Riverhead, Amityville each wins $ 10 million from the state for revitalization projects

Two proposals, including plans for transit-oriented development near LIRR in Amityville Village and a town square in Riverhead with an amphitheater and an ice rink, each won $ 10 million in state aid on Thursday.

Lieutenant. Governor Brian Benjamin and Long Island officials announced the prices, which were to spur redevelopment at the center by putting state money and planning expertise behind local efforts, at a news conference conducted over Zoom.

For Thursday’s winners, the prizes validated many years of planning.

Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said: “The Governor and Empire State Development Corporation saw our vision … and through this grant it will soon become a reality.”

They also came to what Matt Cohen, chief executive of the Long Island Association business group, said in a statement, was a “focal point” for city centers trying to retain and attract businesses that “are still shaking from the pandemic.”

Amityville Mayor: ‘The days of joy are coming back’

In Amityville, officials have identified three plots near the village’s Long Island Rail Road station for possible redevelopment, and seven more nearby that could also support mixed-use development or apartment buildings if residents would provide a customer base for downtown shops. .

The plan also proposes traffic calming for Broadway, the local stretch of Route 110, the state highway that is one of the region’s main north-south arteries. It also requires public Wi-Fi in the city center, new pocket parks, better integration of the LIRR station with the village and the addition of last-mile transit options such as car and bicycle parts and shuttle service.

Amityville Mayor Dennis Siry said: “The happy days are coming back” for the village, whose businesses struggled after the opening of Sunrise Mall in East Massapequa and the demolition of Brunswick Hospital Center, which began closing in 2005. Workers at the facility north of the village center, were once customers of downtown businesses, and the landowner was once the village’s largest taxpayer.

With hundreds of new housing units in the pipeline, village officials hope to attract new businesses along with visitors to nurture them.

“Hopefully more people will come and see and realize what we have to offer,” Siry said.

“We call it a heart transplant,” the Riverhead official said

In Riverhead, director of community development, Dawn Thomas, said officials will build a town square open to the Peconic Riverwalk. The site replaces large, long-empty buildings that once housed Swezey’s department store and a bicycle shop, and features an amphitheater, public eateries, market areas, a playground and an ice rink.

“We call it a heart transplant,” Thomas said. It’s a thing for the public to enjoy, but it will also connect the riverbank with Main Street, which has never happened before. “

A ruined area around the local LIRR station will be rebuilt, she said, with master-planned apartments, retail and garage parking replacing a two-acre parking lot.

“People will get off the train or take the bus or come to park and have connections to downtown,” recreates an area she admitted, “right now is not very inviting.”

The housing component is crucial to the success of the project, she said. Residents “take pride in their center, they use facilities. It is no longer vacant, it is not scary, it becomes attractive, interesting and inviting.”

The plan also includes an advanced planetarium, intended for a Long Island Science Center building on the town square, and upgrades to the Suffolk Theater and Vail Leavitt Music Hall.

The city is also planning flood mitigation measures and a marketing campaign to strengthen its identity as the “gateway to the entire eastern Long Island,” according to its grant application.

The state initiative, now in its fifth year, has distributed $ 600 million to the municipalities and attracts more interest than there are grants to give away. Siry and Thomas said their victories came after several failed applications in recent years. “We were hit every time we did not win,” but never stopped planning, Thomas said.

Past winners include Westbury, Hicksville, Baldwin and Central Islip. This year’s program provided $ 20 million to each region. The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council nominated downtowns after receiving applications.

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, said the program has yielded tangible successes, particularly in Westbury, though some have complained that the state is slow to “get dollars on the streets.”

Most communities that win the grants are already ready for success.

“They should already be doing some meaningful planning work,” he said. The money is “an accelerator. There is not one grant that does it alone.”

With James T. Madore and JP Salamanca

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