Owner: Cited house linked to county agency

Tom Busiello, right, speaks with a Town of Tom Busiello, right, speaks with a Town of Brookhaven building inspector regarding his Manorville property, which is currently being used as a homeless shelter. (Oct. 17, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

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A Manorville rooming house cited for housing violations is managed by an agency affiliated with the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, according to the property owner and a tenant.

The resident -- a Riverhead woman named Michelle, who declined to give her last name -- said the DSS referred her to the home after she lost her apartment last month and the agency pays her rent.

Citing confidentiality laws, DSS spokesman Roland Hampson could not confirm the presence of DSS recipients at the large, ranch-style house on the north service road of Sunrise Highway.

"There is no affiliation between the owners of the home and DSS, although there may be DSS recipients living at the home, by their choice, and DSS pays the rent or room and board, as required by the State," Hampson wrote in an email.

The homeowner, Thomas Busiello of Smithtown, was cited last week for allegedly operating an illegal rooming house, Brookhaven Town officials said.

Busiello said the house is managed by Helping Hands II, a nonprofit agency that has been working with DSS clients there since 2009. He described it as a legitimately operated sanctuary for women who need shelter, and a refuge for a few men. Only portions of the house lacked permits, he said.

Busiello was issued 15 appearance tickets for alleged offenses, including altering a structure to an illegal multifamily home.

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Busiello disputed some of the violations, saying he's had proper smoke and carbon monoxide detectors since 2008. Other violations, including lacking occupancy permits for a converted garage and an unfinished basement, were being addressed before the building inspection, he said.

"They just want him to get it up to code," said Traci Rivera, a permit expediter working for Busiello.

But the town continued Monday to characterize the home as a "threat" to residents' safety.

The Quality of Life Task Force issued the appearance tickets, and the Building Department issued a cease-and-desist order for the two basement apartments, said Brookhaven Town spokesman Jack Krieger.

"The home was a threat to the safety of the residents . . . and a detriment to the quality of life of the surrounding community," Krieger said.

Councilman Daniel Panico said complaints about shopping carts and transient traffic at the home triggered the investigation.

"When you have up to 34 people living in a ranch, even if the homeowner had the best of intentions, if a fire were to break out in the middle of the night, you could have a massive tragedy," Panico said. "That's why we have housing codes."

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