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Oyster Bay to appeal ruling on day laborers

The Town of Oyster Bay is appealing a federal judge's ruling that found a law restricting day laborers unconstitutional.

The 2009 ordinance bars day laborers from using town streets and sidewalks to look for construction, landscaping and other work. U.S. District Court Judge Denis Hurley on Sept. 3 said the ban violates workers' right to free speech.

Town Supervisor John Venditto said in a statement Thursday that "while the court correctly identified that the conduct of day laborers and potential employers represented a genuine threat to public safety that needed to be addressed, the Town believes that our ordinance narrowly and properly addresses these concerns, and respectfully disagrees with the court's view that the ordinance was drafted too broadly."

Town officials alleged that workers endanger themselves and others when they talk with motorists who stop to offer them work -- and that they obstruct sidewalks.

Hurley said state and local laws already deal with traffic safety and said the law is "extremely far-reaching."

The town filed its notice of appeal to the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday.

Corey Stoughton, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, which helped represent the workers, said she's "very confident" of winning the appeal and disputed that Hurley deemed laborers' conduct a threat to public safety.

"Even if the day laborers were presenting the kind of problems that the town suggested that they were -- which we completely deny and continue to deny -- they still had other ways of going about this problem, which is to enforce laws that are specifically targeted at public safety and pedestrian safety rather than tossing everybody out of the community," she said.

Stoughton said courts nationwide have upheld workers' right to look for work on public thoroughfares.

The 2009 town law was passed amid concern over day laborers in Locust Valley. Brian Plumb, a Locust Valley resident who lobbied for the law, praised officials' decision to appeal.

"They're still looking out for the people who own houses and do the right thing and pay taxes," said Plumb, who worries that the laborers' presence hurts property values in the neighborhood.

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