Bart Jones, Newsday (New York City), Aug. 12
About 20 Mexican immigrants set up a “tent city” Thursday next to a Farmingville house shuttered by Brookhaven Town officials because it was overcrowded, and an activist gave them supplies for a sign calling their community “Levyville,” in reference to Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.
The tenants of 196 Berkshire Dr., most of them day laborers but including four youngsters ages 10 to 17, said they spent Wednesday night sleeping in four tents on the property or on a concrete slab next to the house.
A Latino activist, the Rev. Allan Ramirez, gave the immigrants sheets and spray paint for the “Levyville” sign. “It is the county that is responsible when there is homelessness in the community,” he said.
The house was ordered shut by a court order sought by Brookhaven Town officials. According to court papers, town inspectors determined the house was home to 14 to 42 tenants on different days, and had various violations including blocked doors, exposed electrical wires and no smoke detectors. The town has moved to close seven houses containing as many as 240 tenants since late June.
Brookhaven Councilman Jim Tullo said town officials are enforcing local housing and safety codes and said the town does not offer emergency shelter for the homeless.
“It’s our charge to make sure that we can enforce our housing code to protect not only the occupants of these homes but also surrounding residents and protect the integrity and quality of life of the residents,” he said. He added, “It’s not the town’s responsibility to provide a place for them to live.”
Dumas said only legal residents are entitled to more than one night in county-financed homeless shelters, and officials are looking to nonprofit organizations, churches and community groups to help. Activists say shelters for undocumented workers are nearly nonexistent in Suffolk.