May 03, 2006
Of course something has to be done with downtown Riverhead, and the waterfront does need to be taken advantage of, but does it have to be anti-local business? And do we have to redo the entire town to revitalize? Because in any of the plans I've looked at, there seems to be very little allowance for the businesses that are already here. Local business owners have already been informed that they will have to relocate in three years upon expiration of their lease. But no opportunity for other spaces have been extended, and will they even be available?
Also, I don't see any allowances for access to the businesses once construction is underway. Has that even been planned for? How will the people going to Green Earth and the Eastenders Coffee House get there if roads are blocked off due to construction?
There is an apparent issue that I know of by speaking to others, that there is no communication flow between the merchants, the town, and Apollo. In fact, I think the store owners are basically being kept in the dark. There is a plan to put some housing or luxury condos on Main Street. And there will be a domino effect as far as reacting with noise ordinances. By not allowing music on Main Street — that in effect takes away from the nightlife of Riverhead, thus how safe it feels in the downtown area.
The perception of Riverhead after dark as not being safe is apparent, and the proof will be when there's more nightlife on Main Street acquiring more police presence. If housing is allowed in the same vicinity, then the ordinance will halt any and all nightlife from occurring, which is the only improvement that would increase the perception of safety. So there is an inherent flaw in the plan for housing on Main Street.
Truthfully, I don't see housing being affordable to the many people in the Riverhead town itself. There's a danger the revitalization of the town will not be for the people in the community, but outsiders and those that don't live out here full time.
One of the things I admire about Aquebogue is that they've banned the introduction of big box stores in their town. And big companies tend to get big deals, while the small businesses tend to get few. The drawback with big box stores is that every town and city looks the same no matter where you go, so you lose the character of the small community, which is why people come here in the first place.
Usually it's the small business owner who lives within the community, but now we face the real possibility that they will not be able to afford the higher rents that go along with a project like this. Personally, I think the landlords don't care about the development of downtown as a community, and it will come down to money and profits. It's sounding a bit reminiscent of the movie It's A Wonderful Life where Potter, the affluent banker was intent on wiping out the little guy, George Bailey, (Jimmy Stewart) with his big dreams and soulful approach to life. He turned Bedford Falls, NY into Pottersville — in this instance [the analogy is] Apollotown.
How I look at it is, those people don't live here and it's not in their heart and soul to make this a viable place to live. Years have gone by with downtown being forsaken . . . now all of a sudden Riverhead is a commodity because it represents the gateway between the North and South Fork — and it's big business. So those that have been here long term serving the community, may face an uphill battle and there's a lot of room for the little guy to get down-trodden. Good intentions and great possibilities exist, but don't discount misconception and deception.
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 324-2500 or E-mailing email@example.com and we'll pass it along to R.B. Stuart.