Avena pushes back against MAC’s criticisms

Avena pushes back against MAC’s criticisms
Manorhaven Mayor Jim Avena is being challenged in the village election this year by Vincent Costa. (Photo courtesy of Mayor Jim Avena)

Relations between Manorhaven officials and the Manorhaven Action Committee have grown increasingly heated over the past few months, culminating in village Mayor Jim Avena reading a letter criticizing the group during last week’s Board of Trustees meeting.

“Despite all that we’ve accomplished, Manorhaven’s officials and staff have been subjected to unfair and misleading criticism by the Manorhaven Action Committee (MAC),” Avena read. “I don’t expect everyone to agree with me; disagreements are a part of democracy. But I seriously object to MAC’s methods.”

Caroline DuBois is the acting secretary of MAC and served as a member of Manorhaven’s zoning board from March 2016 until this summer, when she was removed by Avena to reduce the board’s members from seven to five. Since then, she has spent much of her time in MAC pushing back against the Manorhaven government over issues, especially environmental ones.

“Performing this environmental analysis will restore the confidence of residents that the Trustees are actively involved in protecting the health and safety of their community,” she wrote in a recent letter calling for several sites to be analyzed.

Manorhaven Trustee Ken Kraft is a former member of MAC, but expressed displeasure with the group during last Thursday’s meeting.

“I was extremely involved in helping to organize this group,” he said. “I’m embarrassed that I did it now… I don’t understand why we have to do roadblocks when we try to get rid of the gridlock… some of the recent things are a total embarrassment to me.”

During the meeting, Avena brought up specific examples where he thought MAC had gone too far. He said the group circulated a flier about the village joining the Port Washington police that was full of false information. He said MAC filed a complaint against the village to the district attorney’s office, which the office found to be without merit.

Later, Avena touched on MAC’s focus on his relationship with Dejana Industries. The group has claimed that the company holds a beneficial position in the community and has harmed the village’s environment. Avena is engaged to Peter Dejana’s sister and works with the Dejana Foundation.

I’m very careful about my relationship with Dejana,” he said. “Everyone knows I’m a grant administrator [for Dejana’s charity]. It was out there, I didn’t hide it.”

He also questioned whether the group was a mouthpiece for the community or for a few selected individuals. He noted that the group has not held an open meeting in over a year. The group’s Facebook page likewise has not been updated since June 2016.

“MAC … had many discussions on many topics. We have a steering committee,” DuBois said. “With 300 members, it’s hard to find a place in this community that will meet us all at once.”

She said the group has tried to meet at different places, only to be turned away.

“What we do now is through the steering committee, we meet at each other’s houses, we meet in restaurants and we have active conversations,” she said.

When MAC’s motives were questioned during the meeting, other attendees said that they share opinions with the group and like receiving emails from it.

“A lot of people communicate and share their opinion through email or other methods,” one resident said. “They may not have time to meet but they do want to share their opinion.”

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