BY CODY SULLIVAN
A Nassau County judge has temporarily halted plans for a homeless shelter at the former site of the Hampton Inn on Jericho Turnpike in Jericho that drew protests from local residents.
The Sept. 22 preliminary injunction, granted by Nassau County Supreme Court Justice Arthur Diamond, cited the developer’s failure to obtain permits and violations of zoning laws.
The plan was to house around 80 homeless families in the former hotel until more permanent housing arrangements could be made. Current town zoning restrictions allow temporary stays of just 30 days, and critics say it could potentially house the families for months.
The Town of Oyster Bay issued a stop-work order against the contractor in August, and later filed a temporary restraining order, which Justice Diamond issued.
Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said the town “will continue to enforce our zoning laws to protect our suburban quality of life. In doing so, we are representing and protecting our residents and neighborhoods.”
The injunction follows a series of protests against the project organized by the group Concerned Jericho Parents. Protesters said the money for the project should instead be used to find a more permanent solution for the homeless families and claim the project went ahead without public notice.
Event organizer Jennifer Vartanov said her group wants to ask Nassau County Executive Laura Curran “to come forward and answer the many questions we have regarding the installation of the first mega-shelter in Nassau County.”
Community Housing Innovation (CHI), the nonprofit that would be managing the proposed center, operates 30 similar facilities across Long Island. The executive director of CHI, Alexander H. Roberts, said in a statement, “Because most of our residents are children, we place a high value on safety and security. The [center] will have 24/7 security with 100 cameras connected to DVRs. Our resident support specialists will [ensure] that no drugs or other contraband pose a threat. The measures we take are welcomed by the overwhelming majority of families, who want a safe, nurturing environment to focus on getting back on their feet and into permanent housing.”
Speakers at the protest raised questions about the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the facility.
“Eighty-plus families living in close quarters in a hotel, and then having those children coming from the hotel to our schools is certainly a concern,” said event organizer Marc Albert.
They also raised concerns about the proposed shelter’s proximity to a local elementary school and busy intersection, and the burden that more children might place on their school district.
The nonprofit says the shelter in Jericho would only house families with children and the majority of those children wish to stay in their current school district. It would provide families with three meals a day as well as transportation to jobs and appointments, according to the organization.
—Cody Sullivan is a contributing writer