Riverhead Town obtained a search warrant and conducted an Aug. 12 raid on the Wading River Motel, which the County Department of Social Services had been using as an emergency shelter for battered women and others.
The raid, which saw police and code enforcers force motel occupants from their rooms as they scanned their ID’s and took photos of their belongings, set off a war of words between town Supervisor Sean Walter and DSS commissioner Greg Blass.
Mr. Walter said there were serious building and fire code violations in the building, such as exposed wires and damaged smoke detectors. He also insisted the property was being illegally operated as an emergency shelter.
“Anything who is looking at this objectively has to say these are unsafe living conditions,” Mr. Walter said, as he showed pictures of the motel to the media a week after the Friday night raid.
Mr. Blass responded that the bulk of the people being sheltered at the motel were single mothers and that they were there because all 52 shelters the county uses were full. He called the town’s raid “a shocking turn of events.”
Even Councilman George Gabrielsen took exception with the raid, saying at the time that the town should apologize to the people living at the motel.
“This stuff happened in the Soviet Union. It shouldn’t happen in my town,” he said.
Fast forward to the end of the year, and the town still has not formally charged the motel’s owners with any violations.
But Town Attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said the town has given the owners a 30-page “order to remedy” and is giving them time to correct alleged violations before the town issues fines.
Mr. Kozakiewicz said on Dec. 20 that time is running out, and if the alleged violations aren’t corrected soon, he will recommend that the town file charges in Town Justice court and take the property owners to state supreme court to force them to comply.