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Family face hearing under Babylon Town's 'crack house' law

A Babylon Town law passed in 1994 aimed

A Babylon Town law passed in 1994 aimed to deal with public nuisance problems. Credit: Barry Sloan

A family of four may be evicted from its Deer Park home under an obscure 1990s-era “crack house” law that permits Babylon Town to board up a house after two public nuisance arrests within 12 months.

Homeowner Louis Rosenberg must appear at the Babylon Town Board meeting Dec. 4 , along with his son Tyler, to hear whether the town will enforce its law after the younger Rosenberg, 24, was charged with marijuana possession in January and October at their Pacific Avenue house.

The town code states if a person is arrested for controlled substance offenses, prostitution, firearm offenses, gang assault, sex offenses or reckless endangerment twice in one year at the same location, they are cited for creating a public nuisance and the building can be boarded up “until such time as the Town Board deems the location safe and no longer a public nuisance.” It applies to all types of buildings.

Town spokesman Kevin Bonner said the 1994 law was created to address houses where crack was made, used or sold, and since then, “the use of that kind of fell to the wayside.” 

The code was established, it states, "to effectively deal with the problem of crack houses in the Town of Babylon by preventing buildings, residences, premises and real estate within the Town of Babylon from being used in such a way as to constitute a public nuisance."

Bonner said officials had used the nuisance code this year to shut down vape shops that sold to minors.

Joe Wilson, the town attorney since 2012, said during his tenure he could only recall one instance when an individual was cited for two arrests in one year, but he couldn't recall whether the town ordered the building to be boarded up.

Louis Rosenberg first appeared before the town board Nov. 7, after he had received nuisance summonses as a result of his son’s arrests. 

But Supervisor Richard Schaffer, visibly irked, wouldn’t allow Rosenberg to speak unless spoken to, directing questions to Rosenberg’s lawyer, John Reno, of Deer Park.

“Tyler’s been terrorizing the greater Deer Park community for the better part of eight or nine years now,” Schaffer said, alleging he had sold drugs at a nearby public pool. Rosenberg has never been charged with selling drugs.

Tyler Rosenberg’s attorney, Natasja Bellinger of West Islip, did not return requests for comment.

Rosenberg uses medical marijuana for seizures he has suffered lifelong, his parents told Newsday, but they don’t deny he has been caught with illegal or “street” marijuana.

“Illegally is less expensive,” Louis Rosenberg said, adding his son's arrests were for possession, not dealing.

Schaffer claimed Louis Rosenberg allowed illegal activity to go on under his nose.

“Unless I see something that you understand the seriousness of this and unless I see quick action on this, we’re going to go forward in a couple of weeks … and then the board’s going to take action,” Schaffer said earlier in November.

Reno called the town’s law unusual.

“I thought that these people shouldn’t be persecuted under the law by an arrest, seeing as everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” he said. Charges from the October arrest are still pending, while Tyler Rosenberg is on probation following the January arrest.

If the town seizes the house, Louis Rosenberg “would need to present a plan to the town on how the property’s going to be made safe,” Bonner said. “The ultimate goal here is to rectify the public safety situation at this property without having to resort to boarding up the house and creating a blight.”

Eight other Long Island towns have similar laws on the books, from the same two-strikes-in-one-year rule in Hempstead and Oyster Bay to the law in Huntington of two arrests or convictions in three years.

Neither North Hempstead nor the Island’s four easternmost towns — East Hampton, Southampton, Southold and Shelter Island — have any such code on the books.

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