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Greenlighted after the close of a major police investigation into area criminal activity, Southampton Town commenced the cleanup Monday, May 24 of several publicly-owned parcels near the Riverside traffic circle.
The half-acre property located at 308 Riverleigh Avenue was purchased by the Town as a vacant commercial lot in January 2012. Between 1993 and 2005 the Town bought five other connected properties comprising three acres which, since the 1950s, had uses ranging from an agricultural labor camp to a mobile home park. Over the years runaway vegetation and decayed fencing proved inviting for undesirable activity and became a neighborhood nuisance. In April 2004, the Town Board took steps toward an enforcement action against the then-property owner to remove litter and unsafe conditions under sections 128, 211, and 261 of the Town Code. The Chief Fire Marshal at the time reported “vast improvement” after the landlord demolished a building there and public hearings on the matter were subsequently closed. In more recent years, tall weeds had concealed criminal activity such as illegal dumping, vagrancy, public lewdness, and narcotics distribution.
“The Police Department has been addressing quality of life observations and complaints in this area for quite some time,” said Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki. After stepping-up patrols, deploying undercover officers, and keeping the properties under “close observation,” law enforcement efforts reached a climax on April 23 with the indictment of 12 defendants, including two alleged members of the transnational 18th Street gang. “We made several arrests for minor violations while also working with our partners in the East End Drug Taskforce to build a case that culminated with the arrests of an organized group of individuals responsible for significant felonious drug dealing, and suspected of promoting prostitution in the area,” he said.
After holding off for several weeks in the aftermath of the police investigation and subsequent arrest, Town officials visited the properties with Ronkonkoma-based Rockmore Contracting Corp to develop a scope of work and timetable for the cleanup.
“Now is the time to change the landscape, clean up the area, remove the cover for criminal activity, and begin the next phase of continued crime reduction and community quality of life improvement,” the chief added.
On Monday morning Town Parks and Recreation crews delivered three 30-yard debris receptacles which filled quickly. To maximize efficiency, workers plan to mulch the landscape spoils on-site and then spread them along the property lines to break down naturally over time. Saplings will be removed and the branches of larger trees cut back to provide a clear line of sight from the surrounding roads. The deteriorated chain link fencing will be removed from the main entrance and middle of the site. New fencing will replace it, where appropriate.
“The Town made the cleanup a top priority and it’s progressing nicely,” reported Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone. “One of our goals was to cut and clear the vegetation before the peak growing season and have everything finished by Memorial Day. I want to thank the Southampton Town Police Department and the Town’s Parks Department for their assistance.”
The joint efforts of law enforcement and those to address the blighted conditions serve as integral parts of a comprehensive approach embodied in the Riverside Revitalization Action Plan (RRAP) adopted by the Town Board in 2015. It is the Town’s aim to sustain these joint efforts to make way for broader community renewal goals articulated in the RRAP.