Around Southampton Town Hall: A Footbridge For Riverside

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Suffolk County and Southampton Town officials both threw their support behind plans for a footbridge across the Peconic River, connecting the Riverhead waterfront with a section of Riverside that is being targeted for commercial revitalization.

After the Suffolk County Legislature voted to allow county-owned parkland in Riverside to be used for the footbridge, the Southampton Town Board, town planning officials and community representatives outlined plans to pursue a $1.1 million state grant to pay for its construction.

The matching grant requires that the town and county pay at least half of that cost, but state officials have already concluded that the $2.4 million the county paid for the 14 acres of waterfront land in Riverside in 2011 can be considered the local contribution. That means the state grant, if secured, would cover the entire cost of the footbridge’s construction.

Board members and representatives of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association said the footbridge could be the first step in plans for a sweeping revitalization of the long-blighted strip of commercial properties surrounding the traffic circle and waterfront along the Southampton Town side of the Peconic River.

The grant guidelines from the state would require that the bridge be constructed within three years of the county’s land purchase, which took place in the summer of 2011. That means they have until next summer to build the footbridge if they want the state to pay for it.

“We’ve been hunting around, working with the regional economic development committees to find sources of funding to create a more walkable community and connect with downtown Riverhead,” FRNCA President Vincent Taldone told board members. “This will attract business to the Riverside area and beef up one of the best resources Riverside has, with its unspoiled waterfront.”

The deadline to file the grant application is next week. Town Board members said they see it as a good first step in their long-discussed plans to spur redevelopment in Riverside. Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst formed a task force of residents, officials and business representatives that has spent more than two years working on a plan for a large-scale revitalization of the region. Earlier this summer, Councilwoman Christine Scalera introduced a plan to hire an economic planning firm to layout a blueprint for revitalization. And the county, as Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman’s direction, is in the middle of a study that will determine the feasibility of installing a sewer district in Riverside.

“This is all the stuff we’re talking about in the revitalization task force, all the things we hope to see happen on our side of the river,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “This would tie it all together.”

Veterans Officer Added

Southampton Town Board members and Suffolk County officials announced this week that they have signed off on a joint service agreement that will allow them to post a veterans counselor at Town Hall.

The county will provide one of its accredited Veterans Service Officers to the town at a cost of $8,000 per year. The officer will provide complimentary counseling and assistance to eligible veterans, as well as their spouses and dependents, on how to access service and resources available to U.S. armed forces veterans.

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