04/19/14 8:00am
04/19/2014 8:00 AM
Riverside foot bridge to Riverhead

GRAPHIC COURTESY JAY SCHNEIDERMAN | A possible footbridge that will cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

As part of the recent efforts to revitalize the Riverside area, Southampton Town sent out a request for proposals last week for engineering and planning companies to design a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Peconic River. (more…)

04/18/14 10:30am
04/18/2014 10:30 AM
Route 24 in Riverside. Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst signed an agreement Tuesday with Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns to lead planning and development efforts. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Route 24 in Riverside. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Southampton Town has signed a contract with a “master developer” as part of a multi-pronged approach of revitalizing the long-beleaguered Riverside area that’s just a short walk away from downtown Riverhead, which has made its own strides as of late.

The development firm, Renaissance Downtowns of Plainview, has also leased office space on Peconic Avenue and is advertising for local employees to man the office. (more…)

11/14/13 9:00am
11/14/2013 9:00 AM
JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | Shirley Coverdale, right, speaks at a recent Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association meeting.

JOSEPH PINCIARO PHOTO | Shirley Coverdale, right, speaks at a recent Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association meeting.

How can a group of people organize to achieve a common goal?

That’s a question facing the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association — one that was addressed at the group’s monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Though it appears that the area will soon be represented on the Town Board for the first time in recent memory – Northampton resident Brad Bender held a 143-vote lead after Election Day, with nearly 900 absentee ballots to be counted – declining membership in its civic group remains a long-term issue, especially with projects of community concern looming on the horizon.

“The numbers continue to decline, but it still is a good-sized membership of paying community members,” said FRNCA president Vince Taldone. “To me, that alone wouldn’t upset me. My main concern is that people are not participating in the discussion about the community they live in.”

Mr. Taldone said Wednesday that over the past three years, membership in FRNCA — which asks a $20 annual fee of its members — has dropped from 130, to 115, to 90.

Tuesday night’s discussion centered on turning those numbers around.

Shirley Coverdale, who sits on the board of Long Island Organizing Network and was recently named a co-chair of the Suffolk County Democratic Committee’s newly formed Black and Hispanic Democratic Committee, also shared her experience in community organizing.

Ms. Coverdale has most recently been at Riverhead Town Hall to support a special zone that would permit construction of the Family Community Life Center – a multi-purpose facility proposed for land owned by First Baptist Church, where her husband, the Rev. Charles Coverdale, has been pastor for over 30 years. She told FRNCA members that over the past 20-plus years, as she and others have attempted to bring that project to fruition, it’s drawn over $1 million in donations.

“A funny thing happens when you organize people,” she said. “Money follows.”

Ms. Coverdale also shared an anecdote about 15 homeowners affected by torrential flooding that ruined homes in the Horton Avenue area in the spring of 2010.

Through a series of one-on-one face-to-face meetings, she said, personal connections formed to strengthen a core group of people, widen their reach and eventually attract $3.5 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to compensate people whose homes were destroyed — quite a feat for such a small group, she noted.

In recent years, FRNCA leaders have helped draw resources to the area south of the Peconic River, including a Brownfields Opportunities Area grant of nearly $240,000 intended to spur revitalization in the Riverside area, which has 15 dormant, contaminated properties. Meanwhile sewer and traffic studies have also been in the works there, though Mr. Taldone said Tuesday that study after study could be part of the reason it’s hard to draw people to FRNCA meetings.

“Too many promises, too many studies for years and years,” Mr. Taldone said. “They lose faith. When I go to them, and say ‘This is amazing, and it’s happening now,’ they don’t even believe me.”

Northampton resident Chris Sheldon said that a decade ago, when Southampton Town was conducting a Riverside Revitalization Study, “we could have filled Phillips Avenue school.”

Moving forward, Mr. Sheldon suggested “finding new blood” and engaging those members of the community face-to-face.

Mr. Bender pointed to his Southampton Town Board campaign, noting that knocking on 2,000 doors and hearing people out in-person made the difference in what looks like an election victory

Speaking to an audience of no more than a dozen people, FRNCA leaders said Tuesday they’ll spend some of the organization’s limited funds on colored palm cards to have on hand when they speak to their neighbors in the future. And as the brownfields grant and other projects continue, they hope to see more locals come out and participate in the future of their community — at public meetings about the actual projects and at monthly FRNCA meetings.

“When the bulldozer is taking down buildings, maybe then people will believe what’s happening,” Mr. Taldone said. “But, by then, everything will be decided.”

09/16/13 11:05am
09/16/2013 11:05 AM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Route 24 in Riverside, where a new 'Main Street' is envisioned.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Route 24 in Riverside, where a new ‘Main Street’ is envisioned.

A small sewage treatment plant specifically designed to handle the area between the Riverside traffic circle and nearby Vail Avenue, along with a possible supermarket farther south, would cost about $3.75 million, according to a draft study for a Riverside sewer district that was unveiled last week.

But since only 17 properties would be included in the proposed district, the cost of its operation and maintenance — plus debt service on initial construction costs — figures to be about $4,915 annually per residential property and $11,135 per commercial property. And those numbers are based on the project receiving $3 million in grants from Suffolk County’s alternative on-site sewage disposal system fund, officials said.

The county currently has about $4 million in that fund, said county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who represents the Riverside hamlet, the rest of Southampton Town and the South Fork.

Mr. Schneiderman has said in the past he’s confident he could secure a large sum of money for a Riverside plant.

About eight of the 17 parcels in the potential sewer district are residential, according to Mary Anne Taylor of the engineering firm Camp Dresser McGee, which is heading up the $750,000 study for Suffolk County.

“Dividing anything out over 17 properties is a lot of money,” she told those in attendance at last Monday night’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association in Flanders.

However, if the sewage treatment system does what it’s intended to do, it will help establish additional viable commercial property and attract more businesses to Riverside.

Should that happen, the annual costs would be spread out over a larger base.

The sewer district is considered key to facilitating increased commercial development near the blighted area around the traffic circle, where a high water table and proximity to the Peconic River currently limit what can be built. Locals have long complained that the lack of a business center also contributes to higher property taxes for residential property owners in the area.

With the sewers, county and town officials envision a new Main Street-type commercial strip along Route 24 (Flanders Road), with three-story mixed use buildings along the south side of Flanders Road and a small supermarket near the existing Budget Host Inn — if property owners agree to develop their properties in such a fashion. The vision also calls for a footbridge over the Peconic River to downtown Riverhead.

“Right now, they are dividing numbers out over 17 properties,” Mr. Schneiderman said at the meeting. “But if this new Main Street actually happens, one property might have several storefronts and many apartments above it. And that’s when the numbers start to make sense. If you just left the single-family house there, you wouldn’t want to have that in the sewer district. It looks really expensive for a house.”

The sewer study began about three years ago, when officials initially possibly extending the district as far east as Longneck Boulevard in Flanders. That was found to be too large an area, and likely too expensive a project to ever get funding. So officials, following public meetings with FRNCA members, agreed to shrink the study area to cover just commercial property in Riverside.

But again, that was considered too large and unlikely to get funding. So earlier this year, at Mr. Schneiderman’s suggestion, the study scope was limited to just the south side of Flanders Road between Vail Avenue and the traffic circle and the area near the Budget Host Inn.

A list of potential locations for a sewage treatment plant had originally included about 10 sites, but that was narrowed down to one: an acre of Southampton Town-owned land behind the New York State Police barracks on Riverleigh Avenue.

Linking into existing sewer systems owned by Riverhead Town and Suffolk Community College also was considered, but those options were dropped because of lack of available capacity in those facilities, officials said.

The study is recommending use of a type of sewage treatment plant known as Membrane Bioreactor — and, specifically, the Nitrex system, which the county health department recently approved for use in Suffolk County. The Nitrex system, patented by Lombordo Associates of Massachusetts, requires very little space and has been shown to reduce nitrogen from sewage effluent at rates much better than what’s now required.

Nitrex president Pio Lombardo said in an interview in July that the Suffolk County standard for nitrogen in drinking water is 10 milligrams per liter, but that Nitrex has undertaken projects that brought levels much lower.

“We have a project in Malibu, California, in the low 1’s and we know what to do to get it below 1 [MPL],” Mr. Lombardo had told the News-Review.

All property owners within the proposed district would have to first approve the creation of the district through a referendum, Ms. Taylor said.

From there, environmental impact studies, preparation and approval of the proposed district map, public hearings, development of construction documents, state and county review of the project, lining up of financing and issuing and awarding bids would likely be needed before construction begins, Ms. Taylor said.

“It probably wouldn’t be on line until about 2019,” she said.

“The next step is really up to the community to decide what to do,” she added.

“The purpose of the study was to find out what it would cost,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Now we know what it costs. We have a very small area that’s being looked at for redevelopment and all those property owners have to now weigh in and see if this is something they want to go forward with.”

Mr. Schneiderman said officials also have to see how much grant money can be acquired for the project.

“That would affect the ultimate costs,” he said. “That’s something I will work hard on.”

Realtor Larry Oxman, who was at last Monday’s meeting representing a property owner in the proposed district, asked if there were any other affected property owners in the audience. There were none.

The complete study can be found online at http://suffolksewerstudy.cdmims.com.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/08/13 9:45am
08/08/2013 9:45 AM

liveblog

Click on the blog box below for a recap from Thursday’s meeting.

The Riverhead Town Board is discussing Southampton Town’s proposal for a footbridge across the Peconic River into downtown Riverhead at its work session Thursday.

Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, is speaking before the board on the proposal, which his organization and Legislator Jay Schneiderman has pushed as part of an overall effort to jump-start business development in the beleaguered Riverside hamlet.

In addition, the board is discussing the Knightland application for excavating permit, which would be used to build a commercial development at the corner of Sound Avenue and Route 25A in Wading River.

That application has withstood legal challenges, and the attorney for the applicant — developer and EastWind Caterers owner Kenn Barra — has been asking for the excavating permit for several weeks now.

The board also will discuss legislation limiting houseboats in town waters.

The meeting starts at 10 a.m. and News-Review reporter Tim Gannon will be reporting live.

Click below to follow or comment.

 

August_8,_2013_-_Agenda(1) by Riverhead News-Review

08/01/13 3:35pm
08/01/2013 3:35 PM
Peconic footbrige

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne Holst (center) and town council members discussing plans for a footbridge over the Peconic.

Questions over who would be responsible for cleaning and maintaining a footbridge proposed to span the Peconic River, as well as the size and design of a the project, are being put on hold — for now.

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.

Southampton Town officials are instead focusing on getting a state grant application filed before the deadline in two weeks.

During a Southampton Town Board work session Thursday morning, board members said they supported the bridge, which would connect county-owned parkland in Riverside to downtown Riverhead, adding that the bridge might help jump-start revitalization efforts for Riverside.

“Action on the part of the municipality is a signal to private industry that this is a place that’s going to get more and more attention,” said Councilwoman Bridget Flemming, “But someone has to take that first step over the bridge, so to speak.”

The support came a day after the Suffolk County Legislature voted unanimously in support of the grant application.

Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association, told Town Board members that there would be several months to iron out the details of the bridge and pitch the idea to residents before any grant money would be accepted.

The bridge is expected to cost $1.145 million, but the state grant being pursued would allow Suffolk County’s purchase of land in Riverside in 2011 to be used as the municipality’s matching portion of the grant, meaning the construction of the bridge would be fully covered by the grant.

“[We would pay] zip for the bridge itself,” Mr. Taldone said.

But if the town missed the deadline, the county’s contribution wouldn’t count towards the grant next year.

“The key here,and the rush, is that three year window in which that money counts,” Mr. Taldone said.

Riverhead and Southampton towns would be responsible for paying to upkeep the bridge, as well as properly patrolling the area, though the agreement over which town would do what would be discussed after the application was filed.

Councilman Christopher Nuzzi said he had concerns over approving the project before the design was finalized, but Mr. Taldone said a portion of the $1.145 million cost of the bridge is set aside for engineering and design.

The town would only need to apply using the concept of a footbridge, he said; the specifics of the type of bridge could be settled and discussed by the community before the grant is accepted.

Mr. Taldone said the bridge would need to be at least 24 feet above the median high tide line — the same height as the County Road 105 bridge — to allow boats to enter the Riverhead town docks.

The bridge would connect to a 5-foot-wide trail Southampton Town plans to create. The trail would start on Route 24 and lead to the river.

Mr. Taldone said that while the bridge would create a “walkable community” connecting Riverhead to downtown Riverside, the town would need to ensure that criminal elements stay out of the area.

FRNCA representatives will go to the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce next week to pitch the footbridge, and then speak before the Riverhead Town Board to get that board’s approval for the grant application.

psquire@timesreview.com

06/15/13 2:10pm
06/15/2013 2:10 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented his vision for Riverside at a civic meeting last week.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Jay Schneiderman presented his vision for Riverside at a civic meeting.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has a dream.

In the dream, the hamlet of Riverside has a small restaurant and grocery store near the traffic circle and a small three-story business district across from McDonald’s with stores on the ground floor and apartments or offices on the upper floors.

The plans call for a 'Main Street' along Route 24.

The plans call for a ‘Main Street’ along Route 24.

The South Fork lawmaker also envisions a trail through the woods leading down to the Peconic River. The trail would connect with a footbridge that would span the river into downtown Riverhead.

The area in question would stretch about a half-mile in the style of a Main Street along Route 24, across from McDonald’s and west of Vail Avenue. Most of the buildings in this area are currently vacant or for sale, he said.

Mr. Schneiderman (I-Montauk) showed off a 3-D computer model of what he’s envisioned at Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Of course, no paperwork has been filed in Town Hall to move forward with any plans, other than for a possible trail to the river, for which the county and Southampton Town are seeking $50,000 in grant money.

“This is all just conceptual, for discussion purposes, to bring people onto same page,” Mr. Schneiderman said Monday. “If this is the vision you want, you hire professional planners and engineers and develop it in a more detailed way.”

For the “vision” to become reality, he said, “it would require all these property owners to come to the table and work together and maybe sell their land to someone else or become part of the project. Or they could continue to do what they’ve been doing, and that would be unfortunate.”

Southampton Town officials have conducted numerous studies over the years on ways to revitalize the beleaguered hamlet. Often, the answer involves creating a commercial sewer district, something Suffolk County is also studying.

Another proposal the county is currently studying involves improvements to the Route 24 traffic circle.

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works is down to two options for improving the Route 24 traffic circle in Riverside, Mr. Schneiderman said Monday.

One option would involve reconfiguring the circle into an oval-shaped roundabout and making it two lanes, he said, similar to what was done with the Route 58 traffic circle in Riverhead.

“They say this will work, but not as well as it would if they took one leg out,” he said, referring to the plan to cut off one of the five roads leading to the circle.

The county is  reaching out to the owner of the Budget Host Inn property near the circle to see about redeveloping that property as a supermarket and allow Riverleigh Avenue to run through that land and connect to Lake Avenue, instead of running up to the five-pronged circle, Mr. Schneiderman later said.

“This would be my preferred alternative,” he told a reporter. “If we do not succeed with cooperation from the property owner and the town, then we will focus on the concept of enlarging the circle into a two lane oval with all the current roads leading in an out.

“So how do we get to this from where we are now, which is just boarded-up building after boarded-up building?” Mr. Schneiderman asked the audience at the meeting.

In addition to support from locals and area property owners, he said, installing sewer infrastructure is necessary for any Main Street-like business district to become reality.

“Why are sewers important?” Mr. Schneiderman asked. “It’s very hard to get economic development without them” due to environmental constraints caused by the area’s close proximity to the Peconic River and other parkland.

This leads to the question of where a sewage treatment plant should be located and how large an area it should serve.

The study currently underway shows three prospective locations for a sewage treatment plant. One is adjacent to the River Woods community, whose residents have already voiced opposed that option. Another is near the County Center and the third is near a former auto dealership on Riverleigh Avenue.

Mr. Schneiderman said the smaller the area served by the sewer district, the lower that cost, and that locating the plant near the area it’s going to serve also would be less expensive.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who also was present Monday, said several small sewage treatment plants could be placed in different locations, instead of having one large plant.

A draft version of the county’s Riverside sewer district study is expected to be completed in the fall, according to Boris Rukovets of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

In addition to community support, property owner cooperation and a sewer district, the vision would have to go through planning and engineering reviews, require zone changes and gain support from regulatory agencies, while utilizing grants and other funding sources, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Chris Sheldon of Northampton suggested moving Route 24 farther from the river and behind the existing businesses to create more waterfront land.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the town plans to seek “requests for qualifications” from developers and seek plans from them to redevelop areas like Riverside.

This way, she said, the redevelopment could be funded by private dollars instead of tax dollars.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview Tuesday that he likes the idea of a footbridge over the Peconic River. As for efforts to revitalize Riverside, he said that as downtown Riverhead improves, so will Riverside — and vice-versa.

tgannon@timesreview.com

05/20/13 2:00pm
05/20/2013 2:00 PM

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | The sign that went missing in Northampton earlier this month.

A sign welcoming people to Northampton on the west side of Lake Avenue has been stolen.

The sign theft was reported on Sunday, May 12 , and is believed to have taken place sometime between May 9 and May 12, Southampton Town police said.

[Related: Northampton, has it ever truly existed?]

It was reported to police by Brad Bender, who, at the time, was the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, which purchased the sign, along with other hamlet signs in Flanders, Riverside and Northampton.

Mr. Bender briefly mentioned the theft at FRNCA’s meeting on May 13, when he stepped down as president and Vince Taldone was elected to replace him.

FRNCA paid about $2,500 for this particular sign, and the organization received county grant money to pay for this sign and another one on County Road 51 to the south, as well as signs in neighboring Flanders and Riverside, Mr. Bender said.

Northampton was founded in 1951 and has a population of 458, according to the now-missing sign.

While there are no formal boundaries for the hamlet, which has a Riverhead zip code and is in the Riverhead school district and fire district, the name Northampton is generally used to describe the area located in the vicinity of Wildwood Lake.

tgannon@timesreview.com