In Coram, it's known simply as "the bus stop."
Suffolk County officials say the county's public transportation shelter at the corner of Routes 25 and 112 has been blighted for years by drug dealing, prostitution, panhandling, homelessness and vagrancy. Now a communitywide cleanup effort aims to wipe out those problems, create jobs and provide social services to those in need.
Dubbed "Taking Back 25," the effort includes elected officials, Suffolk County police, police and correction officers unions, nonprofits, private businesses and civic groups, chambers of commerce and fire departments from Coram and neighboring Gordon Heights and Middle Island.
“It’s not [just] that we are taking Route 25 back, but we are taking on the responsibility of making things better,” Gordon Heights Civic Association president E. James Freeman told Newsday. “So far it’s been going extremely well and we have the commitment from everyone to work together.”
A litter cleanup is planned for 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Home Depot parking lot near the intersection. The box store chain is lending volunteers, cleaning supplies and refreshments, a company spokeswoman said in an email.
Officials and community leaders said the area has been plagued by crime and by homeless people apparently attracted by a nearby wooded area.
County Legis. Dominick Thorne (R-Patchogue) and Legis. Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said Suffolk police have stepped up patrols in the area in recent years, adding that overt and covert security cameras help monitor the intersection.
“We had a bus stop that was loaded with drugs and prostitution,” Thorne said. “We certainly wanted the bad guys to go away. … We also wanted to make a safe place where people could do their shopping.”
Brookhaven Town installed high-intensity lights near the bus stop to deter crime, Thorne said.
“It’s like daylight at night,” he said.
But more than just addressing public safety, officials said the area needs economic development and programs to help people struggling with poverty and substance abuse.
Anker said the multipronged effort includes beautification projects and programs offered by the Suffolk Department of Social Services and nonprofits such as the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless.
“If we can’t convince the homeless folks to leave the area, then we’re going to bring the resources to them and then maybe they’ll be more willing to take the resources from DSS for shelter,” Anker said.
Bishop E. Edward Robinson, pastor of the Breakthrough Chapel, which occupies a previously condemned building across Route 25 from the bus stop, said Coram has suffered from neglect and lack of resources. But he believes the community is primed for a turnaround.
“I feel that the area, in the most positive sense, has great, great potential. The area is better than what it appears,” said Robinson, whose church offers food and showers and fed hot meals to 350 people last Tuesday.
“The [Route 25] corridor doesn’t really represent the greatness of our community,” Robinson said. “Taking Back 25 is bringing pride back to our community.”
Here are the people and groups taking part in Coram's "Taking Back 25" and the roles they play:
- Coram, Middle Island and Gordon Heights civic associations: Volunteers for community cleanup and beautification projects
- New York State Department of Labor: Job training and employment searches.
- Suffolk County Department of Social Services, Long Island Coalition for the Homeless: Offer services to homeless people
- Suffolk County Police: Stepped-up patrols
- Brookhaven Town: New lighting at county bus stop
- Home Depot: Staff volunteers, refreshments, cleaning supplies for April 2 litter cleanup
- Suffolk County PBA, Suffolk Correction Officers Association, Suffolk Deputy Sheriffs PBA: Volunteers and job training
- Coram, Middle Island and Gordon Heights fire departments: Volunteers for community projects
SOURCE: Office of Suffolk County Legis. Dominick Thorne