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

12/02/13 1:24pm
12/02/2013 1:24 PM
FILE PHOTO

FILE PHOTO

A 20-year-old Riverhead man is facing a felony burglary charge after he was caught at a Riverside business soon after the building’s alarm went off Wednesday, Southampton Town police said.

Police went to Charlie’s Quality Collision on Riverleigh Avenue after the alarm was activated just before 10 p.m., according to a police report. An officer saw signs of forced entry into the building and searched the inside of the business and the surrounding area with the help of state police and a sheriff’s K9 unit, the report states.

A short time later, officers found Brian Flores at the property and arrested him, police said. Police did not say what, if anything, had been taken from the store.

Mr. Flores was arrested and brought back to headquarters to be processed.

He was arraigned in Southampton Town court Thanksgiving morning and was released after posting $1,500 bail that day, county jail officials said.

psquire@timesreview.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11/06/13 5:00pm
11/06/2013 5:00 PM

A woman who allegedly stole cigarettes and a bottle of cranberry juice from a Riverside gas station last Monday ignored responding officers, resisted arrest and managed to escape after a pair of dogs kept police at bay, according to a Southampton Town police report.

The owner of the Flanders Road station told police that a woman in her mid-20s tried to pay for a pack of Newport cigarettes worth $10.25, and a 32 oz. bottle of Tropicana with her bank card at about 10:35 a.m. When the charge was declined, the woman reportedly put the items in her purse and walked out of the store without paying.

The owner rushed after her, according to a report, grabbing the purse and returning inside to call police. However the woman allegedly fought with the man, grabbing her purse back and fleeing northbound on Flanders Road. The pack of cigarettes fell out of the purse but the woman escaped with the bottle of juice, worth $3.99, police said.

Responding police found the alleged thief in a mobile home park on Flanders Road. Police approached the woman, but a pair of pit bulls began barking at the officers, “preventing the arrest of the suspect,” police said. The woman struggled against police and managed to break free, running away on foot from the officers and along Flanders Road.

The suspect remains at large, according to the report.

SH_Cops

11/01/13 4:00pm
11/01/2013 4:00 PM
JUAN MENDEZ-DEPAZ MUG SHOT

JUAN MENDEZ-DEPAZ MUG SHOT

A Flanders man accused of demanding hamburgers and cash from a Riverside fast food restaurant and threatening to shoot an employee earlier this week is now being held by federal immigration authorities.

Juan Mendez-DePaz, 33, appeared in Southampton Town Justic Court Friday morning in a dark green jumpsuit, where his legal aid attorney said Mr. Mendez-DePaz was being detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials following his arrest on weapons and robbery charges.

State police say Mr. Mendez-DePaz walked up to the drive-through window at the McDonald’s on Flanders Road about 12:05 a.m. wearing a cowboy hat and a black vest.

Mr. Mendez-DePaz told an employee there that he had two guns in his vest and threatened to open fire unless he was given “some hamburgers and money”, police said. The worker closed the window and called 911, and “within minutes” state troopers and Southampton Town police found Mr. Mendez-DePaz in the parking lot, according to a state police statement.

The Flanders man allegedly showed police a “large knife” on his hip, and was apprehended after fighting with police, state police said. The man was apprehended a few minutes later after a “brief struggle” with police, according to a police statement.

During Mr. Mendez-DePaz’s court appearance his attorney, Michael Dipresso, said he had spoken with the assistant district attorney handling the case and downplayed the severity of the allegations.

“The situation is actually not as severe as the charges suggest,” he told Southampton Town judge Deborah Kooperstein.

Mr. Dipresso declined to comment about his client’s case to a reporter.

He has been charged with misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon and felony robbery. His bail — set at $50,000, court officials said — was continued.

psquire@timesreview.com

10/28/13 4:40pm
10/28/2013 4:40 PM
JUAN MENDEZ-DEPAZ MUG SHOT

JUAN MENDEZ-DEPAZ MUG SHOT

A Flanders man is facing weapons and robbery charges after he allegedly walked up to a fast food restaurant drive-through window in Riverside early Sunday and threatened to shoot an employee if the worker didn’t give the man hamburgers and money, state police said.

The man was apprehended a few minutes later after a “brief struggle” with police, according to a police statement.

Police said 33-year-old Juan Mendez-DePaz walked up to the drive-through window at the McDonald’s on Flanders Road about 12:05 a.m. wearing a cowboy hat and a black vest.

Mr. Mendez-DePaz put his hand inside his vest and told the employee at the drive through window that he had two guns in his vest and threatened to shoot unless he was given hamburgers and cash, police said.

The employee immediately closed the window and called 911. State troopers and Southampton Town police got to the scene “within minutes” and found Mr. Mendez-DePaz in the parking lot based on his description. The robber allegedly showed police a “large knife” on his hip, and was apprehended after fighting with police.

He was arrested and charged with misdemeanor criminal possession of a weapon and felony robbery. He was held at Suffolk County jail pending arraignment.

psquire@timesreview.com

10/26/13 9:01am
10/26/2013 9:01 AM

A 45-year-old East Hampton man was arrested for DWI and other charges in Riverside early Saturday after police spotted his car speeding along Flanders Road, Southampton Town police said.

Cops stopped Edwardo Morgado-Rodriguez just after 1 a.m. and found him to be intoxicated, officials said.

He was arrested and also charged with speeding, unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and other traffic violations.

SH_Cops

10/24/13 12:00pm
10/24/2013 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.

Southampton Town has received a $236,900 Brownfield Opportunity Area grant from New York State to conduct a revitalization plan for the Riverside area.

There are 15 “brownfield” sites in Riverside, which are defined as “dormant properties where the presence or potential presence of contamination has impeded site redevelopment, turning the properties into economic and environmental drains on communities.”

The proposed revitalization plan will address the “Integration and coordination of Town, County, and State efforts, including road improvement, sewer feasibility, and coastal planning studies that are already in progress; The potential for the redevelopment of strategic sites by a master developer’: and quality of life issues such as property maintenance and code enforcement, recruitment of businesses to provide needed goods and services, development of recreation opportunities and waterfront access on public lands, and improved solid waste management services,” according to statement from the town.

There are already several other planning studies in progress for the Riverside area, including a sewer feasibility, a traffic improvement study, a waterfront protection plan, and grant applications to create a walking trail from Flanders Road to the Peconic River and a walking bridge over the river into downtown Riverhead, according to Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

In addition, a Flanders/Northampton/Riverside Revitalization Study was completed less than a decade ago.

All aim at revitalizing the distressed hamlet, which has a median income of under $40,000, according to census data – well below the county’s $87,000 and nearby Riverhead hamlet’s $51,000. Riverside was chosen as one of 26 areas across the state to receive a portion of $10 million overall in BOA funding.

Riverhead Town also received a $569,000 BOA grant two years ago and is currently in the process of doing a similar study for the downtown and West Main Street areas.

The Southampton Town Board was scheduled to discuss the Riverside grant its work session on Thursday morning.

“The NYS Brownfields Opportunity Area grant will add much needed state financial support to local economic development initiatives by identifying ways to safely and productively redeploy long dormant or underutilized ‘brownfield’ properties for economic development,” said Vince Taldone, the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, in a town press release.