Hundreds flocked to the first meeting of an organization recently formed by a group of Lindenhurst residents concerned about what they see as a growing substance abuse problem in their community.
Clean Up Lindenhurst's first meeting last week drew scores of residents, many of whom spoke of drug dealers and overdoses in their neighborhoods.
"We're here to work together, we're here to work side by side," organization leader Frank Panzarella told the crowd.
Panzarella said the group was focused on education and awareness and that he wanted residents to come together to "share ideas on how to better the community."
The only official at the meeting, Legis. Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst), told the crowd that "like you, I'm here to take back this community" while also noting that substance abuse is happening "all over Suffolk County."
Town and village officials said they didn't attend because they weren't clear on the new group's goals and were told not to come so people could speak freely. But they support the effort.
Clean Up Lindenhurst first popped up on social media several weeks ago and soon friction arose with Lindenhurst Community Cares, another community group dedicated to fighting substance abuse that was formed last year.
Panzarella said there is "no harm in having multiple groups" but would not likely work with LCC for some time because "we're a baby, we're still in the crawling phase."
In a statement, Community Cares board member Maddy Arrigali said the group's main goal is awareness and education and providing resources for alcohol and substance abuse. She stated that the two groups "have far greater similarities than we do differences and the main focus is a healthier, safer Lindenhurst."