Disagreement over how part of Belmont Park ought to be developed reportedly erupted into violence at a March 11 meeting, sparking calls on March 16 for new leadership of one of Elmont’s civic associations.
About 20 Elmont residents gathered last Saturday to protest a proposal by the New York Cosmos soccer franchise to build a new stadium at Belmont. The residents, forming what they called the Take Elmont Back movement, said they prefer the area to be developed with more affordable housing and small business opportunities.
The protesters said they were also angry about an incident that allegedly took place at the March 11 meeting of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development at the Elmont Library. One of the protesters, Carl Achille, 29, said that Joseph Smith, ECSD chairwoman Sandra Smith’s husband, attacked him at the meeting because Achille insisted on having a discussion about developing the property for housing instead of a stadium. Achille, an Elmont barbershop owner, said that Joseph Smith lunged at him, choked him, pushed him onto a table and used anti-gay and racial epithets against him. Both Smith and Achille are black.
Library Trustee Patrick Nicolosi told the Herald that he pulled Smith away from Achille. “It was crazy,” Nicolosi said. “People have a right to express their opinion, but no one has the right to put their hands on someone else. That’s what Mr. Smith did, and it was terrible. Achille was talking about housing and [the ECSD doesn’t] like that idea.”
Sandra Smith insisted that Achille exaggerated what happened. She said that the incident seemed like a set-up to create a ruckus and a way to oppose elected officials whom residents don’t support. According to Smith, Achille wanted to discuss housing, but the developers had told him that since housing was not a part of their proposal, it was not on the meeting’s agenda.