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Move to close trailer parks riles some

Open since the 1960s, Frontier Mobile Home Park

Open since the 1960s, Frontier Mobile Home Park intends to close and build apartment buildings on its site in Amityville. Neighbors Jude Baunach, left, and Miles Minto, right, discuss the issue and what they can do. (Feb. 8, 2011) Credit: John Dunn

The owners of a 50-year-old mobile home park in Amityville have announced they are shuttering the park to build apartments on the site.

R Squared LLC, which is owned by Mitchell and Gregg Rechler, the principal owners of Rechler Equity Partners, has proposed building 500 rental units as well as retail space on the site of Frontier Park, on Route 110. The 20-acre park is home to 528 people and 374 trailers, spokeswoman Katherine Heaviside said.

Residents received notice Friday from Frontier Park telling them that "as an aging trailer park, it has become increasingly apparent that we do not conform to today's standards" and that maintaining the park "is no longer feasible." The letter stated the first of five phases of development will begin within 18 months. It was stated that 20 percent of the units would be workforce housing and that park residents would be given first priority and credited six months of their current rent.

Frontier Park is also offering to pay moving expenses up to $2,000 and three months of storage facility fees if residents want to move their trailers.

Diana Weir, of the Long Island Housing Partnership, a nonprofit hired to assist with residents' transitions, said the developers are "going above and beyond" what many would do, including offering twice as much affordable housing as required by law.

But at an open house held Tuesday by Frontier Park, many in a steady stream of residents said that's not enough.

"We were never asked about any of this," said 35-year resident Juan Gomez, 74. "Everything was done in total secrecy."

Residents said park conditions have deteriorated over the years, despite pleas to make repairs and bring the park up to code. "They're trying to get rid of us or charge us three times as much to live there," Gomez said. "They just don't give a damn about us. . . . At this age, I did not think I'd find myself being homeless."

Heaviside said she could not comment on past repair issues but that "it would be impossible to retrofit the park without clearing out the entire park."

Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone said he supports the plan. Bellone said the park has fire and health issues, with trailers placed too close together and an outdated septic system. Upgrading it would have meant passing high costs on to residents, he said.

But residents located in the plan's first phase area complained they will lose their homes, valued at tens of thousands of dollars, and said moving the trailers is not feasible.

"My trailer is 40 years old," said 15-year resident Jude Baunach, 46. "If you tried to move that thing it would crumble." The other offers are also unrealistic, Baunach said. "For me to find someplace reasonable for me and my two dogs at that same size and rent is not going to happen."

Many said they will fight back. Myles Minto, 32, said his trailer, which he bought five years ago, is his first home. "My parents helped get me this place, but I made it my own," he said. "I'm not going to let them kick me out."

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