- Southampton Village
officials are now faced with a dilemma in view of a ruling handed down by New York State Supreme Court Justice Jeffrey Arlene Spinner granting a permanent injunction to residents suing the Village who are seeking to prohibit the use of a public park as a gathering place for day laborers.
The ban will remain in effect pending the outcome of a trial. According to Anton Borovina, Esq., the attorney representing the Aldrich Lane residents, a trial is several months away.
In the meantime, the Village government must provide a safe and acceptable gathering place for the dozens of day laborers who make a practice of congregating on the street in front of the 7-11, spilling over into the surrounding area as they wait for employers to pick them up each morning.
Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley
and members of the Village Board were unable to respond to the ruling at the recent Board meeting Jan. 11, having received formal notification of the New York State Supreme Court ruling just the day before, Wednesday morning, Jan. 10.
"We just got the ruling yesterday," Mayor Epley retorted, "But I got a call from a reporter on Monday night asking me for a comment."
Mayor Epley and Trustee William Bates differed in their estimation of the response time needed to reply to the recent decision. Bates favored a next day reply while Epley did not think a speedy reply would be possible.
"We will not have an answer by tomorrow," Epley said, adding, "And we will not solve this problem overnight."
Village Attorney Richard DePetris declined to comment on Friday morning. DePetris was present at the Board meeting on Thursday night where he remained silent during the discussion.
Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epely and fellow Village Trustees are now considering their options regarding the outdoor hiring hall debate.
The Aldrich Lane residents are suing the Village seeking to permanently ban the use of the Village owned park from being used as an "outdoor hiring hall" where day laborers could congregate in the early morning hours, primarily between 6 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., as they wait to be picked up by employers.
While the majority of the workers are gone by 9 a.m., many continue to wait at pick-up points throughout the day. Last year, the day laborers were banned from the Aldrich Lane Park under the terms of a temporary injunction granted by the court when residents filed their lawsuit.
The day laborers continue to gather in front of the 7-11 located on the corner of County Road 39 and North Sea Road, as well as in front of the McDonald's near the Aldrich Lane Park. In addition, the day laborers congregate at the corners of other nearby Village streets.
Mayor Epley suggested the use of the Aldrich Lane Park hoping to provide a safe off-street area for the pick-up and drop-off of the laborers. In an effort to privatize the park from the street and make pick-ups and drop-offs easier, the Village went ahead and planted shrubbery on the street side of the park and created a semi-circular driveway.
The park, which was closed after the lawsuit was filed, is now blocked by bright orange traffic cones and its driveway roped off with an equally bright orange colored rope.
The Town of Southampton purchased the park from a private owner in 1991 with money from their Community Preservation Fund, and then subsequently deeded the vacant land to the Village. Under the terms of that agreement, the Village was deeded ownership and control the park. A stipulation of the arrangement
requires that the Aldrich Lane Park must remain an open space and cannot be developed according to the terms of the purchase made with CPF funds.
The Town of Southampton joined the Aldrich Lane residents in the lawsuit against the Village over the day laborers issue last Spring.
At issue in the lawsuit according to Borovina, is the "alienation of the park," a condition created by the Village when the municipality set aside the use of the park for a specific purpose during certain hours of the day. In this case, as Aldrich Lane residents maintain, the pubic park was being used for private purposes as an "open air hiring hall."