Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 13 January 2012 00:00
The Village of Mineola investigated recent claims of blight and gang presence in the village, specifically around the intersection of Willis Avenue and Lincoln Avenue. Those claims turned out to be false.
A resident quoted a section of the village municipal code during a recent meeting of the village board covering blight and its prevention via maintenance of property and graffiti, which he claimed were present on the southeast corner Lincoln and Willis Avenue.
Among the resident’s claims were that garbage was piled up seven days a week in piles has tall as 4 feet. He also claimed that graffiti was present on the building and that the facade was in such a state of disrepair that it was falling off.
“The building is falling down, pieces of the building are literally falling off the building where children wait for the school bus,” he said, holding up photos of alleged gang tags and graffiti markings that he said were the marks of “18th Street” and “MS-13” gangs.
The resident focused on broken windows at vacant businesses near bus stops. Furthermore, another focused on an underpass near the Long Island Railroad for pedestrians that he claimed homeless people camp out in. It’s on the dead end of Lincoln Avenue.
The resident focused on the shed at the end of the tunnel. The village had the shed knocked down and tunnel sealed off.
Mayor Scott Strauss said that he would have building department representatives at the location the following day.
“The board felt very strong about this topic that we left right after the meeting and went to the area in question,” he said. “I was there again the next morning and walked around the entire site and looked at all the buildings in question.”
The mayor stated that he visited the location after the conclusion of the meeting at approximately 11 p.m. and village building inspectors and personnel from the 3rd Precinct also made visits.
A number of photographs the resident submitted to the village board also showed snow on the ground upon closer inspection, indicating that they had not been taken recently.
“Those pictures (have) got to be years old,” the mayor said. “There were piles of snow around them. The guy’s sending up alarms and panicking people about gangs that don’t exist.”
The board gave a presentation to the public showcasing the areas in question. Building Superintendent Dan Whalen and village clerk Joseph Scalero detailed the removal of the shed and sealing of the tunnel.
“Having gone out there, the first thing we did is speak with some of the tenets on that street,” Whalen said. “One said that they’ve had no problems with gang-related activity.”
Whalen revealed that he spoke with police three days after the site visit; police gave no indication that any increased presence around the area in question was needed.
Village personnel took down the shed in a day. The crew returned and sealed off the tunnel the next day.
Concerning trash in the street, village officials that went to the site the next morning and the photos that depicted trash everywhere did not match the scene Thursday morning.
Five or six years ago, the neighborhood did however suffer from some “unpleasant activity,” according to Whalen. Concerning allegations made about people drinking on the roofs of the building at all hours of the day, Whalen said his investigation found that no one was on any of the roofs at different points throughout the day.