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Nassau pol joins fight on Suffolk predators shelter

Protests over a planned Suffolk homeless shelter for sex offenders crossed the county line Monday as a Nassau lawmaker joined opponents and the Farmingdale school district planned a forum on the issue Tuesday night.

"The opposition is building as we speak," said Suffolk Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), who has led opposition to the Social Services Department's consideration of a half-dozen Babylon sites for a sex offender shelter near the county line.

"They are all close to the border," said newly elected Nassau Legis. Joseph Belesi (R-Farmingdale), who along with Farmingdale Mayor George Starkie joined three Suffolk lawmakers and a dozen civic leaders at a protest at one proposed site on Route 109 in East Farmingdale. "There's Fun Zone, Adventureland and movie theaters, places young people gather. The community is up in arms."

The Farmingdale school board wrote a letter to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy late last week opposing the county plan, and sent home letters Monday with more than 3,000 students to alert parents about today's 7 p.m. meeting.

State Sens. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) and Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and Assemb. James Conte (R-Huntington Station) also wrote to Levy Friday to oppose the plan.

Levy, in a statement, said, "Ironically, it was the actions of state legislature that allowed these sex offenders to be released back onto our streets; that is the cause of this problem."

The protest arose after Suffolk officials last month disclosed they were looking to use a warehouse in an industrial area. They said new laws that ban predators from living near schools, parks and libraries makes it hard to find shelter sites that are legal.

Social Services Commissioner Gregory Blass said a final decision will come this week, but he will consider any alternate sites. He said the sites the county is considering are the most distant from residential areas. "No action is not an option for the department," he said, noting the state constitution "requires the county to house the homeless no matter their background."

The Rev. Thomas Humphrey of the Long Island Men's Center, a nonprofit advocacy group, said he sympathizes with the placement difficulties, but said the county has a history of overloading poorer communities with problems. He said, "They will start off small and by the time Levy is finished, it will be a big center for sex offenders. We can't absorb that risk."

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