On Saturday, prospective members of the new Downtown Riverhead Civic Association set out their vision for the city’s role in the city, including maintaining the beauty of their neighborhoods and collectively advocating for residents in municipal government. .

About 40 people gathered in the meeting room of the Riverhead Free Library for the Heart of Riverhead Civic Association organizational meeting, where co-founders Cindy Clifford, Juan Micieli-Martinez and Steven Kramer addressed the crowd to explain why they created the organization.

“For me, and probably for many of us, we have chosen this place as our home. I mean, some people might be here by default, but the majority of us might come by default and then stay because there’s something about Riverhead that’s really special,” Clifford said. “We invest in it with our lives, we raise our families, we build friendships, and Riverhead becomes part of our identity, who we are.”

Clifford walked around the room calling the participants and asking them what they thought of the problems the municipality could tackle.

Many speakers at the meeting identified litter as a key issue for the city center and suggested organizing cleanups.

Eric Raynor suggested that the civic association could contact the road superintendent to do a joint cleaning of the city’s roads.

Others want the civic to be active as an advocate for mayor.

“So we have to have a voice to stand up, and not just me standing on a podium and saying that I’m objecting, that there’s more than me saying this is not right and what’s happening isn’t right,” Adele told Wallach.

“I think it gives us the opportunity to help the city council get a better sense of what we want as residents,” Clifford said. “Because I don’t know if there’s necessarily a way for them, unless they’re knocking on every door, to find out what we’re thinking. So we kind of do some of the work for them.

Raynor, who said he was previously involved with the Flanders Riverside Northampton Civic Association, said the civic association could also arrange meetings with government and police officials to discuss different issues of concern. He said the municipality even brought in the ambulance company to teach how to administer the opioid overdose treatment drug Narcan and distributed free Narcan kits to the community.

Sarah Christ said she would like the municipality to help inform its members of less publicized events that impact the neighborhood, such as firefighter elections, which she remembered she didn’t know about years ago, even though she kept up to date with the news and the government.

In the audience for the organizational meeting were MP Jodi Giglio and former councilor James Wooten.

The Latino and Black residents of downtown Riverhead were noticeably absent from the meeting crowd. The census-designated place of Riverhead, which also encompasses neighborhoods north of the municipality’s stated “territory”, has a 15.4% black population and 26.2% Latino population.

Kramer said in an interview Wednesday that in addition to giving media interviews, the co-founders did social media outreach and local canvassing to spread the word about the reunion. To raise awareness in the Latino community, the group reached out to the East End’s Spanish-language news website, Tu Prensa Local, and to Sister Margaret Smyth of the North Fork Spanish Apostolate, Kramer said. He acknowledged that there is still a lot of work to do if they want to make the voice of these populations heard in civil society.

“We need to determine access, we need to determine who we need to talk to, and we need to find a way to attract members of these communities, because we are a diverse community here and we need all these voices,” Kramer said “We just can’t speak from one point of view. We have definite work to do in this area, and we’ve already identified it.”

The Heart of Riverhead Civic Association is also being formed at a time when city officials are questioning the legitimacy of civic associations as representative bodies of the communities on whose behalf they speak. More recently, council members agreed to schedule a public hearing into a zoning change in Wading River, overruling the Wading River Civic Association’s opposition to the change, with some council members saying they felt the municipality would not not represent the wider community of Wading River.

Kramer said it will be the civic association’s goal to represent all of downtown.

“What I take personally is that attacks on civic associations and leaders of civic associations, it does not benefit the city in any way,” he said. “City management should seek to work with civic associations and not denigrate their importance, because there are a significant number of people who participate in these groups.”

Also present at the meeting was Anthony Niosi, director of Niosi Firearms Development, which plans to move into vacant space at the former Trutech facility at the corner of Elton and East Main streets. During the conversation, when Wallach made a comment about the city council not being representative of the views of the community as a whole, Niosi criticized his comment.

“If elected, then they must represent someone’s opinion, even if it is not yours or mine,” he said.

Niosi did not identify with the group and said he was looking to open an ice cream shop in town. He did not mention his gun business.

Kramer said in an interview that Niosi’s interaction with the civic association was “dishonest”.

“I don’t live in an area where I think there will be direct impacts from this project, but there are people who live near this proposed project and those people should have a say in it” , said Kramer, who also had a heated conversation with Niosi in Facebook comments online after pointing out that Niosi’s company had donated $1,000 to Supervisor Yvette Aguiar’s political campaign committee.

“I didn’t want to hijack their meetings. I was just there to listen,” Niosi said in an interview explaining why he didn’t reveal his identity to the band. He also said he felt Clifford “chosen him”, although it emerged during the meeting that Clifford randomly picked attendees during the discussion.

The next civic association meeting will be Wednesday, June 15 from 6:30-7:45 p.m. at the Riverhead Free Library.

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