Get It Off the Streets

At 10:15 pm Tuesday night the Suffolk County legislature voted down a resolution which would make it a crime to stand looking for work or to stop to pick up day laborers on the County's roads.

The vote was 10 against and 6 for the bill with East End Legislator Jay Schneiderman of Montauk abstaining.

Oponents of the bill rallied outside the Legislature building voicing disproval and calling for a more humane way of treating immigrant workers.

The proposed law was offered by Legislators in reaction to the situation in villages such as Farmingville and Southampton where workers stand on street corners seeking work. The workers have attracted anti-immigrant protesters who congregate nearby. Proponents of the bill claimed they create a serious traffic safety issue.

Immigrant supporters say the solution is a formal off street hiring facility.

Jim Clafey of the Long Island Community Fund told Michael O'Neill:

"I've been involved in immigration work for a dozen years now. We have been coming back again and again to this legislature to try to forestall these negative proposals they keep coming up with and to try to offer something positive.

Something we have been proposing for 8 years without sucess is to put together a worker's center. The men are already here. The opponents say if you build it they will come .... but the point is the men are already here.

If indeed there is a traffic issue then get it off the streets. Get a safe worker center where we can get some order out of the chaos that exists. This is the only possible solution that will really address the problem. This legislature consistently refuses to marshall the courage that will solve the problem."

In Southampton a group attempting to establish a hiring center has been frustrated by on-again off-again support by local officials. At a meeting last month the Coalition for a Work Link center in Southampton unveiled a plan for site at the Railroad station parking lot. Support from Mayor Mark Epley evaporated after residents and parents of a nearby school objected.

Proponents of the Hiring center are looking to the Mayor to find an alternative solution.

This report was prepared for WPKN news. (WPKN 89.5 Bridgeport / WPKM 88.7 Montauk)

Thanks to Michael O'Neill for the on the scene reporting.