10/13/14 10:00am
10/13/2014 10:00 AM
An artist rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center's recreational and other facilities.

An artist rendering of the main atrium at the Family Community Life Center’s recreational and other facilities.

Families are the heart of the community, but Riverhead is heartsick. With the establishment of a Community Benefit District proposed by the Family Community Life Center, residents of Riverhead will have an unprecedented opportunity to support a project of regional significance in their midst that will create jobs, spur economic development and provide numerous valuable and healing family services not currently available to the taxpayers of our community.

The FCLC project was declared “regionally significant” in a unanimous vote by members of the Long Island Regional Planning Council of Nassau and Suffolk after consideration of the numerous regional strategic priorities that the project addresses, including the following.

(more…)

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.”

08/31/13 12:00pm
08/31/2013 12:00 PM
MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Shirley Covedale at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead property, where she’s long pushed to get an apartment complex and community center built to provide affordable housing and other services, such as 24-hour child care, to East End residents.

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Shirley Covedale at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead property, where she’s long pushed to get an apartment complex and community center built to provide affordable housing and other services, such as 24-hour child care, to East End residents.

The Suffolk County Democratic Committee announced this month the creation of a Black and Hispanic Democratic Committee that will operate within the party.

The new group’s co-chairs will sit on the Democrats’ newly expanded executive committee, up to 43 members from 41. This way, party officials explained, Democrats from Suffolk County’s black and Hispanic communities are guaranteed a stronger voice in the party when it comes to choosing and supporting candidates moving forward.

Shirley Coverdale of Riverhead was named as one of those co-chairs. The other is Dafny Irizarry of East Islip, president of the Long Island Latino Teachers Association.

For 31 years, Ms. Coverdale has served in varying capacities with First Baptist Church of Riverhead, where her husband, the Rev. Charles Cover-dale, is the pastor. She’s the executive director of the Family Community Life Center, an affordable housing and recreation center long planned for the church’s property on Northville Turnpike. She also sits on the boards of the Long Island Organizing Network, a nonprofit community advocacy group, and Long Island Housing Partnership, an affordable housing agency.

Ms. Coverdale sat with the News-Review to discuss the role of the new committee.

Q: How did you come to get involved?

A: I was contacted, as were other community leaders. This came out of concerns within these two communities, which essentially have the same agenda. The idea was to come together and get more traction in terms of their political voices being heard. Assemblyman Phil Ramos, party leader Rich Schaefer and County Executive Steve Bellone also thought this would be a good idea. So a group of us got together and it was decided internally, before we had really done much of anything, to select a co-chair from each community. The really nice thing about it is Rich Schaefer has recognized it as an offi cial extension of the county party. So both co-chairs will sit on the executive committee.

Q: What are some of the biggest issues facing the black and Hispanic communities today?

A: One fairly obvious one is the disparities in our schools. The resources that are distributed across schools systems are clearly uneven. I’ve been outspoken about the fact that we can go back to the ’50s and talk about Brown vs. Board of Education and we’re also supposed to be getting an equal education from the public schools but that’s just woefully untrue. It will take people lifting their voices to make a difference with that. Perhaps through more diversity that better refl ects [the black and Hispanic] populations in Albany, to have a more meaningful discussion on how to implement more meaningful, regional kinds of solutions. Right now, it’s not even a discussion.

Q: This is where the work of committee steps in?

A: It’s about being able to be fairly represented. We’ll be looking at minority candidates running for offi ces and non-minority candidates running where there are significant minority populations, to make sure that people’s needs are fairly represented, that the agendas espoused by the would-be elected official is what we need in our communities. Some of the poorest districts on Long Island, largely minority districts, pay some of the highest property taxes and get far fewer resources for what they’re putting in. Someone’s got to look at that and hold people accountable for that kind of discrepancy.

Q: How do the challenges differ between the two groups, and geographically, between the East End and western Suffolk?

A: This economy out here in eastern Suffolk is extremely dependent on the [Hispanic] immigrant population. Our farming and fi shing industries generate over $1 billion to the GDP of New York State. We don’t get a fair share of that money back. And if it were not for those workers, who’s doing the work? We can see a shift in the population and if we’re not dealing with the reality that the world is changing then we’re always going to be at odds with one another. And for what? But at the end of the day, everybody wants a safe, healthy environment in which to raise their families and decent jobs that allow them to do so. Whether it’s a rural community — though Riverhead is hardly the outpost it used to be — or a more urban one, the dynamics are pretty much the same.

Q: Where do you see the committee in five years?

A: If we’ve done our job, then we will have districts that have more diverse representation, not just among elected offi cials, but hopefully through employment opportunities. Not opportunities that are just window dressing. Whether it is in our schools, among administrators and teachers and so on. If this group is doing what it’s supposed to do, you’ll see change refl ected in that way. Across Suffolk County, the black and Latino populations constitute about 23 percent of the population and there are many areas where those percentages are much higher. In some cases, they’re the majority but that’s not refl ected through jobs that affect people’s lives.

mwhite@timesreview.com