Former Grumman site won't be used to house immigrant children, officials say

Immigrant Children

Children detainees sleep in a holding cell at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing facility in Brownsville, Texas on June 18, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Eric Gay

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The federal government is no longer considering opening a temporary shelter in a former Grumman Corp. facility in Bethpage for unaccompanied immigrant children, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Friday.

"There is not a viable option at this time in Bethpage, N.Y.," Kenneth J. Wolfe, spokesman for the Administration for Children and Families, a division of the HHS, said in an email.

Wolfe did not elaborate on the reasons behind the decision.

Steel Equities, which owns the Bethpage property, said Friday the company never intended to allow children to be housed in the commercial building at 15 Grumman Rd. West.

The Bethpage-based company was approached by a broker inquiring about leasing space in Peregrine Business Park, but the idea was rejected Tuesday when executives learned it involved housing children, according to corporate attorney Daniel Deegan.

"This use was never contemplated. It was never even considered as a possibility," Deegan said. "Such a plan would be incompatible with the building itself, as well as the surrounding community."

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The 232,091-square-foot building is a former aircraft factory, now undergoing renovations with the help of tax breaks from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency.

Deegan said covenants on the building dating to its sale by Grumman restrict it from being used as residences or for children without further government approval. Those restrictions were put in due to industrial contamination of the soil, according to a 2005 deed.

The degree of current contamination at the property, which has undergone remediation, was unclear Friday.

Several elected officials who learned the federal government was considering the site criticized the plan earlier this week.

On Friday, Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) said he told HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell the site was inappropriate because of its proximity to a Superfund site and a plume of contamination, plus the restrictions on the building.

"There is a humanitarian crisis with these children . . . and this was not a humanitarian solution for these children," Israel said.

Deegan said the pollution fears are overblown, saying the Grumman Road building is not part of a Superfund site.

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto said he was relieved the building would not be used to house undocumented immigrant children.

"It was the right decision," he said. "But now the federal government must address the underlying problem of controlling illegal immigration."

The Bethpage site was included this week on a list of five facilities in New York the federal government is considering to house some of the tens of thousands of undocumented and unaccompanied children who crossed the border with Mexico.

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Three sites have now been ruled out, including a hotel resort in Grand Island and a warehouse in Rochester. Still being assessed is a former Walmart in Brockport and a former convent in Clifton Park.

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