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Hempstead Town cites homeless shelter for operating without permit

The homeless shelter for women and children is

The homeless shelter for women and children is housed in the former Saint Catherine of Sienna convent in Franklin Square. Credit: Michael Owens

Hempstead Town has issued summonses for alleged building and code violations at a homeless shelter in Franklin Square that is in a legal dispute with its landlord, Saint Catherine of Sienna Roman Catholic Parish. 

Documents show that the facility's nonprofit operator, Broken But Not Destroyed Corp., must appear Sept. 13 in First District Court in Hempstead on violations of maintaining a property without a building permit or certificate of occupancy, over-occupancy in bedroom areas, and illegal use in a residence district. The shelter houses women and children. The summonses were issued Monday.

Shelter officials contend they do not need town approval to operate — claiming the facility is instead governed by state law — and will seek to explain that in court, said Howard Avrutine, the Syosset attorney representing the shelter.

"The town is claiming that we're in violation of the zoning code," Avrutine said. "Our position is that those [town approvals] are not required."

The shelter must move toward resolving its issues with the town by Nov. 14 or have the issue addressed with further court intervention, according to online court records.

Franklin Square residents last year said they feared the facility could decrease property values after the operator applied to the town's zoning board of appeals to convert the former convent into a dormitory. Shelter officials withdrew the application right before a board hearing in September 2017, saying the facility did not need to get the town's consent.

Officials with Broken But Not Destroyed Corp. have submitted a required operational plan to the state's Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance and are seeking additional state certification, which is not mandatory, according to the office.

The church had previously sought to terminate the shelter's lease and issued a notice of default in May, claiming the shelter was operating in violation of the lease agreement because it lacked the town approvals. 

"The goal was never to kick them out because someone didn't like them," said Christian Browne, the church's Uniondale attorney. 

The shelter will continue to pay rent and operate as it addresses the summonses, Diocese of Rockville Centre spokesman Sean Dolan said in a statement. 


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