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Some towns limit senior services, urge residents to avoid town hall

Huntington Town is asking residents to avoid town

Huntington Town is asking residents to avoid town hall. Credit: Newsday/Deborah S. Morris

This story was reported by John Asbury, Vera Chinese, Carl MacGowan, Keldy Ortiz, Ted Phillips, Jean-Paul Salamanca and Dandan Zou. It was written by Asbury.

Long Island town governments are monitoring the spread of coronavirus, limiting some senior services and urging the public to stay away from town facilities.

No local municipality had closed its town or city hall as of Wednesday, but some are reminding constituents that much of their business can be conducted online.

The measures come after health officials identified that the elderly are the most vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus.

Huntington Town put up a sign at the entrance to the town hall parking lot telling residents to “avoid unnecessary trips to town hall,” and encouraging them to use services online or to contact officials by phone or email.

Southampton sent out an advisory on Tuesday reminding community members they can pay their tax bills, file a tax grievance or report a complaint, among other things, on the town website. 

Hempstead Town officials vowed to keep Hempstead Town Hall open and maintain programs for seniors while sterilizing the town’s 14 senior centers.

“We just want residents to not be scared. We just want them to be prepared,” Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said. “There is a lot of concern about coronavirus going around and we want to reassure the residents the steps we are continuing to take for their safety.”

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Town officials did cancel a community meeting at the state’s request scheduled for Wednesday night at Baldwin High School to discuss downtown Baldwin revitalization.

“What’s important is to keep everybody calm,” Councilman Anthony D’Esposito said. “Our offices are open because we provide services to those we serve. Our goal was to continue to provide those services and keep everybody calm.”

East Hampton Town has suspended services at its senior centers and senior group activities. The town senior center on Springs Fireplace Road will be closed indefinitely and services at the Montauk Playhouse are temporarily suspended as of March 11.

 “We’re having 80 to 100 seniors show up in the dining hall and just felt that this could rapidly spread among this vulnerable population and that we should take extra precaution ahead of any outbreak here,” said Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc.

Officials in Riverhead and Southold announced the towns are suspending daily congregate meals served at senior centers. Meal delivery in those towns can be arranged, officials said.

Smithtown and Babylon were also asking people to only visit town hall out of necessity.

“We’re going to ask residents to avoid coming to town buildings in person where they can get what they need online,” Smithtown spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said.

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the town will start streaming town board meetings.

“We’re urging people that if they don’t have urgent business, don’t come,” Schaffer said. “If something doesn’t need to be dealt with now, try and limit your contact, especially if you’re not feeling well. We’re going to start streaming our town board meetings on YouTube.”

Glen Cove officials plan to reopen the city’s senior center Thursday after they closed it Tuesday, Deputy City Mayor Maureen Basdavanos said Wednesday. The senior center was disinfected on Tuesday, and city officials are considering scaling back some of its larger events and programs.

“That’s all we have them doing,” Basdavanos said. “Just constantly wiping down everything.”

The city has started making its own mix of bleach and water to use as a disinfecting spray because it has had trouble finding premixed cleaning solutions to buy, she said.

Glen Cove’s youth bureau closed on Tuesday because one child who uses the center was on a school bus driven by one of the drivers Nassau Executive Laura Curran announced had tested positive for coronavirus, Basdavanos said. That child and other Glen Cove children on the bus have been quarantined by order of the Nassau County Health Department, she said.

The youth center is expected to reopen Thursday.

The Town of North Hempstead has canceled all town-run social events and senior programs through March 20. Many senior groups that meet in town parks, village halls and other facilities have also canceled or postponed their meetings and classes.

Town spokesman Gordon Tepper said senior services, such as rides for grocery shopping and nonemergency medical appointments, under Project Independence will continue.

The City of Long Beach canceled all senior programs involving physical activity. The city council also canceled its work session Thursday night. 

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