Last year, it was revealed that a secret deal was made by the County Executive with the owners of the former Hampton Inn Jericho/Westbury at 120 Jericho Turnpike in Jericho guaranteeing the new landlord $36 million dollars over the course of ten years on a $13 million dollar investment to become a homeless shelter. The deal was signed two days after an anonymous LLC signed the lease on the property.
This information caught many in the community by surprise, including elected officials and school district officials, who would have to find room for the children of the new permanent residents of the former hotel. Community protests were held last year in which many residents voiced their concerns for the secret deal and their anger for being kept in the dark during the process. Many elected officials, including County and Town officials, as well as school superintendents, echoed the concerns due to also being excluded from any discussion of this covert arrangement.
On April 22nd, Nassau County Legislators Rose Marie Walker and Laura Schaefer joined with Jericho community members and activists to unveil a bill to require written notification to towns, villages, cities, and school districts of any agreements made to open multi-family homeless shelters within these jurisdictions. The bill is meant to increase transparency, and make sure every person affected by these deals are notified in advance.
“My colleagues in the Legislature and I found out about the first secret deal, from a press conference,” Legislator Laura Schaefer said. “The fact that a $36 million dollar deal would be kept secret from those representing the district, including the school districts, shows a complete lack of transparency. This cannot be allowed to happen again. This law will make sure all stakeholders in the process of a shelter being built are kept appraised of any future shelter agreements that come forward and can help to alleviate any issues that may arise.”
“The people of Jericho were very upset to hear about backdoor deals made without public notice, that affects their homes and their schools,” Legislator Rose Marie Walker said. “This administration has shown a lack of transparency for many important issues, and this is no different. I am proud to support legislation that brings these secret deals to light.”
Junwei Luo, Jericho resident, spoke and the press conference and had the following to say: “We are compassionate people in Jericho. We are not against having a homeless shelter. What we are against is the lack of transparency from those involved with this deal. I hope this new legislation will make sure we never have this issue again.”