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

10/09/13 12:00pm
10/09/2013 12:00 PM
DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | A female deer tick.

DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | A female deer tick.

Suffolk County is one step closer to better managing its growing tick population and the resulting health concerns.

The county Legislature passed a law Tuesday requiring Suffolk County Vector Control to aggressively address the increase in cases of tick-borne disease.

Approved 16-0, with one abstention, the bill requires county Vector Control, which is charged with controlling the spread of insect-borne diseases, to submit an annual plan to combat their occurrence. Outlined in the plan should be the measures being taken, work to be done and an analysis to determine the program’s effectiveness, legislators said.

The measure has the support of County Executive Steve Bellone, who was represented by a deputy executive at Tuesday’s meeting and now will sign the bill into law.

In recent years, Vector Control has focused mainly on mosquito-borne illnesses, such as West Nile virus, said county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), the bill’s primary sponsor. But an individual is 300 times more likely to contract Lyme disease than West Nile virus, according to a press release from Mr. Schneiderman’s office.

Lyme disease is now the most widespread vector-borne disease in the U.S., but cases are often under-reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“Most of us have been impacted in some way by tick-borne disease,” said county Legislator Al Krupski, a co-sponsor of the measure. “This is a problem that seems to be a recent phenomenon and the quicker we act on it to try and address it the better.”

Vector Control officials have about a year to develop a plan, which will be due next October, Mr. Schneiderman said. County residents will not benefit from the plan until it goes into effect in 2015, he said, adding that funding for the plan will be considered in the 2015 budget.

“But I don’t think [the budget] should be driving the train here,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “I think public health should be the main consideration. We’ll figure out what we should be doing and then let’s figure out how to pay for it.”

Mr. Schneiderman said he envisions a comprehensive plan that begins by studying the number of deer, rodents and ticks in the county, to better understand the role each plays.

“We don’t really have a handle on how many ticks there are or where they are,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “They are going to have to start getting counts. That is what Vector Control does with mosquitoes — they have a really good handle and hopefully they will be able to do the same thing with ticks.”

With data in place, he said, a viable plan will follow. He said simply focusing on deer, the target for tick control among many local communities, will not be enough.

“I think a real tick-control program has to go way beyond deer,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “It’s going to get into rodent control, clearing high grass areas and maybe even controlled burning in certain areas. There are a lot of things the plan could include.”

Mr. Krupski said he “would like to see [vector control] focused on more deer control, and to letting people do more effective deer control. Right now what can be done legally is just not effective.”

Some residents have voiced concern that the plan may include aerial spraying, as is done for mosquito control, Mr. Schneiderman said.

“I don’t honestly think that it will,” he said. “There is no product out there that will just kill ticks and I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Both legislators said they will be working closely with representatives from Vector Control as they piece the plan together.

After being bitten by several ticks so far this season and “luckily” not getting sick, Mr. Schneiderman said this new legislation is just the beginning of his work on the issue.

“I am not stopping here,” he said. “My next step is to try to convince the state that this is a health emergency. I want to assemble the people together to make that case to the state so we can get the door open for funding. And I want to correspond with our senators and Congressman Bishop to try and get federal attention to this issue.”

cmiller@timesreview.com

09/17/13 5:00pm
09/17/2013 5:00 PM
DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | An adult deer tick, which are known to  carry pathogens causing Lyme disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis. Adult ticks are active in spring and late fall, according to Daniel Gilrein, entomologist at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

DANIEL GILREIN COURTESY PHOTO | An adult deer tick, which are known to carry pathogens causing Lyme disease, babesiosis or anaplasmosis.

In an effort to combat tick-borne illnesses, county Legislature Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) has introduced new legislation to step up pressure on Suffolk County Vector Control, which is in charge of controlling the spread of insect-borne diseases.

The proposed law would require Vector Control to submit an annual plan that indicates steps being taken to reduce the incidence of tick-borne illnesses — including work to be done, active measures being taken and an analysis to determine the effectiveness of the program.

The division has reportedly focused mainly on mosquito-borne illnesses like West Nile, according to a release from Mr. Schneiderman.

Area hospitals reported a spike in tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease earlier this year.

Nearly 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported nationally each year, while 1,000 cases of West Nile are reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lyme disease is now the most widespread vector-borne disease in the U.S., but cases are often underreported across the U.S., according to the CDC.

It is estimated only 10 percent of total cases nationally are reported, CDC officials said.

“Towns and villages are struggling to develop plans to respond to the growing Lyme disease cases,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “The county should be playing a leadership role in prevention.”

County Legislator Al Krupski, a co-sponsor of the bill, called Lyme disease an epidemic on the east end of Long Island.

“Most of us have been impacted in some way by tick-borne disease,” he said in a release. “Suffolk County needs to play an active role to control this growing health problem.”

Mr. Schneiderman said the county has, however, done a good job preventing West Nile.

While mosquito and bird samples have tested positive for the virus, no humans have tested positive for West Nile so far this year, according to the county health department officials.

cmiller@timesreview.com

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

08/23/13 12:00pm
08/23/2013 12:00 PM
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 plan to create a walking trail through Suffolk County parkland to the banks of the Peconic River is now in line to get $15,000 downtown revitalization grant, town and county officials announced Friday.

The trail comes as part of a larger vision to create a true Riverside business district along Route 24 and the traffic circle.

The 5 1/2-foot wide, 1,000-foot long trail will be created using permeable natural stone material and run from Route 24 sidewalk to the riverfront, across the river from the Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center, said county Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who announced the award, which was recommended by members the Suffolk County Downtown Revitalization Citizens Advisory Panel.

The county Legislature must still approve the grant recommendation, and the money would go to Southampton Town, officials said.

The trail is planned for a 14-acre wooded area purchased by Suffolk County in 2011 for $2.4 million.

The news comes on the heels of Southampton Town, with support from neighboring Riverhead, applying for a grant to fund the construction of a footbridge that would span the river, connecting the trail to downtown Riverhead.

EDITORIAL: RIVERSIDE PLAN WILL NEED SUPPORT

“I am happy to see we are moving forward with this very important grant from Suffolk County,” Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association, said in a statement. “Along with substantial financial support from Southampton Town, this Suffolk County money will fund the construction of the first phase of the town’s long planned Riverside Maritime Trail. That trail is the first step in developing a waterfront park and revitalized commercial center in Riverside.”

Mr. Schneiderman, who in May suggested Southampton Town apply for downtown revitalization grant, said he’s confident that the trail will full legislative support.

“The trail will encourage park use by providing access to the scenic Peconic River,” Mr. Schneiderman said.

An agreement between Southampton Town and the county will see the town maintain the trail.

The trail project could be completed within nine months, officials said.

At a FRNCA meeting in June, Mr. Schneiderman unveiled a 3-D computer graphic “vision” for the area near the Riverside traffic circle.

The vision calls for creating a new downtown commercial area for the long-beleaguered Riverside hamlet just east of the traffic circle, with three-story mixed use buildings on the south side of Flanders Road, across from McDonald’s; a restaurant at the former Riverboat Diner property; a supermarket near where the Budget Host Inn is; as well as the walking path and footbridge.

Mr. Schneiderman’s plan also showed a realignment of the traffic circle as well as one small sewer plant to serve just this small business district.

He has said other small decentralized plants could be built elsewhere in the future if the business area grows.

mwhite@timesreview.com

07/31/13 5:00pm
07/31/2013 5:00 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.

The Suffolk County Legislature voiced its support Tuesday of Southampton Town’s application for state funding to build a pedestrian footbridge that would span the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

The resolution, which was approved 16-0, allows the recently acquired county parkland in Riverside to be used as the southern terminus for the proposed bridge, and authorizes the county to take whatever steps are needed to facilitate the bridge plan.

The northern part of the proposed bridge would begin near the Long Island Aquarium on the Riverhead Town side of the river, officials said.

Approvals from Southampton and Riverhead towns would ultimately be needed as well.

Southampton Town also has applied for a $50,000 county grant to make a walking trail from Flanders Road to the river, at a point where the bridge would begin.

The estimated cost of the bridge is $1.145 million, according to county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who sponsored the resolution. The state grant being sought allows the cost of land acquisition — which was already paid to the former property owner — to be used as a matching portion of the grant, so long as it was purchased in the past three years.

In this case, the $2.4 million land acquisition occurred in September of 2011, which puts it within that three-year window, and means that the entire $1.145 million cost of the bridge could be funded by the state grant if it is awarded for the project, Mr. Schneiderman said in an interview.

“It wouldn’t cost the county or the towns of Southampton or Riverhead anything,” he said.

The 14-acre parkland in question had been owned by Dede Gotthelf of Southampton, who had planned to built a hotel there, but her proposed plans got bogged down by environmental concerns and she sold the property to Suffolk.

The grant being sought has an Aug. 12 deadline for submission, so Mr. Schneiderman had to convince Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to put the vote on the agenda through a certificate of necessity, allowing it to skip the committee process.

The Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association is already in support of the foot bridge, said Vince Taldone, the group’s president.

“We have these 14 acres that were acquired for parkland and now we’re looking to find what we can do with it,” he said. “How can we make the best use of it? Now is the time to start looking, because Southampton Town is seriously engaged in a revitalization effort for Riverside.”

The town has a Riverside economic development committee that is planning on issuing a request for proposals from developers with ideas on how to rebuild the beleaguered Riverside hamlet.

“We think one of the things that will make the area more attractive to investors is to have a beautiful park across the street” from a Main Street-like business district envisioned for Flanders Road, Mr. Taldone said in an interview.

“This would be a great addition to the kind of economic development and facelift we’re trying to bring to that area,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst told the Legislature Tuesday. “It’s somewhat unique and a great attraction that would help both Riverhead and the Town of Southampton in the areas of Flanders and Riverside, which have been in some economic distress.”

Mr. Schneiderman recently unveiled a 3D computer graphic “vision” for Riverside at a FRNCA meeting, calling for the creation of a small downtown area near the traffic circle. The vision includes the walking trail and footbridge over the Peconic.

“I think this will become a landmark,” Mr. Schneiderman said of the proposed bridge. “People will get married on the bridge, and people will come to Riverhead just to walk on the bridge.”

EDITORIAL: RIVERSIDE PLAN WILL NEED MUCH SUPPORT

The legislator spent Wednesday measuring the height of the Route 105 bridge, which spans the Peconic River to the east, with some string he bought from Kmart to find out how tall the proposed footbridge would have to be.

At high tide, the Route 105 bridge was 27 feet above the water, so the Peconic River bridge would not need to be any taller than that in order to avoid obstructing boat traffic, Mr. Scheiderman said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

07/12/13 8:00am
07/12/2013 8:00 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.

New technologies in wastewater treatment could allow a small sewer plant to be built in Riverside for just $2 million — infrastructure that would be key to advancing efforts to transform a blighted stretch of Route 24 into a bustling main street and revitalize the surrounding area, says Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk).

Riverside foot bridge to Riverhead

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

Mr. Schneiderman also says there could be county grant money available to cover a chunk of that cost.

Grant money may also be available for two other proposals Mr. Schneiderman recently made as part of a vision he  and town officials share for the beleaguered Riverside hamlet: a walking path to the nearby Peconic River and a footbridge over the river to downtown Riverhead. (See digital rendering on page 28.)

For an area with such a high water table, sewer treatment is necessary for any building improvements, and a traditional sewage treatment plant for Riverside would cost more than $10 million, Mr. Schneiderman said, pointing to Riverhead Town’s sewage treatment plant, which cost $8.75 million to build in 2000. Upgrades to the existing Riverhead plant, needed to satisfy state requirements, are expected to cost upwards of $20 million.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) has told the News-Review federal money would be necessary to build a full-scale plant in Riverside, and that such funding has dried up.

The water table and proximity to the environmentally sensitive Peconic River have put huge constraints on most development efforts in Riverside. As a result, most large scale building proposals there have failed and many buildings in the area are now vacant or boarded up.

The grant money Mr. Schneiderman said might be available comes from the county’s quarter-percent sales tax, which raises money for drinking water protection. Each year, $2 million is available for alternative sewer systems —  and that money went unused last year, he said, bringing the available total to $4 million.

“I think if you have a low pocket of commercial development, it makes sense to have a small facility to handle it,” he said. “It would need far less land and far less piping. In Riverside, I think it could be done for $2 million.”

In June, Mr. Schneiderman unveiled a 3-D computer graphic “vision” for the area near the Riverside traffic circle at a meeting of the Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

He proposed creating a new downtown commercial area for Riverside just east of the traffic circle, with three-story mixed use buildings on the south side of Flanders Road, across from McDonald’s; a restaurant at the former Riverboat Diner property; a supermarket where the Budget Host Inn is; a walking path from Flanders Road to the Peconic River; and a footbridge over the river into Riverhead Town.

Mr. Schneiderman’s plan also showed a realignment of the traffic circle as well as one small sewer plant to serve just this small business district. He said other small decentralized plants could be built elsewhere in the future if the business area grows.

“I don’t believe that any of this can unfold without sewers,” he said.

Last year, the county approved a $750,000 grant to fund a study investigating the feasibility of a Riverside sewer district. That study is being conducted by the engineering firm Camp Dresser & McKee and is expected to be complete in the fall.

In the early meetings on the sewer district proposal in 2011, officials were considering a number of options, including a sewer district stretching from Riverside into the Bay View Pines section of Flanders, which would serve homes and businesses.

The likely high cost of that plan led officials to shrink the scope of the project to just the Riverside business district, including the former drive-in site where an industrial park and hamlet center are planned to the east.

But Mr. Schneiderman’s plan covers an even smaller area and seeks to create a Riverside business area in the area by the traffic circle that extends only as far east as Vail Avenue.

The plan showed one small sewage treatment plant, designed to serve only this small area.

Mr. Schneiderman said there are new technologies that allow for smaller “package” plants to serve commercial areas. These include the Membrane Bioreactor (MBR) technology and a system called Nitrex, made by a company in Boston.

Kevin McAllister of Peconic Baykeeper, an environmental watchdog group that has been critical of nitrogen discharge levels into the Peconic Bay system and into groundwater, said in an interview that the Nitrex system is the best he’s seen at removing nitrogen from sewage discharge.

High nitrogen levels will trigger algae blooms, which will lead to low dissolved oxygen levels and fish kills, Mr. McAllister said.

The Peconic River, Saw Mill Creek, Meeting House Creek, Reeves Bay and the western part of Flanders Bay are all considered impaired water bodies by the state because of too much nitrogen, he said. And since the Peconic River is groundwater fed, failing cesspools along the river will eventually lead to pollution of surface waters too, he said.

In the past, the Suffolk County health department has been reluctant to approve alternative sewer systems that remove nitrogen, Mr. McAllister said.

But the health department earlier this year approved four alternative on-site systems for sewage disposal, including Nitrex.

Pio Lombardi, the president of Nitrex, said in an interview last Wednesday 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, Calif., in the low 1’s and we know what to do to get it below 1 [MPL],” Mr. Lombardi said. The Nitrex system can be placed under parking lots, which saves money on land acquisition, he said.

Asked if the system would work in areas with high groundwater tables, like Riverside, Mr. Lombardi said his company has installed systems in such areas, but it does increase the construction costs, and a a dewatering system would be necessary.

“We generally need six to eight feet above groundwater, but we can also built them above ground.”

Ben Wright, an engineer with the county Department of Public Works, which also is working on the Riverside study, said at the recent civic meeting that Membrane Bioreactor technology is what Riverhead Town is going to use in its sewer upgrade.

“That’s the best quality you can get,” he said.

Southampton Town, meanwhile, is issuing a request for qualifications from developers, similar to what has been done to help advance revitalizations projects in Wyandanch and around the Ronkonkoma train station, said Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst

“The municipality would invite developers and businesses to come to us and give us proposals,” she said. This way, she added, improvements could be funded by private developers rather than government funds.

“There are lots of ways to skin this cat,” she said. “Our goal has been to approach as many angles as we can.”

While most of Mr. Schneiderman’s proposals for Riverside come as part of a  “vision” and are not actual development proposals, he does have the support of Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association members.

“Absent the possibility of linking up with the existing treatment plant at Riverhead, my personal preferred option, I completely support creating a small, modern plant in Riverside to handle only the flow that might be generated along Route 24 in the commercial area,” said FRNCA president Vince Taldone.

Riverhead Town would need additional land it doesn’t have in order to expand its own sewer plant to handle Riverside, said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter. In addition, the Riverhead Town Board members serve as commissioners of the sewer district, and Mr. Walter added that he would not support expanding into Southampton Town if it involved giving up that control.

Mr. Taldone said having a sewer system in Riverside “will enable new, higher-water-usage businesses to open and will enable some additional residential development to create a nice mixed-use redevelopment.”

Meanwhile, in other efforts to advance the vision for Riverside, the FRNCA group is seeking $1.45 million in grants to build a footbridge over the Peconic River, connecting county parkland in Riverside to a section of downtown Riverhead near the Long Island Aquarium.

FRNCA also is backing a $50,000 grant application by Southampton Town and Suffolk County to create a walking trail from Flanders Road to the section of the riverfront where the bridge would go, should it get to that point.

Both proposals are elements of a 3D computer graphic “vision” for Riverside unveiled by Mr. Schneiderman at a June 10 FRNCA meeting.

Mr. Taldone, said the group applied for New York State Economic Development grants for the footbridge.

The area where the foot path is proposed was once part of a 20-acre site proposed for a hotel and convention center by Southampton Inn owner Dede Gotthelf in 2001. Ms. Gotthelf’s plan ran into numerous obstacles, and she ended up selling all but about six acres to Suffolk County as open space.

While that land is now considered parkland, Mr. Taldone said it’s still largely inaccessible to the public.

“People in Riverside can’t get down to the water without climbing through the weeds,” he said.

The state grants are expected to be very competitive.

“We’re up against some really great applications,” he said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/21/13 7:00am
06/21/2013 7:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Route 24 in Riverside, where a new 'Main Street' is envisioned.

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

A high water table and high number of vacant buildings are among the reasons some Riverside business and property owners give for why it’s been so hard to develop that area of Southampton Town commercially.

Those comments come a week after Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) unveiled a vision for Riverside, including a reconfigured traffic circle, in a 3D computer graphic presentation before the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

The proposal was just a vision, he stressed to the civic members, designed to jump-start a planning process, rather than an actual development proposal.

He suggested that the commercial corridor on Flanders Road, across from McDonald’s, contain two- and three-story buildings with retail shops and cafes on the ground floor and apartments above them.

He likened the plan’s “Main Street” component to downtown Sag Harbor.

Mr. Schneiderman also suggested working with the owners of the Budget Host Inn and the vacant building that once housed the Riverboat Diner to try to reroute Riverleigh Avenue (County Road 104) so it connects to Lake Avenue (County Road 63) instead of extending all the way to the five-pronged traffic circle. Officials would also try to convince the hotel owners to develop that property as a supermarket and try to re-establish a restaurant at the diner site.

The lawmaker said if there is no interest from those property owners, he would support making the traffic circle into a two-lane roundabout that remains connected to the five roads it now serves.

The legislator’s vision, which came out of meeting with civic and town leaders, also featured a walking trail to the Peconic River and a footbridge over the river into downtown Riverhead.

Mr. Schneiderman also stressed nothing could happen without a commercial sewage treatment facility, because of the environmentally sensitive nature of the land along the Peconic River, and he said cooperation from property owners is needed. Now would be a good time to propose such a plan, he said, because many of the buildings in the area are boarded up or for sale.

Shep Scheinberg, whose family owns the Riverboat Diner property, which has sat vacant for several years, said by email that this property is on the market for lease or sale. He said a bank had shown interest in the site but, after hearing a county Department of Public Works presentation on options for improving the flow of traffic in the circle, “they got cold feet, as the state of our property was uncertain.”

Mr. Scheinberg said he and his family have had a number of meetings on this subject with the county and town, the last being on May 31. After that meeting, he said, “it was concluded and agreed by all parties that the option of going through our property was no longer a consideration.”

Because of this, Mr. Schneiderman said, “the county is now reaching out to the owner of the adjacent motel property to see if we can begin a discussion that would redevelop that property as a supermarket and allow the road connection.”

The owner of the Budget Host Inn could not be reached for comment.

David Abrahamson, a co-owner of the former 99 Cent Store across from McDonald’s, said the ownership group is still trying to find a tenant for that building, which has been vacant for about a year and a half.

He said Mr. Schneiderman’s vision for the Flanders Road corridor “would be pretty difficult” without sewer plants.

“One of the issues is the high water table in the area,” he said in an interview. “Anything that comes in there that isn’t dry goods is an issue, because you would need to build an above-ground septic system.”

He said the property is only about one foot above groundwater.

The existing septic system is only good for the sinks and bathrooms, Mr. Abrahamson said. “If you’re preparing foods, you need an above-ground septic system, and that could cost at least $50,000.”

Mr. Schneiderman has secured a $250,000 county grant to study the possibly of building a sewage treatment plant in Riverside that would make it easier to develop properties like Mr. Abrahamson’s. However, the cost of the system isn’t known yet because officials must still decide how large an area would be covered by the proposed sewer district. The smaller the area, the less the district would cost, he said.

William Eves, who owns the building in between the New York State Police barracks and the vacant Getty station on the Riverside traffic circle, said he has town approval for a 15-seat fast food restaurant in that building. He says there has been a lot of interest in leasing the building, but that he wants to sell it. But there hasn’t been as much interest from prospective buyers, he said.

Mr. Eves said he thought the area was rebounding a few years ago but that progress stopped. He feels that being surrounded by vacant building like the former Getty site and the Riverboat Diner site also hurts attempts to redevelop.

And like Mr. Abrahamson, Mr. Eves said the low water table is a major obstacle. His property is about four feet above groundwater and, he says, the area was apparently raised many years ago because there’s a concrete road buried under the current road.

Mr. Eves said he believes the Getty station, which has been closed for about two years, should be torn down. He thinks the previous plan to build a hotel and conference center along the river, as well as a plan from the 1990s for a Long island Maritime Museum, were what the area needed.

The hotel plan, proposed by Southampton Inn owner Dede Gotthelf, ran into environmental issues and Ms. Gotthelf sold much of the land to the county as open space. The Maritime Museum plan, for the same site, never came to fruition.

Mr. Eves also had another proposal for Riverside, which probably wouldn’t fly with people in neighboring Flanders.

“If you want an entryway into Southampton Town, put the Big Duck in the traffic circle,” he said. “Do you know how beautiful that would look? Put it right in the middle of the traffic circle.”

Flanders residents had lobbied officials to move the duck back to its current location in Flanders several years ago, after it had spent more than a decade at a site near the Hampton Bays border.

Mr. Schneiderman’s proposal received support from FRNCA members, although a comment was attributed to FRNCA president Vince Taldone in last week’s News-Review in which Mr. Taldone said he doubted the plan would ever happen in his lifetime. Mr. Taldone says he was actually referring to a proposal voiced by FRNCA member Chris Sheldon — and not to Mr. Schneiderman’s proposal. Mr. Sheldon had suggested moving Flanders Road behind stores and away from the river in order to create more waterfront.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said there are several sources within the state of possible funding for a sewer project in the Riverside area, but added that it “would be a very costly project.”

“I doubt there would be enough state and local money to do such a project alone,” he said, speaking strictly of the sewer component of the vision. “In the old days, 70 percent would have been paid under the Federal Clean Water Act. The funding no longer exists.

“Some sort of federal help would be needed to make this a viable project financially.” Mr. Thiele said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

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

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