Riverside Rumination

Independent / Kitty Merrill

Revitalization efforts in Riverside, the hamlet adjacent to the Town of Riverhead, kicked off the agenda last Thursday in Southampton Town Hall.

Restoration of the Peconic River shoreline and the creation of a pedestrian walkway are components of an overall vision for the hamlet’s future. Neighbors to the north in Riverhead town installed a boardwalk to create the Peconic Riverfront Park. To its south and running east from Peconic Avenue is land in Southampton town — some of it in private ownership and some owned by the town and county.

The concept under consideration includes a trail that would have its genesis off Route 24, meander through the woods to the riverfront, then follow the pedestrian walkway to Peconic Avenue, linking to the boardwalk on the Riverhead side.

The land on the Southampton side was traditionally used as a dredge spoil depository, Kyle Collins, town planning and development administrator told the town board. It’s also home to invasive plant species. The goal is to create the trail system, a passive park, and restore the natural shoreline, he said. Private property owners along the waterfront can use the same concept for shoreline restoration as the town does, Collins explained. At some point, the planner said, the trail might “jump over 24” and tie in with the trail that goes all the way into the Central Pine Barrens.

A state grant is in place to cover the design phase of the project, $23,000 for the shoreline restoration plan. Supervisor Jay Schneiderman wondered if the town had budgeted for the actual work when the design portion concludes. Once that’s completed, the design can be used as a foundation for a grant to cover the actual construction costs, his deputy Frank Zappone explained.

The board is slated to adopt a resolution calling for requests for proposals to prepare the conceptual design plan tomorrow.

Turning to another facet of Riverside revitalization, the town’s director of housing and community development, Diana Weir, informed the board about new economic opportunity zones established by federal tax law. The program will establish opportunity zones to boost private investment in underserved communities and distressed neighborhoods.

“Census tracts” will be reviewed for eligibility based on poverty and income levels. Riverhead town, “one of the most distressed areas on Long Island,” qualifies for the creation of the zones, Weir explained. The legislation allows for adjacent areas to be included as well. Requesting inclusion “costs us nothing” and enhances incentives for private investors, Weir summarized.

A resolution supporting Riverhead town’s inclusion in the opportunity zone program and requesting the addition of Riverside and Flanders in the zone is on the agenda for a vote tomorrow. The board’s March 13 meeting was rescheduled to tomorrow due to the threatening foul weather.

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