10/06/14 10:00am
10/06/2014 10:00 AM
Bob Summerlin of Northampton speaks at last Wednesday's "Riverside Rediscovered" meeting, where residents were asked to identify what type of things they feel Riverside needs. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Bob Summerlin of Northampton speaks at last Wednesday’s “Riverside Rediscovered” meeting, where residents were asked to identify what type of things they feel Riverside needs. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

About eight years ago, Southampton Town officials held a meeting in the Phillips Avenue school on a proposal to revitalize Riverside through the creation of a new Main Street business area, and people at the meeting were asked to break into groups to discuss what type of things they feel Riverside needs.  (more…)

08/29/14 7:00am
08/29/2014 7:00 AM
An abandoned gas station on Flanders Road just east of the Peconic Avenue circle. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

An abandoned gas station on Flanders Road just east of the Peconic Avenue circle. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Peconic Avenue has a new tenant, and locals should take notice.

Renaissance Downtowns has had a sign posted in its storefront for the past couple of months, but with a community liaison now on the ground and officially hired for the job, the for-profit company can officially get to work on charting a course for the future of Riverside.

Is it frustrating — and somewhat typical — to see another plan in the works for the beleaguered community, where making progress has for far too long been on the back burner for Southampton Town and Suffolk County leaders? Yes — but as the saying goes, nothing worth having ever came easy. And area residents have before them a great opportunity with a private company that’s financially invested in gathering public feedback — and crafting a vision for Riverside based on that information. Unlike with a government study, if the plan it ultimately develops isn’t executed, Renaissance Downtowns loses private money. Its motivations are financial, not political. That gives us hope.

However, it helps that political leaders are on board and supportive of the overall effort to lift up the area.

A public meeting will be held next month on a pedestrian bridge that could connect the hamlet with a burgeoning downtown Riverhead. A study has already been completed on the feasibility of a sewer treatment plant in Riverside, and the county seems on board to contribute funds to build one. This fall, voters townwide will go to the polls to determine if the hamlet — along with neighboring Flanders and Northampton — should get what we argue is a much-needed garbage district.

The missing link to realizing a long-term vision for Riverside is a cohesive effort from residents throughout the hamlet, not just a few politicians and civic leaders. While their support is vital, what’s paramount is feedback from those living and working there — and in downtown Riverhead — who will be most affected by long-term changes. They should stop by Renaissance Downtowns’ Peconic Avenue offices, give organizers five minutes if they drop by or, better yet, attend any upcoming meetings. Business mixers and community forums are in the works. Be there and let your thoughts be known.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

08/06/13 8:00am
08/06/2013 8:00 AM
JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | The footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

JAY SCHNEIDERMAN COURTESY RENDERING | A conceptual rendering of a footbridge that would cross the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

Riverhead Town officials interviewed this week voiced mostly support for a plan to build a footbridge over the Peconic River, connecting downtown Riverhead to a section of county parkland in Riverside.

But the Riverhead officials also had questions.

The bridge proposal will be discussed at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session, starting at 10:20 a.m. in Town Hall.

It was als0 discussed at last Thursday’s Southampton Town Board work session, where it received mostly support.

The bridge is being planned by the Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association and Southampton Town, where officials are hoping to quickly apply for a $1.145 million state grant that would allow Suffolk County’s $2.4 million cost of acquiring the land in 2011 to count as a matching component of the grant.

The grant has a Aug. 12 deadline for submissions.

“I think it’s a good idea,” said Ray Pickersgill, president of the downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District management association. ”They are going to make a little park over there [in Riverside] and will put have a gravel parking lot on Flanders Road. It’s going to be a place where you can walk and sit in a park and then cross over to the Riverhead side.”

“I think it is going to be good,” he continued. ”They have to do something over there, and obviously they have to start somewhere, so this may be a good idea to start with.”

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said he hasn’t heard much feedback from Riverside residents on the bridge proposal, but added, “I don’t necessarily see it as a bad thing. Anything that causes positive things to happen in Riverside will cause positive things to happen in Riverhead.”

However, he added, “I’ve been wrong before.”

“I think for a long time we’ve been wanting to get some synergy between Riverside and Riverhead because it really is one common area,” Riverhead Councilman Jim Wooten said. “I am not opposed to a footbridge, I  just want to know where it is going. I hope the foot bridge would be part of a bigger plan for Riverside revitalization.

“If that’s the catalyst to get that moving forward, then I have no problem with it.”

Mr. Wooten questioned where people would park to access the Riverside end of the bridge and he questioned if it would need an elevator to be handicapped accessible.

“It’s an interesting concept but they need to show us the details and ‘show me the money,” Riverhead Councilman George Gabrielsen said.

Riverhead council members Jodi Giglio and John Dunleavy couldn’t be reached for comment, although Mr. Dunleavy had raised some concerns during an interview on WRIV 1390 radio Friday.

In the radio interview, he said no one had contacted the Riverhead Town Board about the bridge and said it would have to be high enough to avoid impeding boat traffic downtown.

Vince Taldone, president of FRNCA, has said the bridge would be the same height as the Route 105 bridge, and he said the initials estimates took into account an elevator on the Riverhead side.

“It is a tight squeeze on the Riverhead side because we can’t give up any parking,” Mr. Taldone said. “Every spot must be retained.”

He added that there’s a chance the footrbidge might not need an elevator.

On the Riverside side of the bridge, he said, there would be parking on the street, parking on the redeveloped south side and possibly a small amount of parking on the park site itself.

Town officials and county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) have envisioned a redeveloped business district on the south side of Flanders Road in Riverside, near the traffic circle — and the walking bridge over the river, along with a walking path through the county parkland leading to the bridge, are part of that plan.

The parkland where the path is proposed is the same land where Southampton Inn owner Dede Gotthelf had once proposed a hotel and conference center, but ended up selling the land to the county as open space.

Southampton Town officials are planning to issue a request for proposals soon seeking developers who might be interested in building in the proposed Riverside business district.

At last Thursday’s Southampton Town work session, officials stressed they should get the grant first and then worry about the design of the bridge afterward, since the deadline for the grant is nearing.

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

tgannon@timesreview.com

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