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Residents of S. 4th St. in Lindenhurst concerned about visiting anglers

From left to right: Rhonda Verrier, Mildred Perrotta,

From left to right: Rhonda Verrier, Mildred Perrotta, President of the Heer Park-Meridale Civic Association David Woods, and Linda Vanderhoof are shown in front of a hole in the fence at the end of South 4th Street in Lindenhurst, where uninvited visitors are disturbing residents. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

They come with lawn chairs and coolers, radios blasting and cars blocking the roadway.

Fishermen, crabbers, boaters and teenagers looking for a secluded spot have taken advantage of the dead-end alcove of Lindenhurst's South Fourth Street where it meets the Great South Bay, and residents are reeling with anger. They say the uninvited visitors leave behind garbage and raise fears among homeowners still dealing with break-ins that started when properties were damaged by superstorm Sandy two years ago.

The trespassers are the latest consequence of Sandy, said residents in the dozen homes near the dead end, all of which were damaged by the 2012 superstorm. With many homes still empty -- their owners either still trying to restore them or having taken state buyouts -- fishermen and others have taken advantage of the quiet street, residents said.

"They know nobody is staying there, so they do what they want," said Luigi Stolfa, 32. He said he has found beer cans on his lawn and seen fishermen use the portable toilet for the workers fixing his house.

Already frustrated by the rebuilding process, residents said they now must confront interlopers, take photos of illegally parked cars and call code enforcement officials.

"We are constantly arguing with these people," Rhonda Verrier, 64, told officials at a recent village board meeting. "We are trying to repair our homes, and this is just another slap in our face to have to deal with this on a daily basis."

 

No crime spike

Despite residents' fears, Insp. Gerard Gigante, commanding officer of the Suffolk County Police Department's First Precinct, said police have not seen an uptick in break-ins in Sandy-hit areas, but have seen an increase in concern about abandoned homes in the area.

"There's a lot of frustration, and some of it is based on legitimate problems," he said, noting he has assigned patrol checks for South Fourth Street.

Despite "no parking" and "no loitering" signs, the angling-minded have always found their way to the street, said Millie Perrotta, 65.

"You don't mind if a few people come for an hour or two and leave," she said. "But since the storm it's been nonstop, and it's an all-day thing."

Residents said they have gotten into arguments with some of the visitors, who they said have come from as far away as Westbury. "They curse at you if you get too close to their car," Perrotta said.

Verrier, who has lived in her house for 37 years, said she has found liquor bottles, drug paraphernalia, food wrappers and used condoms near her home. That portion of the block floods almost daily, she said, and cars trying to avoid the flooding park in the middle of the street, which is drier, forcing residents to drive through the sometimes foot-deep water on either side of the road.

Two weeks ago, the situation escalated when Stolfa caught two men using bolt cutters to tear open a fence put up after a home was demolished. Gigante said a police report was taken but no criminal charges have been filed. Not long after, Verrier's husband, Remi Verrier, 66, presented the village board with a petition containing 50 signatures from neighborhood residents demanding action.

After meeting last week with residents on site, Lindenhurst Mayor Thomas Brennan had workers repair the fence and install six additional "no parking" signs to join the one already there. He said he also planned to install a sign limiting fishing to only Lindenhurst residents.

"It's a start," he said. "Let's hope the signs take a lot of this away, and we'll go from there."

 

Anglers respond

While the mayor toured South Fourth Street, West Babylon residents Michael Panicello, 35, and his father, Bob, 66, fished and crabbed nearby. Panicello, who opposes limiting the spot to Lindenhurst residents, said he and his father have been coming there for years and like it because it's accessible for the elder Panicello, who has trouble walking.

"It's a nice opportunity for him to just sit and fish for a while," Panicello said, adding that fees to fish off local docks have become expensive.

Panicello said he and his father are quiet and respectful, never leaving trash and picking up garbage they find.

"There's a lot more dangerous guys out there than two guys going fishing," he said.

Another South Fourth Street resident, Alex Fokine, said his house had previously been looted and was broken into again this summer. Gigante confirmed police reports had been taken for both incidents.

"Things have gotten worse because people know there's not too many people living down here now," said Fokine, 47, who has been a resident of the block for five years and is living in his home while he makes repairs. "And with these guys coming down here, every time I look out the window, I'm seeing people I don't know."

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