After five years as a community liaison for Riverside Rediscovered — the company seeking to bring businesses with upper-floor apartments around the traffic circle — Siris Barrios is leaving.
She’s moving to Ecuador, where her husband’s family owns a thriving dragon fruit business.
Ms. Barrios, 40, was born in El Salvador but grew up in Los Angeles, where she worked as a community organizer.
But being a community organizer in Los Angeles was like preaching to the choir, she said, because “in California, everyone I organized with were people who agreed with me.”
In Flanders, Riverside and Northampton, the population was more diverse, she said.
“We have Democrats, Republicans, religious people, people who were not religious. We’ve all been able to come together on the one vision, and that’s been the biggest challenge in my life as community organizer,” she said at Monday’s Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association meeting.
The meeting was her last with FRNCA.
“Siris gets an honorary membership in the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton communities,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. “You really have changed this place and brought the community together in a fundamental way, whether it was fighting for money to widen the traffic circle in Riverside, or trying to get a sense of what the community wanted in terms of its downtown. This area of the community will be forever benefited and changed by your work. So thank you. You will always be welcome back.”
FRNCA president Vince Taldone also thanked Ms. Barrios for her efforts.
“Siris organized people to get out there and reach folks who weren’t easy to reach, and bring them to our FRNCA meetings for public discussions,” he said. “She did door knocking day after day after day to get people’s feelings about what they wanted in their community.”
Ms. Barrios, who is fluent in English and Spanish, served as a bridge to the Latino community.
“You showed me a vision for this community that, growing up here for 35 years, I never saw,” former FRNCA president Ron Fisher told Ms. Barrios.
Mr. Taldone said Ms. Barrios was always a pleasure to work alongside.
“She is welcomed in every office and by every person because she speaks from the heart and she’s genuine and she has no ulterior motive,” he said.
Sean McLean, Renaissance Downtowns co-CEO, said that even though the Riverside sewer district has yet to be created and they haven’t broken ground on any buildings under the new zoning, they’ve been able to keep officials and others positive about the project.
Renaissance Downtowns was chosen by Southampton Town as the “master developer” of Riverside in 2013. Renaissance Downtowns is a for-profit organization, and the only way they will make money in Riverside is by buying and developing land.
Officials agree that the type of development envisioned for Riverside can only happen if the town develops a sewer district for Riverside.
Ms. Barrios said she’ll be back in the summer and vowed to remain active in Riverside, even though she won’t be there physically.
“I’ll be around,” she said. “We can Skype, we can strategize, we can move this project forward. I don’t plan to be disconnected. I can help in whatever way I can from a distance. So I’m not gone.”
Angela Huneault, who had been a part-time assistant community liaison to Ms. Barrios, will now become full time, Mr. McLean said.
Photo caption: Siris Barrios hugs Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. (Credit: Tim Gannon)