GORDON HEIGHTS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Just how much can one community take?
There are multiple neighborhoods in New York where the state has clustered paroled ex-cons, and innocent families are paying the price.
A 26-year-old mother accused of trying to kill her baby earlier this month created anguish in her Suffolk County community. Her lawyer claims she was mentally ill and a victim of human trafficking, while others say she was an interloper moving from house to house on a notorious street in a hamlet that borders Coram — Gordon Heights.
“For decades we’ve had a problem with the area in Gordon Heights, it’s known as ‘Dodsonville’ because one particular landlord bought up a number of foreclosures and started renting rooms to hard-to-place individuals,” Laura Ahearn from the Crime Victims Center and Parent’s for Megan’s Law said.
The case has exposed a raw and widespread fear over spreading clusters of sex offenders recently released from prison into Long Island’s lower income neighborhoods.
On streets like Homestead, near houses of worship and schools, garbage is strewn about with chained dogs and wandering residents. Cars are piled on driveways, with drug dealing conducted out in the open.
Vulnerable students walk directly past the properties renting to high-risk parolees, who receive government rent subsidies and in some cases live ten to a home.
One street has seven such boarding houses. High schooler Alex Rios gets off his bus and goes directly into his home to see his family.
“It’s dangerous because of all the grownups, homeless, drug dealing,” he said.
Ahearn says “clustering” the ex-cons was made possible by a well-meaning court decision.
“There used to be a way to control that, but in February 2015 the New York State Office of Appeals shot down every residency restriction law,” she said.
An attempt to make a uniform code across the state has backfired, many say.
“All our hands are tied and there is one body that can take care of this problem,” Ahearn said. “That’s New York State lawmakers.”
State Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-3rd) says it’s time to get to work. He, along with Fred Thiele, is sponsoring a bi-partisan bill called the Child and Victim Safety Zone Act. It would restrict to two renters per house, homes could not cluster on one street.
“Home rule is extremely necessary,” Thiele said.
The law would return housing decisions to each county and town and must be voted on before Albany’s summer break.
“We need to get this done for the safety and security of our children and families,” Murray said.
“We just want the community back, man,” Gordon Heights resident French Robinson said. “Back the way it’s supposed to be.”
Until, then residents say absentee landlords will continue to rent to groups of sex offenders, undermining communities trying to better themselves.
Residents can track sex offenders in their communities via Parents for Megan’s Law website or the New York State sex offender registry.