police force. She celebrated the formation of the Riverhead Town Law Enforcement Advisory Panel, created to develop a police reform plan in the wake of murder of George Floyd, and said the board has also “initiated funding to equip our police officers with body cameras,” a recommendation of the panel.
She also said a priority of the administration has been “aggressive code enforcement” and the board hired an additional Spanish speaking officer to assist with investigations and housing inspections. “Some efforts were hampered by state and federal moratoriums under the pandemic. However, our professional code enforcement staff is dedicated to the safety and well-being of our residents,” Aguiar said.
Aguiar also discussed improvements to the town’s sewer and water districts, including the completion of a $10 million upgrade to the Calverton Sewer District Treatment Plan in 2021, and the effort to bring public water to homes in Manorville that have contaminated private water wells.
“Finally, and most recently, Riverhead is moving forward to ensure future developers commit to investing in our Water Infrastructure improvements, lessening the tax burden on our residents,” she said. ”We will continue to make the necessary investments to improve our water quality and supply capabilities.”
Aguiar gushed about improvements to town parks, including new pickleball courts, improvements to the George Young Community Center, newly installed lights for baseball fields at Stotzky Park, and many more.
She also said she anticipates the opening of Island Water Park, the long-awaited watersports park in Calverton, and an ice-hockey rink at Stotzky Park.
“The Island Water Park, 22 years in the making, a 43-acre year-round project in Calverton, will host various family attractions, with simulators, the world’s largest floating aqua park, kayaking, paddle-boarding, an indoor surf pool, among other family activities. The park is scheduled to open this fall,” she said.
“Further, the entire community is extremely excited to move forward with the prospect of bringing ice hockey to Riverhead,” she said. “We are working with the Peconic Ice Hockey Foundation to create a memorandum of agreement to move this prospect forward. Once we reach an agreement, we anticipate ice hockey here in Riverhead late this summer.”
Aguiar commended the town-approved drag racing events at EPCAL. “Riverhead’s residents enthusiastically welcomed drag racing back to Long Island last year, after the Riverhead Town Board approved a series of drag races on one of the EPCAL runways,” she said. “The family friendly events attracted over 1,500 people at each event, many who supported our local economy. Drag racing is back again this year with a completed spring series, and upcoming summer and fall series.”
Aguiar said the town is proceeding with its comprehensive plan update and “vetting a new company to complete the process,” after the town announced it would terminate its contract with consultants AKRF to update the plan.
She said the town has also provided “essential services and meals on wheels” to senior citizens in the town through the last two years, including providing daily transportation for medical appointments and weekly shopping trips.
Aguiar also highlighted some of the land recently preserved within the town, by the Suffolk County Legislature and the Peconic Land Trust.
“We will continue to strengthen preservation efforts with the update to the master plan and revising the transfer of development rights program,” she said.
Aguiar thanked the work of the rest of the town board, town officials, police and fire departments and volunteers and committee members in the town.
“I am excited about the prospects of Riverhead’s future, and I am committed to working tirelessly, to make our mutual goals a reality. Our residents deserve nothing less,” Aguiar said.
“Please know, I and the entire Riverhead Town Board are committed to seeing a fully revitalized downtown and to improving the quality of life for residents and visitors,” Aguiar said. “In addition, we will focus our efforts to ensure all our businesses districts and most importantly our residents continue to thrive, flourish, and prosper.”
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