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 4:44pm
04/18/2014 4:44 PM

Eight men — including a former Shinnecock Indian Nation Trustee — turned themselves in to New York State police in Riverside last week after officials with the state Department Environmental Conservation said they were caught illegally harvesting elvers, baby eels often sold to buyers in Asia.

(more…)

04/18/14 10:30am
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…)

03/03/14 8:00am
03/03/2014 8:00 AM
Anyone interested in the garden project should visit the David Crohan Community Center on Tuesday March 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. Or call (631) 287-5745. (Credit: Carrie Miller photo)

Anyone interested in the garden project should visit the David Crohan Community Center on Tuesday March 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. Or call (631) 287-5745. (Credit: Carrie Miller photo)

Southampton Town and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County are teaming up to start a community garden in Flanders.

The garden will be built on the David W. Crohan Community Center property on Route 24.  (more…)

02/11/14 11:17am
02/11/2014 11:17 AM

Refuse in woods along Oak Avenue in Flanders from 2012. Civic leaders say all the open space and parkland in the tri-hamlet area make it easy for people to dump. (Tim Gannon file photo)

The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association adopted a resolution Monday asking Southampton Town to create a garbage district for its three hamlets. (more…)

01/02/14 9:00am
01/02/2014 9:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Flanders Riverside & Northampton Community Association president Vince Taldone with his dog Champ in Riverhead in 2012.

Back in 2011, the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association needed a new leader, as its president then was planning to run for Southampton Town Board.

The only person willing to take the job at the time was Vince Taldone, a Riverhead Town resident who owned property in Flanders but didn’t live there; thus, he could not serve as the group’s president. The organization then voted to change its own bylaws so Mr. Taldone could take the helm at FRNCA.

Two years later, Mr. Taldone, who was FRNCA’s vice president in 2012, is the group’s president once again, and is heavily involved in efforts to revitalize the hamlet of Riverside, which for many years has been plagued by crime and blight, high tax rates and a lack of commercial activity.

A master developer has now been hired by Southampton Town with the goal of bringing commercial development to the area. A commercial sewer district study has been completed by Suffolk County and county and town officials hope to run sewers through the area, allowing the type of development that had not been possible previously due to the area’s high water table.

Then there’s the grant money. Just last month it was announced that town received a state grant to plan the construction of a footbridge over the Peconic River from Riverside into Riverhead. This came on the heels of a county grant being used to create a walking trail through county parkland leading to the river.

Behind all of this is Mr. Taldone, who, unlike many of the elected officials who have worked in this recent push to help Riverside, is doing his part solely as a volunteer.

For this reason and more, Mr. Taldone is the News-Review’s Civic Person of the Year for 2013.

“Vince has done a lot of the legwork” on the pedestrian bridge proposal, said South Fork county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who has worked with Mr. Taldone on many of the ongoing plans for Riverside. “He deserves a lot of credit. He’s not getting paid for any of it, and he’s doing a lot of work.”

Mr. Taldone is retired from a career in New York City government, where he served primarily in program and land use planning positions within the Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

And his volunteer work isn’t limited to Riverside.

Since retiring, he’s volunteered on Riverhead Town’s Landmark Preservation Commission, the town’s handicapped advisory board and the board of directors of Riverhead Townscape, a nonprofit that works on local beautification projects.

Mr. Taldone also is a longtime volunteer for 5 Town Rural Transit, which seeks to improve public transportation on the East End, has volunteered at the Riverhead Town Animal Shelter and he is a former member of the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

And somehow he does all this with a vision impairment that prevents him from driving a car.

Richard Naso, chairman of Southampton Town’s Citizen Advisory Committee for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton, was the person who suggested Mr. Taldone become FRNCA’s president in 2011. Earlier this year, Mr. Naso also suggested informally to a News-Review reporter that Mr. Taldone be nominated for a Person of the Year award.

“Because of his experience as a planner in New York City, he has the ability to get things moving,” Mr. Naso said. “Most of us don’t have that experience or expertise.”

He said Mr. Taldone has experience in applying for grant money and also was able to negotiate with both Southampton and Riverhead town officials on the footbridge proposal, which needs approval from both municipalities.

“He was able to get so much going in such a short period of time,” Mr. Naso said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

12/15/13 10:00am
12/15/2013 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | A boarded-up house on Flanders Road in Riverside, just east of the traffic circle.

The developers selected to be the “master developer” for Riverside says it won’t cost Southampton Town anything to have the company serve in that role.

“Renaissance Downtowns is a for-profit real estate developer. We spend our own money and incur our own risk,” said Sean McLean, the company’s vice president of planning development, at a presentation to the Southampton Town Board last Thursday.

“At no point do we expect the town to be paying for any of this,” he said. “We don’t receive a fee. We make money by potentially developing real estate in the future, if this process is successful and we move forward.”

Mr. McLean, a Flanders resident, and Renaissance Downtowns CEO Donald Monti addressed the Town Board after the company had been selected as master developer Nov. 26. Renaissance Downtowns was one of three companies that had answered a “request for qualifications” the Town Board issued earlier this year.

Renaissance Downtowns is currently involved in large-scale redevelopment projects in Huntington Station, Hempstead and the Nassau County “hub” area near the Nassau Coliseum. It doesn’t own any property in Riverside.

Mr. Monti and Mr. McLean said they try to encourage private property owners to partner with them in redevelopment projects, and they try to group together smaller, hard-to-develop properties into larger properties that will have more development potential. The company offers development experience and finances that smaller property owners might not have, they said.

“We don’t ask for eminent domain, we don’t take over people’s property and we don’t engage in a counter-intuitive bidding war against property owners,” Mr. McLean said.

“We show them how a $50,000 building could be worth millions, if they want us,” he said.

Private property owners can either sell their property to Renaissance Downtowns, partner with them or not be involved at all, Mr. Monti said. Private property owners are free to decline parterning with the company, Mr. McLean said. The town will still maintain control over the master developer process, he said.

Since they have been selected as the master developer for the Riverside redevelopment project, four area property owners have already contacted them, he said. The company will also try to lure grant money to the area to cover costs of infrastructure improvements, he said.

Renaissance Downtown plans to seek community feedback, through public meetings and social networking, on the type of development residents would like to see in their community.

Renaissance Downtowns plans to set up an office in Riverside, officials said.

Councilwoman Bridget Fleming expressed concern that certain property owners would be displaced through the redevelopment process.

Mr. Monti said his group tries to ensure that local people get jobs and that the town maintains control over the process, “so the community builds itself up from within. If a retail use has been there for 30 years, we will make sure that if they want to remain, they will. It could be in a different storefront, but our approach is non-confrontational.”

Seven new businesses were created at a Renaissance Downtowns project in Bristol, Conn., Mr. McLean said.

The next step in the process will be for the town to come up with a formal master developer contract with the company, Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.

“It’s a community that wants this to happen,” she said. “And the state is looking for these types of projects to happen, too, so the timing is advantageous.”

tgannon@timesreview.com