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Nov 1, 2011 3:52 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Appeals Court Lifts Injunction Against Sex Offender Housing In Westhampton

Nov 2, 2011 2:54 PM

A state appeals court has lifted an injunction that prevented Suffolk County from opening a new, larger trailer to house the county’s homeless sex offenders in Westhampton.

But county officials said this week that there are no plans to open the new facility, which still sits empty next to a smaller, still-functioning trailer near the Suffolk County Police shooting range off Old Country Road, despite a ruling by another judge that conditions must be improved for the registered offenders who stay in the trailers, another of which is located near the county jail in Riverside.

On Friday, a panel of state Appellate Court judges in Brooklyn issued a ruling vacating a temporary restraining order granted to Southampton Town by a State Supreme Court judge last year. The earlier ruling blocked the use of the new trailer, which the county had purchased in response to a lawsuit filed by three registered offenders who had been living in the county trailers. The county had been ordered to provide shower facilities sufficient to service the 20 homeless registered sex offenders already housed in the smaller Westhampton trailer. The new trailer has shower facilities, something the older one lacks, and could house up to 18 additional people. The older trailers can house up to 20 offenders each at one time, though it is not known how many people are staying in the trailers regularly.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, whose district covers both Southampton and East Hampton towns, said on Monday that he has been told by Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner Gregory Blass that the county does not plan to hook up the larger trailer’s facilities.

“As soon as we heard about this ruling, I went right out to the site. I figured they would be racing to get that thing connected,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “That’s apparently not going to happen. I wrote a letter to [Mr. Blass] and said that now that we have a new program, I would view any attempt to hook up this trailer as furthering the old program. He agreed.”

Since the legal wrangling over the use of the Westhampton trailer began in May 2010, the Suffolk County Legislature has adopted a new policy for the housing of the county’s homeless sex offenders—one that is expected to result in the abandonment of the trailers in Westhampton and Riverside. The new policy requires that the county maintain small housing facilities, outside of residential areas, scattered throughout the county, with no more than one in each of the 18 legislative districts. Also, the new facilities—the locations of which have not yet been determined—can house no more than six individuals each.

To date, the two trailers in Southampton Town have been the only facilities the county maintains for the housing of its homeless sex offenders; the issue has been a flashpoint for a contentious relationship between Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, town officials and Mr. Schneiderman.

In an email this week, Mr. Blass said it has been the preference of the Department of Social Services to institute a voucher program by which the homeless offenders could stay in hotels and motels so the trailers could be closed while the new housing program is developed, but that the legislature has been reluctant to make the change. Nassau County uses a hotel voucher program for its homeless sex offenders.

“Rather than placing another trailer in Southampton, it is our preference to institute a voucher system that would allow us to close the trailers that we presently have but, unfortunately, this proposal was blocked by the legislature,” he wrote in the email. “Although the injunction was found to be invalid by the Appellate Division, the county does not anticipate the expansion or other change to its existing use of the emergency shelter for sex offenders at the Westhampton site until the multi-site plan is implemented.”

He did not say how the county planned to reconcile the continued use of the showerless trailers with the court order to improve living conditions. Mr. Schneiderman said he was also unclear on how the county planned to address the apparent conflict.

Despite such assurances from the county, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the town is continuing to examine what other avenues it might take to stop the county from opening the new trailer should there be a sudden change of plans, including seeking another temporary restraining order on different legal grounds.

“We’re not waiting around to find out,” she said. “We want to make sure we don’t put ourselves at risk here, so we’re exploring what other options we have.”

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yeah but do they get beach rights
By ranger (54), springs on Nov 1, 11 7:12 PM
This is pathetic a floating barge sounds good to me
By shock (70), whb on Nov 1, 11 8:39 PM
how convenient that the sex offenders live near the shooting range. wonder what would happen if some bullets accidentally missed the targets and hit the useless pieces of crap sex offenders.
By LovedHerTown (132), southampton on Nov 2, 11 1:16 PM
Oh my dear, hold on to that thought a moment. Do you have grandchildren? Little ones or teens? Did you know that there are many, many thousands of young people and children, some as young as 9, on various sex offender registries across the nation? They are there for childish play and curiosity, for teenage romance, and for college boy pranks or indiscretions. Children and young people today are at many, many times greater risk for becoming registered offenders than they are for being harmed by one. ...more
By Shelomith Stow (6), Houston on Nov 3, 11 8:46 AM
Sorry; I should have said children or grandchildren.
By Shelomith Stow (6), Houston on Nov 3, 11 8:48 AM