As Suffolk officials consider where to place a shelter for homeless sex offenders, one county lawmaker insists his district has been targeted to host the facility - and urges his constituents to object to the plan.
County Executive Steve Levy denies his administration has targeted the 15th District in western Suffolk, represented by Democratic Legis. DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville), with whom he's publicly clashed before on police issues. Levy said officials have looked all along at industrial sites, away from residences that can meet legal requirements for such a shelter.
"We never really evaluated whose district they are in; that's not really our concern," Levy said Tuesday. "If the legislators want to come up with a different location they can all agree on, that's fine with us."
Clashing claims over the selection erupted two days before Christmas when Gregory sent out an e-mail marked "urgent" to 300 civic, church and community leaders. Gregory wrote that county officials, faced with overflow from trailers that house homeless sex offenders at the county jail in Riverhead, had narrowed the search to five locations, all in industrial areas and all within his district, including three in East Farmingdale and two in Wyandanch-West Babylon.
"We have enough homeless/emergency housing shelters, Section 8 housing, sober homes, etc.," Gregory said in his missive. "We do not need an entire homeless sex offender shelter dumped in our community also."
Roland Hampson, spokesman for Suffolk Social Services Commissioner Gregory Blass, said, "We've identified 12 sites throughout Suffolk, six of them within the 15th L.D. However, those sites were selected because they are away from communities - and surrounded by an airport and landfill and cemeteries - not because they are in the 15th L.D."
Gregory told Newsday that Levy contacted him Christmas Eve after an unspecified number of concerned callers reached the county executive's office. "I did question whether it was political retribution, but he denied it," Gregory said.
Levy said he told Gregory: " 'Listen - you and I don't always get along but among those I dislike in the legislature you're probably in the middle of the pack.' . . . If retribution was a motivational factor, it would be going in someone else's district, who will remain nameless."
Levy said a selection would be made "probably over the next month," while state grant money is available.
The search in industrial areas for suitable sites was first reported Dec. 11. Levy also said Tuesday: "We had been experiencing incredible frustration in finding a legal location because the legislature has basically prohibited their placement in 95 percent of the county.
"It would be nice to one day see a legislator be a statesman and say 'We won't let people freeze to death.' But the reality is, they are all going to say, 'Not in my district.' "