Civics Applaud Riverside Pedestrian Bridge Progress

The bridge will inject new life into blighted areas of Riverside, civic leaders say.

A hefty grant for a planned pedestrian bridge connecting Riverside and Riverhead is big news for civic leaders who've said the project symbolizes great strides for revitalization in blighted areas.

Last week, New York State awarded an $85,875 economic development grant for the creation of a pedestrian bridge from Riverhead to Riverside, a project Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and local civic leaders have said will boost development and revitalization in blighted Riverside areas.

"I think this is a tremendously important project for the revitalization of Riverside and also to support continued expansion of the downtown Riverhead business district," said Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association. "The blight on the Riverside side of the Peconic has been a terrible situation for the local community and a deterrent to investment in downtown Riverhead."

The pedestrian bridge, he said, has many purposes and is not conceived of as a stand-alone benefit to the community.

The bridge will link downtown Riverhead, near the Long Island Aquarium, to a new public park, he said. And, once the south side of New York State Route 24 is redeveloped and the traffic circle reconstructed, all of which are being planned now, "customers of the new Riverside businesses can easily walk through a wonderful riverfront park cross the bridge and continue their day in Riverhead," Taldone said.
The goal, he added, is to foster a pedestrian friendly downtown area where visitors can park and then enjoy both Riverhead and Riverside commercial centers.

"The Southampton landing site for the bridge will be selected in part to minimize any impacts on the existing 14-acre county parkland and, on the Riverhead side, to ensure that no parking spaces are lost in the Riverhead parking district or important views obstructed," Taldone said.

The pedestrian bridge, he added, also fits nicely into the long approved Riverside Maritime Trail Plan, which will create a "serene" walking path through a relatively natural setting.

"This park amenity benefits residents and visitors to both towns," Taldone said. "But most importantly, it provides access to the river for residents of Riverside who live so close to the waterfront yet have no access to it. For a community of modest means, this park improvement will provide a wonderful recreational experience and it will provide the opportunity for residents to use and therefore appreciate all that the river has to offer."

The $85,875 awarded through New York State's Dept. of State Local Waterfront Revitalization Program will allow the town, with participation from Riverhead and Suffolk County, to design the bridge and better estimate its cost, Taldone explained.

"By giving Southampton the design money, I believe that New York State is telling us that we are on the right track with this project, recognizing its benefits for economic development and riverfront revitalization. I hope to move expeditiously to bid out the design work under direction of both towns and Suffolk County so that we can resubmit our grant application for construction funding."  

"These economic development grants represent a major commitment by the State of New York to take the lead in creating jobs and improving the economy," said New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele. "I am pleased that Long Island was chosen for such substantial funding and that the businesses and communities in my district will benefit." 

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst added, "The funding awards will allow the Town of Southampton to advance an . .  exciting and potentially transformative project in the hamlet Riverside that aims to revitalize the area downtown — strengthening the local economy."

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