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Mar 24, 2010 11:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Officials hope playground will force closure of homeless sex offender trailer in Riverside

Mar 24, 2010 11:30 AM

But some county officials said the law does not work that way.

Within the next few weeks, Riverhead Town officials said they intend to install a small playground at George Schmelzer Riverfront Park, a 2,400-square-foot facility off West Main Street in Riverhead. The park is located less than a quarter mile from the trailer that houses many of the county’s homeless sex offenders and sits next to the Suffolk County Jail. Both the trailer and jail are actually located in Southampton Town.

Suffolk County law dictates that sex offenders cannot live within a quarter mile of playgrounds, schools, day care centers or nurseries—all places where children congregate.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, an Independence Party member from Montauk, and Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, a Republican, say that the trailer would eventually have to be closed after the playground equipment is installed. They said those offenders currently calling the trailer home would be allowed to stay until they find permanent housing. But once they leave, they will not be allowed to return to the facility once the playground is installed.

Mr. Schneiderman, who originally tried to find a place for the playground in Southampton Town, said the new recreation facility, which could be open by early April, should prevent the trailer from serving as permanent housing for the homeless sex offenders.

But Suffolk County Attorney Christine Malafi said the creation of a park or playground will not force the closure of the trailer, which has been operating from the jail property since 2007.

Mr. Walter said that he and Mr. Schneiderman disagreed, adding that Ms. Malafi’s opinion is vested in ongoing litigation involving the county’s decision to place the trailer in Riverside.

Riverhead and Southampton towns sued Suffolk County over the placement of the Riverside trailer last year, alleging that it was too close to the Riverhead Free Library and George Schmelzer Riverfront Park.

Originally, county officials had promised to rotate the trailer, and a second trailer that is located off Old Country Road in Westhampton, every few months.

Hallie D. Martin

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