In her 2023 State of the Town Address and final speech as Town Supervisor today, Yvette Aguiar detailed the ways in which “the foundation has been laid for Riverhead’s bright future” under her leadership.
Ms. Aguiar — who began her tenure in 2020 as a newcomer to politics and served two-terms as town supervisor — received a standing ovation for her farewell remarks where she listed the success of several projects, community initiatives and expressed her gratitude to those who have aided in Riverhead’s progress along the way.
“I am extremely proud of all we have accomplished over the last four years,” Ms. Aguiar said. “In support of President Ronald Reagan, who said, ‘by working together, pooling our resources and building on our strengths, we can accomplish great things’ — it is exactly what we strived for as a team under my administration.”
Ms. Aguiar was first elected in November 2019 and took office in January 2020, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. She was reelected to a second two-year term in 2021, giving the Republicans control of all five seats on the Town Board.
In her speech, she mentioned how the pandemic did not derail the direction of the town government’s operations. The town’s progress was described as a “transformative renaissance,” with Ms. Aguiar citing a number of major achievements, projects and initiatives — made capable with the $29.4 million in unprecedented grant funding over the last four years.
This included some of the following:
- A $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant awarded by the state for a new Town Square and the expansion of the Suffolk Theater.
- A $2 million granted by the county to aid in Riverhead’s parking garage project
- A $250,000 grant to revive the historic Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, which the town took back ownership of this year.
- $11.4 million the Town obtained to provide public water to Manorville residents with contaminated wells and other water upgrades.
- A combination of $350,000 worth of federal and state grants for the Town to acquire new meals on wheels vehicles and buses to provide enhanced services to Riverhead’s senior population.
One of Ms. Aguiar’s most notable accomplishments — and her proudest, she said — was the $20 million land acquisition for the new Riverhead Town Hall, now fully operational at 4 West Second St. In her speech, she acknowledged Councilman Bob Kearn who championed the purchase from Northwell Health and worked with the town’s purchasing agent, as well as the buildings and grounds crew for a “seamless transition.”
The old Town Hall building at 200 Howell Avenue will be converted into a much-needed Justice Court facility, named the Judge Allen M. Smith Justice Court.
“The location is a perfect synergy to our downtown revitalization efforts,” Ms. Aguiar said.
Other significant achievements Ms. Aguiar accomplished during her tenure and other projects currently in motion include:
- Settling union contracts, including the CSEA, Police Benevolent Association and Superior Officers, this year.
- A remarkable growth of businesses throughout Riverhead, and new ones to come.
- Scott’s Pointe opened in October in the former Island Park, which consists of a year-round indoor surf pool. The $50 million facility include state-of-the-art activities for all age groups, a restaurant and a 22-acre lake, which will host a floating aqua park, kayaking and other sports activities.
- Riverhead High School reopening its observatory, which was closed in the 1980s. The observatory housed a 15-foot telescope and was revived in large part due to local contractor Joseph Petrocelli, who donated his services.
- Plans are underway to convert the 50,000 square feet armory, which has been vacant for 22 years, into a YMCA.
- Bringing back drag-racing to Long Island at EPCAL.
- A new $2.3 million town hockey rink now open at Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton, which is the only NHL size rink east of Exit 58 off of the Long Island Expressway.
- Riverhead being named as top destination places by the Long Island Business News, theNew York Times, Newsday, Dan’s papers, and Forbes Magazine naming Riverhead among its Top 50 Travel Destinations
Ms. Aguiar received some pushback during her time as Riverhead Town Supervisor for some controversial issues, including widespread concerns about the proposed EPCAL project and the emergency executive order concerning asylum seekers.
For more than a year, a colorful and growing cadre of Riverhead residents living in neighborhoods surrounding EPCAL have been pressuring town officials to abandon the plan, which called for CAT to purchase 1,644 acres from the town for $40 million.
Following months of document submission and review by the IDA, as well as two public session forums, last month the IDA determined CAT was unable to provide adequate assurances of its financial capability to develop the EPCAL property — leading to an emergency executive session called by Ms. Aguiar where the Town Board unanimously voted to cancel the 2018 contract.
Going forward, Riverhead will soon undertake a two-phase, sports complex feasibility study at EPCAL, thanks to a $30,000 state grant.
Back in September, New York City dropped its lawsuit against Riverhead Town over an ongoing executive order which prohibits the housing of asylum-seeking migrants from New York City in the town’s hotels, motels and shelters.
In her speech, Ms. Aguiar addressed this emergency order executed in May 2023, stating she made the “bold decision to continue securing the welfare, health, and security” of Riverhead residents. She said the emergency order ensured the town’s enforcement odes were not changed and the town could appropriate addressed its homeless population.
That being said, Ms. Aguiar ended her speech by thanking community members for the opportunity to serve as town supervisor and recognized the teamwork of Riverhead employees who work at every level of government.
She said without them, the town’s multitude of accomplishments could not have been possible.
“Unequivocally, Riverhead is clearly on the right path,” Ms. Aguiar concluded in her speech. “I am excited about the prospects of Riverhead future and believe I have strongly positioned Riverhead to achieve our mutual community balanced goals — our residents deserve nothing less.”
Scroll below to read Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar’s 2023 State of the Town Address.