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Student housing around SBU an ongoing problem, Romaine says

Police tape surrounds a deck that fell to

Police tape surrounds a deck that fell to the ground during a Friday night party in East Setauket, as seen on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016. Credit: Ed Betz

Brookhaven Town officials on Monday are to return to an East Setauket house as part of their investigation into what caused or contributed to the collapse of a deck holding dozens of people, Supervisor Ed Romaine said.

The 10-foot-high deck collapsed during a Friday night party attended by about 400 people, many believed to be Stony Brook University students, officials said. Two people were injured.

Brookhaven officials will go through records to determine if a permit was issued for the deck, Romaine said Sunday.

“But in any event, one deck can’t hold 40 to 50 people,” he said.

Authorities said Saturday that the house appeared to have been converted into a half-dozen apartments and that the group was celebrating the university’s move-in day.

The Stony Brook and East Setauket communities have long faced zoning and safety concerns as students scramble for housing close to the college, Romaine said.

A large factor is that Stony Brook University, the town’s largest employer, doesn’t have enough campus housing for non-commuter students, requiring them to look elsewhere to live, Romaine said. That can lead to illegal conversions of houses into several apartments and community tensions over traffic, parking and noise.

The university has worked with the town on the issue and often warns students about illegal rentals, Romaine said.

“Right now, the university is gathering information, so it is too soon to be able to provide any updates about what we have learned,” a university spokesman said of the deck collapse.

University officials said Stony Brook participates in the Suffolk County Housing Team along with Brookhaven council members and local police departments, which issue weekly reports highlighting tickets issued for students’ noise, parking and trash violations.

Signs advertising rental housing can’t be posted on campus bulletin boards, officials said, and the university has held workshops and created a resource guide for living responsibly off campus.

Since 2000, the university has added 3,000 beds on campus, bringing the total to more than 10,000, and has the most on-campus housing in the SUNY system, school officials said.

Still, the lack of housing for thousands of students adds stress on the surrounding communities and invites unscrupulous landlords, Romaine said.

“This has been going on for some time now,” he said.

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