Riverhead was a big part of my life when I was a young wife married to my children’s father, Murray Schneps, who practiced law at Scheinberg, Schneps, DePetris & DePetris, at one of the stately, old brick buildings on Main Street.
On my return decades later, I visited with Yvette Aguiar, a woman whose name you should remember.
As part of a listening tour of the neighborhoods that Dan’s Papers serves, I invited Yvette, now Riverhead’s Town Supervisor, to a roundtable with leaders of that community at the new Montauk Distilling Co., owned by Whitestone resident Leucio Lacobelli, where she spoke with great energy and passion about what’s happening in town.
I was so impressed with Yvette and her ideas that I accepted her invitation to return and tour the town. I can’t decide what’s more impressive: the woman or her beloved town.
Her life is an extraordinary Horatio Alger story. It all began in the Bronx, where she was born to immigrant parents from Puerto Rico who spoke no English. When she began school, she struggled because she knew no English and it took her years to learn the language and be accepted by her classmates.
But she has an indomitable spirit that pushed her to success. After high school, she attended the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and was recruited into the New York City Police Department.
She then decided to pursue advanced degrees and earned a PhD in management. But she wasn’t done. While working at the NYPD, she lived in a bucolic community in Riverhead bordering an enormous farm.
“I love coming home and seeing kids on the weekends ride a horse drawn carriage loaded with pumpkins gathered from the farm. Their smiles warmed my heart and I felt their joy,” she shared with me as we drove to her house to pick up a manual about the town’s redevelopment plans.
She journeyed and trekked to the city until she retired and became a real estate broker in her beloved hometown.
When the town supervisor position became available a year ago, she decided to jump in and run for office. She is a woman who fights for what she believes in, and people noticed. Needless to say, she won her race.
When I visited her at the impressive office of the Town Supervisor — which with her small touches, she made her own — it was clear to me that she was born for this position.
Along with her deputy, we drove to see several of the town’s golf courses and the downtown area, where the Petrocelli family has made a big footprint by building the Aquarium, a catering hall, hotels and restoring and reviving the historic Preston House as a restaurant and they have more projects coming!
The goal is to have the hotels and restaurants bring tourists and restore the landmark homes downtown.
We also passed a buffalo farm that is open to the public, as well as several other farms.
Yvette’s eyes sparkled when she began talking about her revitalization project to create a Town Square, allowing for the view from Main Street of the peaceful Peconic River flowing through the town.
She pointed with pride at buildings that are slated to be demolished to make way for what she says is “an opportunity to create varied active and sustainable spaces that will benefit the town and region.”
I like a woman with vision. And that is Yvette.
We made a date to visit Wilzig Castle, also known as Sir Ivan’s Castle, in Water Mill. Stay tuned for details of our tour of the weird but wonderfully fanciful home built on 5 acres of landscape surrounded by what appears from his rooftop as a forest.
The East End is certainly a world evolving and made up of special people like Yvette Aquiar. Remember her name!