Riverside celebrates its (hoped-for) future at ‘Art at the Park’


Since the former Tire Craft property at the traffic circle in Riverside was purchased as parkland in 2002, it’s been basically unused by anyone, except for some carnival rides that were put there during the 2014 Riverhead Country Fair.

But for three hours on Saturday, that wasn’t the case, as people hula hooped, read poetry, played chess, created artwork, heard music from a local singer-songwriter and were greeted by some life-sized characters from a children’s book.

Dubbed “Art at the Park,” Saturday’s event turned into a tribute of sorts to what organizers hoped will be the Riverside of the future.

“This space hasn’t actually been used by the community, but we want to activate it,” said Siris Barrios of Riverside Rediscovered, an ongoing effort to revitalize the hamlet of Riverside which sponsored the event. Their goal is to reenergize Riverside, considered to be one of the most economically distressed hamlets in Suffolk County, through a for-profit developer, Renaissance Downtowns.

Southampton Town approved the group’s action plan in late August.

In the meantime, however, using the land now was seen by organizers as a victory.

“It’s supposed to be a passive recreation park,” Ms. Barrios said. “We want people to enjoy the waterfront. We want to bring more attention to this park, maybe even give it a name.”

Singer Trevor Hardin of Riverhead performs (Credit: Tim Gannon)
Singer Trevor Hardin of Riverhead performs (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The event, attended by about 30 or so people who braved the cold wind, featured local singer-songwriter Trevor Hardin, along with poets Claire Lundberg, Bubbie Brown and Susan Dingle of Poetry Street, the open mic poetry readings held at Blue Duck Cafe in Riverhead every fourth Sunday of the month.

Pete Baldwin of Riverside, an award winning poet, even read a poem he wrote about the ongoing efforts to revitalize Riverside. It read:

“The plans on paper look good and the overall vision has begun.

And my picture of the future sees it all in place and the job done.

And many will come to see the changes put in place.

The new buildings and attractions, they will change Riverside’s face.”

Courtney Surmanek of Becoming Our Spaces said the event was one of more than 100 events happening across the nation to deal with arts and community building. She asked people to write down what they’d like to see in Riverside, and said pictures would be searchable with the #daretoimagine hashtag.

“I’d say everyone had a lot of fun,” said Southampton Councilman Brad Bender, a Northampton resident. “We had people just coming in off the street.”

Because the park land was purchased with Community Preservation Program money, only “passive recreation” is allowed on it, Mr. Bender said.

He said the Town Board will need a firmer definition of what that means before future events, but added that “it seemed that this [event use] was pretty passive. We did nothing to damage the yard or injure the environment.”

Even the electricity used for the microphone and amplifier came from the Peconic Paddler next door.

“I think it went great for our first year,” Ms. Barrios said. “We would love to see it grown. People are not used to coming to this space. We want to make sure people know this is an area they can enjoy.”

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