The Hampton Bays motel that has been operating as a homeless shelter for the past two years will close by the end of September, and the residents will be transferred to housing elsewhere in the county, Southampton Town and county officials announced Monday night.
The Hidden Cove Motel, off West Tiana Road, has housed up to 28 families at a time in its 33 units since it first opened in 2011 under the watch of former Suffolk County Department of Social Services Commissioner Greg Blass, who retired in January. It currently houses 20 families, despite a county law that places a limit of 12 families in such a shelter, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.
The town has long fought the location of the shelter, which does not comply with local zoning restrictions. The 2-acre waterfront property, owned by Laml Realty Corp., is in a 1-acre residential zone, which does not permit motels. The Hidden Cove Motel, however, predates modern zoning and is permitted as a nonconforming use.
Officials at the Suffolk County Department of Social Services have maintained that as agents of the state, they, and the homeless shelters they provide, are not subject to such local laws or zoning.
DSS Acting Commissioner John O’Neill did not return calls seeking comment this week on the decision to close Hidden Cove.
Representatives from Community Housing Innovations, the nonprofit dedicated to providing housing to low- and moderate-income individuals, oversees the Hampton Bays shelter. They could not be immediately reached for comment.
Ms. Throne-Holst and Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said they met with Mr. O’Neill on Friday, June 7, and he agreed to stop placing families at the shelter effective immediately. On Monday, June 10, he sent a letter to Alexander Roberts, the executive director of CHI, alerting him of the “discontinuation of the location.”
Brian Phelps, the property manager for the site, declined to comment on the pending closure. A CHI employee told a member of The Press who visited the site that reporters are not permitted to speak to residents of the shelter.
The remaining families will be relocated to more permanent housing, possibly closer to their home school districts, officials said. On April 30, the Suffolk County Legislature adopted a policy that requires that the county place families in need of emergency housing in a shelter that is close to their home school district to reduce the negative impact on children.
Ms. Throne-Holst and Mr. Schneiderman said most families staying at the Hidden Cove shelter are not from Southampton Town or the East End, and the children are bused to their home districts elsewhere on the island. But a number of children who have stayed in the shelter have attended school in Hampton Bays, a district already burdened with the high density of the hamlet, she said.
“In this case, we have concerns with the property itself, in that it’s on an old septic—it was never envisioned as a year-round use,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.
She added that the units are small and not designed to serve as apartments. “This particular facility was never built to have that occupancy,” she added.
She also noted that the town has repeatedly asked to be included in the discussion of where such emergency housing shelters would be located within the municipality, but were denied that right by Mr. Blass.
“All in all, it was a fraught program put in place by the former commissioner and the former administration,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.