09/10/14 8:00am
09/10/2014 8:00 AM
Riverside Rediscovered's new community liaison Siris Barrios, right, and Sean McLean of Renaissance Downtowns discussed plans to revitalize Riverside at Monday's meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, where residents said they'd like to see a grocery store in the area. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Riverside Rediscovered’s new community liaison Siris Barrios, right, and Sean McLean of Renaissance Downtowns discussed plans to revitalize Riverside at Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, where residents said they’d like to see a grocery store in the area. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

For years, people in Flanders and Riverside have tried to get a supermarket or grocery store to come to the area, with no success.

So, improve the neighborhood, and a grocery store will come.

That’s what the company hired to redevelop the blight-ridden hamlet of Riverside is hoping will happen.  (more…)

02/11/14 3:00pm
02/11/2014 3:00 PM
Glynis Berry of Peconic Green Growth discussed the potential for failing septic systems in waterfront communities like Flanders and Riverside at Monday's FRNCA meeting. (TIm Gannon photo)

Glynis Berry of Peconic Green Growth discussed the potential for failing septic systems in waterfront communities like Flanders and Riverside at Monday’s FRNCA meeting. (TIm Gannon photo)

Aging cesspools and septic systems in waterfront communities like Flanders and Riverside are likely to fail in the future and could affect water quality, the executive director of Peconic Green Growth told the Flanders, Riverside and Northside Community Association Monday night. (more…)

02/11/14 11:17am

Refuse in woods along Oak Avenue in Flanders from 2012. Civic leaders say all the open space and parkland in the tri-hamlet area make it easy for people to dump. (Tim Gannon file photo)

The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association adopted a resolution Monday asking Southampton Town to create a garbage district for its three hamlets. (more…)

01/02/14 9:00am
01/02/2014 9:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Flanders Riverside & Northampton Community Association president Vince Taldone with his dog Champ in Riverhead in 2012.

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.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/14/13 3:19pm
12/14/2013 3:19 PM
JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

When Vince Taldone saw the state had given an $88,875 Economic Development Council grant for the pedestrian walkway he has been pushing for on the Peconic River in Riverside, he wasn’t sure what to think.

“I thought, how do they expect us to build a bridge for $88,000?” said Mr. Taldone, who is the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Southampton Town, on behalf of FRNCA, has submitted a grant application seeking $1.145 million for the pedestrian bridge project.

But upon closer inspection, it turns out that the $88,875 was specifically meant for the planning and design of the bridge.

Mr. Taldone said they had submitted the grant application quickly in order to make the deadline for submissions, and had not done any engineering or design of the proposed bridge, which would allow people to walk over the river from county parkland in Riverside to the parking lot in downtown Riverhead.

“I thought they were missing a zero,” Mr. Taldone said. “But they made it clear they weren’t saying no and they weren’t expecting us to build a bridge for $88,000.”

Mr. Taldone and County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has been involved in a number of Riverside revitalization plans and who proposed the pedestrian bridge at a FRNCA meeting, both said in interviews Friday that they fully understand why the state would want to commit money to the design of the bridge before committing money to constructing it.

“They put their stamp of approval on the concept,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “That’s big. The fact that they put $88,000 into the design of it anticipates that they will also fund the construction of it.”

He said he believes the design work can easily be done in time to submit additional grant applications for the construction work next summer.

“Obviously I was hoping to get the whole thing funded in the first round, but I’m not disappointed,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I’d be disappointed if we got nothing.”

Southampton Town recently received a $15,000 county grant for walking trails through the parkland leading to the likely location of the pedestrian bridge, and the town currently has a number of revitalization efforts underway in Riverside, which has traditionally been an area with little commercial development and high amounts of blight.

Included in these efforts is a recently awarded contract with Renaissance Downtowns to be a “master developer” of Riverside, a county study on the feasibility of establishing a Riverside sewer district, a study to redesign the Riverside traffic circle as a two-lane roundabout, and a recently awarded $236,900 state Brownfield Opportunity Area grant to study ways to redevelop areas in Riverside that may have had contamination in the past.

Read the pitch from Riverside’s new master developer

tgannon@timesreview.com

10/17/13 1:00pm
10/17/2013 1:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Republican Linda Kabot, left, speaks while incumbent Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who is running on the Democratic line, listens at the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association’s Southampton Town candidate’s night Tuesday.

Both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Southampton Town Board and Suffolk County Legislature agreed Tuesday that helping the northwest portion of town – most of which shares a school district with Riverhead Town – is an important goal in their campaigns. But the two sides disagreed about how best to achieve this goal.

One key disagreement concerned the proposed formation of a Riverside sewer district, seen by some as a key to economic development in the area.

The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association held the forum Tuesday in David Crohan Community Center in Flanders, where candidates for Southampton Town Supervisor and council spoke, along with candidates for the South Fork’s Suffolk County Legislature seat.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst of Sag Harbor, running for reelection on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines, is opposed by former Supervisor Linda Kabot of Quogue, running on the Republican and Conservative lines.

Ms. Throne-Holst defeated Ms. Kabot four years ago and then won again two years ago when Ms. Kabot ran only a write-in campaign.

Ms. Throne-Holst said her administration has done a lot for the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton areas, including establishing an economic development task force, getting the county’s sex offender trailers closed, obtaining a grant for a walking trail to the river in Riverside, having the police department join the East End Drug Task Force and issuing a request for proposals from developers interested in jump-starting economic activity in Riverside.

“Economic development in Riverside is absolutely crucial,” Ms. Kabot agreed. But she said that having done a number of studies on the area, the town should be taking action. She said the area near the former car dealership on Route 104 should be rezoned for shopping centers and the property north of the Riverwoods mobile home park should be rezoned for senior housing. The Republican Town Board candidates have included a section on Riverside in their campaign platform, Ms. Kabot said.

The two candidates also differed about future handling of the area’s sewage. Ms. Kabot said the town should hook into downtown Riverhead’s system while Ms. Throne-Holst supports a $250,000 study of the issue. The views of the county legislature candidates, incumbent Jay Schneiderman and Republican challenger Chris Nuzzi, split along the same lines.

Mr. Nuzzi said he disagrees with doing a $250,000 study on sewers in Riverside since “we already know the answer,” which would be hooking into the Riverhead system.

Mr. Schneiderman, who sponsored the bill to fund the study, has said that Riverhead Town rejected a request to tie into their sewer system, which Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter has confirmed in interviews.

All candidates supported current plans to create a walking trail from Flanders Road to the Peconic River and to build a pedestrian bridge over the river from downtown Riverhead connecting to that path. Town and county officials hope to obtain a grant for that project.

“We have very serious issues here,” Ms. Kabot said. “The northwest quadrant of the town needs attention.” At one point, she added that she’d like to see someone from the area run for town board, though Ms. Throne-Holst’s running mate, Brad Bender, is in fact from Northampton. Ms. Throne-Holst later thanked Ms. Kabot for “endorsing” him.

Ms. Kabot said that during her two years as supervisor, the town brought the Big Duck back to Flanders, got the state to repave Route 24 and renovated the Crohan Community Center.

Ms. Throne-Holst’s running mates for Town Board are Mr. Bender, a former FRNCA president and landscaping company owner who made an unsuccessful bid for Town Board in 2011, and Frank Zappone of Southampton, currently her deputy supervisor. In the past, he was a school administrator for many years and also worked for Apple and for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Republican/Conservative council candidates are Stan Glinka of Hampton Bays – president of the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce and the Rogers Memorial Library and a vice president at Bridgehampton National Bank – and Jeff Mansfield of Bridgehampton, a finance professional who also has degrees in business administration and law.

Some Republican candidates were also critical of the current administration for not following through on a pledge to create a night court within the town justice court, something Flanders and Riverside residents felt would help deal with quality-of-life offenses.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the attorneys in town didn’t want to go to night court, and the decision to have night court was up to the town justices, who didn’t pursue it. She said the Town Board can’t force judges to do something since they themselves are elected officials.

Correction: The print version of this story in the Oct. 17 News-Review incorrectly said the meeting was Monday.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/20/13 12:22pm
Riverhead bus barn

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The bus garage is used for mini-bus storage and houses the Riverhead School District’s transportation and maintenance departments.

The Riverhead School District is seeking volunteers for a committee tasked with finding a way to deal with the district’s crumbling bus barn.

The maintenance and storage facility, located between district athletic fields on Osborn Avenue in Riverhead, was built in 1920 to house horses and has fallen into despair, school officials have said.

Members of the new committee will be asked to help find a new location for the bus facility or come up with a plan to redesign the existing facilities and parking areas. Volunteers will be asked to devote one to two evenings per month as plans are developed and finalized.

“We are hopeful that community members with expertise in real estate and transportation would be willing to help us to locate and design a facility that meets our needs and the financial needs of the taxpayers,” said Superintendent Nancy Carney.

In May, residents voted down a proposition that would have allowed the district to purchase two properties near Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside. That plan would have given the district access to a nearby industrial park and, through that property, to Route 24.

Members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association were the primary critics of that proposal, and took the district to task for not including the community in the planning process.

The district owns 100 buses.

“Voters will have several opportunities to approve our plans,” school board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse said in a statement. “Not only will they need to approve the acquisition of land, but they will also need to approve the expenditure of money from the savings account. These two votes ensure that the community will be involved in this process every step of the way.”

Those interested in joining the committee should e-mail Ms. Carney at nancy.carney@riverhead.net or write: 700 Osborne Ave., Riverhead, NY 11901.

jennifer@timesreview.com

09/20/13 10:00am

BARBARALLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Rose Sanders of Jamesport picks up leaves in front of her home. In Southampton Town, there’s a debate now over whether the biodegradable paper bags should be used.

Leaves. Should they be bagged or left loose on the curb for the town to pick up?

That’s a debate the two candidates for Southampton Town highway superintendent got into at a recent meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Last year, Southampton Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor announced that residents would be required to put their leaves in biodegradable paper bags and leave them on the curb for the town to pick up. In years past, Southampton Town residents were allowed to dump loose leaves curbside for town pickup.

Mr. Gregor’s plan never came to fruition because of Hurricane Sandy, which, in addition to leaves, left a lot of other debris on town roadways.

Mr. Gregor, who is the Democratic Party candidate for re-election, said he will again require residents to use biodegradable paper bags for their leaves, and not allow them to put loose leaves curbside — barring any major storms.

His Republican opponent in this year’s elections, David Betts, feels differently.

“My suggestion would be to go back to the way it was and get the leaves picked up,” Mr. Betts said at the civic meeting at the Flanders Community Center. He also suggested the town consider contracting with a private company to pick the leaves up, “so we can get them done quickly.”

Mr. Gregor said he had tried to contract out the leaf pickup, but ran into opposition from the Southampton Town Board.

He said he had sought bids from private companies to do the work two years ago, but the Town Board refused to award a contract even though the lowest bid was much lower than what it costs the town to do the work. He also said the Town Board wouldn’t let him hire part-time employees, because the employee contract limits the number of part-timers the highway department can hire to three, and the board would not amend the contract.

“In the past, the leaves stay on the road, they get plowed all over the place,” Mr. Gregor said, adding that the leaves don’t fall until Thanksgiving and need to be picked up before the end of the year because that’s usually when the first snow falls.

“So without extra help, I needed to come up with something to do it in five weeks.”

The program he came up with involves the use of paper bags, as well as discontinuing loose-leaf pickup. Mr. Gregor said his department is giving away free biodegradable paper bags this year.

The program will also allow landscapers to dispose of leaves at the town transfer stations if they present a voucher from the property owner whose leaves they are dumping, Mr. Gregor said. In addition, if someone is 73 years old or older, or if they have a disability that prevents them from bagging the leaves, the town will allow them to place the loose leaves at the curb.

Mr. Gregor says the biggest cost in leaf disposal comes from the town, which makes its own highway department pay to dispose of leaves at the town’s landfill.

Mr. Betts currently heads the Southampton Town Code Enforcement department and is a retired Southampton Village police lieutenant, and former union president.

In making his overall pitch to civic members in Flanders, Mr. Betts touted his skills as an administrator who has been on both the management and labor side of union contract negotiations. He also said he has experience in obtaining grants.

“The job is an administrator, that’s what you need,” he said. “I’ve been doing that for 30 years.”

Mr. Gregor argued that Mr. Betts’ experience is not relevant to the highway superintendent job.

tgannon@timesreview.com