Members of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association expressed frustration this week with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s failure to remove the trailer in Riverside that houses many of the county’s homeless sex offenders before the first of the year, as he had promised.
Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who attended Monday night’s meeting, said he believes Mr. Bellone will follow through with his renewed promise to come up with a comprehensive plan in the next three weeks that will not only lead to the closure of the trailer that now sits in the shadow of the county jail, as well as a second facility in Westhampton, but would tackle the larger issue of homelessness in the county.
“Mr. Bellone came to our community association and promised us that these trailers were going to be gone,” Brad Bender, the president of FRNCA, said Tuesday morning. “We’ve been going after this year after year after year, and we’re not going to give up until fairness comes to this county.”
Mr. Schneiderman announced at the meeting that he had scheduled a “public speak out” for Wednesday, January 30, at 7 p.m. at the Maxine S. Postal Auditorium at the County Center in Riverside to allow residents to voice their concerns. He said he expects to have received Mr. Bellone’s plan before that date, and hopes that it will be brought before the County Legislature at its first meeting in February.
The county has developed a housing program for its homeless sex offenders that officials have said calls for the creation of six mini-shelters that would be scattered throughout Suffolk, each capable of housing up to six people. The county has not announced where those facilities would be sited, though officials have said they would be utilized in lieu of the two trailers. The Westhampton trailer is located near the Suffolk County Police shooting range off Old Country Road. Both trailers were rolled out by Suffolk in 2006 under the direction of former County Executive Steve Levy.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who also attended the FRNCA meeting, said she hopes Mr. Bellone’s plan will also address the homeless shelter at the Hidden Cove Motel in Hampton Bays, which has exasperated her and community members since it was established more than a year ago. That shelter, however, does not house homeless sex offenders.
Flanders Road Upgrades
State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. also attended Monday’s meeting to discuss traffic calming measures that could make Flanders Road, or State Route 24, safer for pedestrians and bikers, while also encouraging economic development in the region.
Mr. Thiele said the state last repaved the road, which was in poor condition, nine years ago. He said he hopes that community members will be the impetus for the improvements this time around, changes that should slow traffic and make the region a destination rather than a place people merely pass through.
He said the State Department of Transportation has undertaken a detailed study of the corridor in the last few months that includes accident analysis and a speed study that is necessary for the addition of traffic signals. Though the study isn’t complete, Mr. Thiele said he hopes to see a finalized version by the end of February.
He suggested that the FRNCA Board of Directors create a committee that would be charged with making suggestions and designing a plan for road improvements that could be submitted to the state. Once it receives those suggestions and designs a project, the final result must be added to the state’s transportation improvement plan and allocated for in the capital budget.
“All of this takes time,” he said. “We’re looking at a four- or five-year project. We’re at the beginning of this.”
Mr. Schneiderman added that he expects the consulting firm Camp, Dresser and McKee Inc., which is based in Massachusetts, to report its findings in March on the sewer feasibility study it was hired to undertake last May. He said the firm has calculated that any new sewage facility in the area would need to handle 150,000 gallons a day of flow from the portion of Flanders Road extending from the traffic circle in Riverside east about halfway to County Route 105.
“There is no way to build a sewage treatment plant until you’ve done a study like this,” he said about the highway study, adding that any economic development, such as the addition of restaurants and shops, would need a sewer system. “We have to have the horse before the cart,” he said.
Mr. Schneiderman said he also hopes to secure $1 million in the county budget to offset the design and implementation of such a sewage treatment plant.