Reconstruction of the Route 24 traffic circle in Riverside won’t take place until 2018 under a capital budget plan presented last month by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
The project was originally to have gotten underway in 2016, though county officials subsequently said it probably would not begin until 2017 due to workload issues.
The county executive’s recent move to delay construction funding until 2018 drew fire from Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I- Sag Harbor), who accused county officials of reneging on a commitment to begin the project expeditiously.
“The county broke a promise once before with the schedule for the Hampton Bays Main Street project. It can’t happen again,” Thiele said. “The East End is not the county’s step-child,” he said. “This is why people continue to ask me about Peconic County.”
Thiele said last year the county asked him and State Senator Ken LaValle for special legislation to allow for a parkland exchange with the Town of Southampton so the Riverside traffic circle project could proceed expeditiously. Thiele and LaValle introduced the bill on May 16 last year. It passed both houses in mid-June and was signed by the governor last July. Then it was approved by voters in a mandatory town-wide referendum by a 74-percent to 26-percent margin, Thiele said.
The assemblyman said the county, as recently as April 10, assured him by letter it would make every effort to being construction in 2016. Only a few weeks later the 2016 Suffolk County Budget was released with no funds scheduled for construction until 2018.
“The Riverside traffic circle is a critical part of the revitalization of the Flanders, Riverside, Northampton community. It is incomprehensible that Suffolk County could renege on its commitment to the residents of that area. They have waited long enough for action,” Thiele said.
A spokesperson for the county executive responded to Thiele’s criticism by saying that projects get pushed back for a variety of reasons at all levels of government.
“This particular project was pushed back due to budgetary constraints and manpower requirements. Assemblyman Thiele is acutely aware of fiscal constraints and budgetary issues as he is he still trying to secure funds needed to repave CR 80 in Hampton Bays, which has taken longer than expected to reach the county despite the best efforts of his office,” Vanessa Baird-Streeter said in an email.
Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender agreed with Thiele that the Riverside area has waited long enough.
“The county can’t keep putting Riverside on the back burner. It’s been happening for way too long,” he said. “This is needed to bring economic development to one of the most depressed areas of Suffolk County. It doesn’t make sense to put this off,” Bender said.
Bender said the reconstruction project is critical to the success of the Riverside revitalization project currently underway. A delay till 2018 “really sets us back in terms of being shovel-ready,” the councilman said.
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