Last weekend, it was discovered that an MTA water valve had been tampered with on the Bonavita property (approved by the Town Board for Avalon Bay), an area near the woods off Fifth Street in Huntington Station, adjacent to the armory. No one knows how long the water had been running, but we can estimate that it has been on for some time as there are water plants growing nearby. We also know that the homeless have camped out on this property, despite being chased off numerous times. Could this be how the homeless have been able to sustain themselves for so long?
Over the last 15 years or so, Louis Bonavita and Starlight homes have owned this 26.6 acre site on East 5th Street. The site was purchased from Instrument Corporation, with approvals for “Cobblestone Estates”, a 109- home subdivision approved by the Town Board in 1997. Instrument Corporation originally planned to build a circuit board manufacturing plant on the property, but never did so. Before that it was used as a farm.
For the last 15 years, there have been reports of homeless living on these grounds. Previous news reports have referred to tent encampments filled with toiletries, clothes, sleeping gear as well as cooking equipment and children’s toys.
These individuals, mostly men, known by the local kids as the “Woods People,” have been helped by the Huntington Interfaith Homeless Initiative (HIHI). Local churches and synagogues have provided food and shelter through HIHI. A food pantry at Manor Park, run by the Family Service League, also provides food. Peggy Boyd, who lives in Dix Hills, created and runs this program. She also runs the Family Service League.
One of these men, a man from Honduras, who was an alcoholic, froze to death several years ago there because he knew he would not be welcomed in an HIHI facility. The Town Board is certainly aware of this situation, as is Mr. Bonavita. County Health was called in last year to evict them because they lacked sanitary facilities. They have been evicted a number of times, only to return to a different location in the woods.
Why does the Town Board just allow this to continue for so long in Huntington Station?
For many years, what was missing from the “big picture” was how these people got water? You can’t survive in the woods without it. Now the water valve has been discovered.
Apparently, the MTA has a number of “water stations” along the tracks used for cleaning train cars. These are water valves that look somewhat like old fashioned hand pumps but are in fact connected to the Suffolk County Water Authority water mains. It appears as if the water valve in question was “jury rigged” to stay open all the time.
Some of the homeless people were seen filling plastic jugs with water from this water valve and leaving on bikes. After several calls to the MTA hotline the other day, I was able to speak to an MTA plumber who assured me the “water station” was going to be shut off.
So now that the water supply is shut off, the closest water access is the food pantry in Manor Park. With no water supply, perhaps these individuals will move on to a different location. Perhaps another call to the County Board of Health is in order.