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

07/31/13 5:00pm
07/31/2013 5:00 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.

The Suffolk County Legislature voiced its support Tuesday of Southampton Town’s application for state funding to build a pedestrian footbridge that would span the Peconic River and connect Riverside to downtown Riverhead.

The resolution, which was approved 16-0, allows the recently acquired county parkland in Riverside to be used as the southern terminus for the proposed bridge, and authorizes the county to take whatever steps are needed to facilitate the bridge plan.

The northern part of the proposed bridge would begin near the Long Island Aquarium on the Riverhead Town side of the river, officials said.

Approvals from Southampton and Riverhead towns would ultimately be needed as well.

Southampton Town also has applied for a $50,000 county grant to make a walking trail from Flanders Road to the river, at a point where the bridge would begin.

The estimated cost of the bridge is $1.145 million, according to county Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), who sponsored the resolution. The state grant being sought allows the cost of land acquisition — which was already paid to the former property owner — to be used as a matching portion of the grant, so long as it was purchased in the past three years.

In this case, the $2.4 million land acquisition occurred in September of 2011, which puts it within that three-year window, and means that the entire $1.145 million cost of the bridge could be funded by the state grant if it is awarded for the project, Mr. Schneiderman said in an interview.

“It wouldn’t cost the county or the towns of Southampton or Riverhead anything,” he said.

The 14-acre parkland in question had been owned by Dede Gotthelf of Southampton, who had planned to built a hotel there, but her proposed plans got bogged down by environmental concerns and she sold the property to Suffolk.

The grant being sought has an Aug. 12 deadline for submission, so Mr. Schneiderman had to convince Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone to put the vote on the agenda through a certificate of necessity, allowing it to skip the committee process.

The Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association is already in support of the foot bridge, said Vince Taldone, the group’s president.

“We have these 14 acres that were acquired for parkland and now we’re looking to find what we can do with it,” he said. “How can we make the best use of it? Now is the time to start looking, because Southampton Town is seriously engaged in a revitalization effort for Riverside.”

The town has a Riverside economic development committee that is planning on issuing a request for proposals from developers with ideas on how to rebuild the beleaguered Riverside hamlet.

“We think one of the things that will make the area more attractive to investors is to have a beautiful park across the street” from a Main Street-like business district envisioned for Flanders Road, Mr. Taldone said in an interview.

“This would be a great addition to the kind of economic development and facelift we’re trying to bring to that area,” Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne Holst told the Legislature Tuesday. “It’s somewhat unique and a great attraction that would help both Riverhead and the Town of Southampton in the areas of Flanders and Riverside, which have been in some economic distress.”

Mr. Schneiderman recently unveiled a 3D computer graphic “vision” for Riverside at a FRNCA meeting, calling for the creation of a small downtown area near the traffic circle. The vision includes the walking trail and footbridge over the Peconic.

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

EDITORIAL: RIVERSIDE PLAN WILL NEED MUCH SUPPORT

The legislator spent Wednesday measuring the height of the Route 105 bridge, which spans the Peconic River to the east, with some string he bought from Kmart to find out how tall the proposed footbridge would have to be.

At high tide, the Route 105 bridge was 27 feet above the water, so the Peconic River bridge would not need to be any taller than that in order to avoid obstructing boat traffic, Mr. Scheiderman said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

06/30/13 4:00pm
06/30/2013 4:00 PM
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Several houses on Bay Avenue and other areas in Flanders suffered major damage during superstorm Sandy.

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Several houses on Bay Avenue and other areas in Flanders suffered major damage during superstorm Sandy.

State department representatives will be available in Flanders on Monday to assist residents and business owners affected by Hurricane Sandy, Southampton Town officials said.

The New York State Department of Financial Services Mobile Command Center will be open between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the David Crohan Community Center. Representatives will be available to assist residents and business owners applying for recovery aid that the federal government approved last month. They will also help process SandyHelp applications and assist with insurance-related issues stemming from damage caused by the storm.

Sandy damaged a number of houses in Flanders, some that have since been rendered not safe to live in, particularly in low lying areas such as Bay Avenue or the streets off the north part of Long Neck Boulevard and adjacent streets.

Officials said residents who have already applied for assistance will also be able to receive a status on their applications and additional help with the recovery aid process.

Southampton Town residents and business owners affected by Sandy and Hurricane Irene can access additional information and fill out an application at www.nysandyhelp.ny.gov or by calling 855-NYS-SANDY (855-697-72639).

To read the town’s Recovery Action Plan, visit www.southamptontownny.gov.

jennifer@timesreview.com

06/21/13 7:00am
06/21/2013 7:00 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Route 24 in Riverside, where a new 'Main Street' is envisioned.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Route 24 in Riverside, where a new ‘Main Street’ is envisioned.

A high water table and high number of vacant buildings are among the reasons some Riverside business and property owners give for why it’s been so hard to develop that area of Southampton Town commercially.

Those comments come a week after Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) unveiled a vision for Riverside, including a reconfigured traffic circle, in a 3D computer graphic presentation before the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

The proposal was just a vision, he stressed to the civic members, designed to jump-start a planning process, rather than an actual development proposal.

He suggested that the commercial corridor on Flanders Road, across from McDonald’s, contain two- and three-story buildings with retail shops and cafes on the ground floor and apartments above them.

He likened the plan’s “Main Street” component to downtown Sag Harbor.

Mr. Schneiderman also suggested working with the owners of the Budget Host Inn and the vacant building that once housed the Riverboat Diner to try to reroute Riverleigh Avenue (County Road 104) so it connects to Lake Avenue (County Road 63) instead of extending all the way to the five-pronged traffic circle. Officials would also try to convince the hotel owners to develop that property as a supermarket and try to re-establish a restaurant at the diner site.

The lawmaker said if there is no interest from those property owners, he would support making the traffic circle into a two-lane roundabout that remains connected to the five roads it now serves.

The legislator’s vision, which came out of meeting with civic and town leaders, also featured a walking trail to the Peconic River and a footbridge over the river into downtown Riverhead.

Mr. Schneiderman also stressed nothing could happen without a commercial sewage treatment facility, because of the environmentally sensitive nature of the land along the Peconic River, and he said cooperation from property owners is needed. Now would be a good time to propose such a plan, he said, because many of the buildings in the area are boarded up or for sale.

Shep Scheinberg, whose family owns the Riverboat Diner property, which has sat vacant for several years, said by email that this property is on the market for lease or sale. He said a bank had shown interest in the site but, after hearing a county Department of Public Works presentation on options for improving the flow of traffic in the circle, “they got cold feet, as the state of our property was uncertain.”

Mr. Scheinberg said he and his family have had a number of meetings on this subject with the county and town, the last being on May 31. After that meeting, he said, “it was concluded and agreed by all parties that the option of going through our property was no longer a consideration.”

Because of this, Mr. Schneiderman said, “the county is now reaching out to the owner of the adjacent motel property to see if we can begin a discussion that would redevelop that property as a supermarket and allow the road connection.”

The owner of the Budget Host Inn could not be reached for comment.

David Abrahamson, a co-owner of the former 99 Cent Store across from McDonald’s, said the ownership group is still trying to find a tenant for that building, which has been vacant for about a year and a half.

He said Mr. Schneiderman’s vision for the Flanders Road corridor “would be pretty difficult” without sewer plants.

“One of the issues is the high water table in the area,” he said in an interview. “Anything that comes in there that isn’t dry goods is an issue, because you would need to build an above-ground septic system.”

He said the property is only about one foot above groundwater.

The existing septic system is only good for the sinks and bathrooms, Mr. Abrahamson said. “If you’re preparing foods, you need an above-ground septic system, and that could cost at least $50,000.”

Mr. Schneiderman has secured a $250,000 county grant to study the possibly of building a sewage treatment plant in Riverside that would make it easier to develop properties like Mr. Abrahamson’s. However, the cost of the system isn’t known yet because officials must still decide how large an area would be covered by the proposed sewer district. The smaller the area, the less the district would cost, he said.

William Eves, who owns the building in between the New York State Police barracks and the vacant Getty station on the Riverside traffic circle, said he has town approval for a 15-seat fast food restaurant in that building. He says there has been a lot of interest in leasing the building, but that he wants to sell it. But there hasn’t been as much interest from prospective buyers, he said.

Mr. Eves said he thought the area was rebounding a few years ago but that progress stopped. He feels that being surrounded by vacant building like the former Getty site and the Riverboat Diner site also hurts attempts to redevelop.

And like Mr. Abrahamson, Mr. Eves said the low water table is a major obstacle. His property is about four feet above groundwater and, he says, the area was apparently raised many years ago because there’s a concrete road buried under the current road.

Mr. Eves said he believes the Getty station, which has been closed for about two years, should be torn down. He thinks the previous plan to build a hotel and conference center along the river, as well as a plan from the 1990s for a Long island Maritime Museum, were what the area needed.

The hotel plan, proposed by Southampton Inn owner Dede Gotthelf, ran into environmental issues and Ms. Gotthelf sold much of the land to the county as open space. The Maritime Museum plan, for the same site, never came to fruition.

Mr. Eves also had another proposal for Riverside, which probably wouldn’t fly with people in neighboring Flanders.

“If you want an entryway into Southampton Town, put the Big Duck in the traffic circle,” he said. “Do you know how beautiful that would look? Put it right in the middle of the traffic circle.”

Flanders residents had lobbied officials to move the duck back to its current location in Flanders several years ago, after it had spent more than a decade at a site near the Hampton Bays border.

Mr. Schneiderman’s proposal received support from FRNCA members, although a comment was attributed to FRNCA president Vince Taldone in last week’s News-Review in which Mr. Taldone said he doubted the plan would ever happen in his lifetime. Mr. Taldone says he was actually referring to a proposal voiced by FRNCA member Chris Sheldon — and not to Mr. Schneiderman’s proposal. Mr. Sheldon had suggested moving Flanders Road behind stores and away from the river in order to create more waterfront.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) said there are several sources within the state of possible funding for a sewer project in the Riverside area, but added that it “would be a very costly project.”

“I doubt there would be enough state and local money to do such a project alone,” he said, speaking strictly of the sewer component of the vision. “In the old days, 70 percent would have been paid under the Federal Clean Water Act. The funding no longer exists.

“Some sort of federal help would be needed to make this a viable project financially.” Mr. Thiele said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented his vision for Riverside at a civic meeting last week.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented his vision for Riverside at a civic meeting earlier this month.

06/15/13 2:10pm
06/15/2013 2:10 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented his vision for Riverside at a civic meeting last week.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Jay Schneiderman presented his vision for Riverside at a civic meeting.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has a dream.

In the dream, the hamlet of Riverside has a small restaurant and grocery store near the traffic circle and a small three-story business district across from McDonald’s with stores on the ground floor and apartments or offices on the upper floors.

The plans call for a 'Main Street' along Route 24.

The plans call for a ‘Main Street’ along Route 24.

The South Fork lawmaker also envisions a trail through the woods leading down to the Peconic River. The trail would connect with a footbridge that would span the river into downtown Riverhead.

The area in question would stretch about a half-mile in the style of a Main Street along Route 24, across from McDonald’s and west of Vail Avenue. Most of the buildings in this area are currently vacant or for sale, he said.

Mr. Schneiderman (I-Montauk) showed off a 3-D computer model of what he’s envisioned at Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Of course, no paperwork has been filed in Town Hall to move forward with any plans, other than for a possible trail to the river, for which the county and Southampton Town are seeking $50,000 in grant money.

“This is all just conceptual, for discussion purposes, to bring people onto same page,” Mr. Schneiderman said Monday. “If this is the vision you want, you hire professional planners and engineers and develop it in a more detailed way.”

For the “vision” to become reality, he said, “it would require all these property owners to come to the table and work together and maybe sell their land to someone else or become part of the project. Or they could continue to do what they’ve been doing, and that would be unfortunate.”

Southampton Town officials have conducted numerous studies over the years on ways to revitalize the beleaguered hamlet. Often, the answer involves creating a commercial sewer district, something Suffolk County is also studying.

Another proposal the county is currently studying involves improvements to the Route 24 traffic circle.

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works is down to two options for improving the Route 24 traffic circle in Riverside, Mr. Schneiderman said Monday.

One option would involve reconfiguring the circle into an oval-shaped roundabout and making it two lanes, he said, similar to what was done with the Route 58 traffic circle in Riverhead.

“They say this will work, but not as well as it would if they took one leg out,” he said, referring to the plan to cut off one of the five roads leading to the circle.

The county is  reaching out to the owner of the Budget Host Inn property near the circle to see about redeveloping that property as a supermarket and allow Riverleigh Avenue to run through that land and connect to Lake Avenue, instead of running up to the five-pronged circle, Mr. Schneiderman later said.

“This would be my preferred alternative,” he told a reporter. “If we do not succeed with cooperation from the property owner and the town, then we will focus on the concept of enlarging the circle into a two lane oval with all the current roads leading in an out.

“So how do we get to this from where we are now, which is just boarded-up building after boarded-up building?” Mr. Schneiderman asked the audience at the meeting.

In addition to support from locals and area property owners, he said, installing sewer infrastructure is necessary for any Main Street-like business district to become reality.

“Why are sewers important?” Mr. Schneiderman asked. “It’s very hard to get economic development without them” due to environmental constraints caused by the area’s close proximity to the Peconic River and other parkland.

This leads to the question of where a sewage treatment plant should be located and how large an area it should serve.

The study currently underway shows three prospective locations for a sewage treatment plant. One is adjacent to the River Woods community, whose residents have already voiced opposed that option. Another is near the County Center and the third is near a former auto dealership on Riverleigh Avenue.

Mr. Schneiderman said the smaller the area served by the sewer district, the lower that cost, and that locating the plant near the area it’s going to serve also would be less expensive.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who also was present Monday, said several small sewage treatment plants could be placed in different locations, instead of having one large plant.

A draft version of the county’s Riverside sewer district study is expected to be completed in the fall, according to Boris Rukovets of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

In addition to community support, property owner cooperation and a sewer district, the vision would have to go through planning and engineering reviews, require zone changes and gain support from regulatory agencies, while utilizing grants and other funding sources, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Chris Sheldon of Northampton suggested moving Route 24 farther from the river and behind the existing businesses to create more waterfront land.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the town plans to seek “requests for qualifications” from developers and seek plans from them to redevelop areas like Riverside.

This way, she said, the redevelopment could be funded by private dollars instead of tax dollars.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview Tuesday that he likes the idea of a footbridge over the Peconic River. As for efforts to revitalize Riverside, he said that as downtown Riverhead improves, so will Riverside — and vice-versa.

tgannon@timesreview.com

04/22/13 12:57pm
04/22/2013 12:57 PM

A woman reported to police Friday that her friend’s live-in caretaker had stolen about $2,000 from the friend’s bank account over time, Southampton Town police said.

The alleged victim, who lives on Riverleigh Avenue in Riverside, is disabled with Alzhiemer’s Disease and is not capable of taking care of herself, according to a police report.

Detectives are investigating the case as a possible fourth-degree grand larceny, which is a Class E felony, and have contacted the victim’s bank.

No arrests have been made.

SH_Cops

04/16/13 10:00am
04/16/2013 10:00 AM
Brad Bender of FRNCA

FILE PHOTO | Brad Bender announced last month he would run for Town Council.

Would-be civic leaders have a bit more time to think about whether or not to help lead the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association (FRNCA) through 2013.

Incumbent president Brad Bender has made it clear he is stepping down from that position in order to take another run at a Southampton Town Council seat in this fall’s elections.

The group was supposed to have elections for its board members and officer positions  — president, vice president and secretary — at a meeting last Monday, April 8, but had to postpone the vote to May 13 because a mailer went out too late for members to have sent in their dues.

In order to run for any seat on the FRNCA board, you must have your membership dues paid, explained current treasurer Vince Taldone.

Mr. Bender stepped down two years ago to run for a Southampton Town Council seat as well, and, since he didn’t win, assumed the FRNCA presidency again afterward.

During that ime, Mr. Taldone, who lives in Riverhead but owns property in Flanders, filled in. But Mr. Taldone was elected, the FRNCA board had to first change its rules to allow property owners who don’t live in one of the three Southampton Town hamlets to run.

At the time, nobody else wanted the position.

Terms run for one year, officials said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/18/13 10:00am
03/18/2013 10:00 AM

Volunteers will be needed on April 13 to build a new community playground at Southampton Town’s Iron Point Park in Flanders.

In 2012, the town won a $15,000 “Let’s Play” grant from Kaboom, a non-profit organization that helps build playgrounds in order to keep kids active. The grant was a matching grant, requiring that another $15,000 be raised for the project, and the grant requires that it be built in one day by the community, according to Nancy Lynott, director of the Southampton Town Youth Bureau, who addressed the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association last Monday.

The grant also requires the park be built by April 30, 2013.

There have been a number of fundraisers held in the past year for the park.

“We’re ready to move on to the next step, which is actually building the playground,” Ms. Lynott told FRNCA.

“I think this is going to be a project that, hopefully, we keep working on,” said FRNCA president Brad Bender. He said they are also hoping to raise funds to improve the scoreboard at Iron Point for the Flanders Little League.

The build date has been set for April 13 at Iron Point Park, which is at the end of Wood Road Trail in Flanders. Work will start at about 8 a.m. and will continue until the playground is finished, Ms. Lynott said. It’s expected to be done by mid-afternoon.

“We need about 75 people there,” Ms. Lynott said. They don’t all have to be adults, as children can help too, but she’s looking for at least 30 to 40 adults to help build the playground.

The Flanders Fire Department, the Flanders Northampton Volunteer Ambulance and the Superior Officers Association of the Southampton Town Police Department have agreed to help, and there will be food and refreshments Ms. Lynott said.

“It will be some work, but I think we’re going to have fun, too,” Ms. Lynott told FRNCA.

The playground equipment has been ordered and they have a blueprint for the design of the park. In the week prior the build day, the town parks department will install about 18 posts in cement to support the playground structure. On April 13, volunteers will be adding the playground equipment to the posts, Ms. Lynott said.

The idea for the playground came from local kids who said they had no playground in the area, according to Ms. Lynott. The playground is designed for children between the ages of 5 and 12.

Anyone interested in helping with the playground project should call Karen Hurst at the Youth Bureau at 702-2424 or email her at khurst@southamptontowntownny.gov.

In the event of bad weather, the playground build will take place on April 20, Ms. Lynott said.

tgannon@timesreview.com