Assembly Member Jodi Giglio, County Legislator Al Krupski and Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar addressed a breakfast meeting of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce June 29. Photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce hosted a breakfast meeting with local elected officials Wednesday at the Wellbridge Addiction Treatment Center in Calverton.

Chamber members and guests had a chance to hear updates from Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, County Legislator Al Krupski and State Assembly Member Jodi Giglio during a meal in the center’s dining hall, followed by a brief question-and-answer session.

The session with legislators was followed by a talk from a National Grid representative on the New York State Climate Action Council’s progress on a draft statewide scoping plan being written to implement the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

The meeting was moderated by Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Aguiar reviewed the events of her first term of office, which was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which struck the region a little over a month after she was sworn in.

“I took office in January. In March, the nation closed,” the supervisor said.

“All the businesses were struggling. Everyone was scared. People were dying all around us. We were trying to preserve our town,” Aguiar recalled. “Thank God I had 20 years of law enforcement and I had managing experience in both public and private sectors,” she said. “It didn’t faze me.”

Aguiar said she worked across party lines to reach out to the county executive and governor to obtain vaccines for Riverhead seniors that would be administered locally. She said the town obtained 1,500 vaccines to distribute at the Riverhead Senior Center. “So we pretty much covered it.”

Next Aguiar turned to the nationwide summer of protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer on May 25, 2020.

“They came to protest,” Aguiar said. “Everyone has the right to assemble,” she noted.

“The town was scared. The businesses were scared. Even the police officers were a little concerned, saying what happens if they try to destroy our town. We kept together,” Aguiar said. “We have a great police force.”

The supervisor credited the “localized” police force. “They came from schools here. They go to church here. They understand the community,” she said.

“We don’t want somebody from the Suffolk County Police Department that lives in Yaphank and (does) not understand the community,” she said.

“And we moved forward and secured our town,” the supervisor said.

Aguiar said the town’s management of the budget during the COVID crisis led to Moody’s Investment Services upgrading the town’s bond rating last year, something she said was “unique” among towns in the state.

The purchase of three East Main Street buildings was “the first sure sign that Riverhead is moving forward,” Aguiar said. “That began the gentrification in Riverhead,” she said.

“We have people coming in, we have companies wanting to partner with us. We own a lot of land. We are very fortunate in Riverhead. We own a lot of land. We own a sewer system. We have our own water. We have sidewalks. We are very fortunate,” the supervisor said.

“We want to move our town forward. We created what’s called a layover — a transit-oriented layover plan for our train station,” Aguiar said, referring to the Railroad Avenue Overlay District and the Transit-Oriented Development Plan, both adopted by the town board last year. Since then, she said, the town has seen interest from developers and one building — a mixed-use, five-story building at 205 Osborn Avenue — is already under construction.

“There’s so much progress,” Aguiar said. “This can’t happen without the support of all the legislators, all businesses and all the people.”

County Legislator Al Krupski. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Krupski spoke about progress at the county level in the time he’s been in the legislature. He took office in January 2013, after a special election held to fill a vacancy created by the election of former Legislator Ed Romaine as Brookhaven Town supervisor the previous November. Krupski took office one year after County Executive Steve Bellone was first sworn in.

“When I started in 2013 we were borrowing money for operating expenses, which as anyone in business knows is not sustainable,” Krupski said. Over the next several years, the county slowly reduced its borrowing to cover operations, which was eliminated entirely when in 2019 it adopted the 2020 budget, he said.

“Then the pandemic hit and all bets were off,” Krupski said.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. The county severely curtailed spending. “As it turned out Suffolk County did very well with sales tax,” he said, which is the county’s principal source of tax revenue. The county also saw an influx of federal aid that boosted its budget.

“In this year’s budget, we paid off hundreds of millions of dollars in debt,” Krupski said. “And now we’re not borrowing.” Since the county can’t be certain about future sales tax revenues, “there’s a lot of caution,” the legislator said. “Things have to be sustainable. They have to be properly funded and properly managed,” he said, adding that the county government is committed to that.

Assembly Member Jodi Giglio Photo: Denise Civiletti

Giglio, a member of the minority Republican conference in the State Assembly — where Democrats have a 107-43 advantage, said she works well across party lines and has become “good friends” with Assembly Speaker Andrea Stewart-Cousins and has a great relationship with Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Giglio said she is planning to hold public hearings to allow residents to comment on cultivator and dispensary licenses being issued by the State Cannabis Control Board, which, she noted, is issuing the licenses without first holding public hearings.

“There are many cultivator licenses in my district,” Giglio said.

National Grid’s Vice President of Corporate Affairs Bryan Grimaldi provided an update on the New York State Climate Action Council’s progress on a draft statewide scoping plan being written to implement the state’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, passed by the State Legislature in 2019, is “among the most ambitious climate laws in the world,” Grimaldi said.

The act requires the state to have a carbon-neutral economy, mandating at least an 85% reduction in emissions below 1990 levels. It sets targets of:

  • 40% reduction in emissions by 2030
  • 100% zero-emissions electricity by 2040
  • 70% renewable electricity by 2030
  • 9,000 MW of offshore wind by 2035
  • 6,000 MW of distributed solar by 2025
  • 3,000 MW of energy storage by 2030
National Grid Vice President for Corporate Affairs Bryan Grimaldi. Photo: Denise Civiletti

But what the law didn’t do, Grimaldi said, is “tell us how we’re going to get there.”

The law established the Climate Action Council to develop a plan. The 22-member council held a series of public hearings across the state that “the state didn’t promote,” Grimaldi said. It developed a draft scoping plan to implement the law’s goals. The public comment period on the plan closed July 1. A final scoping plan is expected to be published by Dec. 31.

“The core message to understand is… we cannot meet the state’s energy goals just on wind and solar,” Grimaldi told the Chamber meeting. “It is utopian fantasy,” he said. “Wind and solar play an important part of that mix. Utility scale ownership of wind and solar is on the horizon. But it’s one tool in the toolbox.”

The state does not have the infrastructure in place to attain the law’s goals or the ability to deploy the infrastructure in order to attain the goals, Grimaldi said.

Everybody thinks the general principles of the law are “the right thing,” he said. “We do polling data, you ask everybody if they want to talk about climate change and save the environment, you get a universal ‘yes.’ When you start to get to questions on the how, of questions about who pays for it, then the interest starts to tail off,” Grimaldi said.

“We don’t think we should walk away from climate change. We think we should double down, but we think we should do in a really smart way.”

National Grid is part of a consortium of utility companies in New York formed to provide expertise and perspective to the Climate Action Council and its advisory panels.

More information about the work of the consortium, as well as reports and other documents the group has prepared on the implementation of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act can be found here: https://jointutilitiesofny.org/ucg_clcpa

Eric Alexander of Vision Long Island, left, Riverhead Chamber of Commerce President Connie Lassandro, Assembly Member Jodi Giglio, County Legislator Al Krupski, Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and Riverhead Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
Liz O’Shaughnessy. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Editor’s note: This article has been revised since its original publication for clarification of the statement by National Grid’s Bryan Grimaldi regarding attainment of the state’s energy goals. He said the goals cannot be met with wind and solar power alone. The quote in its original form was incomplete and gave the impression he said the state’s energy goals are unattainable.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.