Sometimes, public officials face dilemmas that require them to go beyond strict governance. Sometimes, they have to employ the wisdom of Solomon.
Such a moment came to Babylon recently as the Town Board considered taking legal action against the owner of a Deer Park home that has been the site of police activity, arrests and overdoses, including deadly ones.
The Town attempted to work with the owners Steven Cartwright who lives in the basement of the home and his mother, a Florida resident, after it considered shutting down the home because of illegal activity under its public nuisance law in 2020. At that time, the Town said the owner made a promise to rectify the situation.
Despite the Town’s efforts over the past two years, however, the illegal and sometimes deadly activity continued including the recent death there of a young woman from an overdose.
Her sisters Tamara Bojorm and Theresa Stephan appeared before the Town Board—grief-stricken but determined to see that the Town acted.
“My sister was a grown adult who made her own decisions,” said Tamara Bajrami, referring to her sister’s abuse of drugs. “But we made sure she was fed and did whatever we could for her. I understand you considered doing something in 2020; now it is two years later and something has to be done.”
Also appearing before the board were the other two tenants in the home: one who lives there with his wife and three children and the other a single mother with a special needs child. Both are not involved in any of the incidents that have taken place at the home, according to the Town.
Sean Lenahan, who lives in the first-floor apartment with his family, said he would be closing on a home shortly and asked the board for the Town’s timetable in shutting down the house. “I want to make sure that you do not move on this before we can relocate,” he said. “I don’t want me and my family to be left out in the street.”
Another tenant who lives with her son in the home’s second floor apartment, told the board she was very fearful about her future. “I don’t know where I am going to go,” she said, adding that finding an affordable apartment is very difficult. She who works from home, also told the board that losing the apartment would also mean losing her job—and the future for her and her son that she has been working so hard to secure. “It was very difficult for me to make that step from a homeless shelter to an apartment and I don’t want to have to go back to that after I have come this far.”
Bajrami and her sister acknowledged the difficulties the families faced, wishing them good luck and telling them they had no ill will toward them.
Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer said the Town would work with the two tenants and “figure this out.
“But,” he added, with the weight of all possibilities and outcomes on his shoulders, “when we look at the videos and hear all of the stories and antics going on there, we know that something has to be done. I cannot go to sleep at night knowing this is going on and that another person or persons could die there.”
The following day, the Town’s Department of Public Safety went to the home and boarded up the basement.
“Mr. Lenahan will be closing on his new house and can be out by the 25th and we are working with the other tenant to find a new apartment for her and her son,” said Schaffer.
The Town is also monitoring the home to ensure that Steven Cartwright, whom Schaffer said the Town reached out to several times with offers of assistance, does not return.
“I am sorry for him as well,” said Schaffer who showed, some would say, both governance and wisdom, laced with compassion. “We did offer to assist him as well, but he declined.”
In other business the board authorized:
•the transfer of American Rescue Plan money in the amount of $80,693 for the renovation of the VFW building, 30 William St., Wyandanch. This is in addition to a contract for $290,000 previously awarded to Austin Interiors, Inc. on October 13, 2021;
•the transfer of American Rescue Plan money in the amount of $15,000 to the West Babylon Youth Center for improvements at Sawyer Park;
•awarded request proposals to Savik & Murray for $154,000 for a feasibility study for the Town complex at Albany and Great Neck Road in North Amityville.
• an agreement with the Suffolk County Water Authority for the installation of new water service and to retire the existing service for Wyandanch Rising, Building L, for a total contract amount not to exceed $1,681,587.