Hidden Cove Manager Says Black Mold Claims Are Erroneous

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The landlord and manager of a Hampton Bays motel turned homeless shelter that was vacated earlier this summer because of toxic black mold are refuting claims that the structure was infested with it.

Alec Roberts, the executive director of Community Housing Initiative, the Patchogue-based company leasing the Hidden Cove Motel on West Tiana Road and providing housing for Suffolk County’s homeless, said a recent air test revealed that there are no traces of black mold in the building that was vacated in late July.

Brian Phelps, the property manager of Hidden Cove, went a step further this week, claiming that the facility never had black mold, and the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, which had been reimbursing CHI to use the rooms to house homeless families, issued the reports of black mold in error.

“There is no toxic black mold at Hidden Cove Motel, and there never has been,” Mr. Phelps said.

Suffolk County Department of Social Services Acting Director John O’Neil did not return requests seeking comment.

Mr. Roberts said CHI could occupy the building again, but it will not because the lease expires in less than a month. No plans have been set for the property, though it could be rehabilitated into a motel once again or possibly demolished and replaced by condominiums. The county converted the motel into a homeless shelter two years ago.

Mr. Roberts wrote in an email that common mold found in a shower at the motel was misidentified as black mold.

A notice from South Carolina-based Mold Test USA, and provided to The Press, stated that no signs of black mold were found in an air sample taken in the motel on August 28. The document provided no information about mold traces prior to that date.

CHI has since had the facility professionally cleaned, Mr. Phelps said, adding that there were minor housekeeping issues to tend to in the units.

Mr. Phelps said he feels his reputation as a property manager might have been unfairly damaged by the claims of black mold in the motel. “When my name, and my company’s name, are in the same paragraph with black mold, it harms me,” he said.

Some neighbors of the motel, meanwhile, were perturbed by the individuals they saw handling what they believed to be materials contaminated by black mold in recent weeks. One such neighbor was Robert Liner, a founding member of the Concerned Citizens of Hampton Bays, which was created in part to close the homeless shelter.

Mr. Liner said he saw “college-aged” men dressed in shorts and T-shirts removing materials from the motel two weeks ago, putting mattresses and other items into open Dumpsters, which he did not believe to be an appropriate disposal of materials that were potentially exposed to mold.

“It’s a continuation of a process where the owner has ignored all the normal requirements of doing business from day one to the end,” Mr. Liner said.

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