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.

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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

04/16/13 10:00am
04/16/2013 10:00 AM
Brad Bender of FRNCA

FILE PHOTO | Brad Bender announced last month he would run for Town Council.

Would-be civic leaders have a bit more time to think about whether or not to help lead the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association (FRNCA) through 2013.

Incumbent president Brad Bender has made it clear he is stepping down from that position in order to take another run at a Southampton Town Council seat in this fall’s elections.

The group was supposed to have elections for its board members and officer positions  — president, vice president and secretary — at a meeting last Monday, April 8, but had to postpone the vote to May 13 because a mailer went out too late for members to have sent in their dues.

In order to run for any seat on the FRNCA board, you must have your membership dues paid, explained current treasurer Vince Taldone.

Mr. Bender stepped down two years ago to run for a Southampton Town Council seat as well, and, since he didn’t win, assumed the FRNCA presidency again afterward.

During that ime, Mr. Taldone, who lives in Riverhead but owns property in Flanders, filled in. But Mr. Taldone was elected, the FRNCA board had to first change its rules to allow property owners who don’t live in one of the three Southampton Town hamlets to run.

At the time, nobody else wanted the position.

Terms run for one year, officials said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/13/13 10:00am
03/13/2013 10:00 AM
Brad Bender of FRNCA

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Brad Bender at a civic meeting in Flanders in 2011.

The head of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association is stepping down.

Brad Bender, who has served as the civic group’s president for four of the past five years, said at Monday’s meeting he is stepping down to run for a Southampton Town Council seat in the fall.

The group’s elections will be held at its April 8 meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. at the David Crohan Community Center in Flanders.

“All positions are open,” Mr. Bender said at Monday’s meeting. “We’ve had the same people switching hats the last few years. I will step down as president, and more than likely I will be running for Town Council again this year.”

He will stay on the board as a general board member, he said.

Though, he reminded, there is no guarantee he will be nominated by a political party for a November run.

Mr. Bender ran for Town Council on the Democratic slate in 2011 and came up 92 votes short, finishing third in a four-way race for two seats. In 2011, some Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association members argued that Mr. Bender should resign the presidency if he was running for town office, so as not to politicize the organization.

But when Mr. Bender did step down, no one else wanted to fill the post.

The board then ended up changing its bylaws so that Vince Taldone could be its new president, because he was the only person who would take the job. Mr. Taldone lives in Riverhead Town but owns property in Flanders. The board eventually changed their bylaws to allow people who own property in Flanders, Riverside or Northhampton but don’t live there, to run for its board.

Mr. Taldone served as president for one year, but Mr. Bender returned to the post shortly after the election.

tgannon@timesreview.com

10/12/12 10:00am
10/12/2012 10:00 AM
FRNCA, New York State Police, Riverside, Flanders, Northampton

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Sergeant Paul Slovenski at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

The station commander of the New York State Police barracks on Riverleigh Avenue in Riverside is opposing a county proposal to cut that road off at the Riverside traffic circle.

Sergeant Paul Slovenski, who’s commanded the Troopers East East barracks since 1988, made his comments at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, where he was a guest speaker.

The county Department of Public Works is in the midst of doing a study of ways to improve the traffic flow at the Riverside circle and has suggested cutting off Riverleigh Avenue, also known as County Road 104, from the circle heading north toward Riverhead.

I would be totally against that,” Sgt. Slovenski said when asked for his opinion of closing off Riverleigh Avenue at the circle Wednesday.
“For the life of me, I can’t understand the reasoning behind it.”

He suggested that there are other roads there that could be closed down that have less traffic, apparently referring to Lake Avenue.

“It’s a heavily traveled road,” Sgt. Slovenski said. “Where would you put the traffic? Riverhead improved its traffic circle and this one could probably stand some improvement too, but closing down a road? I just don’t see that as improvement.”

At a FRNCA meeting in June — and at a Southampton Town Board work session in February — Bill Hillman, the DPW’s chief engineer, discussed several alternative plans being considered by DPW for the circle.

“The traffic circle has five legs,” he said in June, referring to the five roads that connect to the circle. “The best alternative is to reduce that to four legs.”

Two proposals were discussed at the time.

One proposal, which Mr. Hillman said would probably be too expensive, closed off Lake Avenue (County Road 63 from the circle) and instead called for buying up property where the Budget Host Inn and the former Riverboat Diner are located in order to create a new road merging County Road 63 traffic with that of County Road 104.

The cost of acquisition made this proposal very expensive, and likely to take a long time to complete, he said.


View Larger Map

The other option called for closing off Riverleigh Avenue at the traffic circle, with the exception of traffic heading east onto Flanders Road.

The other northbound traffic on Riverleigh Avenue would be diverted onto a new road that the county would build running from the south end of Old Quogue Road and connecting with Flanders Road by the old drive-in property, near where the town is planning a new Riverside hamlet center.

Another traffic circle or roundabout would be created where Flanders Road and the new road intersect, Mr. Hillman said at the time.

The section of Riverleigh Avenue that stretches from Old Quogue Road to the circle would then become a town road, and the new road would be a county road, Mr. Hillman said.

While this was described as the “preferred” alternative at the time, Mr. Hillman said in June that “we’re halfway through this project today, and we’re not prepared to make recommendations yet.”

He said that by the end of the year, “we’ll probably have some alternatives that are fully analyzed, and some concepts that we can recommend.”

But Mr. Hillman stressed that the road already gets a rating of “D to F” for traffic flow at peak times, “which is gridlock.”

He said that the traffic is only going to get worse in the future if nothing is done.

The trooper barracks is located just south of the traffic circle, as is the River Woods mobile home park (formerly called MacLeod’s), residents noted at the time.

In addition, ambulances from many areas take Riverleigh Avenue through the circle on their way to Peconic Bay Medical Center.

“In addition to Lake Avenue and Riverleigh Avenue, the Riverhead circle also has cars coming and going from Flanders Road, Nugent Drive, and Peconic Avenue, and Woodhull Avenue, a smaller residential street, also has occasional traffic seeking to enter the circle.

Officials from the DPW could not immediately be reached for comment.

At the June meeting, Mr. Hillman said that simply closing off Lake Avenue and directing that traffic onto County Road 51 (also known as Riverhead-Moriches Road), which already connects with Nugent Drive, “would not solve much of the problem.”

Mr. Hillman did say in June that the county would try to develop a solution to allow emergency service vehicles to have direct access from Riverleigh Avenue into the traffic circle.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/16/11 6:12am
06/16/2011 6:12 AM

Southampton Town Police personnel should be back in the East End Drug Task Force within the next 45 days, newly-appointed Police Chief Bill Wilson told members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association Monday.
The new chief also said he believes the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton areas are a priority for him as the department’s new head.

The district attorney’s East End Drug Task Force was formed in 1988 and uses undercover officers from the East End town and village departments, along with officers from the state and county departments, to investigate narcotics on the East End.

Southampton Town contributed an officer to the task force during the group’s first two years, but stopped doing so in 1990 when the town department formed its own street crime unit to investigates drug crimes, among other things, within the town.

Mr. Wilson, who has spent his entire career prior to being town chief as a Southampton Village officer and later as the village police chief, said he was a member of the task force for two years and was assigned to the Flanders area.

“Within the next 30 to 45 days, we will have town representation back in the task force,” he promised Monday. The chief also said he plans to maintain the street crime unit in the town police.

“Over the next few years, I’m going to be doing my best to change things in a positive direction,” the chief said.

That includes possibly changing the boundaries of the established police sectors in town, although he stressed that Flanders, Riverside and Northampton would not be getting less coverage. The hamlets would likely be getting increased coverage, he said, since he’s looking to increase coverage in areas with a high volume of calls, such as those three.

“If anything, I’d be looking to move resources from some of the statistically slow areas into the busier areas, and they can slide back out, if need be,” he said.

The department has one sector assigned to the three hamlets and in recent years has had a second car patrolling there as well, the chief said.

“I want police officers out of the car. I want them speaking with you,” he said. The chief said he doesn’t support rotating shifts, where an officer would work daytime hours one day and nighttime the next, nor does he support 12-hour shifts, saying they can “quickly turn into a 16 to 18 hour shift” if an officer has to respond to an accident or arrest toward the end of his shift.

Another change the new chief said he hopes to make is to move the department toward “paperless” processing of crimes, which can reduce the amount of time it takes to process an arrest and get those officers back on the street sooner. He said he was successful in doing so in Southampton Village.

The chief said he also hopes to work out agreements with the State Police and possibly Riverhead Town Police and other village departments to allow town officers to use those police headquarters to do things like paperwork and fingerprinting, so they don’t have to go all the way to the town police headquarters in Hampton Bays.

“I’m a huge proponent of the multi-jurisdictional approach,” the chief said. In addition to being more efficient, it also increases the chances of getting grant money, since the state rarely gives grants to individual departments and prefers multi-agency initiatives.

Mr. Wilson was appointed town chief several weeks ago, replacing longtime chief Jim Overton, who retired after more than 20 years as chief. Mr. Wilson’s appointment generated some controversy because the department traditionally has appointed its chiefs from within.

tgannon@timesreview.com