Suffolk Theater/Riverhead, NY

Newsday (New York)

May 3, 2010 Monday


DEVELOPMENT: Polishing Riverhead’s image

Downtown Riverhead has been struggling for years. But recently, the town and a real estate company agreed to drop lawsuits against each other and lay plans to reopen the old 800-seat Art Deco movie house, the Suffolk Theater, by 2012.

The theater, which opened in 1933, has been closed since 1987.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said he liked the art idea.

"It’s a good way to make the place look better than it does now," he said. Walter also said he has been speaking to other developers to redevelop the downtown.

"There’s a big buzz," Walter said. "We suspect there’s some big things on the horizon."

Talk about putting the best face on a bad situation: The East End Arts Council in the next two weeks will be putting works by Long Island artists and photographers in the windows of about 40 shuttered stores along East Main Street in Riverhead in an effort to revitalize the downtown area.

"We’re surrounded by empty storefronts," Pat Snyder, the council’s executive director, said Friday. "They look terrible. People always say to me, ‘What’s going on in Riverhead?’ There’s a lot of negative feelings about the look of the town at the moment."

The council, Snyder said, has received about 80 works of art and plans to select about 60 of them to put in the storefronts. They will be up May 22, the night of a planned Downtown Dance Party to be held in one of the empty stores as a kickoff to what the arts council calls the Storefront Art Exhibit.

The works will remain on display throughout the summer, and on summer evenings the storefronts will be lit up.

"I’m thinking maybe people will look [at the works] and say, ‘There’s a good community behind this, maybe it’s a good investment,’ not like, ‘Gosh, why would I want to be in a town that’s barren?’" Snyder said.

The window display space is being provided by the developers The Apollo Group and Riverhead Enterprises. Apollo’s plans for a redevelopment of downtown fizzled.

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