Riverhead Dems Seek To Add To Gains

The 2019 Democratic ticket in Riverhead: Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith, left, Diane Tucci, Diane Wilhelm, Tara Taylor, Patricia Snyder and Jaraby Thomas. Independent/Courtesy Riverhead Demcratic Committee

Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith tries to keep things in perspective, but by all accounts, her first year in office has been highly successful, with the rival Republican Party reportedly having a tough time finding an opponent to challenge her.

After upending incumbent Sean Walter in 2017, Jens-Smith has her sites on the ultimate gender affirmation: Her party is fielding an all-women slate of candidates for town office. Catherine Kent won a seat on the town board on Jens-Smith’s ticket last election.

Patricia Snyder and Diane Tucci have been picked to run for town board this year. If they win, Riverhead would have an all-female town board. Incumbent Town Clerk Diane Wilhelm is seeking reelection, and Jaraby Thomas and Tara Taylor are town
assessor candidates.

The biggest feather in Jens-Smith’s cap thus far has been her ability to guide the town through a labyrinth of false starts, failed applications, and nearly two decades of proposals — some pie-in-the-sky like an indoor ski mountain – proposed for the former Grumman site.

Finally, the town stands to sell the parcel for some $40 million.

Calverton Aviation and Technology, which also goes by Triple 5, was designated as “qualified and eligible” to buy and develop 1643 acres of vacant land at Calverton. The Canada-based developer is best known for building and owning large retail-entertainment complexes. The deal, still in its beginning stages, is moving along swimmingly so far, the
supervisor said.

“They are doing their due diligence,” Jens-Smith reported this week. “They are in the second series of 90 days and everything is on track,” she said.

As is usually the case, Jens-Smith dealt with a potential snafu the way she usually does: quickly, forcefully, but without fanfare.

Stuart Bienenstock, the Triple Five Group’s director of business development, is charged with forging documents and committing real estate fraud in New Jersey in 2018. Some officials in Riverhead felt uncomfortable working him given his legal troubles.

Jens-Smith said the Riverhead Town Board insisted that he be replaced. “We discussed it as a board and then we reached out to them,” she said.

Triple 5 then moved quickly, terminating Bienenstock. As the Independent went to press, Amy Herbold has been named the company’s new director of development and point person on the EPCAL project.

As for the coming election, Jens-Smith, 56, told the Riverhead Democratic Committee she was most proud of her balanced budget, negotiations with labor unions, and openness with the public.

Snyder, 62, served as executive director of the East End Arts Council for 23 years, an organization that grew substantially under her leadership. She increased enrollment at the East End Arts School from 45 to more than 700 students, and doubled the organization’s budget and doubled its membership.

Tucci, 48, is the executive director of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and grew up on a farm in the town.

Incumbent Tim Hubbard heads the Republican ticket and will seek another term.

The GOP has chosen Yvette Aguiar, a former New York City Police officer who works at the American Military University as a professor in global studies and security management, to challenge Jens-Smith. Frank Beyrodt, who lost to Kent in the last election, has earned the nod for another run for the board. Incumbent Councilman Jim Wooten has reached his term limit and cannot run again.

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