A $230,000 grant intended for community projects in low-income areas should go toward Riverside instead of Hampton Bays, residents of Flanders and Riverside argued to the Southampton Town Board.
Nearly all of the Community Development Block Grant — $210,000 — will go toward a proposed maritime park on the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays. And $20,000 will go toward a proposed Riverside maritime trail, which would extend from Flanders Road north to Peconic River in Riverside, according to the Town Board.
Members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association expected the grant would go toward the long-planned walking trail to the Peconic River. That project was originally planned as the first part of an overall plan to eventually built a pedestrian bridge over the Peconic River into downtown Riverhead, a project that came in at a much higher cost than expected.
Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said on Thursday that the proposed maritime trail is not being held up for financial reasons.
“This board is committed to revitalizing this area,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We don’t want to put one community against another.”
The issue was discussed at a Southampton Town Board work session held at the Flanders Fire Department headquarters. It was the second work session this summer held at a community location. The first was in Hampton Bays.
“We feel this money is totally misappropriated,” said FRNCA treasurer and former president Vince Taldone.
He said Riverside is the poorest hamlet in Southampton Town as well as in Suffolk County.
“We think its immoral that the town looks to spend anti-poverty money in a community that’s hardly as poor as Riverside,” Mr. Taldone said. “If you can find 50 people who live near the Shinnecock Canal — where this money is to be spent — that have modest incomes, I doubt it, but I don’t begrudge them.
“But when you look at Riverside, it’s thousands of people who have no park facilities that are in decent enough shape that you would want to take a child to, and have a waterfront parcel that no one but drug dealers and prostitutes have access to.”
Mr. Taldone said the Town Board made that decision without a formal vote on a resolution and said he wants to see the board official vote on that decision.
“I want you to come out and say, ‘Yes, I think it should be spent on the more affluent community,’ ” Mr. Taldone said.
Mr. Schneiderman said both Hampton Bays and Riverside qualified for the grant money, and while Riverside has received the money in the past, Hampton Bays has not. And he added that the Riverside trail project is not being held up by a funding issue.
According to Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone, the holdup stems from the discovery of some invasive species in the area, which requires specially trained people to oversee their removal.
Also, he said the town wants to make sure the clearing for the trail doesn’t come close to areas that would need wetlands permits from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The town also has had difficulty finding a piece of equipment that can clear a path and grind up and lay down wood chips in a path at the same time, Mr. Zappone said.
The trail itself will be about 12 feet wide, but there will be a 50-foot area around it that must be cleaned of garbage and invasion species of weeds. Pressed for a completion date, Mr. Zappone said “something noticeable will happen by the end of the month.”
Caption: Jay Schneiderman, Southampton Town Supervisor, and Councilwoman Christine Scalera at Thursday’s meeting. (Credit: Tim Gannon)