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Mar 21, 2012 1:03 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Schneiderman Again Pushes For Closure Of Westhampton Trailer

Mar 21, 2012 1:32 PM

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman this week renewed his push to move a trailer housing some of the county’s homeless sex offenders out of Westhampton, as officials continue to work to bring a new sex offender housing program online.

Mr. Schneiderman said that the consultants who will manage Suffolk County’s new program for housing convicted sex offenders at six specially built residences scattered throughout the county have already identified four of the sites; they are not being made public for fear that public outcry would stall the program before it even gets going. The company, Community Housing Innovations, is ready to set up the shelters almost immediately, but that process is being stalled by ongoing negotiations with county attorneys over an indemnification agreement that would protect the company against lawsuits from residents over the placement of the facilities.

Mr. Schneiderman said the county has apparently begun secretly housing some of the homeless offenders in a hotel in western Suffolk; that move, he noted, marks the first time that they have been placed in county-supplied housing that falls outside of Southampton Town and not in county-supervised trailers.

Although the new housing program is not operational yet, Mr. Schneiderman introduced a bill this week that again calls for the Westhampton trailer, located next to the Suffolk County Police shooting range on Old Country Road, to be abandoned. His request does not ask the county to close its second and much larger trailer located at the Suffolk County Jail property in Riverside. That facility can house up to 20 offenders; the trailer in Westhampton, which is typically used when the Riverside facility is full, can house up to eight people at once.

Despite not knowing where the county will house the homeless offenders when the Riverside trailer is filled to capacity, Mr. Schneiderman said he introduced the bill because he feels there is some support from other members of the County Legislature for abandoning the Westhampton facility because it is next door to a residential development.

“I don’t really know the answer to where these men would go—that’s something we’d have to figure out. Maybe set up another trailer somewhere,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “Maybe they could put another one in Riverside. But at least Riverside isn’t near to any houses. I’d prefer to get rid of them both.”

Mr. Schneiderman and Southampton Town officials have been battling the county over the placement of the trailers—the only such facilities in the county—ever since they were set up clandestinely on the two properties. The Riverside trailer is within the fences of the jail property but the Westhampton trailer sits on county land directly adjacent to a senior housing complex. Mr. Schneiderman has scoffed at claims made by some of his colleagues that residents of that development shouldn’t be threatened by the presence of sexual offenders.

The county and several Long Island towns—including Southampton Town—are being sued by registered sex offenders over a variety of stringent laws enacted in the last decade that bar them from living near a variety of public facilities, such as schools and playgrounds, that some say were contrived to effectively bar sex offenders from living in almost any community. Many observers have said the lawsuits could effectively undue all the local exclusion zones, leaving only much less restrictive state guidelines. If that were to happen, the number of sex offenders the county would be forced to find housing for would drop from more than 30 to fewer than a dozen by some estimates, Mr. Schneiderman said.

Mr. Schneiderman has not found broad support for his appeals to close or relocate the trailers in the past, mostly because other legislators were loath to risk having them moved into their own districts. He said that the six mini-shelters will be scattered throughout the county, each in a different township. Though none of the four sites identified so far is on the East End, Mr. Schneiderman said he expects at least one to be placed on the South Fork, despite the heavy burden Southampton Town has been carrying for years.

Still, he acknowledged that the situation will be better than the current arrangement.

“We’ll do our fair share, even though it’s been grossly unfair to the East End to have to shoulder this burden for the entire county up until now, particularly for Westhampton and Riverside,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “But I’ll take six over 30 anytime.”

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Death penalty anyone? Why with all the deserving hardworking people who need help do we spend money on these idiots?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Mar 26, 12 10:19 PM
Why is it that comments are not on for the child murderer story?
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Mar 26, 12 11:15 PM