A new plan for a day-laborer hiring site was presented at the Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton Tuesday evening by the Coalition for a Work Link Center.
Sandra Dunn, the spokesperson for the Coalition is also the Executive Director of OLA the Organizacion Latino-Americana of Eastern Long Island. She described the Coalition as
" broadbased - composed of business people, educators, members of the clergy and houses of worship, members of non-profit organizations and other concerned local citizens".
The coalition also includes members of the Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task Force.
Presently workers stand on busy streets near a convenience store where passing contractors and indiviual home-owners pick them up. Often workers complain of not being payed and they have been subject to abuse and injury by anti-immigrant picketers.
After rejection by Southampton Village of a plan for a formal hiring site on a vacant lot on North Sea Road near where workers congregate, a new plan for a formal day-laborer hiring site at the Southampton railroad station was developed by the Coalition.
The proposed new site has the conditional approval of Village Mayor Mark Epley. The site is managed by the village but owned by the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Sandra Dunn reported that the mayor, after voicing opposition recently, told Coalition members that he will suppport the plan contingent on approval by the MTA and resolution of traffic flow issues.
Mr. Epley was not present at the meeting but Southampton Town Councilman Steve Kenny spoke in favor of the plan.
Architect Bill Chaleff, whose firm donated the site plan, explained that it includes expanded railroad parking, a roadway for many vehicles picking up workers, an office for staff managing the hiring process, a covered seating area and portable toilets for workers and improved landscaping to screen the area from nearby homes. The plan results in an enhanced view of the entry to Southampton by rail.
The Coalition has obtained pledges of funds to establish and operate the site from Catholic Charities and private foundations. Ms.Dunn says this facility will be for all those seeking work.
Some of the dozen supporters of the plan who spoke at the press conference and their comments were:
Sister Margaret Smyth, co-chair of the Worklink Coalition, and an activist for immigrant rights with the North Fork Hispanic Apostolate announced letters of support from other clergy including Reverend Butler of the Community Baptist Church in the Village, nearby the proposed site and Pastor Rose Ann Vita of the Bridgehampton Lutheran Church.
Sister Margaret said "It's time to stop the debates and get on with the solution to our problem"
Lucius Ware, President of the Eastern LI Branch of the NAACP and a member of the Southampton Town Anti-Bias Task force spoke of his background and the plight of workers who must stand out in the winter cold.
"I appreciate this opportunity having come from a long line of people, the only people, who came to this country who did not have to look for a job. .....
We are right now facing some of our worst weather. We have a situation that is shameful for us to have as a community."
Ann Katcher, an immigrant and naturalized citizen spoke for the Long Island Progressive Coalition's South Fork chapter:
"The men who seek work here are driven from their homes south of the border by the fallout from international trade ... they are pulled here by the demand for their labor.... I also urge you to separate the larger issues from what is most appropriate here and to support the creation of the Worklink Center."
Elizabeth Haile of the Padoquohan Medicine Lodge on the Shinnecock Reservation and a member of the United Methodist Church congregation:
"I am a Native-American woman who has studied the history of Southampton.I feel that the influx of new residents from other countries .. seeking to make a home and a way of life here is not unheard of.
Our Shinnecock people, led by Nowedonah at Conscience Point in 1640, was able to make some sense of what was happening then and that peace would be necessary between these new peoples and ourselves. So it would be my hope that peace with justice will prevail and that these day laborers will find shelter in our town."
Opponents of the plan are expected to voice their concerns. The site is within 500 feet of a school and there are several homes in the area.