Community members, municipal employees and police officers joined together last week to clear loads upon loads of garbage and debris from a property in Riverside that is owned by Southampton Town and has reportedly become a hot spot for criminal activity.
Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor said Town Police Officers Craig Slovensky and Steve Frankenbach contacted him with the idea of clearing the property so that officers would have an easier time patrolling the roughly three-acre lot between Riverleigh and Vail avenues. He explained that their goal was to deter drug sales and use, prostitution and illegal dumping on the property.
Mr. Gregor said he contacted the Suffolk County sheriff’s department, who sent about six low-risk inmates to help with the cleanup on September 4 and 5 as part of the Suffolk County Correctional Facility’s Sheriff’s Labor Assistance Program (SLAP). Together, with the help of Brad Bender, treasurer of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, and Steven Schreiber, vice president of the group, they filled the town’s 20-yard garbage compactor to the brim—twice.
Mr. Bender said they hauled out all kinds of trash, from empty alcohol containers and drug paraphernalia to piles of broken televisions, household waste and even a boat. It took all day, he added.
“The officers go back in there all the time, the problem being that there are so many places to hide,” said Mr. Bender, a candidate for the Southampton Town Board in November. “They can’t do their job effectively in that.”
On Tuesday morning, Mr. Gregor walked through the property and pointed to the heaps of debris and garbage on a privately owned lot that sits adjacent to the town-owned land. Earlier this summer, the Southampton Town Board authorized the town’s fire marshals to clean up that property, which is also vacant, and charge the associated fees back to its owner, which town records list as 32 Pine Street Inc. Cheryl Kraft, the town’s chief fire marshal, said the cleanup was put out to bid and she expects the work to be completed later this week.
The next step for the town-owned lot, Mr. Gregor said, is bulldozing the site and removing any vegetation that is less than 6 inches in diameter. The site was overgrown with invasive plant species that made it easy for people to hide or make encampments. Mr. Gregor said clearing the property would make it less dangerous for the officers by allowing them to drive onto the property.
Mr. Gregor said he received approval from Marty Shea, Southampton Town’s chief environmental analyst, and previously walked the property with two representatives from the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays, who were concerned that clearing the site could harm wildlife, such as turtle colonies. They found no significant wildlife, Mr. Gregor said, and he expected the site to be cleared by this Friday.
It was not immediately clear what the town intends to do with the property.
Officers Slovensky and Frankenbach, who patrol the area at night, could not be reached for comment this week.