Janet Liotta, center, and Luis (white shirt) and Capo (green...

Janet Liotta, center, and Luis (white shirt) and Capo (green shirt) pack up kitchen items at Casa Comunal, a center in Farmingdale that helps day laborers learn English, that is being evicted. Their location is being turned into luxury apartments and their future is uncertain. (June 29, 2012) Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

A storefront community center in Farmingdale that has assisted Latino immigrants, including day laborers, for nearly a decade is getting evicted from its building to make way for mainly upscale apartments.

The Casa Comunal, or Community House, which has been at the center of a decade-long legal and political battle over redevelopment in Farmingdale's "Little Latin America," may shut down entirely.

Organizers including one of its founders, Janet Liotta, spent Friday packing photos, chairs, coffee pots and even a Christmas tree from the South Front Street location near the Long Island Rail Road station.

They plan to move everything out Saturday and put it in storage for three months and then re-evaluate. Liotta said the group has been unable so far to find an affordable place to relocate.

"I feel very sad about this," Liotta said. The center was a place where the immigrants "feel a sense of dignity and welcome they don't often find in the community at large."

The center, which offered everything from English classes to clothing, is closing to make way for a 115-unit housing development by locally based Bartone Properties that will also include several stores.

The project, Bartone Plaza, was approved by the village in the spring and is aimed at revitalizing what officials have called a blighted area. Demolition of the building is expected to start this summer. Farmingdale Mayor Ralph Ekstrand said he was surprised Casa Comunal had not found a new location.

The center played a role in unsuccessfully opposing the conversion of a building nearby, at 150 Secatogue Ave., into upscale apartments several years ago. That building had housed mostly Latino immigrants.

One Mexican immigrant, Martin Sanchez, 22, said Friday that his mother, Silvia, 42, learned English at the center, and it helped turn his family's life around.

"It would really be a shame if this place is gone," said Sanchez, now a student at Nassau Community College. "It is vital to the community."

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