The hearing on a suit launched by residents of Aldrich Lane against the Village of Southampton's plans to use the vacant lot
/ park next to the Seven-Eleven for a hiring site has been postponed again till June 27.
The suit was joined by Southampton Town and a counter suit was filed by day-laborers and the Coalition for a Work Link Center. The Coalition says First Amendment Rights of free speech and assembly would be violated if the park cannot be used as a location for hiring workers.
Mayor Epley and Family Harrassed; Village Board Passes New Law
In response to incidents of harrassment at the home of Village Mayor Mark Epley, the Southampton Village Board passed a new law on May 29 to prohibit 'targeted harassment' of individuals at their homes. The mayor's home has been the focus of several Saturday demonstrations by persons opposed to his plans to use the Aldrich Park near where day laborers gather for a regulated hiring site. At one of these demos, the Mayors teenage son was the target of the demonstators attention. No injuries were reported and no arrests were made by the police who were on the scene.
The law was passed with a 4-1 vote. The mayor and village Trustees, Bonnie Cannon, James Robinson and Nancy McGann voted in favor. Mayoral candidate James McFarlane was opposed to the law which he said was not Constitutional. Speakers at a public hearing prior to the vote spoke against the harrassment but not all were in favor of the law. Speaking for the Coalition for a Worklink Center attorney Mackie Finnerty said the group supports the mayor in his actions regarding the park as a site for hiring.
Hiring Hall ‘Open House’
Southampton Village Police will host an open house, particularly aimed at community members with questions or concerns about the proposed hiring site, on Tuesday, June 5, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Village Police Department headquarters on Windmill Lane.
A plan to create a hiring center for day laborers in Southampton is on hold after law suits were filed by those opposed to and in favor of the plan.
from WPKN News May 25: Hiring Center on Hold
The proposal for a hiring center on a vacant lot where day-laborers gather was put together by a coalition of clergy, business people and advocates for latino workers. The operation of the center would be funded privately. In April Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley ordered improvements to the property including a driveway for those picking up workers. But neighbors opposed to the plan and the Town of Southampton have sued the Village because they say the land must be used solely as a park. On Wednesday the group of advocates filed to intervene in the law suit. They are represented by the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. Dominican Sister Margaret Smyth, an advocate for Latinos is the group's co-chair.
Sister Margaret says this is a first ammendment isssue.
"The men are entitled under our laws and Constitution to be able to gather to talk to each other and to seek employment."
Attorney Mackie Finnery, a member of the Coalition is also a party to the suit. She says:
"The law suit concerns my first ammendment rights to talk to the men and discuss their work; legal problems, health issues or anything that may arise as they are standing in this public park."
Attorney for the neighbors Anton Borovina says this is not a first ammendment issue. He says under state law the park land can not be used for any purpose but recreation. Borovina says having a hiring site on the land is not recreational.
After two postponments, the case is scheduled to be heard in New York State Court in Riverhead on June 27.
This report was prepared for WPKN News heard Monday-Friday at 6:30 pm at 89.5 Bridgeport and 88.7 Montauk.
Mayor Mark Epley declared he would help bring a regulated hiring site to Southampton Village by making modifications to land adjacent to Aldrich Lane, south of the 7-Eleven.
The land, which was purchased jointly by the Village and Southampton Town with Community Preservation Fund (CPF) monies, was intended to be a park. The law that established the CPF places limits on the purposes for which the land can be used.
Shrubs and a gravel driveway have been installed on the park land. The mayor has said that no public funds would be used and he is seeking donations to defray the cost. The lot has been closed off so that no one at present can use it.
A lawsuit was filed by William Berkoski and others, homeowners or renters on Aldrich Lane adjacent to the park. The suit asks for a temporary restraining order on the Mayor's plan. The order was granted April 27. The suit was joined by the Town of Southampton, whose board unanimously voted to sue the Village.
A follow up hearing on the case was scheduled but postponed twice. It is currently set for sometime in June at New York State Court in Riverhead.
An ordanance to prohibit people seeking work from congregating on certain streets and parking areas in Southampton Village has been drafted by the Mayor. It has not been brought before the Village Board and has been postponed at least until after the Village elections.
Meanwhile the Coalition for a Worklink Center announced in April that they are seeking part time help to manage the hiring process. Applicants will need fluency in Spanish. They will help coordinate between employers and workers and will do site maintenance and record keeping.
Those interested should contact Sister Margaret Smyth at 631-369-4601.