Reassigning of animal shelter employee concerns Hempstead residents

The Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter in Wantagh, where Emily Tanen Derenze worked as the community research assistant for about 10 years before being relocated to the to the Department of Conservation and Waterways.

By Archangelo Iurato

A small crowd of people showed up to the Town of Hempstead Board meeting Feb. 28 to voice their dissatisfaction over the relocation of Emily Tanen Derenze from the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter to the Department of Conservation and Waterways.

The topic became the focal point of the meeting as the majority of those who had a chance to speak did so on behalf of Derenze. The relocation of Derenze occurred about a month after the resignation of another employee at the Hempstead Animal Shelter, which received a similar consensus.

Thirteen people stepped up to the lectern to oppose the reassignment of Derenze from her position as community research assistant. Derenze worked at the shelter for about 10 years.

“She has placed over 10,300 dogs and cats since 2013. That’s 1,030 a year,” said Melissa Jaffe, of Merrick. “We want to know why you’re doing that.”

The town gave a response but did not talk about the situation directly. “As policy, the Town of Hempstead does not comment on personnel matters,” said Greg Blower II, director of communications. “However, the township will continue to act in the best interests of the animals, employees and volunteers at the Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter.”

Derenze also managed the shelter’s social media accounts. Some of those who spoke on her behalf worked with Derenze while working for animal rescue.

“Emily has required and managed hundreds of relationships with rescue organizations,” said Danielle Guzardo, of North Hempstead. “These are the same organizations that have assisted this town in pulling dogs who would otherwise continue to sit in a kennel, using up taxpayer dollars. She’s a one-woman social media machine who promotes the dogs, working beyond the clock, getting them noticed and out of the shelter.”

Others talked about Derenze’s handling of social media and her impact. “She single-handedly built the shelter’s social media from scratch,” said Francesca Serra, of Huntington. “A strong social media presence is essential to attract adopters and rescue organizations. Because of Ms. Tanen, the shelter has over 45,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook combined. Posting nights, weekends and holidays, this mom of three’s work doesn’t end after she clocks out. The pro that she is, she shows it’s crucial to post constantly to keep followers engaged.”

Derenze was not the first employee to leave the Hempstead Animal Shelter this year. In January, Christie Fanti Marrano resigned from her position as a part-time trainer. She held that position for six years. Fanti’s resignation raised concern among certain local residents, which was reported on by News 12 Long Island. Fanti attended the February meeting and spoke on Derenze’s behalf. “It will be really hard for us to find somebody who is as fiercely dedicated as she is for the animals,” said Fanti. “There is not a sudden need at the Conservation and Waterways Department. Nobody has left and certainly not in the dead of winter. One can assume there’s less work there than usual.”

A petition was separately circulated for both Fanti and Derenze, urging people to take action and contact Hempstead Supervisor Donald X. Clavin Jr. As of March 31, 5,117 people had signed Fanti’s petition, while 5,092 had signed Derenze’s. Clavin did not respond to a request for comment. Derenze was unavailable for comment.

“I’m begging you to reconsider this decision and return Emily to where she belongs,” said Serra. “Your vote will speak volumes, and your voters are listening.”