In response to the recent slew of violence in Huntington Station, concerned Huntington residents and elected officials gathered last week at the Cold Spring Harbor Library to prepare for a rally set to take place outside Town Hall on Wednesday evening.
"We're bringing everyone together to resolve the crime issue," said concerned parent and Huntington Station resident Jennifer LaVertu, who organized the 6 p.m. rally to end violence in Huntington Station. "I am sick and tired of the crime. ... The Board of Ed blames Town Hall, Town Hall blames county, so I'm saying lets all get together and pow wow and talk about it."
The close to 30 present at the pre-rally meeting included representatives from the county, the town, the police department as well as a variety of individuals, spanning from distressed mothers to frustrated Huntington Station residents. Varied concerns and opinions were expressed with the intention of reaching a common goal – to end the violence and gang activity that has been occurring in and around Huntington Station.
"This community is paralyzed by crime," LaVertu said. "The violence in Huntington must be stopped."
Since the shooting of a 16-year-old girl near Jack Abrams Intermediate School on July 11, there has been increased distress over the unsafe conditions of Huntington Station, especially for young children and teens in the area. So much so that at an emergency meeting of the Board of Education on Monday, for at least the 2010-11 school year.
LaVertu said the two major sources of crime are the presence and habitation of multi-dwelling houses, which foster gang activity, and the lack of police presence in the area. The theme of the meeting was that there are several solutions to the violence that the county, town, and community should all be working towards.
"We have to be on the same page against the violence," Town of Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland said. "I think it's important to do an anti-violence rally. I think it's good to concentrate on the anti-violence to let the gangs see there is strength in numbers and that we are all on the same page and that we are all together to get rid of the violence. We have to show them that we are all going to work together to make that happen."
Necessary changes intended to be communicated at the rally include an increase in code enforcement, establishing a town-wide curfew, creating a police annex in Huntington Station, enforcing a loitering law, generating more police presence in problem areas, and increasing the anti-gang task force.
A major component of the pre-rally was the dissatisfaction with the community's around-the-clock protection.
"The presence there during the daytime needs to be there at night," LaVertu stressed.
LaVertu added that there needs to be more of a presence in problem areas and that having officers on foot or bike patrol at times when gang members are likely to cause mischief would assist in the clean up of incidents, as well as prevent them. A further suggestion was planting additional cameras in areas like Whitman Village, or enhancing cameras around schools to have live streams, so that police officers can be aware of unlawful events as soon as they occur.
"We need policemen to serve and protect, not pick up the pieces after the crime has happened," LaVertu asserted.
Huntington Station resident Kevin Thorbourne said he thought a hefty ingredient in the problem is the overpopulation of the area, as several families are living in run-down mansions or co-ops at once, while the landlord is absent and cannot prevent unlawful behavior.
"What we need to do is get rid of the multi-dwelling houses," Thorbourne said.
Those participating in the rally at Town Hall starting at 6 p.m on Wednesday said they hope to spread the sentiment so fervently expressed during the meeting.
"No one can deny Huntington Station has a lower level of protection," said Huntington resident and mother Ilene Fucci. "I can't imagine living this way. ... We need someone to take the lead and not tell us what we can't do. Let's talk about what we can do."