SEPA Mujer honors Riverside Rediscovered and Renaissance Downtowns

Riverside Rediscovered and Renaissance Downtowns are perhaps best known locally as Southampton Town’s “master developers” for Riverside, an area that has long been known for blight, crime and the inability to attract new businesses due to environmental constraints.

Renaissance Downtowns is a Plainview real estate development company that specializes in community rebuilding, according to Sean McLean, a company vice president.

Riverside Rediscovered is the name residents voted to give to the Riverside redevelopment effort.

In the three-plus years it’s been working on revitalizing the area, Riverside Rediscovered has also reached out to various sectors of the community, giving away school supplies in September, working to bring the Children’s Museum of the East End to Ludlam Park and sponsoring events like Hope Day at Truth Community Church in Flanders and Halloween events for area children.

“We do a lot of progressive initiatives that, traditionally, you wouldn’t think a developer would be supporting,” Mr. McLean said.

One such initiative is the groups’ relationship with SEPA Mujer (Services for the Advancement of Women), an organization that aims to build self-esteem among Latina women and help them to become part of their community.

Earlier this year, SEPA Mujer opened a new Riverside-Flanders chapter, which meets at the Riverside Rediscovered office on Peconic Avenue in Riverside. The organization also has offices in Islandia and Hampton Bays.

Last Thursday, SEPA Mujer honored Riverside Rediscovered and Renaissance Downtowns with its “Partnership of the Year” Award.

“Our goal is to raise and unite immigrant Latina voters to ensure that we are heard and recognized in social, governmental and political systems,” executive director Martha Maffei wrote in a release promoting the group’s 24th anniversary awards gala last Thursday at Giorgio’s in Baiting Hollow.

“We strive to nurture and improve the self-esteem, physical and emotional security, legal status and economic independence of our members,” the release continued.

The group helps to educate immigrant women on the laws that protect them, Ms. Maffei said.

In the awards gala program, SEPA Mujer stated: “Riverside Rediscovered, with Renaissance Downtowns, believes in SEPA Mujer’s mission and vision. When they heard of our yearning to open a third chapter in Riverside and Riverhead, they fully supported our initiative. Three months after the group opened, we were able to graduate 16 Latina women of their area to become community leaders and advocates.”

But the group said the success of the Riverside site was “groundbreaking, as nothing like this had been done before.”

Ron Fisher, a former president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, co-hosted the gala and presented the award to Riverside Rediscovered’s community liaison, Siris Barrios, and assistant liaison Angela Huneault.

“These two women are incredible partners,” said Mr. Fisher, who is now a Riverhead Board of Education member. “They work tirelessly to make everything they touch better and they work all hours of the day and night to make the community better. They’ve been an incredible partnership for me and the work I do.”

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Photo: Martha Maffei (from left) executive director of SEPA Mujer, with award recipients Angela Huneault and Siris Barrios of Riverside Rediscovered during SEPA Mujer’s awards gala at Giorgio’s in Baiting Hollow last Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)