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 10:30am
04/18/2014 10:30 AM
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…)

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

12/14/13 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

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