Island Park Residents Clamor To Close Local No-Tell Motel; Town Hall Shrugs
The Town of Hempstead, for all of its Supervisor's raves about building better communities, is nothing if not consistent.
Unfortunately, the consistency is, and has been for quite some time, nothing short of the hobgoblin of little minds.
Over in Island Park, another unincorporated outpost on the great Town of Hempstead plain, neighbors have been rallying to close the seedy Long Beach Motor Inn, the locus of sundry criminal acts, and home to the homeless.
As per the Town's spokesperson (would that Ed McMahon could choose another), the Town of Hempstead has the authority to close the motel -- if it really wanted to -- "but it depends on what's going on there - it has to really be extreme circumstances."
As in the case of a similar unsavory hotbed of criminal activity, West Hempstead's Courtesy, whose sordid history goes back more than a dozen years -- with residents battling Town officialdom for all of those years -- where rapes, assaults, weapons caches, prostitution, and kidnapping are apparently not "extreme" enough to move the Town to action.
Anyway, back to Island Park.
Nassau County Legislator, Denise Ford, has picked up on the mood of residents who envision a senior center in place of the seedy motel.
Of course, Ms. Ford also sees a parking lot as a viable alternative to the sleaze palace. Not quite paving paradise, but not exactly visionary, either.
It seems abundantly clear that establishments such as Island Park's Long Beach Motor Inn and West Hempstead's Courtesy should be shuttered -- and could be closed by the Town of Hempstead, with great immediacy, if only they wanted to.
After all, they closed down the Oceanside Motel with what appeared to be deliberate speed. [We still remember Town Supervisor Kate Murray and her cohort, Councilman Tony "They Enjoy Paying Twice As Much" Santino, donning hard hats and taking turns swinging the wrecking ball, as the walls of the Oceanside Motel came tumbling down.]
"Deliberate," as in the midst of a heated election campaign, and "speed," as in the expediency necessary to get votes.
We suppose that the good people of Island Park are getting a whiff of what residents of hamlets the likes of Baldwin, Elmont, Roosevelt, Uniondale and West Hempstead have been smelling for nearly all of the 100 year reign of one party rule -- something stinks at Hempstead Town Hall, and sense or senses aside, what the good people of our communities think, want, or need, just doesn't mean diddly squat to the folks running the show.
Summon up yet another "blight study," Kate Murray. Devise another unwieldy urban renewal plan, the signature dish served up by Hempstead Town as the be all and end all, undercooked and smothered in a soupy mush passed off as hollandaise. Paint a rosy picture, Kate, with all of those artist renderings, now faded from years of display.
Tis springtime in Hempstead Town, after all. The season of renewal.
Promise them anything, Kate -- Everything, in fact. Just give them blight, and call it a new day in Hempstead Town.
Ready the mailings and Murraygrams, and slather on the sunscreen. On cue, the Town of Hempstead is strutting upon our stage once again, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Cue the cameras. Fade to red. . .
- - -
From The Oceanside/Island Park Herald:
Concerned about the future of the Long Beach Motor Inn in Island Park - specifically what it will be used for now that the homeless are apparently being moved out - about 100 neighbors met with county social services administrators last week.
A standing-room-only crowd filled the Island Park Public Library on Wednesday, April 30, receiving further assurances from Department of Social Services Commissioner Dr. John Imhof that the county is doing all it can to remove the few remaining homeless families. Last month, the Herald exclusively reported that the county has joined forces with the non-profit Community Housing Innovations (CHI) to find more permanent housing for the homeless, while the county pledged to cease using motels as temporary shelter for them by the end of the year.
At the time, Imhof said that since Jan. 1, the number of families living at the Long Beach Motor Inn has decreased from 17 to six, and the number of individuals from 23 to 12. But residents were still skeptical and worried about rumors that the motel would be turned into a permanent homeless shelter or used for low-income Section 8 subsidized housing. Some say converting it into Section 8 housing may be too costly since kitchenettes would have to be installed in each room.
The April 30 meeting was called by the Island Park Civic Association in an attempt to put residents more at ease. "The community was very nervous about what will happen with the motel, such as Section 8 coming in," said Patti Ambrosia, president of the Island Park Civic Association. "And we also wanted to make sure that they were removing all the homeless."
Karen Garber, program coordinator for social services, who attended the meeting along with Imhof, called the April 30 face-to-face with residents a success. "We felt that from our vantage point, it was a very positive and productive meeting," said Garber. "Residents seem to understand the efforts we've been making."
She said that since Jan. 8, when the county's partnership with CHI officially took shape, the number of individuals living in the motel has been decreased by 57 percent and the number of homeless families by 92 percent. She added that the county has adopted a case management program with CHI to help the homeless find suitable housing. "I believe the meeting was called because of the future use of the motor inn," said Garber. "There were rumblings that we would turn it into a homeless shelter, even though we never had any intentions of doing that."
Residents were told that the county may continue to use the motel "on a small scale," only in cases of an extreme emergency, such as when a fire forces a family to relocate.
After listening to social services officials at the April 30 meeting, Island Park resident Chris Fabris said, "I believe social services is doing its best to get them out [of the motel]. I feel that social services is telling the truth, taking the correct measures to put homeless people in the safest and most positive environment - something a motel is not."
Some residents such as Fabris said they will not be completely satisfied until the motel is shut down, because "it has a bad reputation for a history of drugs, sex and violence." He said with the homeless now almost completely out of the picture, the focus has shifted from the county to the Town of Hempstead, which had slapped the Long Beach Motor Inn last year with 53 summonses for such violations as overcrowded rooms, cooking appliances in sleeping areas and some homeless staying beyond the 30-day limit.
Susie Trenkle, a town spokeswoman, said the case is in the hands of the district court, but the motel management has filed repeated motions, apparently delaying action on the case. The town has the authority to close down a motel, as it did in the case of the Oceanside Motel, "but it depends on what's going on there - it has to really be extreme circumstances," said Trenkle.
Legislator Denise Ford (R-Long Beach), who attended last week's meeting at the library, said replacing the motel with senior citizen housing or a parking lot are two viable options. "We hope that whatever happens there is something that the people in the community can live with," said Ford, who added that she is willing to sit down with the motel owner to discuss possible options.
"We're hearing that the place has been a problem for a long time," said Ford. "Meanwhile, the owner is trying to make a living. But when you hear about the motel, it tends to be about drugs or violence or something very negative and the neighbors want it shut down."
Legislator Jeff Toback (D-Oceanside), whose representative Kathy Sadowski attended the meeting, said officials will continue to monitor the motel. "If a number of crimes are committed there..., and if that is in fact the reality, we have to take measures to stop it. One should not live with that in their backyard," said Toback.
Ambrosia said concerns about the motor inn have brought the community closer together for a common purpose. "A lot of Island Park people are really coming together," said Ambrosia. "We want our community back and our quality of life back, and this is a start," Ambrosia said.
Neither the owner of Long Beach Motor Inn, Charles Goldgrub, nor his attorney, William Bird, returned calls for comment.
Comments about this story? Jlipton@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 210.