September 27, 2006

Next Steps for Hiring Hall

Despite a red light from the state regarding a controversial new hiring hall that's caused a heated outcry from residents, Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley remains undaunted in his quest to find a solution to a festering problem he says isn't going anywhere.

Recently, Epley proposed a temporary measure to stem the ever-escalating dangers on North Sea Road and County Road 39 posed by crowds of over 200 day laborers who congregate outside 7-Eleven, as well as irate protesters at the gateway to Southampton.

The mayor's plan called for a portion of the Knight's Last Stand property on Aldrich Lane to be used as a temporary hiring site for workers, complete with a parking lot, pavilion, benches and bathroom facilities, as well as tennis and basketball courts.

The six-acre parcel was purchased by the village in 2001 with CPF funds; Epley sent a letter to State Assemblyman Fred Thiele to determine if such use would be allowed.

Epley said the state's response was that CPF funds could be used, but only after a number of hurdles had been overcome. Getting the necessary approvals, said Epley, would be "an almost an impossible task."

Especially in light of the scores of residents who have stated their feelings, loud and clear, regarding their resistance to the idea of a hiring hall that would be, in some cases, literally in their backyards or directly in front of their homes.

But Epley said he's not about to give up on the idea. Instead, he said, the plan was to sit down on Friday and talk to the assorted proponents of the plan, including members of the Work Link Coalition and other groups who turned out recently to support the proposal.

"It's time to put it back in their lap," he said. As for those who questioned why the discussion arose before Epley had an answer to the question of whether or not CPF-funded land could be used for a hiring hall site, the mayor said in talking with the Town of Southampton, it was considered "a possibility. It wasn't something that had ever been completely ruled out."

Last week, Epley said if the concept was nixed, other individuals had come forward to suggest alternatives. Those individuals, he said, "are still in the talking stages," with perhaps some possibilities for the future.

Epley acknowledged that the public has been vocal about opposing his plan. "The majority of local people that have contacted me don't want a hiring hall."

But Epley said there is no alternative but to proceed. "It's still an issue, and the issue doesn't go away. It has to be resolved. How it gets resolved, now has to be a different plan."

As this publication went to press, the Southampton Village Board was expected to discuss the matter at their regularly scheduled work session yesterday. "This is still an issue, and we still need to be working on it, and thinking about it, to come up with some ideas," the mayor said.

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