The communities of Flanders and Riverside rejoiced upon hearing a majority of the $250,000 in Community Development Block Grant money will be used toward projects in their hamlets.
Southampton Town Director of Housing & Community Development Diana Weir said $70,000 will be used to cover engineering and beginning planning costs for the Riverside Maritime Park, a $3-million project; $40,000 will be used to add sidewalks, fence, and clean up Riverside’s Ludlam Avenue Park; $40,000 will smooth out the entrance of North Sea’s Iron Point Park and make it Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant; and $20,000 will be combined with matching funds from last year to construct a bus stop shelter along Flanders Road.
“These are going to be great projects,” Weir said. “We’re going to be able to do a lot for that community, and to see it come to life is exciting.”
The director of community development said Iron Point Park’s entrance has been difficult to navigate for some time. That project, done in conjunction with the highway department, will be phased in over two years, with the hope of applying for more funding next year to continue to cover the costs of repaving and adding a ramp. Weir said she also toured Ludlam Avenue Park with members of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to show the members how the money was used.
“They loved the park,” she said. “It looks beautiful. And I was proud to walk them around.”
Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton Community Association President Vince Taldone had advocated for three bus stop shelters back in October 2018.
“It’s very much needed there,” Weir said. “That’s a high-traffic area.”
The town will designate $10,000 to the code enforcement department to offset overtime costs for patrolmen and women in Riverside and Flanders. This was a suggestion made by Councilwoman Julie Lofstad, who was looking to address quality of life issues.
Catholic Home Care, Maureen’s Haven, SEPA Mujer, the Children’s Museum of the East End, and Heart of the Hamptons will all receive $5000. Weir said only a certain amount can be expended to not-for-profits.
“There are several projects we’ve been looking to move forward with parks, recreation, children’s services — it’s important,” Taldone said. “Money to start making parks accessible and usable is an amenity to the redevelopment work we’re doing here. These communities are growing.”
Juliana Lopez, a Flanders resident and member of SEPA Mujer, a nonprofit working to support immigrant women by giving them a voice and pushing for social change, said the program has been lifechanging, and thanks the town for its support through the funding allocation.
“I just became a citizen,” she said, “and the organization has provided a space for me to become an empowered woman in the Latino community and to give back to my community.”
Another SEPA Mujer member and Bridgehampton resident said she believes funding to keep the educational courses going is important. She is learning to speak English through the program, and can now advocate for her son’s education.
Siris Barrios, SEPA Mujer’s secretary, and a community liaison for Riverside Rediscovered, stepped down to move to Ecuador to work with her family in the dragon fruit business. Barrios had been instrumental in several local projects, including bringing businesses with upper-floor apartments around the traffic circle.
“I don’t know how we would have done all this without her,” Taldone said.
Barrios was born in El Salvador and grew up in Los Angeles. She said she is keeping her house in Hampton Bays and will visit to see how the projects are progressing.
“Coming together as a community — as one — has been such a life lesson for me,” she said. “The town board members have been great advocates on behalf of the Riverside, Flanders, Northampton community these past few years. The CDBG money continues to support us.”
Weir said the town will renew funding applications for the maritime park in Riverside to help offset the cost as long as pieces of the project are eligible.
The block grant is created with federal funds that is distributed through Suffolk County. When Weir first began working with the town in 2017, it had not applied for any grant money, and received $90,000 her first year on staff.
“We’re going to pump it up as much as we can,” Weir said. “As long as we keep spending, we’ll receive more money in the future.”