Sometimes the best thing you can do...

Monday, December 01, 2014

Sometimes the best thing you can do...

No "Grocery Store" in B3 and I1 say 'no'

There are two great truths in life: the first is that history is the best predictor of the future. The second is that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

First, the history lesson.

Up until the mid 1970s, downtown Riverhead was the premier shopping district on the East End. With three supermarkets, three jewelers, three shoe stores, clothiers, appliance stores, drug stores and other retailers... it was the place you went shopping.

Then, in 1976, the last supermarket left Main Street for the greener pastures of the largely undeveloped Route 58. And thus began the steady decline of downtown Riverhead.

That downturn was already in evidence in 1980 when Newsday published a full page article about downtown Riverhead's falling fortunes.

By the 1990s, most of the retailers had gone and the area surrounding it continued to slump.

Thirty-eight years later, Riverhead's Main Street is still strugging to emerge from the faulty planning and assumptions of the 1970s and 1980s.

Now, couple that with the unbridled development of Route 58 complete with the introduction of box store retail and you have a recipe for disaster.

The Town Board cared, and in large measure, still cares only about one thing: increasing the tax base. It forgets that all of the development requires municipal services which cost money.

So the thirst for tax base never abates. Government gets larger and more expensive. And tax increases spiral out of control. That's the Riverhead experience that I've seen from a front row seat.

The developer will tell you that people have a right to another supermarket, although I don't know where this is found in the Constitution.

The developer will tell you they spent money on a survey that shows the public is dissatisfied with the existing supermarket. That's all well and good.

The supermarket is there. If there weren't a demand for what it has to offer, its doors would have closed.

The developer could've bought the old bowling alley and built a supermarket there, so its not about filling a need as much as it is maximizing profit, which is fine. Just say so.

The developer has every right to develop their property and make it profitable. But the Village has an obligation to its residents and that's why zoning exists.

On December 4th, the Westhampton Beach Village Board has a decision to make.

Do they follow a well thought-out Master Plan and zoning that allows development along the commercial corridor of County Road 31 while maintaining their downtown business district?

Or, do they follow Riverhead's example?

Mayor Maria Moore promised to make Westhampton Beach more business friendly.

Rolling over and changing the Village's zoning to appease one developer and opening the floodgates to the destruction of Main Street, Sunset Avenue and Mill Road is not what most people had in mind.

The choice is the Village's. But having seen what I have seen I would not be so quick to add those "two little words" into the code to appease the developer. Just look north and see what happened.

Guest blog courtesy of Bruce Tria is the owner and General Manager of WRIV 1390 AM in Riverhead, NY. Its studios and offices overlook Main Street.


1. EastEnd68 said...

Come Thursday Maria will find a way to duck this issue and do nothing but delay.

I sense that she is not an "action" person... but she does have that nice smile and makes good eye contact. That goes a long way toward gulling the unwary.

2. DevGru said...

You're calling in some favors to torpedo Andy Mendelson, aren't you? I thought you hated Waldbaum's.

Aw, jeez...
  1. I don't like this Waldbaum's store... never made any bones about that! And I've provided specifics for that dislike at every step of the way. This is a personal thing with me.
  2. I also recognize what will happen to the rest of the "downtown" area if people stop coming down Sunset Avenue because of a better shopping alternative in the B3/I1 district. That's not about me, that's about my Village.
– Dean

3. Bruce Tria said...

  1. DevGru wrote that Dean is "calling in some favors..." That, of course, questions my integrity as well as Dean's. It would be like me asking you if you were carrying the water for the developer.
  2. I have worked in East End radio since 1976 and I have worked in downtown Riverhead since 1979. I have seen everything that I wrote about first hand. I can't help but notice that you didn't dispute my facts.
  3. Although I live in a neighboring hamlet, Westhampton Beach is special and I would hate to see it become just another stop on the railroad, so to speak.
To clarify, any favor I "called in" from Br'er Tria was to ask him to author a "Guest Blog" because while I can remember downtown Riverhead as a thriving County seat all the way back to the mid-'40s, he has the singular experience of watching first-hand that municipality change radically over the past five decades.

That's not about Bruce's or my integrity, it's about my recognition of Bruce's highly germane perspective.

Yeah, well put... that "railroad" started in Nassau County and made stops in Bay Shore, Patchogue and Riverhead. Railroader, pass by!
– Dean

4. Seeker said...

Whether one likes or dislikes Waldbaum's is beside the point... as Bruce Tria did a superb job of pointing out.

Correct... people need to look at "the bigger picture," which is the survival of the B1 district.
– Dean

5. Hampton West said...

Wasn't Route 58 once called "the Riverhead Bypass?"

Even in my time out East I've watched downtown Riverhead decline, yet the downtown still has much potential.

I have heard it referred to by that term, but not in almost 40 years.

The Town, under Supervisor Joe Janoski, as I recall, hired an outfit called "Cityscape" or something along that line, in an attempt to revitalize the downtown area of Riverhead, and businesses were suddenly sporting beautiful carved signage, but that program didn't last long.

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