Ronkonkoma Hub: Exaggerations and Evictions

The Ronkonkoma Hub is open (at least, part of it) and it looks great! Usually, I would thrilled! It checks so many boxes:

  • Transit Oriented Development
  • Above Average Rental Amenities
  • Mixed Use Buildings Planned
  • Higher Density Development
  • State Economic Development Funding

While I really want to be happy for this redevelopment project, the rental company managing the property, Bozzuto, is deeply exaggerating qualities of the property.

Here’s a quote from Alston’s (the name of the residences) website: “Imagine stepping out your door to enjoy Pindar wines and Briermere pies, a Lobster Roll lunch with a Crooked Ladder brew. That’s a taste of what’s to come at Station Square.”

Google Maps directions from the Alston Apartments to the three featured places to visit.

Well, they’re not technically lying because they didn’t say how many steps you would be taking but it’s a 30-minute drive to Crooked Ladder, 35-minute drive to Briermere and a 50-minute drive to Pindar.

What’s frustrating about this is not the blatant exaggeration but the fact that you need a car to go to most of these places. To visit Crooked Ladder and the rest of Riverhead’s downtown, you could foreseeably take a train from Ronkonkoma for almost the same price and time as going to Manhattan on any of the three daily trains out there. Transit oriented developments are supposed to be pedestrian friendly – and that’s just what they claim on their website!

“All in an exciting, walkable community alive with possibilities.”

Other than going to the city by train, you’re pretty much out of luck if you want to enjoy much other than a good slice of pizza at Slices and Ices and a cut at Mica D’s barber shop without a car.

But those very stores are in danger of being forced out in a future phase of the redevelopment. What services are Tritec or the State going to offer to help these businesses relocate? Will they be able to afford to relocate to one of the new mixed-use shops in Alston Square? I can only hope so!

Here’s another quote from their website: “The Village Green and pocket parks of Station Square are surrounded by state and local parks in every direction.”

A view of all State, County, Town owned parcels near the Ronkonkoma Hub (excluding MacArthur Airport which is under “Airport Inn Inc”). Source: Suffolk County GIS Portal.

Where are these parks? The only significant piece of woodland/open space nearby is absolutely threatened to be cleared for this very development project! The other small wooded pieces are primarily sumps.

They could be talking about the Lake Ronkonkoma beach (which you can’t swim at), Lily Pond County Park, Commerdinger County Park, Lakeland County Park or Connetquot River State Park but none of these public parks are contiguous with the project nor are they easily walkable. In their defense though, you could feasibly walk to Lake Ronkonkoma in a half hour and there is already existing sidewalk 95% of the way to the original downtown.

“Lake Ronkonkoma is being restored to become a beautiful gathering place for the whole community”

I haven’t seen any plans to revitalize the original downtown. Currently, one of its largest anchor institutions just closed (King Kullen), it has lost its local pharmacy (Slater), hardware store (Agnew & Taylor) and many other stores are just plain ole empty.

“Alston is minutes away from MacArthur Airport, across the street from the Ronkonkoma Station on the LIRR, and just off the Long Island Expressway.”

Finally, some truth! I would imagine the proximity to these amenities could get noisy, though.

You can get all this for $2,300/month!

Even worse than the exaggerations on their website, the company, with state backing, has forcibly pushed out many businesses without any support for where they relocate to. Landowners are being offered “fair market value” and are being told to take it or leave it. Worse, renters have no financial support to cover any costs associated with relocation.

Much of the initial press labelled these businesses as “blighted” while, in reality, they probably employed more people in the long term than these apartments ever could. Here’s a list of the businesses that I could find that have been kicked out:

  • Krav Maga
  • Keen’s Machine Repair
  • Allegiance Engine
  • United Fence & Guard Rail Corp.
  • Pro-Cise Auto Collision
  • A-1 Car Care
  • Accurate Auto Shop Inc
  • World Gym
  • Islandwide Transportation
  • AAA Lawn Mower Service Company
  • Spring and Wheel Alignment Inc.
  • Sno-Wax Plows and Spreaders
  • Tom’s Tires and Auto Service

I’m sure there’s others but you get the point. Many more businesses will sadly be added to this list as the project continues to force landowners and renters to divest themselves from Ronkonkoma.

A view of the properties that have already been acquired for the Ronkonkoma Hub. Source: Suffolk County GIS Portal.

While there’s little that can be done for those businesses that were already forced out, Tritec and the State owe it to the remaining business owners (whether they own the building or not) to provide relocation support services such as reimbursing realty fees, moving costs, marketing related to location changes and other costs that are being burdened to long standing community members.

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