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$3.65M for East End preservation in latest round of economic development grants

A Peconic Land Trust program to preserve farmland and open space and a Riverhead Town project to create a “town square” downtown were the biggest local recipients of Regional Council Award grants issued by New York State in December.

The grant awards were announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Dec. 19 and totaled $761.5 million statewide for 997 projects.

Below is a breakdown of some of the grant recipients on the North Fork. The awards are administered through the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.

• The Peconic Land Trust received the biggest award on the North Fork.

It received $3.65 million to implement the next phase of its Regional Aquifer Protection Land Acquisition Program to acquire land or development rights to protect Long Island’s sole source aquifer, according to the state.

“This year the program will focus on acquiring land in the towns of Brookhaven, Riverhead, Southold, Shelter Island and East Hampton to protect land in the Central Suffolk, Southold and South Fork Special Groundwater Protection Areas within the Peconic Estuary and Long Island Sound Study Watershed,” the state said in announcing the grants.

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• The Town of Riverhead received an $800,000 Empire State Development grant to create a new riverfront connecting Main Street to the river with recreational amenities and a gathering space.

The project, which town officials have called a “town square,” would “provide a public gathering space, pedestrian connectivity and open vistas from Main Street to the riverfront to reorient the pedestrian focus from the traditional Main Street to the Peconic Riverwalk, a unique attribute,” according to the town’s application.

Dawn Thomas, the town’s community development administrator, said the town has applied for other funding sources for the town square and she estimates that a few million dollars more will be needed to complete the project.

Last summer, the town square was part of the town’s application for the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative, but the state gave that money to Baldwin instead.

Ms. Thomas said the town could still reapply for that funding next summer, and the receipt of the $800,000 ESD grant should help.

“The state has shown a level of confidence in what we’re doing,” she said.

Students at the Long Island Science Center

• The Long Island Science Center, a learning museum, is planning to expand its facility in downtown Riverhead and increase its STEM programs and exhibits.

It received $775,000 in ESD grants.

The science center is currently in a temporary location on Peconic Avenue.

• The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe in Shoreham seeks to transform the only existing laboratory of inventor Nikola Tesla into three unique attractions: a museum honoring Tesla and his legacy; a center for education and research; and an entrepreneur and technologist innovation program. It received $750,000 in ESD grants.

• Tebbens Steel in the Enterprise Park at Calverton seeks to upgrade its structural metal fabrication facility by adding new equipment to expand its business. It received two grants totaling $500,000.

• The Village of Greenport plans to design and construct an expansion of its municipal sewer system, thus reducing current nitrogen pollution input to the nearby Peconic Estuary. The village received $390,000.

Riverhead Town’s sewer plant already performs a similar operation, discharging treated effluent onto the adjacent Indian Island Golf Course, which is owned by Suffolk County. The village received $26,240 in grants for the project.

CAST recently introduced a mobile food pantry. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)

• Community Action Southold Town, Inc. will purchase and upgrade a building in Greenport to serve as a North Fork Community Resource Center, which will support CAST’s self-sufficiency programs. CAST received $300,000 in grants.

• Harbor Lights Oyster Co. seeks to build a collaborative aquaculture center to house an oyster hatchery and a shellfish processing center that will offer accessible shore-based services to the local seafood industry. Harbor Lights is located in Greenport and grows oysters in Southold. They received $180,000 in grants.

• Spirit’s Promise Equine Rescue seeks to expand its current space to enable them to offer year-round workforce development and youth programs at their facility on Sound Avenue in Riverhead. The rescue received $90,000 in grants.

• The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research & Preservation on East Main Street seeks to engage the public in the critical work of the New York Marine Rescue Center to save endangered sea life.

“By providing enhanced tourism access to their unique hospital and rehabilitation center, offering specially tailored guided tours and educational programs, the [Foundation] intends to inform the public about man-made risks to sea life and other various tourism initiatives to increase visitation to the area and overall region,” according to the state. They received $75,000 in grants.