Amityville and Riverhead will each get nearly $10 million in funding for projects to reinvigorate their downtowns, New York Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez announced Tuesday.
Amityville will have 11 projects go forward while Riverhead will have eight. The projects, part of the state's Downtown Revitalization Initiative, range from some designed to increase walkability in the communities’ downtowns, to business improvements, to art and culture endeavors.
While partly aimed at drawing in visitors, the state-funded projects also are focused on improving life for longtime residents and enticing younger people to make Long Island their home.
“This isn’t just about tourists, this isn’t just about folks coming to visit,” Rodriguez said at an Amityville news conference. “This is about increasing and improving the quality of life for the residents who are here and to be able to attract our children to stay in the community that they grew up in."
The amenities also could lure young people who have left the area to return, the state official said.
This is the fifth year of the state initiative, with $600 million in all previously distributed to municipalities including Westbury, Hicksville, Baldwin and Central Islip. The Long Island Regional Economic Development Council nominates downtowns for funding after receiving applications.
Amityville and Riverhead both had tried to secure the funding for several years. The state notified officials of the awards in January and the municipalities spent months finalizing projects for approval.
“This program is not about the state coming in and telling you what the community should do,” Rodriguez told the audience. “This is your vision.”
After months of waiting, supervisors from both communities expressed relief about Tuesday’s announcement.
“Yes, Amityville and Riverhead, there is a Santa Claus,” Amityville Mayor Dennis Siry joked.
In Riverhead, the largest piece of funding allotted was $3.2 million for a new town square that will serve as a public plaza and pedestrian connection between Main Street and the riverfront.
The next-largest portion of the award was $2.75 million for a mixed-use building on Griffing Avenue with workforce housing and retail/commercial space lining a public parking structure. There also was $2 million earmarked for an expansion of The Suffolk Theater.
Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said officials are most excited for the town square, which she said was “something that needed to be done many, many years ago” to connect the downtown to the water.
In Amityville, the largest chunk of the funding, at more than $5 million, was approved for the village’s plan to slow the traffic on busy Broadway and pedestrian safety enhancements.
The second biggest portion of the money — $1.3 million — was slated for improving the connectivity between downtown, newly-built apartment complexes and the Long Island Rail Road station as well as enhancements to the station.
Another $1.3 million will pay for a new mixed-use building at the site of the former village hall on Greene Avenue.
Siry said the plans are almost a decade in the making.
“All these dreams and visions all depend upon money,” he said. “…Hopefully, in 10 years we can look back on this and say we did really great things.”
With Jean-Paul Salamanca
Some of the downtown projects will be:
- Pedestrian safety enhancements and traffic-slowing measures on Broadway - $5,029,000
- Revitalizing LIRR station and connections to downtown - $1,314,000
- Creating a new town square - $3,240,000
- Enhancing the pedestrian realm along Main Street - $750,000
Source: New York state