Suffolk abandons sex offender shelter plan

January 12, 2010 2:49:43 PM PST
Suffolk County has abandoned a plan for a sex offender shelter in Babylon, just as a forum was planned for Tuesday night for residents to express their outrage over the proposal. The Social Services Department was considering five sites in Babylon for the shelter, all near the border with Nassau County. The forum was scheduled to be held in Farmingdale after Nassau officials joined the fight.

According to Social Services Commissioner Gregory Blass, the state has decided to abandon the proposal and will also close two overnight locations in East Suffolk. Homeless sex offenders instead will be given a $90 voucher to stay at a hotel of their choice. It will be the responsibility of the sex offenders to register with local law enforcement.

"They are all close to the border," Nassau Legislator Joseph Belesi told Newsday, in regards to the sites, before the changes were announced. "There's Fun Zone, Adventureland and movie theaters, places young people gather. The community is up in arms."

The Farmingdale school board and several politicians had voiced opposition to the plan, and letters were sent home Monday with more than 3,000 students to alert parents about the 7 p.m. meeting.

Levy had released a statement, saying "Ironically, it was the actions of state Legislature that allowed these sex offenders to be released back onto our streets. That is the cause of this problem."

Suffolk officials say new laws ban predators from living near schools, parks and libraries, making it increasingly difficult to find shelter sites that are legal.

Blass had said he was willing to consider alternate sites, but that those currently under consideration were the most distant from residential areas. He says the county is operating under a state mandate to house the homeless, regardless of their criminal history.

"The first to know would certainly be Channel 7...that we can't really find a location that is free of violent community opposition due to local actitivities with a certain distance," Blass said.