As lavender blooms in Calverton, so do traffic concerns

A field of cut lavender at East Marion farm Lavender by the Bay. (Beglane, 2018)

By Simon Ahn, Taylor Beglane and Nicolas Pennisi

A popular East Marion lavender farm notorious for causing traffic opened a second location in Calverton this past June, prompting concerns in a town already flooded with cars during the summer.

Located a stone’s throw away from the Long Island Expressway, the 15-acre Calverton farm stand has been operating over the summer, pending approval from the Riverhead Town Board. The board met on September 20 to discuss the site plan, but no vote has taken place.

“Traffic and access are always a concern,” Town Building and Planning Administrator Jefferson Murphree said.

Congestion on the roads has consistently been an issue for the business.

“It’s ridiculous,” East Marion resident Jill Dinizio said. “It takes me, on a normal day, five minutes to get to the grocery store, but when the lavender is in bloom it takes me 45 minutes to get home.”

Complaints such as this inspired the Rozenbaum family, who have owned Lavender by the Bay in East Marion since 2002, to expand their business west.

“[Calverton] is a great location,” Lavender by the Bay co-owner Chanan Rozenbaum said. “In terms of proximity to the city, proximity to the highway, it helps alleviate the load of people [in East Marion].”

The proposed plan calls for two 8-by-40-foot cargo containers, a 30-by-40-foot retractable canopy and an asphalt parking area with 68 parking spaces.

According to Riverhead Councilwoman Catherine Kent, the farm’s proximity to the expressway “will help mitigate many of the traffic problems they have at the East Marion location.”

Kent is the town board liaison to the Agricultural Advisory Committee. The committee is concerned about the Manor road intersection, which already experiences a high influx of cars from Splish Splash, a popular waterpark located across from the farm stand. According to Kent, this is why the plan has been referred to the New York State Department of Transportation.

Lavender by the Bay has attracted huge volumes of tourists since its opening. Its 17 acres of English and French strains of lavender make for vivid selfie backgrounds.

“Everyone has a phone with a camera on it,” Rozenbaum said.“Posting pictures on Facebook, on Instagram, and Twitter and all the major social media sites” have all been a big part of the business’ swelling popularity.

The business’ Instagram account has more than 14,000 followers. Thousands of users caption their purple-hued photographs with #lavenderbythebay.

“It has to do with selfie culture,” Lisa Jackson, a patron of the farm, said. The 20-year-old Bohemia resident says the picturesque fields are worth the hour-long car ride. She feels like she’s transported away from Long Island, making it the perfect photo opportunity.

The farm experiences the most visitors during the summer, with lavender typically blooming from the end of June into early July. They experience a second bloom in the early fall—however, according to Rozenbaum, it’s not as spectacular as the first. During the summer, visitors are charged $9 per person on the weekends and holidays and $6 on weekdays to enter the fields. During the off-season, it’s free.

Rozenbaum hopes that Calverton will end up being as popular as their East Marion farm. The response from the town, he said, was very positive.

“Riverhead has a rich agricultural history and we would like to retain that,” Kent said. “We are always pleased to use land for agriculture.”