07/05/14 3:09pm
07/05/2014 3:09 PM
The James Benjamin Homestead, circa 1782, is believed to be the oldest house in Flanders. It's on th eNational Register of Historic Places. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

The James Benjamin Homestead, circa 1782, is believed to be the oldest house in Flanders. It’s on th eNational Register of Historic Places. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Did you know that the David W. Crohan Community Center in Flanders was once the site of a roller rink known as Ben’s Roller Dome? Or that the long-shuttered Bayview Market at the corner of Longneck Boulevard and Flanders Road was built in 1910 and was used as a meeting room for the Flanders Fire Department when it first formed in 1948?  (more…)

08/06/13 10:00am
08/06/2013 10:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO  |  Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks at last year's Blues Festival.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks at last year’s Blues Festival.

The Riverhead Blues Festival may be headed to a new home.

Bob Barta, president of the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in downtown Riverhead, said theater officials are looking into moving the once-annual festival into Southampton Town for 2014.

“We’re working in sort of a rough proposal stage,” Mr. Barta said. “My goal is trying to make the whole thing well-organized enough that the town will be fine with it.”

The festival, which is the non-profit theater’s largest fundraising event, was cancelled this year. In 2012, the Vail-Leavitt lost more than $8,700 on the festival after it was moved from its usual July date into June.

Plans to hold smaller events inside the theater in lieu of the blues festival this fall have also been nixed.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Gary Utah on vocals and percussion performing with the Bobby Nathan band and Joanne and Bobby Nathan (far left) at 2012's Riverhead Blues and Music Festival.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Gary Utah on vocals and percussion performing with the Bobby Nathan band and Joanne and Bobby Nathan (far left) in 2012.

“You don’t have the summer traffic and the summer crowd around,” Mr. Barta said. “I felt like it was too much of a gamble for this year.

“We’re still going to have a bunch of self-produced events and stuff like that, but it’s not going to be on that kind of scale and we can’t afford the risk of bringing in these high-profile acts,” he added.

Holding the Blues Festival inside the historic theater would also not be cost effective, he said, noting that the festival “would have to be charging Westhampton [Performing Arts Center] prices” to break even in the small theater.

Mr. Barta said theater officials are scoping out “a couple of possible locations” within Southampton Town, but declined to name any specifically. He said organizers are most concerned about minimizing the festival’s impact on local traffic and parking.

“You need the space,” he said. “Southampton has a couple of very large public beaches and parks where they hold outdoor events.”

The Vail-Leavitt board is also looking into adding more acts and other forms of entertainment to the festival.

“It’s a new location, there’s an opportunity for a new identity,” he said. “It can be a music festival and event for the benefit of the Vail-Leavitt.”

Mr. Barta said that though other nearby town’s have large outdoor gathering spaces, there were no options left in Riverhead Town; holding the event at the Enterprise Park at Calverton would have raised environmental concerns and having the festival in a municipal park like Stotzky would interrupt sports and other events.

“I don’t want to displace somebody else,” he said.

But though the Blues Festival may head to a nearby town, it wouldn’t move too far from the theater, Mr. Barta said.

“We don’t want to go way out of the way, because then it puts a strain on us,” he said. “We’re all volunteers … You can only lean on people so much.”

The Vail-Leavitt board plans to meet Friday to discuss next year’s festival, though Mr. Barta said board members plan to have a proposal prepared before submitting an application to Southampton Town for a permit.

“Our goal is to show some professionalism by having the whole thing ready,” he said.

Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst could not immediately be reached for comment.

[email protected]

06/15/13 2:10pm
06/15/2013 2:10 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Legislator Jay Schneiderman presented his vision for Riverside at a civic meeting last week.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Jay Schneiderman presented his vision for Riverside at a civic meeting.

County Legislator Jay Schneiderman has a dream.

In the dream, the hamlet of Riverside has a small restaurant and grocery store near the traffic circle and a small three-story business district across from McDonald’s with stores on the ground floor and apartments or offices on the upper floors.

The plans call for a 'Main Street' along Route 24.

The plans call for a ‘Main Street’ along Route 24.

The South Fork lawmaker also envisions a trail through the woods leading down to the Peconic River. The trail would connect with a footbridge that would span the river into downtown Riverhead.

The area in question would stretch about a half-mile in the style of a Main Street along Route 24, across from McDonald’s and west of Vail Avenue. Most of the buildings in this area are currently vacant or for sale, he said.

Mr. Schneiderman (I-Montauk) showed off a 3-D computer model of what he’s envisioned at Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association.

Of course, no paperwork has been filed in Town Hall to move forward with any plans, other than for a possible trail to the river, for which the county and Southampton Town are seeking $50,000 in grant money.

“This is all just conceptual, for discussion purposes, to bring people onto same page,” Mr. Schneiderman said Monday. “If this is the vision you want, you hire professional planners and engineers and develop it in a more detailed way.”

For the “vision” to become reality, he said, “it would require all these property owners to come to the table and work together and maybe sell their land to someone else or become part of the project. Or they could continue to do what they’ve been doing, and that would be unfortunate.”

Southampton Town officials have conducted numerous studies over the years on ways to revitalize the beleaguered hamlet. Often, the answer involves creating a commercial sewer district, something Suffolk County is also studying.

Another proposal the county is currently studying involves improvements to the Route 24 traffic circle.

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works is down to two options for improving the Route 24 traffic circle in Riverside, Mr. Schneiderman said Monday.

One option would involve reconfiguring the circle into an oval-shaped roundabout and making it two lanes, he said, similar to what was done with the Route 58 traffic circle in Riverhead.

“They say this will work, but not as well as it would if they took one leg out,” he said, referring to the plan to cut off one of the five roads leading to the circle.

The second option, which Mr. Schneiderman prefers, would redirect Riverleigh Avenue (County Road 104) through the parking lot behind the former Riverboat Diner building and have it intersect with Lake Avenue (County Road 63).

This would involve either buying the diner land or swapping it for adjacent town land, he said, which would all be part of the revitalization effort.

“So how do we get to this from where we are now, which is just boarded-up building after boarded-up building?” Mr. Schneiderman asked the audience.

In addition to support from locals and area property owners, he said, installing sewer infrastructure is necessary for any Main Street-like business district to become reality.

“Why are sewers important?” Mr. Schneiderman asked. “It’s very hard to get economic development without them” due to environmental constraints caused by the area’s close proximity to the Peconic River and other parkland.

This leads to the question of where a sewage treatment plant should be located and how large an area it should serve.

The study currently underway shows three prospective locations for a sewage treatment plant. One is adjacent to the River Woods community, whose residents have already voiced opposed that option. Another is near the County Center and the third is near a former auto dealership on Riverleigh Avenue.

Mr. Schneiderman said the smaller the area served by the sewer district, the lower that cost, and that locating the plant near the area it’s going to serve also would be less expensive.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who also was present Monday, said several small sewage treatment plants could be placed in different locations, instead of having one large plant.

A draft version of the county’s Riverside sewer district study is expected to be completed in the fall, according to Boris Rukovets of the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

In addition to community support, property owner cooperation and a sewer district, the vision would have to go through planning and engineering reviews, require zone changes and gain support from regulatory agencies, while utilizing grants and other funding sources, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Chris Sheldon of Northampton suggested moving Route 24 closer to the river and moving the businesses further back to create more waterfront land.

Ms. Throne-Holst said the town plans to seek “requests for qualifications” from developers and seek plans from them to redevelop areas like Riverside.

This way, she said, the redevelopment could be funded by private dollars instead of tax dollars.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview Tuesday that he likes the idea of a footbridge over the Peconic River. As for efforts to revitalize Riverside, he said that as downtown Riverhead improves, so will Riverside — and vice-versa.

[email protected]