Almost a decade after the controversial day laborer hiring site on Depot Road in Huntington Station closed, residents and a business operator are again raising quality-of-life concerns about men congregating on the sidewalk.
Chuck Klinkenberg, a district leader of CVS Health, asked the Huntington Town Board for help addressing the issue of men standing near the Depot Road drugstore, in an area known as the "five corners."
“Many customers are afraid to shop at the store, day laborers are urinating behind the store, using drugs,” Klinkenberg said at the Sept. 17 meeting. “We’re looking for the town to help us come up with some kind of ordinance, so they can’t stand on the sidewalk. They are blocking patrons from getting to the store, they’re blocking people from walking to church, they make them walk out on to the street, we have cars stopping there causing accidents to pick day laborers.”
Klinkenberg said at the meeting he has been working with the landlord to cut down trees and block off the parking lot at night so people can’t park and congregate.
Suffolk Police Second Precinct Insp. William Scrima said Klinkenberg first met with him in July about the laborers. Police have since stepped up patrols, issued warnings to some of the men and ultimately issued affidavits for trespassing. Those who were issued affidavits face arrest for trespassing if they return. Scrima said CVS and its parking lot are open to the public so police can not make a random person leave.
“We’ve been working with the town on this issue,” Scrima said. “I’ve had about two or three meetings with members from the town about this; we’re working together on this.”
Lauren Lembo, spokeswoman for Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, said he was unavailable to comment, but said in an email that he is aware of the concerns and has referred the matter to the town attorney, who has been in communication with the Second Precinct and is researching possible code changes.
“While this is a law enforcement issue, our Department of Public Safety is working with the Huntington Station BID [Business Improvment District] to place new cameras near that location to help law enforcement,” the email said.
On a recent Friday, a police car was parked in the parking lot as men stood in front of the store on both Pulaski Road and Depot Road. Within a 10-minute span, another police car drove by and a town public safety car also passed through the intersection.
“There are always men standing in front of the store,” Huntington Station resident Jim McGoldrick said. “Women and children feel unsafe going there, but it’s hard for the men, too. They are just trying to make a day's pay.”
McGoldrick believes the solution is for the town to use some of its property it acquired by eminent domain in 2006 at 1345 New York Ave. to create a space for the day laborers to congregate.
A day laborer hiring site closed in 2010 after being open for 12 years. It had been run by the Family Service League and was shut down over declining use, town officials said at the time. Some residents had complained about use of taxpayer money to fund the site. Others said closing the site would only displace the workers.
“We can’t lose CVS, they are the cornerstone of this community; they were the first to come here and invest in the community when things weren’t good,” he said. “That should be remembered and appreciated.”