Parents and children from the Jericho school district spoke out Tuesday about the possible conversion of a hotel being made into a homeless shelter. Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

A large group of protesters opposing the establishment of a shelter for homeless families at a former hotel in Jericho faced off against a small group of supporters in front of Oyster Bay Town Hall Tuesday morning.

Carrying signs demanding public input and transparency, about 75 protesters chanted "No illegal shelter" and "Saladino," in support of Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino who directed the town to take legal action to stop the shelter from opening.

"There are thousands of residents, voting taxpaying residents who are disgusted with the secrecy this was approved with," said Jennifer Vartanov, 38, of Old Westbury, at a news conference in front of the protesters.

Vartanov said she lives in the Jericho school district and is part of a group called Concerned Jericho Parents that formed to oppose the shelter and has raised $86,145 on Gofundme.com since July 31 to fight it. "Where is the public input? Why were we ignored as residents?" Vartanov asked.

Earlier this month State Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond in Mineola issued a temporary injunction to halt construction and to prevent the former hotel from being used for transitional housing after the town sued owner 120 Westend LLC alleging zoning code and permitting violations.

Three judges recused themselves from the case.

The property was to be converted into housing for homeless families under an agreement between Nassau County and nonprofit Community Housing Innovations, Inc. which is based in White Plains and Patchogue. Some residents complained they weren't notified of the plan to convert the hotel, located in a business district on Jericho Turnpike, into a shelter.

Supporters said the project would help families get back on their feet.

"These families deserve a safe place to live and support to transition into permanent housing," said Sivan Komatsu, 21, a college student from Jericho. "How are they supposed to go to job interviews if they don't have someone to watch their kid?"

But Marc Albert, an attorney who said he resides in the Jericho school district, said during the news conference that the county and developer were "violating our safety concerns."

"We want to know that … our community is safe," Albert said. Albert said the town's code sections the owner is accused of violating "are there to protect our community and the safety of our community."

Opponents drowned out the supporters with loud chants as they spoke to the news media and at one point a brief scuffle broke out before town public safety moved in.

Alexander Roberts, executive director of Community Housing Innovations said in an email Tuesday, "The opening of our facility will result in the closing of three other 'welfare motels' that have existed in the town for years," Roberts said. "The only difference is that homeless families will be given services to help them achieve permanent housing."

Saladino said in a statement Tuesday his administration has "taken legal action that continues to protect the integrity of our zoning ordinances - and by doing so, we’re protecting not only the current and future residents of Jericho, but the entire town of Oyster Bay at large."

The Town Board unanimously on Tuesday ratified a retainer agreement and payment up to $35,000 to the Garden City law firm of Rosenberg, Calica & Birney LLP to litigate on behalf of the town.

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