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Sep 1, 2017 4:16 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East End Organization Proposes Code Enforcement Crisis Task Force To Aid Affected Tenants

COURTESY MINERVA PEREZ
Sep 3, 2017 12:14 PM

Overcrowded, illegal rentals with fire, safety and building code violations are just a few of the code enforcement concerns on the minds of Southampton residents who have spoken out in the wake of recent media attention to quality-of-life issues.

Now, a special code enforcement crisis intervention task force has been proposed for Southampton Town by community leader Minerva Perez, the executive director of Organización Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island, who made the suggestion in a recent email sent to the Southampton Town Board and other community leaders.

“Clearly, n​o person​ I’ve engaged wants people to live or remain living in dangerous or unsanitary situations,” she said. “What is a concern is the manner of approach and the subsequent crisis management needs​ that will result from certain actions.”

Earlier this summer, illegal motels in Hampton Bays garnered national attention, although it has long been a hub of illegally crowded motels being repurposed for residential use, and rental units that are not up to code. Southampton’s five code enforcement officers are spread thin throughout the town, frustrating many in Hampton Bays who see the issue as a local crisis.

This week, Ms. Perez explained her proposal for a crisis intervention task force, which she said could work directly with the town’s code enforcement department to assist in the process of addressing code violations through a dozen possible solutions.

One idea, she said, is that the town could run education campaigns for landlords and tenants in both Spanish and English to heighten awareness of codes and requirements.

She said the task force could help code enforcement approach non-life threatening violations in stages with support from community organizations to ensure the best outcome, and work to ensure officials fully understand physical and mental health concerns of tenants living in unsafe conditions.

In addition, Ms. Perez said she wants to work with schools and the town’s housing department to make sure school transportation and temporary housing could be available, if necessary.

But more than anything, in order to majorly help alleviate some of the town’s code enforcement issues, fines for landlords found guilty of allowing unsafe conditions needs to be taken a step further, she said.

“Let the landlord pay for housing the family for the short term until adequate housing is established,” Ms. Perez suggested, noting that low fines are often seen as the cost of doing business. “...This will help to correct slumlord recidivism.”

Ms. Perez said she wants the task force to include mental health professionals who can recognize underlying causes of why some people live in poor conditions—everything from mental health issues to those escaping domestic violence who simply do not have anywhere else to go.

“What we need to recognize, these are people living within our community,” she said. “It’s not a simple thing to go to a house and say, ‘It’s not what it’s supposed to be—you’re evicted.’ This gives extra attention on [the people].”

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman noted that before he would provide an opinion on establishing such a task force, he wanted to give the newly hired administrator of the town’s new Public Safety Division, Steven Troyd, a chance to start his position on September 18 and “come up to speed” on code enforcement issues.

When reached this week, Mr. Troyd, a 28-year law enforcement veteran with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said he would not rule out such a community collaboration to assist the town’s code enforcement officers when dealing with these situations.

“I would certainly be open to the idea,” Mr. Troyd said. “I don’t know if a task force is required, but certainly the assistance of social services or thinking out of the box. I will reach out to Ms. Perez and talk to other community members.”

For Ms. Perez, long-term actions to better assist tenants living in poor living conditions are needed, a concept that she said would ensure the area’s economic divide does not worsen. If residents are simply evicted right away after violations, she explained, the residents will not simply leave the area, and the larger problem will not go away.

“They’re going to remain here—but they’re going to have more of a crisis,” she said of evicted tenants. “What comes from crisis? Depression, suicide and drugs. When you create that kind of divide and separation where there’s no care for these people, what happens? I know what happens in other places—gangs come in.”

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This "crisis" is being going on for a decade - good thing OLA is not in charge of Hurricane recovery in Houston - people will be in shelters for a decade . - how disingenuous - all talk no action - maybe Ms. Perez should run for Town Board - she would fit in great. Who funds OLA? Why aren't they supplying funding for housing? I guess starting protests and rallies are more important that actually helping people.
By HB Proud (629), Hampton Bays on Sep 3, 17 9:14 PM
HB:. There is no housing crisis. Riverhead has plenty of houses for sale for less than $300,000 and Moriches and Mastic are even less expensive. In Southampton Township, any landlord would be foolish to rent a house to more than the legal limit of unrelated, undocumented tenants. First, there are the motels converted to multifamily housing. Are these legal or aren't they? If they are not legal close them down. It doesn't take 30 years with the FBI to figure that out. Second, there are houses ...more
By dfree (301), hampton bays on Sep 3, 17 10:02 PM
1 member liked this comment
Nothing personal but you're going to lose your audience at "there is no housing crisis"...notwithstanding the racist innuendo that is so wildly popular around here.
By SlimeAlive (549), Southampton on Sep 4, 17 4:35 AM
First - typo "has been" going on. These people are hypocrites, just like Sr. Mary Beth Moore at Centro Corazon de Maria. There is no racist innuendo here, they have represented that they advocate for the latino community including illegal immigrants. They don't seem to care about the woman with the dog we all see around HB or any of the move than 5000 homeowners.. OLA is headquartered in Sagaponack, as per public records, Ms. Perez has been reported to live in Sag Harbor as well as Sr. Mary Beth. ...more
By HB Proud (629), Hampton Bays on Sep 4, 17 7:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Those poor Latino children that are forced to live in that overcrowded & dilapidated fluorescent green/yellow house on North Sea Road really need some governmental intervention.
By pw herman (614), southampton on Sep 4, 17 8:28 AM
I believe we can make this situation better by renovating all the existing old hotels like Belair and all those on North Road. There must be 10 of them.
Let's place all the residents in the Hampton Maid and Baywatch and the others over the winter.
Then we can install new rooms and sewers and driveways. We should also provide shuttles at each one so they can travel legally cause they are forced to drive their illegal cars without licenses.
Then after they have a clean nice place to ...more
By Rayman (45), southampton on Sep 4, 17 2:29 PM
They should move to Supervisor Schneiderman's motel in Montuak p - the compute to the estates in East Hampton will be much shorter. They can move to the waterfront estate that Sr. Mary Beth shares with the sisters in Sag Harbor so they can be closer to her and Ms. Perez. Everyone wins.
By HB Proud (629), Hampton Bays on Sep 5, 17 8:51 PM
They are being turned into unsanitary and unsafe dwellings by the tenants.
By clamdigger (64), Quogue on Sep 6, 17 12:15 PM
They were never meant to be used as year-round residences. By definition, they are unsafe and unsanitary if used for full time residences. They are probably pre-existing substandard construction and cesspool systems. The landlord are exploiting the tenants and the Town Officials look the other way. The alleged activists want to have their picture in the paper, form committees. move their political agenda forward and basically do nothing to help. They should all be ashamed of themselves.
By HB Proud (629), Hampton Bays on Sep 6, 17 2:20 PM
I suspect that this post will be deleted, but did anyone notice that the picture was supplied by Ms. Perez? She should be hiding her face in shame.
By HB Proud (629), Hampton Bays on Sep 6, 17 4:13 PM
Remnants, rolls, area rugs