Hema Easley, The Journal News (NY), Sep. 6
MAMARONECK — Since Aug. 23, migrant workers assembling at Columbus Park to look for work have found their prospective employers all but missing.
The park has been the traditional meeting place for day laborers and contractors who hire them as construction workers, plumbers, masons and carpenters. But on Aug. 23, police began ticketing contractors for traffic violations, including double and triple parking while picking up workers and running stop signs.
Police issued an estimated 104 summonses, and the enforcement frightened off the contractors. During that time, the number of workers who gathered dropped from a high of 200 to less than 30, and many workers were unable to find work for 10 days. This sent the labor community into a panic.
Some of their concerns were resolved Thursday when members of the Hispanic Resource Center and the Trimunicipal Human Rights Commission met with Mayor Philip Trifiletti Thursday. After more than two hours of discussions, they came up with steps to develop a better working relationship between workers, police and the village.
“The mayor’s office has been very responsive. It shows good faith,” said Robert Degan, chairman of the Trimunicipal Human Rights Commission, which covers Larchmont, Mamaroneck town and the village. “We are all on one side.”
The groups and the mayor worked out an agreement under which workers will be able to gather at an alternative location near the parking lot in the park. Signs are already in place to direct contractors to the new site. Meanwhile, the village will work to identify a new site outside the park where day laborers can freely gather for work.
Police and representatives for the workers will also meet every month to discuss concerns and ways to resolve them. Police enforcement would, however, continue.
The police actions came after a series of complaints by residents who said the workers were creating public-safety and quality-of-life problems. These included urinating in public, defecation, catcalls, fighting, drinking, blocking sidewalks, littering, smoking marijuana and sleeping overnight, Trifiletti said.
“Our aim here is to make sure that they have jobs,” the mayor said. “But when you look at all these things coming together, we have to enforce the law. We’re concerned that village residents live in a safe environment and everyone has an equal opportunity to work.”
The police never meant to intimidate the workers or the contractors, Trifiletti said, though that may have been the result.
Rev. Javier Viera, a board member of the Hispanic Resource Center who attended the meeting, said his group acknowledged that some workers may have been responsible for the violations, but said they were frequently blamed for all that went wrong at Columbus Park. Nonetheless, he said, his organization would take steps to inform the workers about what they could or could not do while in the park.
“We, too, are interested in public safety and quality-of-life issues,” said Viera. “For us, it is also an issue of justice . . . that conditions exist under which these men can thrive.”
Viera said Trifiletti made it clear that he had no intention of impeding the laborers’ right to work.
“We absolutely have his commitment. We are trusting him,” Viera said.