Harry Lewis of Greenport, who has been using Suffolk County Transit buses to commute to work at Suffolk County Community College for more than 20 years, waits for his transfer on Griffing Avenue Monday morning. Photo: Denise Civiletti

County officials have decided to move the Suffolk County Transit bus stop back to the Riverhead railroad station after being made aware of complaints and concerns about the relocation of the bus stop to Griffing Avenue last week.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone told RiverheadLOCAL today the bus stop would be moved back to the train station “over the next few days.”

The move to Griffing Avenue “clearly … wasn’t working out as intended,” county spokesperson MaryKate Guilfoyle said today.

The bus stop serves five different bus routes and Griffing Avenue, a two-lane street with no shoulders, is not adequate to handle the buses queued there to pick up passengers, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said this morning.

“No one asked me about it,” Hegermiller said of the change. He noticed the buses and traffic congestion on Griffing Avenue the other day, he said this morning, and intended to reach out to the county about it.

Between the width of the roadway, the location of the new stop near the intersection with Court Street, the intersection with Railroad Avenue and the Griffing Avenue railroad crossing, he said, the new bus stop location posed a traffic hazard, the chief said.

The county decided to temporarily relocate the stop from the railroad station to Griffing Avenue after discussions with the town, Guilfoyle said yesterday, “in light of anticipated construction near the original stop as part of Riverhead’s transit-oriented development plans.”

The Town of Riverhead owns the municipal parking lot opposite the train station and plans to sell the two-acre lot to its designated master developer for a transit-oriented redevelopment project. The developer’s plans are to build a a mixed-use, multi-story building on the two-acre lot, providing 243 apartments, ground-floor commercial uses and parking. Under a master developer agreement authorized by the Town Board last year, the developer is slated to purchase the lot from the town for $7.29 million. The sale has not been finalized and the site plan has not yet received any approvals.

The bus stop change came just as the county rolled out its county-wide “reimagine transit” initiative. The Suffolk County Transit website and schedules published just before the rollout still show the railroad station as the bus stop for the 92, 58, 62, 66 and 80 bus routes. Signs notifying riders of the change were posted on sign poles at the railroad station.

“As we continue to monitor the roll out of the county-wide reimagine transit initiative, we are currently evaluating the operations of this site,” Guilfoyle said yesterday.

In a follow-up phone call today, Guilfoyle said the county had decided to move the stop back to the railroad station. She did not say whether the county had received complaints about the new location.

But the bus stop move made at least some riders and various court personnel unhappy.

Court personnel who declined to be interviewed on the record by a reporter yesterday complained about buses blocking the crosswalk and partially blocking the Griffing Avenue entrance to the county-owned parking lot. One person who said she was the commanding officer at the courthouse loudly chastised a bus driver for blocking the entrance to the parking lot. She refused to give her name to a reporter.

A bus waiting at the Griffing Avenue stop blocks a pedestrian crosswalk outside the county courthouse Monday morning. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Harry Lewis, 52, of Greenport, who is wheelchair-bound, has relied on the public bus system to get back and forth to his job at Suffolk County Community College’s Eastern Campus for over 20 years. He had transferred from the 92 bus to the 66 bus at the county center stop. He heard from bus drivers that with the new transit plan, “they were getting rid of the county center stops” and all the stops

would be moved from the county center to the train station. That dismayed him. “You really only want to go there if you’re desperate,” he said of the railroad station. Lewis said he was initially told the shift from the county center to the train station would happen sometime next year. “Then as of Oct. 1, it happened,” Lewis said.

A notice posted at the LIRR station advising riders of the relocation to Griffing Avenue. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Less than a month later, effective Oct. 29, the railroad station stop was switched to Griffing Avenue.

Besides not having any shelter for people waiting for bus, the Griffing Avenue location presents a special problem for anyone in a wheelchair, Lewis said.

The strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb on Griffing Avenue presents an obstacle to anyone who is wheelchair-bound because it’s very difficult to move a wheelchair across turf —especially if it’s wet, muddy or covered in snow, Lewis said. The ramp that provides wheelchair access for boarding the bus does not reach the sidewalk from the road. That means someone in a wheelchair must rely on another person to push the chair across the grass and onto the ramp.

The grass area between the sidewalk and roadway may violate the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act for bus stops and bus access.

Harry Lewis of Greenport, who uses Suffolk Transit buses to commute to his job at Suffolk Community College, is assisted onto a Route 66 bus Monday morning. Photo: Denise Civiletti

According to the ADA, walkways and paths leading to a bus stop must be accessible, providing a continuous, barrier-free travel path for all people. ADA minimum standards require a minimum clear width of 36 inches, though the U.S. Access Board’s Public Rights-of-Way Accessibility Guidelines recommend a minimum clear passage width of 48 inches, which is especially important next to a curb drop-off. The ADA minimum requirements also call for “stable, firm and slip-resistant ground and floor surfaces.”

The county’s “reimagine transit” initiative implemented system-wide changes to the county’s bus network to update the system and improve efficiency, service and reliability.

“We welcome the feedback and will be changing back (to the railroad station) due to the concerns that were raised,” Guilfoyle said.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.