Housing For Workers

July 17, 1997

Two weeks ago, we editorialized in this space about the need for multifamily housing, urging local officials to take this need to heart and commenting that it was inappropriate at best to expect workers to labor here by day and disappear from the area at night.

It was perhaps with tongue in cheek that one reader subsequently suggested putting the stylishly renovated Bridgehampton Motel to such use. Another told us that those in need of temporary housing could be bused back and forth from Riverhead. Riverhead?

Riverhead recently enacted a law that requires safety inspections of group housing and limits the number of unrelated persons living under one roof. The problem is that Riverhead is still largely agricultural and there are dozens of farm workers, including adults with children, living in what once had been single-family houses.

Mark Kwasna, a Riverhead Town Councilman, is quoted in the article saying that health and safety were the primary concerns in enacting the law, following a fire in January that killed a Guatemalan worker. Be that as it may, the Councilman also seemed to have some other concerns.

"These illegal aliens wouldn't be homeless if they went [back] to where they came from," he is quoted saying. "There's plenty of people looking for work."

We don't know whether that is true, but on the South Fork we know it isn't. Our own college kids, green-card holders from Ireland and Poland, as well as Latin and Carribbean countries, all come here because the local work force cannot fill the demand. An effort to provide them with adequate housing, perhaps a combined public and private one, must be made.