Construction is underway on a North Amityville housing complex that would be the largest apartment development in Babylon Town.
More than 300 mobile homes in the Frontier Mobile Home Park are being replaced with 500 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail on Route 110 just south of the Southern State Parkway.
Developer R Squared Real Estate Partners of Plainview is doing the construction in five phases. The two buildings going up are part of first phase and will have 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as all of the retail space.
Gregg Rechler, managing partner of R Squared, said in a statement that he is "optimistic about the benefits the new construction will bring to Amityville and the surrounding community. In addition to providing much-needed rental homes, both the new rental and retail space will spur economic development up and down the southern 110 corridor."
Notice of the redevelopment first reached residents of the trailer park in early 2011, sparking outrage by some residents. Town and Suffolk County officials said the 50-year-old park, owned by Amityville attorney H. Lee Blumberg, had become dangerous. Court documents show that Blumberg told county officials he couldn't afford to install needed sewers or fix other health and safety violations.
Town officials said that the park's residents -- many of whom are on fixed incomes -- could not have afforded significant increases to their rent. Most residents bought their homes for as much as $50,000 and pay about $600 to rent the land for the homes.
Residents in the first two phases have either left or been evicted. Those in the remaining three phases continue to live in the park.
Initially, residents were offered several thousand dollars in relocation assistance. After the town stepped in, a relocation plan was created offering residents $20,000 in either a lump sum or a payment plan. Some residents still resisted and several lawsuits seeking to halt the redevelopment were filed by a park civic association. All have been dismissed.
Of 170 mobile homeowners in phases one and two, 113 were able to receive relocation money, according to Rechler. The company has paid out nearly $1.3 million, with about another $1.4 million committed for scheduled payments.
In the months after the relocation plan took effect, some residents reported problems with receiving the money. Paperwork submitted to prove they were eligible for the money was lost, they said, and in some cases, residents reported losing potential housing or even being temporarily homeless as a result.
Rechler acknowledged there were kinks in the system.
"A project like this has never been done before," he said in the statement. "We learned a lot in Phase 1 that resulted in Phase 2 running quite smoothly."
Rechler said his company anticipates "even more participation in the next three phases."
Christine Miller, 78, was one of 33 people in the park who used the relocation money to purchase a new mobile home. After nearly 30 years of living in Frontier, Miller said her double-wide mobile home in Riverhead seems luxurious.
"We were like sardines and there was always the danger of fire breaking out," she said. "Here, I've got so much property. It's like living free -- I'm not in jail anymore!"
The 70 residents in phase three will receive relocation notices this fall and will have to vacate by Jan. 31.
Building 1 -- one-story retail pavilion; 3,990 square feet
Building 2 -- three stories; retail 36,016 square feet; residential 74,084 square feet
* 22 one-bedroom units
* 28 two-bedroom units
Building 3 -- four-story residential; 110,950 square feet
Building 4 -- three-story residential; 80,945 square feet
* 65 one-bedroom units
* 90 two-beroom units