Back in 2011, the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association needed a new leader, as its president then was planning to run for Southampton Town Board.
The only person willing to take the job at the time was Vince Taldone, a Riverhead Town resident who owned property in Flanders but didn’t live there; thus, he could not serve as the group’s president. The organization then voted to change its own bylaws so Mr. Taldone could take the helm at FRNCA.
Two years later, Mr. Taldone, who was FRNCA’s vice president in 2012, is the group’s president once again, and is heavily involved in efforts to revitalize the hamlet of Riverside, which for many years has been plagued by crime and blight, high tax rates and a lack of commercial activity.
A master developer has now been hired by Southampton Town with the goal of bringing commercial development to the area. A commercial sewer district study has been completed by Suffolk County and county and town officials hope to run sewers through the area, allowing the type of development that had not been possible previously due to the area’s high water table.
Then there’s the grant money. Just last month it was announced that town received a state grant to plan the construction of a footbridge over the Peconic River from Riverside into Riverhead. This came on the heels of a county grant being used to create a walking trail through county parkland leading to the river.
Behind all of this is Mr. Taldone, who, unlike many of the elected officials who have worked in this recent push to help Riverside, is doing his part solely as a volunteer.
For this reason and more, Mr. Taldone is the News-Review’s Civic Person of the Year for 2013.
“Vince has done a lot of the legwork” on the pedestrian bridge proposal, said South Fork county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has worked with Mr. Taldone on many of the ongoing plans for Riverside. “He deserves a lot of credit. He’s not getting paid for any of it, and he’s doing a lot of work.”
Mr. Taldone is retired from a career in New York City government, where he served primarily in program and land use planning positions within the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.
And his volunteer work isn’t limited to Riverside.
Since retiring, he’s volunteered on Riverhead Town’s Landmark Preservation Commission, the town’s handicapped advisory board and the board of directors of Riverhead Townscape, a nonprofit that works on local beautification projects.
Mr. Taldone also is a longtime volunteer for 5 Town Rural Transit, which seeks to improve public transportation on the East End, has volunteered at the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter and he is a former member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission.
And somehow he does all this with a vision impairment that prevents him from driving a car.
Richard Naso, chairman of Southampton Town’s Citizen Advisory Committee for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton, was the person who suggested Mr. Taldone become FRNCA’s president in 2011. Earlier this year, Mr. Naso also suggested informally to a News-Review reporter that Mr. Taldone be nominated for a Person of the Year award.
“Because of his experience as a planner in New York City, he has the ability to get things moving,” Mr. Naso said. “Most of us don’t have that experience or expertise.”
He said Mr. Taldone has experience in applying for grant money and also was able to negotiate with both Southampton and Riverhead town officials on the footbridge proposal, which needs approval from both municipalities.
“He was able to get so much going in such a short period of time,” Mr. Naso said.