Two contentious sex offender trailers that have had residents outraged over their placement in Riverside and Westhampton since 2007 will be gone by the end of the year, according to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.
"I remain committed to removing the trailers by the end of the year," Bellone said Wednesday morning.
Bellone's statement comes after Southampton officials vowed to keep fighting to overturn a recent State Supreme Court decision that dismissed the town's lawsuit involving the trailers.
"The county executive has said he's going to get rid of the trailers by the end of the year and I'm very happy about that," said Suffolk County Legislator Ed Romaine. "It's good news. I just hope that it's true.
"We will be holding his feet to the fire," Romaine added. "This has been a long, long fight in which Riverhead, specifically, has been victimized."
Although the trailer is technically located in the parking lot of the county jail in Riverside, which is located in Southampton Town, Romaine said the homeless sex offenders have "interacted with Riverhead residents in a host of different ways, and we'd like to see that change. You don't want those people walking around town."
Romaine said he and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman sponsored a resolution enabling the county to contract with Community Housing Innovations, Inc., to build scattered site housing for homeless sex offenders under a new plan.
"I was told that none of that housing would be located in my district," Romaine said. Romaine's district includes Riverhead, the North Fork, Shelter Island and parts of Brookhaven Town.
The scattered site housing, Romaine added, would provide homeless sex offenders with "decent living conditions," including showers and cooking facilities; some individuals, he said, are currently "forced to go out" for meals and other services that the trailers don't provide.
In a press conference earlier this year in Southampton, Bellone pledged to have the trailers removed.
Romaine said he was hopeful that the county executive has been working on the scattered site plan he and Schneiderman introduced, to put an end to the sex offender trailer issue that has residents crying out in Riverside and Westhampton over an unfair burden they say has been shouldered by their communities.
Southampton Town, Romaine said, lost its lawsuit on technical reasons, "not on the law itself or the justice involved. So it becomes more important now for the county executive to keep his word."
If the trailers are not gone by January 1, Romaine said Bellone will have to account for why "it did not happen, in light of his promise."
Schneiderman, who said he was unable to comment on Southampton Town's lawsuit, since it involved the county, said he had spoken with Bellone a few weeks ago.
Schneiderman said he had heard that a new, larger trailer in Westhampton was holding more than the eight sex offenders that had been agreed upon; 14 have been sited there at one time, he said. When he called Greg Blass, the commissioner of the county Department of Social Services, he said Blass told him, technically, they were able to site 18 homeless sex offenders at the Westhampton facility.
"I called Steve Bellone, and I was really livid," Schneiderman said. "He didn't know the capacity at the trailer had increased. He told me, 'Jay, I will have those trailers closed by the end of the year. You have my word.'"
Schneiderman added, "In my business, your word matters. If you make a commitment and your break a commitment, the value of your word goes to zero."
And, Schneiderman added, if January comes and the trailers are still sited in Riverside and Westhampton, "There's going to be a real problem."