August 08, 2007
Honking horns and cheers of support greeted the group of protestors who stood on Main Street in Hampton Bays this weekend, waving signs that demanded answers of Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney and told illegal immigrants to go home.
The protestors were visible after a recent article in The Independent chronicled the fears and outrage expressed by a number of Hampton Bays residents whose homes were apparently robbed by homeless individuals. After an investigation, seven suspects, whose immigration status was unknown, were later arrested and found to be living in a camp on LIPA property along the railroad tracks.
Protestors were incensed by the comments made at the time by Heaney, who said that not all homeless individuals are criminals. And, he added, if an effort is made to "sweep" the homeless from where they are living in the woods, many will simply move, making it even more difficult for police and those reaching out to help them.
The supervisor added that he didn't deem it appropriate to single out one segment of the mixed homeless population, such as Latinos.
The response outraged protestors. "Skip, Clean Up This Mess," read a sign held by Sound Beach resident Brian Russell, a member of New York Patriots Association.
Heaney, meanwhile, has taken action. The supervisor said he has written to LIPA about the camp located on its property, asking them to address the problem. Last Friday, the supervisor said the company had the court act on a trespass complaint and hired a contractor who brought in equipment and removed all remnants, "save for the occasional joint wrapper, from the property."
Heaney also went on his own to the Hampton Bays woods last Friday, walking through the area north and south of the tracks "to survey the extent of the homeless population."
Heaney said he found two white men living on state property located directly behind the recharge basin south of the diner, as well as one older Latino man standing near a tarp tent deep in the woods on the LIPA property. "I also found three abandoned tarp tents located at the bottom of an old sand pit on private property located south of the medical office, east of Friendly's, north of the LIRR track," said Heaney.
Most disturbing, said Heaney, was finding a "huge pile of plastic bags filled with household-type waste on town property behind Friendly's, and a refuse-strewn old trailer on CPF property located east and south of the diner."
Moving forward, Heaney said he intends to notify the New York State Department of Transportation that two white men, "possibly homeless, but possibly not," have set up camp on state land, probably without a camping permit. He will request the state to act to remove all possible violations.
Also, Heaney intends to meet with town officials to plan for a cleanup of town lands, including a removal of the trailer located in the woods.
Finally, the supervisor plans to notify the owner of the medical center property that a campsite with three tarp tents is located in an abandoned sand pit located at the rear of the property. He said it should be removed for public safety reasons.
On a humorous note, Heaney said he spoke briefly to a white man living behind the recharge basin. "He pointed to the site of the Latino camp, and, finger-pointing south of the tracks, indignantly directed me to 'Do something about the Hispanics over there. They make it bad for us over here,'" said Heaney.
Action could not be taken soon enough for members of the Hampton Bays Mothers Association. "The HBMA is absolutely concerned with the homeless population in Hampton Bays. The community needs to know who these people are. We cannot allow these people to live throughout our town illegally, with identities unknown," said HBMA founders Kerry Wilkie and Julie Lofstad. "We are not saying that they all may be hardened criminals, but they are breaking the law."
Homeless individuals, they maintain, "are causing a health hazard to neighbors," and set a precedent that "this type of activity is acceptable in Hampton Bays."
Most of all, they added, the homeless "are taking away a family's sense of security, in what they had believed to be a safe community to raise a family. The police need to keep doing a sweep, identify these people, and place them with the proper agency so they can get help if needed – or dealt with by the proper authorities, as the law requires."