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Old Riverhead LIRR station may get new use

An exterior view of the 1909 station in

An exterior view of the 1909 station in Riverhead along the platform railing. The MTA is seeking bids from firms for the station, a shut-down reminder of the glory days of the town decades ago. (Aug. 31, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The old red brick railroad station in Riverhead, closed to the public for 40 years, could soon be getting a new lease on life.

The station, once the gateway to Riverhead for lawyers coming to the county court a hundred yards away, is included on a list of properties the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to lease. On Friday, the agency opened the doors for the first time since the building was closed on Nov. 13, 1972, inviting people in for a look around.

That only one person came to inspect the station did not disappoint Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, who said that the visitor, Bryan DaParma, and his taxi business would be a perfect fit.

"This could be the start of the same kind of renewal here that we're seeing on Main Street," Walter said.

DaParma runs Hometown Taxi in Southampton and wants a place to keep some of his cabs that serve the Riverhead area. He said he would be interested in leasing the building or subleasing a portion. "There's a big need for transportation here," DaParma said. "I have a lot of state contracts -- Medicaid, dialysis, I run a van for Maureen's Haven."

The Haven is a winter shelter program run by various churches that takes East End homeless to a different church every night for food and shelter.

DaParma said he would have someone working in the building around the clock, and that he would keep the indoor bathrooms open for public use. Currently, people waiting for a bus or train -- the station is still in use even though the building is not -- have to use one outdoor portable toilet outside the building.

While the station is not zoned for a taxi business, Walter said the town would be glad to rezone the property to bring it back into use.

Just a few blocks from Riverhead's renovated East Main Street business district, the old station is near the State Supreme Court building, which is being expanded.

A few stores are open across Railroad Avenue, near the station, but there is no restaurant for jurors or lawyers. Years ago the town had Suffolk County move the Main Street bus stop to the station, where passengers have an overhang protects passengers in inclement weather.

Riverhead's first rail station was built in 1845, but the station house was moved in 1870 and used as a railroad bunkhouse. The existing station, the fourth built in Riverhead by the Long Island Rail Road, resembles the station as it looked in 1910.

The MTA is accepting bids on the property until the end of September.

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