Standing in front of the infamous Plantation Motel in Island Park, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino and Councilman Anthony D’Esposito called on the Nassau County Department of Social Services to join Hempstead Town in disqualifying the seedy motel from housing any of its social services clients. The officials cited a report indicating Island Park had the third highest number of heroin arrests (per 10,000 people) in Nassau County, as well as a local fire department report evidencing over three dozen Emergency Medical Service responses since 2014, as they called for action. Santino and D’Esposito linked the two reports; along with accounts of conversations they’ve had with first responders, neighbors and school officials, in asserting that the Plantation Motel is an inappropriate environment in which to place social service clients. The officials also stated that the motel has become a blight on the local community.
“Placing social services recipients in a seedy motel is unfair to the clients who should be housed in appropriate living quarters,” said Santino. “What’s more, allowing numerous clients to be placed in substandard housing puts an overwhelming burden on local resources. Clearly, there has been undesirable activity at the motel and in the surrounding area. That’s why we are calling on the county’s Department of Social Services to disqualify the Plantation Motel from housing its social services clients. In short, a motel is not an appropriate housing location for social services recipients or anyone else who is seeking a long-term home.”
Santino and D’Esposito explained that Hempstead Town inspects all units that house the township’s Section 8 clients to ensure that they meet federal Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) standards for habitability. Generally, the requirements stipulate that a kitchen with a stove or a range be provided. Also, units must be equipped with a living room and bathroom. The officials stated that they do not feel a motel room constitutes appropriate housing for permanent living. Indeed, the Town of Hempstead does not have clients at the Plantation Motel or other locations that do not meet HUD’s habitability criteria.
A recent news report, which cites Nassau County Police Department data, indicates that during the first six months of 2017 there have been nearly twice as many heroin arrests in Island Park as there were in all of 2016. Further, the report indicated that the heroin arrest rate in Island Park is about three times higher than the average among communities with less than 10,000 people. As an active volunteer firefighter and former Chief of the Island Park Fire Department, Councilman D’Esposito said that many of the heroin emergency response calls and related police activity can be traced back to the Plantation Motel.
“The activities and environment at and around the Plantation Motel are not conducive to the type of wholesome, residential lifestyle that we work so hard to maintain for Island Park residents,” stated D’Esposito. “We want Nassau’s Department of Social Services to take steps to help neighbors to end this undesirable situation.”
The officials have spoken with local school board representatives, village officials and neighbors, many of whom believe that Nassau’s social service clients have been placed at the Plantation Motel, and it has resulted in unwarranted demands on local resources such as educational services and emergency response services. In fact, there have been nine EMS response calls to the Plantation Motel handled by the Island Park Fire Department in 2017 (to date). Further, 13 EMS calls handled by the local fire department in 2016, as well as numerous response calls managed by the Nassau County Police Department, make it abundantly clear that the impact of activity at the Plantation Motel on the Island Park Community is profound and completely negative.
Santino and D’Esposito have written to John E. Imhof, Commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Social Services, calling for swift action. The town officials called for the county to disqualify the Plantation Motel for use by any social service recipients, based on activities at the motor inn and due to the fact that motel rooms are inadequate long-term housing solution for people in need of living assistance.
“We want the Commissioner of the Department of Social Services to act now for the well-being of his clients and for the sake of Island Park neighbors,” stated Santino. “Our local families deserve a safe and harmonious neighborhood, and social service clients deserve appropriate housing. We hope Nassau officials will join the town in disqualifying the Plantation Motel for the placement of DSS clients.”
Santino and D’Esposito also mentioned that until recently, the motel was home to at least one Level 3 sex offender according to www.parentsformeganslaw.org. The Supervisor and Councilman called the placement of social service clients’ children at a motel that has housed a registered sex offender “a recipe for disaster.”
“It’s time to take Island Park back for the hard-working members of this community,” said D’Esposito. “The Plantation Motel is a blight on this neighborhood, and we are hopeful that Nassau’s Department of Social Services will be part of the solution in addressing this problem,” added Santino.