Editorial: Southampton Town should maintain the momentum in Flanders and Riverside

TIM GANNON PHOTO | A brothel was operating out of this house at 424 Flanders Road in Riverside.

There have been some positive developments of late in the Flanders and Riverside sections of Southampton Town.

Yes, the structures and properties around the Route 24 traffic circle look as bad as ever, even more so now in the shadow of a sparkling new 52-unit apartment complex going up just a few feet from the Riverhead/Southampton line on Peconic Avenue.

But one thing at a time.

We’re finally seeing some attention paid to this long-ignored — often by design on the part of public officials — section of Southampton.

Earlier this month, Southampton Town officials held a lottery that will provide 11 working families with new affordable homes, seven of them in Flanders or Riverside. (The others will be in Noyac and East Quogue.)

The houses will cost $152,000 each for the lucky lottery winners. The work is funded through a partnership between the town, Suffolk County and New York State urban renewal programs.

The more home ownership in Riverside, Flanders and Northampton the better.

But public safety must remain a top priority to protect both public and private investments in housing.

Here, too, things appear to be moving in the right direction.

Aside from the usual — and laudable — busts of overcrowded rental houses, there was a big VICE/prostitution sting in June that saw over a dozen people arrested in the area of the traffic circle.

Police Chief William Wilson Jr. has promised more such operations targeted quality of life issues.

This Sunday, state police, with help from town cops and federal agents, took down an alleged prostitution operation running out of a Riverside home. While such arrests are hardly good news to neighbors, evidence that local agencies are targeting such issues is heartening. Such police work should serve to put the area’s ne’er-do-wells on notice. But the momentum needs to be maintained.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst was asked during her regular spot on WRIV 1390 this week if the town would be adding another sector car to the Riverside, Flanders and Northampton areas. Her answer was non-committal.

Ms. Throne-Holst and the Southampton Town Board and police chief should figure out how to make this happen. Civics have been asking for it. Now’s the time for the increased police presence.

It doesn’t have to be permanent. A beefed-up police presence could be supported by redeploying resources, if only for a few years, to help the hamlets get on their feet, the way the NYPD shifts resources among neighborhoods through its “impact zones” program.

If Southampton Town officials truly care about these areas, they should be looking to make a long-term impact.