Local "No-Tell Motel" is topic of continuing debate in West Hempstead. TOH suggests it is closer rather than further in closing this menace to community. Leaders of The Community Alliance lament over "ten years and counting..."
Talk of 'Closure' at Courtesy Hotel Passes Ten-Year Mark
Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray recently re-announced continuing efforts to close the Courtesy Hotel in West Hempstead, "buoyed" by a controversial United States Supreme Court decision, and in anticipation of the results of a Town-commissioned "blight" study. That’s good news, certainly, but not anything new to residents of West Hempstead, who have been complaining of blighted conditions at and about the Courtesy since the hotel stopped serving Continental breakfast and started renting rooms by the hour.
In the wake of the Town of Hempstead’s “taking” of the seedy Oceanside Motel, questions arise anew concerning the fate of West Hempstead’s own hostel from Hell. The question asked most frequently, of course, is “Why is the Courtesy still open?”
“Residents of this unincorporated area of the township began their quest to close the doors to the Courtesy what seems like a decade ago,” said Seth D. Bykofsky, a past President of the West Hempstead Civic Association and Co-Chair of The Community Alliance. “Indeed, it has been more than a decade – and countless intervening criminal acts – since efforts began in earnest on the part of the citizenry to rid West Hempstead’s eastern gateway of what everyone, including Town officials, acknowledges as a scourge upon the community." And yet, residents say it would appear that the doors to the recently painted Courtesy are still far from being shuttered. From all indications, more studies, surveys and, to be sure, legal entanglements are in the offing.
"A hotbed of lurid and criminal activity would surely be dealt with swiftly and decisively by the Town of Hempstead, which has jurisdiction over matters of code enforcement and zoning," commented Roy Mezzapelle, a community activist from Elmont who Co-Chairs The Community Alliance with Bykofsky. "Perennial assurances notwithstanding, the conditions first complained of in the waning days of the 20th Century continue to plague a community as it tries desperately to move forward into the 21st."
"No one among us would disagree with Town Supervisor Kate Murray when she conveys the reassuring message, through a June 16th letter to the community, that, 'West Hempstead is one of the nicest communities in which to live and raise a family,'” echoed Bykofsky. "All agree that the Courtesy presents a 'blight' upon both hamlet and Town. And few would argue that 'preserving the suburban character of our communities' must be one of the Town’s top priorities. A five year plan, maybe. But ten years and counting?"
When civic leaders first called for the closure of the Courtesy in 1995, Greg Peterson was Town Supervisor and Joe Ra was Town Councilman. Today, some ten long years later, as residents continue to call for the Courtesy’s demise, Joe Ra is the Town Attorney and Greg Peterson has been called back into service as candidate for Nassau County Executive. "Ten years is a long time to have come full circle," suggested Mezzapelle.
“To be sure, the community is appreciative of the accolades bestowed by the Supervisor, and understanding of the reality that reinventing this now downtrodden portal to West Hempstead takes time,” said Bykofsky. “When time is measured not in months or even years, however, there is a profound sense not only of frustration among the people, but that ‘the ammunition necessary to seize the hotel,’ as the Supervisor put it in her recent letter, isn’t being loaded into the gun or fired upon the enemy.”
As someone who has stood on the front lines of the battle to close the Courtesy, both as a resident and as a community advocate, The Community Alliance’s Bykofsky is particularly disheartened when recurring press releases, frequent mailings from Town Hall and well-orchestrated news conferences supplant practical solutions, and where Band-Aid fixes (in this instance, the proposed placement of a Police Booth adjacent to the Courtesy, “enhancing the local law enforcement presence”) trump real-life resolution and long-term redevelopment (with removal of the cancer that is the Courtesy being a good place to start).
"Understandably, Town officials, much like the rest of the West Hempstead community, are frustrated," added Bykofsky. "One can be reasonably certain that everyone at Town Hall – from the Supervisor, to the Councilman, to the Town Attorney – would take great pleasure in seeing the doors to the Courtesy closed, and closed forever. All the more reason why every weapon at the Town’s disposal – including the federal forfeiture law, as suggested by Harvey Levinson, Chair of the Nassau County Board of Assessors – should be added to the arsenal and unloaded upon the offending property owners.
“Ten years is far too long for a community to wait and for a people to endure,” concluded Bykofsky. “When the doors to the Courtesy are closed for the last time, West Hempsteaders can let out a cheer and give a sigh of relief. Until then, don’t uncork the champagne. Its much more to do, I sense, with campaign rhetoric and election year camouflage - a sound byte to enthrall the press and entice the electorate - than it is about improving quality of life in the long run." Meanwhile, this notorious no-tell motel remains open for business as unusual.