Selim Algar, New York Post, April 20, 2009
No longer able to find work, Hispanic day laborers have forged a hidden network of about 20 cleared wooded campgrounds in the shadow of million-dollar Southampton homes, The Post has learned.
In one area, just blocks from Saks Fifth Avenue and Intermix stores, a butchered deer carcass rots near beds made of stacked Budweiser boxes. Tattered blankets and plastic vodka bottles are piled near charred campfire remains–a scene repeated throughout the sprawling area.
“There is no work, no money,” said Manuel Hernandez, a 34-year-old native of Puebla, Mexico, as he sat in the Southampton woods on a broken boom box. “When I went across the border, I know it was wrong. But I don’t fight, I don’t steal. I only came here to work.”
His friend Carlos said that he has spent nights shivering in the woods during the harsh winter months. He said the vast majority of the nearly two dozen workers living in the woods are in the country illegally and are hesitant to enter shelters for fear of detection.
When the area’s booming real-estate market collapsed, demand for labor all but vanished. Workers who used to earn enough money to rent homes in the area now find themselves penniless. The camp sits on property owned by the Southampton Full Gospel Church.
Southampton Police Chief William Wilson said his officers check on the area periodically and that several arrests have been made. “There really isn’t much we can do,” he said. “Our hands are tied on this.”