Referring to the establishment as “seedy” and a “blight,” on Aug. 29, Town Supervisor Anthony Santino stood with local school, business and village officials outside of the Plantation Motel in Island Park and requested that the Nassau County Department of Social Services discontinue housing its aid recipients there.
“It’s time to take Island Park back for the hard working members of this community,” he said. “ … We’re calling on the Nassau County Department of Social Services to join Hempstead town in disqualifying the Plantation Motel from its list of locations where social service clients may be housed.”
Citing a Herald report that noted Island Park as having the third highest rate of heroin arrests in Nassau County for 2017, Santino said that housing social services clients in the motel was putting an added strain on local emergency resources.
Additionally, he said that because the motel’s accommodations lack a kitchen, stove and living room, it is an “inappropriate” location to house social services recipients under Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines. However, when asked if the housing of clients at such a location was illegal, Santino said that the practice was an “abrogation” of protocol.
Responding to the town’s call, Dr. John Imhof, commissioner of the NCDSS, issued a statement acknowledging that while his department generally discourages the use of motels as housing for its aid recipients, finding proper accommodations for its clients immediately after hospital stays poses a particularly difficult set of challenges.
“Homeless individuals and families with health-related issues need private accommodations and bathrooms after being discharged from hospitals in Nassau County,” he said. “Because of these needs it would be inappropriate for them to go into shelters or nursing home facilities.”
Responding to the statement, Town Deputy Superviser Anthony D’Esposito, a lifelong Island Park Resident said he was skeptical of the county’s claim regarding medical attention. “I’m not really certain as to what the Plantation offers that helps DSS provide medical care that couldn’t be provided elsewhere,” he said.
Speaking after Santino’s speech, Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty said that although he saw the need for aid to the poor, the village’s situation regarding the presence of the motel and its inhabitants had become a burden.
“While the village maintains its Judeo-Christian ethic, we have had a situation foisted upon us,” he said adding. “It is inappropriate to house kids and other social services recipients in a place that’s missing kitchens.”
Plantation’s manager, who did not give his name, would not comment on whether the motel was housing aid recipients. He asked that media instead shift its focus to flood victims in Texas, who were contending with ongoing devastation from Hurricane Harvey.
Two-month motel resident Patti Schmutzer said she was unaware of any social services clients at the location, and insisted that she and everyone she knew at the motel were paying to live there. “There are no drugs here at all,” she said. “The people are wonderful and I have a beautiful room.”