New civic group creates hope for Riverside

TIM GANNON PHOTO| The newly-formed Riverside Revitalization Committee elected is first board of directors last week. From left are treasurer Charles Bennett, president Joan Barrow, secretary Lorraine Collins, vice president Andrew Malone and John Parker, a non-board member who has been pushing the effort to revive the area.

Meet the leadership of the newly formed Riverside Revitalization Committee.

At its meeting last Monday, the group’s dozen or so members elected Joan Barrow as president and Andrew Malone as vice president. Lorraine Collins was chosen as secretary and Charles Bennett as treasurer.

Ms. Barrow, a lifelong Riverside resident, was involved several years ago in the formation of the Flanders Riverside and Northampton Community Association and has been involved in many planning studies of the area.

“We hope this is the start of good things coming to our community,” she said.
Mr. Malone is a real estate associate with an office in Riverside. He’s a former chairman of the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee and is still on the state Democratic committee.
The nonprofit neighborhood group has been organized by John Parker of Port Jefferson, who owns property on Old Quogue Road in Riverside where he plans to build a house for himself.

Mr. Parker has a background as a community organizer and builder and was involved in numerous neighborhood revitalization projects in Brooklyn from the 1960s through the 1980s, including programs that renovated housing and trained the unemployed to do various construction jobs.

He hopes to do likewise for Riverside, in part by obtaining grants or donations to help revive that corner of otherwise wealthy Southampton Town.

“When I first came here, I saw blight in this community like I haven’t seen in many communities in a long time,” Mr. Parker said. “And I come out of Bed-Stuy. I come out of East New York. I come out of Brownsville.”

He said improvements were made in those neighborhoods, and that can happen here as well.

“Movement was made in these communities because the establishment, which was not black, treated us very poorly,” said Mr. Parker, who is black. “It wasn’t until we organized and got ourselves together that we were able to get notice and make things happen.”

Mr. Parker acknowledged some work has been done in Riverside in recent years, but added that “we need to do more. We need to push and push until some of this blight is eradicated and youngsters can get jobs.”

Mr. Parker’s family-owned construction business is 100 years old this year. He said he first discovered Riverside about three years ago when he was called to help a friend in the area. He later bought a piece of property there, where he planned to build a house and retire. He has yet to build the house.

In November 2010, he told the News-Review, “The more I went out there, the more I saw deterioration and neglect, and then, that old community activism in me just started to come alive.”

At a meeting last month, members of the Riverside Revitalization Committee decided that the top needs in their community were housing upgrades, affordable housing, a community center for youth and seniors, street lighting upgrades and a grocery store and other businesses.

The election of officers was necessary to establish the committee as a nonprofit organization that can obtain grants, Mr. Parker said.

He chose not to be one of the elected officers, saying, “I’m an outsider. The residents here will take charge of their own situation. I only came here to help.”

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