Incoming Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and incoming Councilman John Bouvier joined the Flanders and Riverside community in applauding the passage of the Riverside Revitalization Action Plan.
Incoming Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and incoming Councilman John Bouvier joined the Flanders and Riverside community in applauding the passage of the Riverside Revitalization Action Plan at Southampton Town Hall Tuesday afternoon.

For many members of the Riverside community, the passage Tuesday of the Riverside Revitalization Action Plan was an early Christmas present. For Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, it was to be her last action in office as town supervisor. But for everyone involved, it was just the first step in what will still be a long road ahead for one of the most economically challenged communities on Long Island.

The Southampton Town Board voted unanimously in their last board meeting of 2015 Tuesday afternoon to approve two resolutions paving the way for the redevelopment of Riverside. The first resolution adopted the State Environmental Quality Review Act findings statement for the project, the second adopted the zoning overlay district that will be used to implement the plan.

The adoption of the “form-based” zoning overlay district, which property owners could use instead of the underlying zoning on their properties when they plan redevelopment, was a core feature of the plan.

The overlay district is divided into six distinct areas, mostly in concentric areas around the Riverside traffic circle, with the tallest buildings and the greatest number of uses allowed closest to the traffic circle and more limited development with each ring out from there.

If property owners decide to opt in to the new zoning, they will also be required to implement green building designs and hire local workers.

Anna Throne-Holst and Siris Barrios get ready to adopt the plan.
Anna Throne-Holst and Siris Barrios get ready to adopt the plan.

Developers Renaissance Downtowns, who worked with Southampton on the plan and will be developing 10 of the 400 acres it covers in Riverside, has been working with the Riverside community to draft the plan in keeping with their wishes, drawing to a great degree from the support of community liaisons Siris Barrios and Angela Huneault, who have been a constant presence in the community for the past two years, leading community meetings, art classes, petition drives and festivals to help breathe life into Riverside.

Ms. Barrios was with her family in Ecuador for the holidays, but she joined the meeting via Facetime, watching the proceedings from a community member’s iPhone Ms. Throne-Holst placed on her desk.

For Ms. Huneault, who has lived in Flanders for 37 years, the adoption was a dream come true.

“You are telling this community that we are your community,” she told the town board. “Three days before Christmas, you’re giving us the gift we’ve all been waiting for.”

Flanders, Riverside & Northampton Community Association President Vince Taldone said that, while the community seems to have more hope of things getting better than they have in decades, the plan can’t be implemented without a commitment to advanced septic treatment systems from Suffolk County.

“We send bundles of money to Hauppauge. It’s time for some of that money to come back to us,” he said, adding that the community is ready to help Southampton Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who leaves for a post on the county legislature in the new year, to fight for county assistance in Riverside.

Incoming Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and incoming Councilman John Bouvier joined the Flanders and Riverside community in applauding the passage of the Riverside Revitalization Action Plan.
Incoming Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and incoming Councilman John Bouvier joined the Flanders and Riverside community in applauding the passage of the Riverside Revitalization Action Plan at Southampton Town Hall Tuesday afternoon.

Ms. Barrios had dubbed Peter Baldwin as the poet for the revitalization movement, and Mr. Baldwin read a poem to the town board for the occasion:

Ms. Throne-Holst said she thinks the poem will some day end up on a plaque on the wall in Southampton once the revitalization of Riverside is realized.

Flanders resident Ron Fisher thanked the town for their work on the project.
Flanders resident Ron Fisher thanked the town for their work on the project.

Renaissance Downtowns CEO Don Monti and Vice President Sean McLean pledged to the town board that they would continue to serve as “mother hens” for the redevelopment of Riverside for many years to come.

“We will do the job. We are in it for the long-term,” said Mr. Monti.

“Even if I had to do this for free on my own time for 10 to 15 years, I would still be the mother hen on this,” said Mr. McLean, who lives in Flanders. “There’s a lot of work left to do.”

Renaissance Downtowns is working with the community on feasibility studies for several of their top ideas for what they’d like to see in Riverside, including waterfront green space, a water fountain and ice skating rink, a riverside park and maritime trail, a boardwalk, an indoor recreation center, a children’s museum and WaterFire on the Peconic River.

Other members of the Riverside, Flanders and Northampton communities thanked the board for their years of work.

Anna Throne-Holst signs the RRAP documents.
Anna Throne-Holst signs the RRAP documents.

“You’re the first supervisor in my life I’ve seen come through for Flanders, Riverside and Northampton,” Susan Tocci told Ms. Throne-Holst.

“This really is no less than a dream come true for me,” replied the supervisor. “It’s something I wanted to see happen in my time on the board…. It’s about how do we bring transformative change that will change the lives of our children and grandchildren.”

“All of you, I consider friends now, if that’s ok with you,” she told the assembled crowd, before signing the plan into law.

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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