Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone this week said he plans to close two controversial homeless sex offender trailers in Riverside and Westhampton as soon as a new plan is developed for housing, though critics had hoped he would shutter the shelters by the Jan. 1 deadline he set himself.
Bellone said that he has directed the Suffolk County Police Department to work with other agencies of county government, advocacy organizations and mental health experts to review existing county laws and to submit a plan to reform the county's approach to dealing with sex offenders by the end of January.
A new approach is necessary, Bellone said, because current laws intended to protect communities from sex offenders are being successfully challenged in jurisdictions across New York.
There are more than 1,000 registered sex offenders throughout Suffolk County, he said. But, Bellone added, county policy has been disproportionately focused on about 40 sex offenders who are homeless. Suffolk County is obligated under New York State law to pay for the housing of the homeless, including homeless registered sex offenders, he said.
Last year, Bellone vowed at a press conference to have the two trailers closed by Jan. 1. And in December, local elected officials urged him to keep that promise. Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said last month that if the trailers were not closed by Jan. 1, he would organize a large community meeting in Riverhead and ask that Bellone come speak directly to community members about why.
"I'm disappointed," Schneiderman said Wednesday. "I was hoping the county executive would be able to make his own Jan. 1 deadline."
Sandy Disaster Recovery Centers to Close
More that two months since Superstorm Sandy devastated much of Long Island, Suffolk County said it will close Disaster Recovery Centers in Islip and Mastic at 3 p.m. on Sunday.
More than 3,400 locals who survived the hurricane have visited the centers since they opened.
The Disaster Recovery Center at the Lindenhurst Library in Lindenhurst will remain open.