Bethpage residents concerned about immigrant children at former Grumman site

The federal government said it is assessing whether The federal government said it is assessing whether a former Grumman Corp. facility in Bethpage could be used to house some of the tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who are streaming illegally into the United States across its border with Mexico. Photo Credit: Jeremy Bales

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Bethpage residents, citing security and environmental issues and a lack of local input, said Thursday the federal government's consideration of a former Grumman Corp. complex to house unaccompanied immigrant children is poorly conceived.

The plant, at 15 Grumman Rd. West, is a sprawling, one-story, blue-and-white facility at the end of the Peregrine Business Park. It is owned by Bethpage-based Steel Equities and is across the street from two senior living communities, Apollo of Bethpage and Sunnylane.

Last year, county officials announced that the beverage company Agua Enerviva planned to move into the building, which has been slated for a major renovation.

The 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 children who crossed the border with Mexico and are overflowing about 100 housing facilities nationwide.

"I don't like it," said Ed Berlowitz, 84, board president of Apollo of Bethpage. "It's very imprudent of the federal government and local townspeople to consider this without open forum where residents can submit opposition."

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), whose district includes the business park, and County Executive Edward Mangano, oppose the location's use. They said the building has environmental issues, which Mangano said include heavy metals that have permeated the soil.

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"There is a deed restriction on that property that states it's not appropriate for children," Mangano said. "The federal government has created this crisis and needs to handle it in a more thoughtful way than gathering them in warehouses," he said. "It's ridiculous."

At the nearby Long Island Rail Road station, Kim Morasse, 21, of Bethpage, said she would not have minded the children being housed there if it wasn't for the questionable safety. "Whether they're from our country or not," children should not live near environmental problem areas, she said.

Residents' concerns also include security -- whether children would be able to run away or commit crimes in their neighborhoods -- and the burden that sudden residency would have on utilities such as sewage. Some residents also were concerned about possible stress on government budgets.

"Do they have to be educated while they're here?" asked Tony Romano, 80, who lives in the Sunnylane complex. "Are they going to need medical attention? Are we going to pay for it?"

Romano said residents haven't been given enough information to "vote yes or no correctly" on bringing the children to Bethpage.

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Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto described the prospect of housing children in Bethpage as "just a Band-Aid on the immigration problem overall."

With Ted Phillips

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