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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


04/14/11 6:40am
04/14/2011 6:40 AM

If a legislative proposal meant to eliminate dramatic variations in tax rates between the Riverhead and Southampton town portions of the Riverhead School District had already been implemented, Southampton residents would have seen a tax rate increase in the range of 2 percent this year, rather than the 23 percent they actually got.

That’s according to Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who joined state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Southampton Town officials in addressing the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association Friday night.

Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle plan to sponsor a bill they hope will eliminate similar school tax rate spikes in the future for the Southampton portion of the district. The measure proposes an equalization rate based on a five-year average of property values in Riverhead, Southampton and Brookhaven, the three towns that make up the school district, rather on annual property values.

The equalization rate is a formula that’s used to divvy up the tax levy — the overall amount of money collected from local taxpayers — in districts that are split over two or more towns and, according to Mr. Thiele, it is also the reason for big differences in tax rates from town to town.

“It always comes down to the same thing,” he said. “It’s the equalization rate that’s causing the problem.”

Over a 10-year period, the percentage of the tax levy that’s landed on Southampton and Riverhead residents has been relatively balanced, according to Mr. Thiele. But on a year-to-year basis, the difference has sometimes been significant — and Southampton has frequently gotten the worst of it.

For this school year, for example, the overall school district tax levy was up just 2.5 percent, but the Southampton part of the district saw its school taxes jump 23 percent while the Riverhead rate dropped by just under 1 percent.

The tax rate for the Southampton side has increased by 22, 14.5 and 14.6 percent over the past three years. But the Riverhead side saw a decrease this year and increases of just 1.16 and 2.67 percent in the two previous years.

“It’s a continual problem year after year after year,” said Brad Bender, former president of FRNCA. “It’s unfair, we’re tired of it and we’re trying to see if we can bring about some type of a solution.”

According to interim Southampton assessor John Valente, the imbalance has to do with the fact that Southampton assesses property at 100 percent of market value, while Riverhead, which hasn’t done a townwide reassessment since 1980, assesses at about 15 percent. Because Southampton continually updates assessments, its numbers are more likely to change than Riverhead’s, he said. In the recent recession, the total assessed value of property in the Southampton portion of the Riverhead school district decreased.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne Holst said the Town Board is considering discontinuing the practice of updating assessments annually.

Mr. Thiele said of the proposed solution, which has yet to be filed, “We can’t guarantee that the Southampton side will do better that the Riverhead side, but instead of seeing wild taxes increases, up and down, it would be steady over five years.”

Both Mr. Thiele and Mr. LaValle said they have submitted many bills over the years aimed to easing the tax burden for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton residents, but none has yielded a permanent solution.

Mr. Thiele said part of the problem is Riverhead school spending, which has increased 60 percent over 10 years, which he said is twice the rate of inflation for that period.

He said another problem is that the Southampton portion of the district is only about 20 percent of the total land value, while the Riverhead side if about 80 percent, so changes in the 20 percent are likely to result in bigger percentage changes.


04/12/11 9:03am
04/12/2011 9:03 AM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Community Association's outgoing president, Brad Bender, welcomes newly elected president Vince Taldone at Monday night's meeting in Flanders.

The new president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association doesn’t live in any of those three Southampton hamlets, and the group had to change it’s bylaws Monday so he could become president.

No one else wanted the job.

The group also heard Monday that the newly formed Riverside Revitalization Community Corporation is withdrawing its membership from FRNCA, instead opting to function separately. The two groups disagreed recently on the issue of affordable housing in Riverside.

Vince Taldone, who lives in Riverhead Town but owns property in Flanders, was elected to succeed Brad Bender as FRNCA president Monday night because Mr. Bender, of Northampton, is planning to run for a Southampton Town Board seat in the fall.

Two months ago, FRNCA members Richard Naso and Chris Sheldon complained publicly that Mr. Bender was jeopardizing the group’s nonprofit status by running for public office while serving at FRNCA president.

But on Monday, FRNCA members practically had to beg people to replace Mr. Bender as president after he heeded their wishes.

Mr. Taldone said he was take the position if the group’s bylaws allowed people who own property within Flanders, Riverside or Northampton, but don’t live there, to be on the board. So after much debate, the FRNCA board researched what steps needed to be taken to change their bylaws, and held a vote to see if they wanted to change the requirement for board members from having to be “permanent residents” of one of the three hamlets, to being residents or property owners.

The measure passed, and Mr. Taldone was then elected president, although the vice presidency remains vacant. No one wanted that position either.

At one point, when told that Mr. Sheldon couldn’t be vice president because he hadn’t paid his dues, Mr. Naso, got up and paid Mr. Sheldon’s dues for him, but Mr. Sheldon said he still wasn’t interested in being vice president.

Mr. Bender had nominated Mr. Naso for president, but Mr. Naso declined.

It was Mr. Naso who suggested that the group broaden its bylaws.

“And these people criticized me for being president,” Mr. Bender said.

“Our volunteer pool, through the development of numerous associations, groups and nonprofits, is being diluted,” he added.

In addition to FRNCA, the area is now also represented by the Riverside Revitalization Community Corporation, Flanders Village Historical Society, the Friends of the Big Duck, the Bay View Pines Civic Association and the Waters Edge Civic Association.

Mr. Bender in the past has said there is now a shortage of people to help volunteer on beautification projects in the three hamlets.

Meanwhile, John Parker, the organizer of the revitalization group, said they are withdrawing their membership in FRNCA.

“We don’t need impediments or hindrances in our affairs,” Mr. Parker said, adding that the members only want to deal with issues specific to Riverside anyway.

But he said members would work together with FRNCA and that they appreciate the help they’ve gotten in the past from FRNCA.

Recently, the two groups took opposing sides on a proposal to locate affordable rentals in Riverside, as the Riverside committee has stated that  adding affordable housing is one of their goals, while FRNCA has opposed affordable rental housing, and some of its members have in the past said the area doesn’t need any more affordable housing.

Mr. Taldone, meanwhile, brings a lengthy resume to his new position.

He is a retired New York City planner who has served on the Suffolk County Planning Commission, Riverhead Town’s Handicapped Advisory Committee, the Suffolk County Legislature’s Transportation Advisory Board, of which he was chairman,  Riverhead Townscape, Five Town Rural Transit, the East End Transportation Council’s advisory group and Riverhead Town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

He also recently has worked with the Southampton Housing Authority on the development of several scattered site affordable homes in the Flanders area.

Because he has impaired vision and cannot drive, Mr. Taldone has been an advocate for improving public transportation on the East End.

He has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in urban planning from New York University.