More illegal clown houses

Brookhaven officials close 3 homes, citing fire hazards; owners face $10,000 fines for violating

Brookhaven town officials Friday launched another volley in their ongoing war on illegal housing, ordering the closing of three residences they said housed as many as 90 tenants.

In documents filed in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, the town alleged that the conditions in the houses, all zoned for single-family — one in Ronkonkoma and two in Farmingville — were filthy and overcrowded, with fire hazards such as exposed wiring and blocked exits.

The homeowners each face possible $10,000 fines for violations of town codes, officials said. Two of the homeowners could not be reached for comment, but one said he’d been duped by his tenants. Officials said the homeowners must bring the three homes up to code.

The court papers said the tenants were to be out of the houses as of Thursday. But as of Friday night, some tenants remained at all three addresses.

At 177 Woodycrest Dr. in Farmingville, the documents show that “between 27 and 33 people” shared a space where double beds blocked the front door and human waste overflowed from three backyard cesspools. Also in Farmingville, at 11 Cedar Oaks Ave., 33 men lived with blocked exits and no smoke detectors, the court papers said. Town inspectors said there were 24 beds in five bedrooms at the house, with no living room space.

And at 19 Doug Beth Dr. in Ronkonkoma, according to the documents, combustibles were stacked near a boiler, exposed wiring hung from walls and 28 men squeezed into a space zoned for a single family. The documents show there were 17 beds packed into the house.

At the town’s request, State Supreme Court Justice Ralph Castello ordered the houses closed as of July 28. Brookhaven Councilman James Tullo said safety concerns at the three addresses trumped the need for housing.

“God forbid if there had been a fire,” Tullo said. “It could have been catastrophic.”

Brookhaven Town spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said that notices in Spanish and English were posted at all three houses listing four social services agencies that could steer occupants into temporary housing.

However, officials at three of the four agencies listed on the notices said their organizations could do little for the evicted tenants. “We don’t do housing,” said Carmen Maquilon, director of Catholic Charities immigration services, one of the agencies listed on the notice. “I’m outraged because it gives false information.”

After Friday’s court order, Nadia Marin-Molina, director of the Workplace Project, an immigration advocacy group, said she called the Nassau-Suffolk Coalition for the Homeless, apparently the only agency listed on the town notice that is devoted to housing.

“I called and left messages and said, ‘Where should people stay tonight?’” Marin-Molina said. “I’m afraid that it’s Friday and nobody’s there.” Calls to the coalition offices in Hempstead by Newsday were also not returned.

Friday’s actions were the latest in a series taken by Brookhaven Town to combat illegally overcrowded houses. Last month, the town ordered shut three other rooming houses in Farmingville. Advocacy groups have said some of the residents of those houses became homeless as a result.

After the notices were posted at the three houses Friday, the ousted tenants at 177 Woodycrest did not seem to understand that the house had been ordered closed. Several said they had nowhere to go.

“It’s an injustice what they are doing,” said a 20-year-old man who gave his name as Armando. He would not give his last name. Armando said he shared the basement of the rooming house with six others, including Victor, 26, who told Newsday he may now have to go back to Mexico.

“We know that they don’t want us here,” Victor said in Spanish.

Neighbors of the Farmingville houses had a different perspective. They said the two houses were extremely crowded.

“These manual labor trucks drop off a bunch of people in front of one house and the house absorbs them like a sponge,” said Dennis Gordon, 63, of Farmingville, who said he walks by 177 Woodycrest every day.

Kathy Lyons, 60, lives two doors from the same address and she said she was concerned about having so many strangers live nearby.

“There is a tremendous amount of men who come in and out of that house all morning from 6 a.m. on, walking or riding bicycles,” she said. “I have a 10-year-old granddaughter and I don’t let her go up there because there’s strange men around.”

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