Eileen Kreiling, manager of the North Fork Animal Welfare League’s Riverhead shelter, with 4-year-old pitbull Benny, who has been at the shelter since February. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
In a divided vote Tuesday, the Riverhead Town Board scheduled June 3 hearings for two proposals connected with moving the nonprofit North Fork Animal Welfare League, which operates the town animal shelter, to the property holding the Henry Pfeifer Community Center in Calverton, a town-owned building that underwent a nearly half-million-dollar renovation about a decade go and has been underutilized ever since.
“It was a monumental day in Riverhead for the animals,” said Denise Lucas, head of Riverhead Move the Animal Shelter, another nonprofit that has held more than 40 fundraisers in the past two years to offset the cost of finding a new town animal shelter.
The vote took place in a room filled with supporters. And while none of them spoke, they burst into applause after a deciding third vote in favor of the hearings was tallied. Ms. Lucas said more than 30 “animal people” attended.
The 3-2 vote — with Supervisor Sean Walter and councilmen Jim Wooten and John Dunleavy in favor and council members Jodi Giglio and George Gabrielsen opposed — technically concerned only two issues: scheduling public hearings on the transfer of the Pfeifer building to the town from the community development agency and signing a no-rent land lease allowing NFAWL to build a new kennel on the town land and use the building as a shelter.
However, the 3-2 split could foretell how board members will vote next month on moving the shelter to the Pfeifer building.
“The [current animal shelter] on Youngs Avenue is inadequate and poorly located,” Mr. Wooten said.
Mr. Gabrielsen disagreed, saying that the Pfeifer building “is a hostile environment for dogs” and adding that it’s in an industrial park next to railroad tracks. He’d prefer that the town sell or lease the property, and use the proceeds in the town’s recreation department.
“We’ve got close to 1,000 kids in lacrosse, football and soccer that need more room … versus 18 dogs in the shelter. Pick your priority,” Mr. Gabrielsen has said in recent weeks.