Riverside Traffic Circle
The area nearest the Riverside traffic circle could see the most change under the proposed Riverside Revitalization Action Plan.

It’s been a few months since Riverside Rediscovered unveiled its Riverside Revitalization Action Plan to reinvigorate the blighted hamlet just south of downtown Riverhead, and you probably haven’t heard much about what’s been happening with the plan since.

That’s because Renaissance Downtowns, which prepared the plan, has been busy working with consultants Nelson, Pope & Voorhis to put together a Generic Environmental Impact Statement to present to Southampton Town. The GEIS was presented to Southampton Town on Oct. 5 and will be up for public hearing at a special Southampton Town Board meeting at Phillips Avenue School in Riverside on Oct. 29.

Renaissance Downtowns Vice President Sean McLean, in an update to the neighboring Riverhead Town Board on Oct. 8, said the Generic Environmental Impact Statement will be used to help guide any development in Riverside in the most environmentally friendly fashion possible.

“We’re really using SEQRA (the State Environmental Quality Review Act) the way it was intended — to advise the study,” he said. “Riverside is regulated by virtually every regulating authority on earth. The process takes a lot of cooperation from many different entities throughout the state and region.”

Much of Riverside lies within the Central Pine Barrens Overlay District, atop some of the most pure drinking water on Long Island, while parts of Riverside that are not in the pine barrens district are adjacent to the nationally protected Peconic Estuary.

Arts in the Park
Arts in the Park will be next Saturday, Oct. 17

Mr. McLean said he hopes a new zoning overlay district will be adopted by the Southampton Town Board by the end of this calendar year, allowing builders to get to work creating a new downtown spirit for Riverside.

In the meantime, Riverside Rediscovered and the Children’s Museum of the East End are hosting a free family event at the little park next to the Peconic Paddler on the Riverside traffic circle next Saturday, Oct. 17, from 1 to 4 p.m.

There will be art demonstrations, music by Trevor Hardin, dancing, environmental education and chess coaching with Chess NYC, as well as readings from Poetry Street.

The event is part of the federal #DareToImagine event series all this coming week, which focuses on reinvigorating the future of communities through creativity.

Learning about mixing colors at CMEE's Riverside art classes.
Learning about mixing colors at CMEE’s Riverside art classes.

Mr. McLean said at the Oct. 8 Riverhead Town Board work session that the Childrens Museum of the East End has also volunteered to host two more art classes in Riverside, after they held a wildly successful program at Riverside Rediscovered’s headquarters on Peconic Avenue earlier this year.

The zoning overlay districts proposed in the plan concentrates development around the Riverside traffic circle, with lesser development as one moves farther out from the circle.

The underlying zoning would remain intact unless developers wish to take advantage of the new district, which would allow them added development in exchange for being environmentally conscious in their building practices, hiring local workers, helping provide affordable housing, and providing other.

Mr. McLean said the minimum height of buildings in the zone closest to the traffic circle would be two stories, but the buildings could be as tall as four-and-a-half stories there.

The zoning overlay district would also encourage developers to consolidate smaller parcels to make bigger lots.

“There’s been a lot of acquisition of property by people making substantial investments in the community, with the understanding that they’re working with us going forward,” said Mr. McLean. “All the major property owners and many small property owners are working with us.”

Riverside traffic circle
A rendering of the changes planned to the Riverside traffic circle.

Mr. McLean added that Suffolk County’s plan to reconfigure the Riverside traffic circle, which looked earlier this year like it might have been pushed off until as late as 2018, is still on target to begin and end next year.

“Both towns and the community galvanized around the effort and sent several thousand emails to every legislator in Suffolk County,” Mr. McLean told the Riverhead Town Board. “In 48 hours, with substantial support from elected officials in both towns, it was moved back to 2016.”

The Oct. 29 public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. at the Phillips Avenue School at 141 Phillips Avenue at the request of members of the Riverside community. The Generic Environmental Impact Statement will be available on Southampton Town’s website shortly.

“The community really wanted to have it within Riverside,” said Mr. McLean.


Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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