VERA CHINESE PHOTO
Protest organizer Hal Lindstrom walks East Main Street outside
Town Hall Wednesday at a rally to try to convince the Town
Board to keep the soup kitchen at the Riverhead train station
A dozen people, toting signs that read “Hunger Hurts” and “Save the Soup Kitchen” gathered outside Riverhead Town Hall on Wednesday to protest the town’s push to relocate the Open Arms soup kitchen from the Riverhead train station when its lease ends June 1.
As an alternative, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter had offered the group a building on town-owned property in Calverton, but soup kitchen supporters say the location is not accessible.
“The alternative they suggest is just not a viable option,” said protestor Adele Mueller.
The event was organized by Open Arms volunteer Hal Lindstrom of Calverton, who in the past has acted as a campaign manager to former Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale, whom Mr. Walter defeated for the job last fall.
Mr. Walter had previously told the News-Review he suspected Mr. Lindstrom’s motives were political.
Mr. Walter on Wednesday told protesters that Open Arms and its director, Zona Stroy, no longer had interest in running the operation, which provides needy people with bagged lunches daily, and that another group must assume those duties.
“You folks here have to take it over,” Mr. Walter said, adding that a new group would be responsible for finding an appropriate location.
Mr. Walter said he would not consider extending the lease at the train station.
Critics have charged that while a soup kitchen is important, a transit hub in the center of town is a bad location.
The town has subleased the LIRR station building to Open Arms since January 2009, when the group’s soup kitchen was asked to leave the First Congregational Church of Riverhead, where it had been for 14 years, due to space issues.