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Court Prohibits Use Of Park As Hiring Hall; Village Considers Alternatives

Originally Posted: January 15, 2008

Andrea Aurichio

  |   3 Comments · Print Article

Day laborers gathering outside of McDonald's and 7-11, as well as the entrance to The Aldridge Lane Park, is the cause of a court injunction brought by residents of the neighborhood.Photos by Andrea Aurichio

Southampton - 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.

Aldrich Lane
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."

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Guest (Southampton Citizen) from Southampton says::
I think it's time for the Village, Town and State to start an effort to rid our village of this Blight that has taken over. 7-11 has turned into a mob hang-out for these illegal immigrants. The Village, Town and State P.D. should meet and develop a plan, using existing laws, to enforce. This would of course involve the Southampton Town Justice, and Village Justice and decide which laws may be applicable. Loitering, Trespassing on 7-11 property, Vehicle and Traffic Laws for operators of vehicles and passengers without seatbelts etc. You know what they say, "all politics is local." Our local elected pols have to get off the dime and start thinking out of the box. Get this situation under control or it will only get worse and turn our beautiful town into just another up-island land of Garbage.
Jan 17, 2008 7:40 am

Guest (Rule of Law) from Southampton says::
We the citizens of Southampton Town and Village are overjoyed that the Rule of Law has been upheld. Now, we are very saddened by the Village Mayor Epley who in spite of his best efforts has decided to disregard the Rule of Law and pursue illegal behavior in our neighborhood. We will continue to support the Rule of Law and pressure our representatives to do the same! Keep the faith everyone -- help is on the way!!!
Jan 17, 2008 3:08 am

Guest (Marion) from Southampton says::
It is nearly impossible for a woman to stop for coffee in the morning at 7-11 as the day laborers leer and create a generally unsafe mob feeling in the area. Seeing people milling about near the park and sitting on the sides of the roads at all hours of the day makes our town look like a slum. In the end its a matter of how to deal with illegal imigrants which is a matter for the Federal Government to decide. Perhaps its best that the people who hire these folks let them congregate at their places of business instead of on private property and public "parks".
Jan 16, 2008 12:00 am


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