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Riverhead eyes vacant school to bring seniors, youth together

From left, Tim Hubbard, Judy Doll, Sean Walter

From left, Tim Hubbard, Judy Doll, Sean Walter and Ray Coyne in the Riverhead Country Day School on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. The Riverhead Town Board agreed to convert the building into a recreational and educational center for youths and seniors. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Riverhead could soon have a facility to house new and expanded recreation programs for local seniors and youths.

The Riverhead Town Board agreed with a recent proposal from town recreation and senior citizen program officials to convert the vacant Riverhead Country Day School on Columbus Avenue at Stotzky Park into a center housing intergenerational recreation, educational and volunteer programs for young adults and older residents.

“This was perfect timing for us to have this building,” said Ray Coyne, Riverhead Town’s superintendent of recreation, referring to the day care center’s closure at the end of December due to declining enrollment.

The center would offer new programs and expand on services tailored for each group, while other mentoring-type programs would help both young and senior residents interact with and learn from each other.

“It’s been our goal for years to grow our intergenerational program,” Coyne said. “The gap between seniors and youth is so large, and I really believe both groups bring something to the table that can help one another.”

Judy Doll, director of the town’s senior citizen department, said the new location would also provide older residents on the west side of Riverhead — such as those in Calverton and Wading River — with a closer site for recreational programs. Residents in those areas currently have to commute to the George Young Community Center in Jamesport, which Doll said was difficult for some residents to get to at night, especially because of the distance.

“Some of them don’t want to drive all the way out there,” Doll said. With a closer center and more space, “we could offer something extra,” she added.

At the town board’s Jan. 12 work session, Councilwoman Jodi Giglio suggested using the building to collect revenue by renting it out. However, other board members said the town-owned building could be put to better use for local residents who take advantage of town recreation and senior services.

Town Supervisor Sean Walter said that since the school is next to Stotzky Park, which “is our premier park,” it would better serve Riverhead residents to use it for recreational purposes.

“We are in need of this recreational space in the west end of town, and this location is the closest we’re probably going to get,” Walter said.

While no official action was taken at the meeting, Walter said that since the town owns the building and the majority of the board is in favor of it, no further official action needed to be taken, and that in theory the building could soon be occupied for senior and youth programming.

While Coyne did not specify a date, he said the space could be operational within a month’s time.

New and improved

Services being planned for the facility include:

  • Intergenerational center for seniors and youths, with programs specifically tailored to each group
  • Volunteer program to train seniors to assist in recreational programs and special events
  • Drop-in center for residents with space for games, pingpong, pool tables and other recreational uses
  • Youth center featuring after-school programs
  • Recreational programming in the evenings

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