Mayor: Guardian Angels meeting with residents was ‘premature’

Curtis Sliwa David Nyce Greenport

Greenport Village Mayor David Nyce is criticizing Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa for holding a public meeting prior to local officials hosting a community forum of their own.

During the Village Board work session Monday, Mr. Nyce described Mr. Sliwa’s Nov. 12 meeting with residents in Greenport as “putting the cart before the horse” and said he believes the process of outlining a plan of action to deter gang violence should start between police and the schools.

David Gamberg, who serves as superintendent for Greenport and Southold schools, has said faculty and administration from both districts are working closely with law enforcement officials and had participated in an Oct. 30 training session with Southold Town police and Suffolk County detectives to discuss the prevalence of gangs. Mattituck and Oysterponds school district officials also attended the meeting, he said.

The Guardian Angels established its first Long Island chapter in 2005, after former Greenport mayor Dave Kapell invited the organization to help tackle the issue of drug sales in the village.

Residents involved in that earlier effort contacted Mr. Sliwa last month after four alleged members of MS-13 attacked two men from the rival 18th Street gang with guns and a machete in Southold. Police say the fight started at Third Street Park in Greenport and one of the five suspects charged in the shooting is a 16-year-old student at Greenport High School.

Mr. Sliwa has said patrols will consist of visits from the New York City-based Guardian Angels every Saturday night, which he referred to as a prime time for “gang banging.” The primary focus for the men and women roaming the streets will be to cultivate relationships with school-age youths from the Latino community, whom Mr. Sliwa said are prime targets for gang recruitment.

Mr. Nyce said he’s attending a meeting Thursday with Police chief Martin Flatley, Mr. Gamberg and Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell to discuss the best way of curtailing gangs.

“I won’t make my personal feelings about Mr. Sliwa known because it’s neither here nor there,” the mayor said, “but I thought that meeting was premature. The first meeting should have been more like the one we’re anticipating setting up.”

“I think it’s fine for a consultant to come in and have a meeting, but ultimately the process is best served if the community gathers to determine what the problem is first,” Mr. Nyce added. “I understand people want things to happen quickly. These incidents don’t grow overnight. They grow slowly and, surely, they grow in the community. My feeling is that the community needs to address them the same way they grow.”

Although Thursday’s meeting isn’t open to the public, Mr. Nyce said he believes a public meeting may be scheduled.

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