The shameful story of the Hidden Cove Motel in Hampton Bays ended happily last week for neighborhood residents, Hampton Bays' homeowners, and Southampton Town residents.
But the stench, and the shameful practice of allowing the Suffolk County Department of Social Services to place homeless people and welfare recipients wherever it pleases continues.
Under the leadership of Gregory Blass, the then commissioner of DSS, 30 homeless families were loaded into Hidden Cove on West Tiana Drive, in some cases displacing working people who paid rent. Virtually none of the families came from Southampton or Hampton Bays. Worse, the children who were moved there became the responsibility of the Hampton Bays School District. In what can only be described as a convoluted, antiquated system, Hampton Bays' homeowners paid for the education of these children even though they were often transported back to their original school districts. At one point, there were 40 students from Hidden Cove on the books in Hampton Bays – costing taxpayers over $1 million per year.
Blass came to The Independent for an exclusive interview, yet he was less than forthcoming with accurate facts, claiming at one point only six students were on the rolls in the Hampton Bays School District. He also claimed many of the Hidden Cove residents were from Southampton – as far as we could ascertain, none were.
Yes, we have an obligation to care for our homeless – but not theirs. The impetus was a greedy owner who was willing to grab the $30,000 in monthly rent the county provides – about triple what he could have gotten on the open market.
Credit Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, who stood up to Blass and threatened to sue the county, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who agreed with her.
Blass maintained that state law trumped the county and town codes, and vowed to continue to place DSS tenants at Hidden Cove. In fact, he told The Independent he would resign should the county order him to stop doing so.
That's exactly what happened. Blass then found a pliable journalist to write a puff piece about him; in it Blass claimed Hidden Cove had nothing to do with his decision to "retire."
There are lots of Greg Blasses out there – officials who think it's OK to ruin neighborhoods and force hard working taxpayers to ante up for another municipality's problems.
There are plenty of greedy landlords who will take the inflated rents the DSS pays them to house welfare families that don't come from here and don't belong in our school districts. And there are plenty of town housing directors who will tell you they are placing "locals" in Section Eight dwellings – even if the people were living in Brentwood two days earlier. That's the big lie inherent in the county system.
Yes, it is the responsibility of society to care for its poor. It does not mean making a homeowner in Hampton Bays pay to have dozens of kids driven upisland to their old schools; it does not mean paying $5000 a month in tax money for a motel unit that used to go for $700 on the open market.
Yes, Greg Blass cared about the downtrodden – but he was too myopic and arrogant to realize the middle class is one greedy politician away from joining the welfare rolls.