The “egg-about” in Riverside is officially open.
That’s the unofficial name — because of its shape — given to the newly constructed roundabout built to replace the 1930s traffic circle that joined Route 24 with four other roadways in Riverside.
The $5.3 million county-funded construction project, which got underway in May 2017, converted an existing five-legged, one-lane traffic circle into a modern two-lane roundabout to ease congestion and improve safety. The project included the installation of a new storm sewer system to mitigate flooding issues and protect water quality by treating and removing pollutants from stormwater before it is discharged into the Peconic River.
“We’ve got the Big Duck right down the road. Now we’ve got the Big Egg,” Southampton Town Supervisor joked this morning before he and other officials and community leaders snipped a ceremonial ribbon to celebrate the new roundabout’s official grand opening.
Schneiderman was joined by County Legislator Bridget Fleming, State Senator Ken LaValle, Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and other officials from both Southampton and Riverhead towns, as well as representatives of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association and Renaissance Downtowns/Riverside Rediscovered.
All agreed that the roundabout has so much more meaning than an average highway construction project.
“We’re moving from one place in Riverside to the future of Riverside,” Schneiderman said. “We’re seeing a building under construction — investment in Riverside,” he said, gesturing to the building going up on the site of the long-abandoned diner, where offices and future apartments are planned. “This is the future,” he said.
“This is so important to make Riverside revitalization a reality,” said Fleming, a former town councilwoman who was elected to the seat Schneiderman previously held in the county legislature.
“Things are rough for all of us in terms of public discourse, disagreements and divisions,” Fleming said. “This project is a perfect example of people of every political stripe, of every level of government — including our great supportive partners Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Ken Lavalle at the state level — every single one of these social components being willing to talk and work out our differences, to find ways to support each other and move an important community forward,” Fleming said.
“It goes to show you that when everyone working on a project had a good kindergarten experience you can work together and get the job done quickly,” LaValle added.
Thiele congratulated the community for its efforts. “Your persistence and hard work for many, many years is why this is happening today,” Thiele said. “It was a team effort.”
The state lawmakers worked to pass a bill allowing dedicated parkland to be “alienated” so that it could be used for reconfiguring the intersection.
Community residents fought a move by the county executive in 2015 to delay the start of the construction to 2018, so that the capital project funding could be used elsewhere. It had already been pushed back from 2016 to 2017 and the move drew fire from Thiele, LaValle and various town officials. Community residents circulated petitions, gathering more than 250 signatures, and descended en masse onto a county legislative meeting to protest the proposed delay. Schneiderman, then a legislator and member of the legislature’s capital projects committee fought the delay and convinced the capital budget working group to keep the funding in the 2017 capital budget.
It was a sweet victory for a community that has often felt forgotten and voiceless.
The completion of the new roundabout “shows that we have a voice that’s being heard and that is the most encouraging thing,” FRNCA vice president Sarah Huneault said.
The owner of a business on the roundabout gave the project a thumbs up. “In the beginning we were a little concerned because one of our exits was being eliminated,” said Erol Bayraktar, owner of the Shell gas station and convenience store. “But the end result I think is pretty good.”
“It shows that when communities come together politically, they can make great things happen,” said Siris Barrios of Riverside Rediscovered. “A lot of times when we talked about this, people would say, ‘Oh, if I live to see it.’ Well, now we’ve lived to see it.”
“A lot of good things are happening in this community,” Southampton Councilman John Bouvier said. “Sometimes, good things take a while.”
This story was reported by Maria Piedrabuena and written by Denise Civiletti
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