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Mineola vote on aggressive panhandling ban postponed

Village officials want to wait 30 days before voting to get more public input after concerns raised over panhandling at the LIRR station.

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, seen in April 2015,

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, seen in April 2015, has said the village is being proactive on panhandling. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

Mineola trustees postponed their vote on a law that would ban aggressive panhandling in the village, saying they will wait 30 days to allow more people to submit comments about the issue.

Two people who support the proposed ban addressed the board during a meeting Wednesday night when trustees were to vote on the proposed law, but another attendee called a ban unfair. Maria DeGennaro, staff attorney at the Central Islip-based Empire Justice Center, asked trustees to reject the proposed legislation.

“We believe this legislation is punishing people for their poverty,” said DeGennaro, whose organization works for the rights of disadvantaged people. “It also criminalizes the poor. There could be disparate impact among people of color and the low- to moderate-income population.”

If the law is adopted, Mineola would become the second village on Long Island to ban aggressive panhandling. Patchogue passed a ban in October.

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss has said his village is considering a law because begging occurs near the Mineola Long Island Rail Road station.

“We’re not looking to criminalize the poor, or anyone,” Strauss said. “We’re looking to address certain acts, not a status of a person — doesn’t matter if they’re homeless or a billionaire who lost a ticket and can’t get on the train.”

Mineola’s proposed law states that “no person shall aggressively panhandle within the Village of Mineola” and defines aggressive panhandling in part, as “intentionally or recklessly making any physical contact with or touching another person in the course of the solicitation.”

Violators would be fined $1,000 for the first offense, jailed for 15 days, or both. A second offense would face a $3,000 fine and three or more offenses within a 5-year period would face a $5,000 fine, both with the possibility of 15 days in jail.

Mineola resident Marc Randazzo said he sees homeless men when he boards a train at 8 a.m. and “they’re there to beg . . . and collect money.”

“These guys are there every day,” Randazzo told trustees about the aggressive panhandlers he regularly sees at the LIRR station.

Former Mineola Mayor Jack Martins, who now lives in Old Westbury, said at the meeting panhandling needs to be addressed.

“We have seen time and again at Mineola’s train station that people have asked for help aggressively — where people feel intimidated,” Martins said.

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