11/06/13 11:28am
11/06/2013 11:28 AM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Brad Bender in April 2011, when he was forced to step aside as FRNCA president so he could run for Town Council.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Brad Bender in April 2011, when he was forced to step aside as FRNCA president so he could run for Town Council.

After finding himself just barely on the losing side of the coin in 2011, Northampton resident Brad Bender appears poised to win a Southampton Town Council seat this time around, marking the first time in recent memory that a resident from one of the town’s northwest hamlets could hold a seat on the town board.

Mr. Bender, who came up just 92 votes short two years ago, holds an unofficial 143-vote lead after Eleciton night in a four-way race for two seats, just ahead of Republican Jeff Mansfield.

Nearly 900 absentee ballots remain to be counted – 879 to be exact – until the Suffolk County Board of Elections officially calls the race.

Mr. Bender said on Wednesday morning he’s confident the way things stand currently, though he isn’t counting his chickens before they hatch.

“Two years ago, I waited to concede until all of the votes were in,” Mr. Bender said. “Not everybody was finished speaking. So I’m still hesitant to be celebratory. I’d like to wait until we hear what the people have to say.”

Southampton Town Democratic Committee Chairman Gordon Herr didn’t have an exact breakdown of the absentee ballots by party, though estimated that “there are about 300 Democrats, 300 Republicans, a couple Conservatives, a couple Independence ballots, and some blanks.” A request for an exact breakdown from the Suffolk County BOE was not immediately available.

Both Mr. Herr and Mr. Bender could not recall the last time – if ever – that a resident of Flanders, Riverside or Northampton had sat on the Southampton Town Board.

Absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 5, and must be in the hands of BOE officials by Nov. 12 in order to be tallied. Mr. Herr estimated all the votes would be counted by sometime next week.

Mr. Bender, meanwhile, attributed his better fortune this time around to a higher visibility town-wide after his 2011 run. And both he and Mr. Herr noted that since Bender barely lost to current Councilwoman Christine Preston-Scalera in 2011, he’s been educating himself further on the issues to make his case better to the voters.

Mr. Bender, 52, said that “maybe my message wasn’t refined enough” last time around, saying he focused more narrowly on improving septic systems.

“I said we need a more regional approach” to improving water quality this time, he said. “Not just septic systems, but stormwater runoff, pesticides, and working with the state and county.”

The Northampton resident took ads out with incumbent Suffolk Legislator Jay Schneiderman to tout the experience he’s had working with officials on various levels of government, dating back to his days as president of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton Civic Association. Schneiderman (I-Montuak) defeated Republican challenger Chris Nuzzi – who termed out of his time on Southampton town board – on Tuesday night.

10/17/13 1:00pm
10/17/2013 1:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Republican Linda Kabot, left, speaks while incumbent Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who is running on the Democratic line, listens at the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association’s Southampton Town candidate’s night Tuesday.

Both the Republican and Democratic candidates for Southampton Town Board and Suffolk County Legislature agreed Tuesday that helping the northwest portion of town – most of which shares a school district with Riverhead Town – is an important goal in their campaigns. But the two sides disagreed about how best to achieve this goal.

One key disagreement concerned the proposed formation of a Riverside sewer district, seen by some as a key to economic development in the area.

The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association held the forum Tuesday in David Crohan Community Center in Flanders, where candidates for Southampton Town Supervisor and council spoke, along with candidates for the South Fork’s Suffolk County Legislature seat.

Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst of Sag Harbor, running for reelection on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families lines, is opposed by former Supervisor Linda Kabot of Quogue, running on the Republican and Conservative lines.

Ms. Throne-Holst defeated Ms. Kabot four years ago and then won again two years ago when Ms. Kabot ran only a write-in campaign.

Ms. Throne-Holst said her administration has done a lot for the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton areas, including establishing an economic development task force, getting the county’s sex offender trailers closed, obtaining a grant for a walking trail to the river in Riverside, having the police department join the East End Drug Task Force and issuing a request for proposals from developers interested in jump-starting economic activity in Riverside.

“Economic development in Riverside is absolutely crucial,” Ms. Kabot agreed. But she said that having done a number of studies on the area, the town should be taking action. She said the area near the former car dealership on Route 104 should be rezoned for shopping centers and the property north of the Riverwoods mobile home park should be rezoned for senior housing. The Republican Town Board candidates have included a section on Riverside in their campaign platform, Ms. Kabot said.

The two candidates also differed about future handling of the area’s sewage. Ms. Kabot said the town should hook into downtown Riverhead’s system while Ms. Throne-Holst supports a $250,000 study of the issue. The views of the county legislature candidates, incumbent Jay Schneiderman and Republican challenger Chris Nuzzi, split along the same lines.

Mr. Nuzzi said he disagrees with doing a $250,000 study on sewers in Riverside since “we already know the answer,” which would be hooking into the Riverhead system.

Mr. Schneiderman, who sponsored the bill to fund the study, has said that Riverhead Town rejected a request to tie into their sewer system, which Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter has confirmed in interviews.

All candidates supported current plans to create a walking trail from Flanders Road to the Peconic River and to build a pedestrian bridge over the river from downtown Riverhead connecting to that path. Town and county officials hope to obtain a grant for that project.

“We have very serious issues here,” Ms. Kabot said. “The northwest quadrant of the town needs attention.” At one point, she added that she’d like to see someone from the area run for town board, though Ms. Throne-Holst’s running mate, Brad Bender, is in fact from Northampton. Ms. Throne-Holst later thanked Ms. Kabot for “endorsing” him.

Ms. Kabot said that during her two years as supervisor, the town brought the Big Duck back to Flanders, got the state to repave Route 24 and renovated the Crohan Community Center.

Ms. Throne-Holst’s running mates for Town Board are Mr. Bender, a former FRNCA president and landscaping company owner who made an unsuccessful bid for Town Board in 2011, and Frank Zappone of Southampton, currently her deputy supervisor. In the past, he was a school administrator for many years and also worked for Apple and for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Republican/Conservative council candidates are Stan Glinka of Hampton Bays – president of the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce and the Rogers Memorial Library and a vice president at Bridgehampton National Bank – and Jeff Mansfield of Bridgehampton, a finance professional who also has degrees in business administration and law.

Some Republican candidates were also critical of the current administration for not following through on a pledge to create a night court within the town justice court, something Flanders and Riverside residents felt would help deal with quality-of-life offenses.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the attorneys in town didn’t want to go to night court, and the decision to have night court was up to the town justices, who didn’t pursue it. She said the Town Board can’t force judges to do something since they themselves are elected officials.

Correction: The print version of this story in the Oct. 17 News-Review incorrectly said the meeting was Monday.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/07/13 10:00am
08/07/2013 10:00 AM
Peconic footbrige

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne Holst (center) and town council members discussing plans for a footbridge over the Peconic.

The Southampton Town Board will hold a special meeting at noon Thursday to vote on several resolutions, including one to authorize Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to apply for a New York State Economic Development Consolidated Grant for a pedestrian bridge from downtown Riverhead to county parkland in Riverside.

The deadline to apply for the grant is Aug. 12.

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 town is seeking $1.145 million in grant money for the project, which requires approvals from Southampton Town, Riverhead Town and Suffolk County, since the land on which it is planned for in Riverside is part of a 14-acre county park.

Previous Coverage: Riverhead Town officials voice support for footbridge proposal

The issue also will be discussed publicly by the Riverhead Town Board at its 10 a.m. work session Thursday. Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, will give a presentation to the board. Mr. Taldone has been a driving forced behind the plan, which FRNCA hopes will be a beginning to plans for revitalization in Riverside. Southampton Town also plans to seek proposals from developers to redevelop the business area in Riverside.

Previous Coverage: Southampton set to act as grant deadline looms

The bridge will most like be located near the Long Island Aquarium, Mr. Taldone said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

11/06/12 3:24pm
11/06/2012 3:24 PM
Chief Wilson, Southampton Town, Southampton Police

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Chief William Wilson at a civic meeting in Flanders.

Less than two years after taking the job, Southampton Town Police Chief William Wilson submitted his resignation today, effective Dec. 1.

Chief Wilson was hired in May 2011 to replace longtime police chief James Overton, who retired after 21 years on the job. Chief Wilson had previously been chief of the Southampton Village police department for five years.

But his short tenure as town chief was marked by battles with the Town Board over funding and staffing issues, as well as investigations into alleged wrongdoing within the department.

The chief has complained that his department is understaffed, which had resulted in an increase in overtime costs as well as the elimination of a second sector car in the Flanders-Riverside area.

The Southampton Town Board recently voted to approve a settlement that reinstated Lieutenant James Kiernan, who had been suspended based on charges brought by Chief Wilson, since May 4, 2012.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office has also reportedly investigated incidents that took place before Chief Wilson took the helm at the town department, involving missing documents and members of the department’s Street Crime Unit, which Chief Wilson disbanded when he took over.

Chief Wilson also had the town department join the district attorney’s East End Drug Task Force, something his predecessor never did.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst issued a statement Tuesday saying that she respects the chief’s decision to leave and “will do my utmost to insure a seamless and positive transition.”

“I also share Chief Wilson’s concern with regard to proper staffing levels and the need for the implementation of modern police technologies, which have been and remain a priority for me,” she said.

“I have confidence the current management at the Southampton Police Department will work together with us, the Town Board, and their fellow police officers, toward an effective transition,” she added. “In the next few days, I will be conferring with my fellow Town Board members to develop a transition plan and a proactive course leading to the next phase of leadership for the Police Department.

“Again, I thank Chief Wilson for his service to the town and wish him the very best.”

Chief Wilson could not be reached for comment. He reportedly has taken another job and will not return to work with the town, instead using unused vacation time until Dec. 1, according to The Southampton Press website, 27east.com.

The department’s second-in-command is Captain Robert Pearce.

tgannon@timesreview.com

02/13/12 5:00pm
02/13/2012 5:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverleigh Avenue intersects with the Riverside traffic circle on Flanders Road.

A plan to turn the Riverside traffic circle into a two-lane roundabout, the News-Review has learned, would block Riverleigh Avenue from entering the circle, as it does now, and instead divert most northbound traffic to a new road farther east that would intersect with Flanders Road (County Road 24).

That’s the County Department of Public Works’ preferred plan for improving traffic flow at the often clogged circle.

DPW chief engineer Bill Hillman updated the Southampton Town Board last week on the county’s study of the traffic circle. But he cautioned that all plans are in a concept stage now, and said the county hasn’t even budgeted money for anything beyond the ongoing study.

The problem with the Riverside circle, Mr. Hillman said, is that it has “five legs,” meaning five different major roads — Flanders Road, Nugent Drive, Lake Avenue, Riverleigh Avenue and Peconic Avenue — can enter and exit the circle.

A sixth road, Woodhull Avenue, could also be included, although it doesn’t generate as much traffic.

“It’s extremely difficult to make extensive traffic congestion improvements while maintaining these five legs,” Mr. Hillman told the board Friday during its work session. “That’s what our study revealed.”

The goal is to eliminate one of those legs.

But not everyone in Southampton Town Hall believes there is a problem in need of addressing.

“I am not so sure there is broad consensus with regard to the problems at the circle and that they need such an extensive and severe and impactful fix,” said Councilwoman Bridget Fleming. “For most of the time, the circle works pretty well. It does get backed up by McDonald’s. I spend a lot of time on that circle and it’s not high on my list of things that have to be fixed. I’ve been sort of taking the pulse out there, and I’m not certain there is broad consensus in the community that this extensive of a fix is necessary.”

Mr. Hillman disagreed.

“From our traffic analysis, this presently operates as what we call an ‘F,’ a failure, in the peak hours,” he said.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who also sat in on the discussion, said he believes that over the years, more and more drivers have switched from using County Road 111 in Manorville to exit the Long Island Expressway en route to the South Fork, and instead have been using the Nugent Drive/Flanders Road exit from the LIE. So, congestion at the circle may only get worse in the future, he said.

Mr. Hillman said DPW could leave the circle with the five legs and create a two-lane roundabout, but the improvements would probably only last for about five years before traffic conditions begin to deteriorate again.

“We look at 20 years down the road,” he said. “That’s the industry standard for how you spend capital money.”

The county has thus far studied two options for addressing congestion at the circle.

The DPW’s preferred plan would block access to the circle from Riverleigh Avenue, but would allow northbound traffic on Riverleigh Avenue to turn right onto Flanders Road. With this plan, the county would have to work out a way to give ambulances and police more direct access to navigate the area, Mr. Hillman said, especially since the State Police barracks is on Riverleigh Avenue and the plan would compromise access for northbound squad cars.

The DPW’s preferred plan also would create a new road, 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. 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.

The other proposal being considered by DPW would block Lake Avenue (County Road 63) from entering the circle, and realign it so its north end merges into Riverleigh Avenue (County Road 104). But that option would require the county to condemn and purchase the Budget Host Inn property and the long-vacant Riverboat Diner property. That, Mr. Hillman said, would add about $8 million to the project cost — and several years to the project. He called the land acquisitions plan the county’s “non-preferred alternative.”

DPW doesn’t have cost estimates for either plan, other than the additional cost of purchasing property, Mr. Hillman said.

DPW officials believe the Peconic Avenue traffic circle is the main cause of traffic jams on Flanders Road, and that a traffic signal or roundabout on Flanders Road would not create the same backups. A roundabout is similar to a circle but has different approach angles.

The preferred plan would also require the county to acquire property to create the new road. Much of the land that would be needed is owned by Thomas McCarthy of Southold and his corporation, TSC Holdings, according to town records. Freda Eisenberg, the town’s acting planning and development administrator, said the town has made the property owner aware of these proposals but has not begun any negotiations.

Ms. Fleming noted that there is a residential neighborhood along Old Quogue Road that would be affected by the proposed new road.

Mr. Hillman agreed there would be impacts, but suggested the town could rezone some properties for commercial use, which would make these properties more valuable and contribute to the town’s plans to create a Riverside hamlet.

Mr. Hillman said DPW will not move forward with any plans that the town doesn’t support, adding that his department would also like to work with Riverhead Town and the state Department of Transportation to alleviate some of the congestion stemming from downtown Riverhead.

He suggested making Peconic Avenue and the bridge by Riverhead Free Library into one-way roads.

“We’ve tried to work with Riverhead and the state on some concepts and no one has jumped on the bandwagon with us,” he said.

tgannon@timesreview.com