Residents filled the Riverhead Town Hall meeting room June 21, when the town board heard public comment on two controversial proposed codes. Photo: Alek Lewis

No one is shocked to see politicians attacking each other, but it’s usually reserved for the campaign trail where truth and fiction can sometimes need sorting out. But a public airing of a private feud between Riverhead Town Board members, in the same party no less, is rare and very embarrassing.

Supervisor Aguiar is calling out Councilmen Hubbard and Rothwell for conspiring to take her down to aid their own rise in power. Ms. Aguiar is right on one account; it can be a challenge for women working alongside men. But it’s not only Riverhead’s “old boys network.” There’s the interlocking web of Republican leaders, donors, patronage jobs, nepotism, private attorneys, “consultants” and assorted hangers-on that benefit from the vice-like grip on our town government while the interests of Riverhead residents are ignored.

Nothing in this public battle gives even a nod to the town or residents. The flying insults and accusations have nothing to do with working for Riverhead, but only with jockeying for power, position and control.

Their misplaced focus would explain why they haven’t rushed to get a new comprehensive plan, why Mr. Murphree hasn’t been held accountable for his failure to complete the first plan or why the pattern book got tossed on the massive pile of abandoned papers, along with the downtown revitalization survey.

Plotting their political futures must play into their promises to developers without accountability for cost, saying yes to a long list of proposals without first being sure there is sufficient parking, water supply, electrical grid capacity, little or no impact to the environment or surrounding neighborhoods. Why else would they ignore the likelihood of costly problems down the road? Campaigns are expensive and grateful developers have deep pockets.

While our board members battle for power, we’re dreading more apartment buildings still short on tenant parking, wooded acres marked for destruction to make way for “spec” warehouses, selling off more of Riverhead’s character, more of Calverton’s rural landscape, as EPCAL’s buyers continue to default on debt payments connected to their New Jersey mega-mall.

And our town board’s attention is on battling for who is going to run for supervisor next year? What will even be left to wreck?


Laura Jens-Smith, a Democrat, is a former Riverhead Town supervisor (2018-2019). She lives in Laurel.

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