Riverside revitalization plan gets Southampton board’s OK

Newsday, December 22nd, 2015 | Southampton Town officials on Tuesday enacted a sweeping rezoning plan designed to transform Riverside, one of the most economically distressed communities on Long Island, into a lively gateway to the North Fork and the Hamptons.

Town board members voted 4-0 to rezone 468 acres of Riverside to allow for denser and taller development that conforms with the plan’s aesthetic guidelines. The plan allows landowners to opt into new zoning at any time, and relies on owners seeing value in increasing the building potential of their properties.

Renaissance Downtowns, a Plainview development firm, built support among hundreds of residents as it crafted the zoning plan over the past two years. Southampton officials selected the company as the master developer for Riverside in December 2013.

Residents stood and cheered as votes were cast Tuesday.

Southampton’s approval came at the final town board meeting of Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who is departing at year’s end to seek the Democratic nomination for Congress, and Councilwoman Bridget Fleming, who was elected to the Suffolk legislature.

“If ever you’d given me a choice of an action to take at my outgoing meeting, this would be my action of choice,” Throne-Holst said. “This is really no less than a dream come true for me. This is exactly what I wanted to see done in my time as supervisor of this town.”

The “Riverside Revitalization Action Plan” proposal could result in 2,267 new housing units — nearly triple the hamlet’s existing 788 units — as well as 133,517 square feet of retail space and 62,000 square feet of professional and medical offices, according to a “reasonable” scenario projected by Melville planning firm Nelson, Pope & Voorhis.

Half of any new housing units would be designated as affordable or workforce housing, according to the plan.

Renaissance Downtowns LLC has drafted a plan to revitalize Riverside, a hamlet in Southampton Town. Photo Credit: Renaissance Downtowns LLC

Southampton officials, in enacting the zoning, are betting that developers and investors can be drawn to Riverside’s 4 miles of Peconic River waterfront, 1,000 acres of preserved land in the Long Island pine barrens and its location at the juncture of the North Fork and the Hamptons.

Riverside, home to 3,000 residents, has struggled for decades with poverty, crime and roads lined with deteriorating houses and shuttered businesses. Southampton has commissioned four studies of the community over the past 15 years, as residents grew frustrated with the pace of revitalization.

Riverside has higher poverty and unemployment rates and a lower median income, median home value and high school graduation rate than the similarly struggling communities of Wyandanch and Gordon Heights, according to an analysis by Renaissance Downtowns of 2008-2012 figures.
Town board members on Tuesday also voted 4-0 to accept the environmental study of the plan by Nelson, Pope & Voorhis.