Feds award $24 million for downtown Riverhead parking garage and more


The slow-going revitalization of downtown Riverhead just got a major shot in the arm, to the tune of $24.12 million in federal transportation funding.

Nearly $15 million of that grant money will fund a downtown parking garage, which will open the riverfront to residents and visitors alike, according to a town press release.

Most of the downtown area along Peconic River, which runs parallel to Main Street, is currently used for parking, save for a strip of grass, benches and boardwalk called Peconic Riverfront Park.

“This grant funding will revolutionize Riverhead’s downtown by funding projects to relocate parking away from the Peconic River, allowing the town to reimagine its waterfront; implement flood mitigation measures and enhance connectivity throughout the community,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

Possible plans for the riverfront pavement weren’t made public in the release.

GLI has reached out to the town supervisor’s office for more details.

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Riverhead's riverfront is mainly used for parking in the downtown. (Credit: Google Maps)

Riverhead’s riverfront is mainly used for parking in the downtown. (Credit: Google Maps)

In addition to the parking garage, $4.6 million will be used for streetscapes and another $4.8 million will be used for flood protection, as the riverfront parking areas are known to go under water in heavy rains and storm surges.

The money comes through the RAISE Discretionary Grant program, which is authorized under the Local and Regional Assistance Program of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, according to the release.

Hubbard specifically thanked Gillibrand and Sen. Charles Schumer, both Democrats, and Congressman Nick LaLota, a Republican, for their efforts to secure the federal funding for Riverhead.

“It is bipartisan efforts such as this that prove that government on all levels can come together for the betterment of residents regardless of political party,” Hubbard said.

LaLota, who represents New York’s 1st Congressional District, said he was proud to support the funding application, “specifically the parking garage and the plan for implementation of Complete Streets throughout the main thoroughfares of downtown Riverhead, which will transform Riverhead into a vibrant economic development hub on eastern Long Island.”

Though certainly on the upswing, Riverhead has lagged behind its sister Suffolk downtowns of Patchogue and Bay Shore in revitalization efforts.

All three downtown shopping hubs suffered through the late 1970s well into the 90s, due in part to the shift in shopping habits to malls and thoroughfares such as Sunrise Highway and Route 58 in Riverhead, deinstitutionalization and other factors that increased vagrancy issues.

But Riverhead suffered quite a bit longer, in large part because of city-based absentee landlords that let massive building go empty along Main Street for generations. In October of 2021, two of those buildings in the very heart of the downtown were knocked down for a new town square, an undertaking led by the town, which purchased the properties, according to

Main Street has also seen new, mixed-use commercial and residential complexes (two of which are pictured above), replace its aging infrastructure.

As for the grant, Dawn Thomas of the town’s Department of Economic Development said its community development division had sought the U.S. Department of Transportation funding since 2020.

“The complex application was entirely undertaken by town staff,” Thomas said. “Staff has been relentless in improving the application each of the last five years.

“I am excited that with the continued support of Senator Schumer, Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Nick LaLota that 2024 is the year we won what is the largest single, grant funding award in the history of the Town of Riverhead.”

Top: Main Street in Riverhead as seen from Grangebel Park. (Credit: Riverhead Chamber on Facebook)

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