April 26, 2006
The Riverhead development that's being proposed is my biggest immediate concern, and that a chunk of the waterfront is going to be sold to a private developer. The waterfront should be kept as Riverhead town property and developed as a "Central Park" for the East End communities.
The important thing is, I don't like the idea of an extremely valuable property being in the hands of a private business. Development in Riverhead is important and has been happening bit by bit by small entrepreneurs; boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants, a computer store, etc. I fear that the development could lead to an infusion of establishments such as Starbucks and The Gap, jeopardizing the small businesses that have contributed to our community. I also fear the Suffolk Theatre, which should be developed into a performing arts center, will also be put in jeopardy.
In the past 10 years, we've watched Riverhead grow organically, and the wrong kind of development will destroy the direction it's been heading in on its own, which includes the growth of the arts, music, and theater community.
I think a 14-screen movie theater is not necessarily bad — however, I think a theater company that shows more sophisticated films will be more appropriate for our community. One such company is called Bow Tie Cinema, they have a number of movie houses around the country and they show foreign films, first domestic films, and indies. Which would be a theater more in tune to Riverhead as an arts community.
My hometown of Port Jefferson was a ghost town. As a result, many of the buildings on East Main Street were very affordable; artists and crafts people moved in and it flourished. As a result, through efforts of my neighbor, who organized a street festival that drew thousands of people, business in the village thrived. The character of the town in respect to the architecture and personality in a broader sense; by supporting the arts in general we were able to maintain the historic buildings.
Eventually, the rents started to skyrocket. Now over 15 years later, the artists are gone and we have a village that looks like thousands of others throughout the country that include Starbucks and a few independents.
So I want to see Riverhead developed as an art community. We have on the East End a tremendous wealth of artists, actors, and musicians. The improvements of the Vail-Leavitt have sparked developing a venue for musicians and other performers. The nightlife currently is limited. Hopefully, the Suffolk Theatre will support a larger performance space for theater, orchestral music, and dance. So I think this is absolutely essential to develop Riverhead with the character it already has.
If you live or work in the Riverhead area and you want to give us a piece of your mind about something, let The Independent Traveler Watchman know by contacting Rick at 324-3500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll pass it along to R.B. Stuart.