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Hardy2
November 22, 2006

River Club To Be Preserved


The Nature Conservancy has become the final link in a partnership effort to preserve more than 50 acres of long sought after land in Riverhead.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy announced on Monday that he has filed a capital budget amendment that will move $22.5 million in surplus funding from other capital projects towards the purchase and preservation of open space.

Levy was joined by Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale and Kevin McDonald, the director of public lands on Long Island for The Nature Conservancy. The trio announced a three-party agreement to purchase the 53.3-acre River Club property in Riverhead. Under the agreement — which needs to be approved by the County Legislature and the Riverhead Town Board — the Conservancy will acquire the property, then transfer the southerly 17.5 acres to Suffolk and the northerly 35.8 acres to Riverhead at appraised value for preservation.

"The preservation of this significant acreage, in the heart of the Peconic Estuary, is a major victory for the long-term environmental health of the Peconic River, Flanders Bay and the Peconic Bay," noted Levy. "We are thankful that The Nature Conservancy has become the final piece in this puzzle and has enabled Suffolk and Riverhead to ultimately acquire these important lands."

Cardinale reminded that the purchase was long in coming. Back in 2003, the previous administration was poised to acquire the parcel until the deal fell through. After the town moved forward to purchase the property without the county for a much higher price, the negotiations were clouded with negative comments and hints of impropriety.

Cardinale focused on the purchase as a campaign issue. Later, a review by the district attorney's office revealed no criminal wrongdoing.

After the dust settled, the seller implied he did not want to negotiate with the town or the county, said Cardinale — and that's when The Nature Conservancy stepped in.

This week's acquisition was a boon for all involved, and Cardinale thanked the county, the Conservancy, and even the real estate market, which kept the deal favorable for the seller. "This is a really good instance of a step back turns into a step forward," said the supervisor, "because the town and county had to step back from the negotiating table for The Nature Conservancy to step in."

Additional reporting by Lisa Finn

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