The atmosphere was tense as the special meeting unfolded at the Nathan L.H. Bennett Pavilion at Hempstead Town Hall. This pivotal gathering sought to address the longstanding concerns surrounding the Capri Motor Inn on Hempstead Turnpike in West Hempstead. With key figures present, including council members, community leaders, and representatives, the event offered a platform for the West Hempstead community to engage in a dialogue about the fate of the establishment.
Leading the hearing was Supervisor Don Clavin and the Town Council. Nassau County Legislator John Giuffre, who represents a significant portion of the West Hempstead Community, was in attendance. Legislator Bill Gaylor, who has been redistricted into West Hempstead, was unable to attend due to a family emergency. Community organizations such as the West Hempstead Community Support Association and the Community League of Garden City South ensured that the residents of the surrounding area had a voice in the proceedings.
The central issue under scrutiny was whether the Capri Motor Inn, located at 434 Hempstead Turnpike, qualified as a public nuisance according to the town code’s Chapter 91. Attorney Joseph Mason stood as special counsel to the town, setting the stage for an examination of the motel’s alleged involvement in criminal activities.
The town code’s procedures for designating a premises as a public nuisance were elucidated. A “predicate arrest” signifies an arrest made under specified conditions, while a “predicate offense” refers to offenses detailed in Chapter 91. Evidence presented pointed to lewdness, drug use, and illegal alcohol usage as key concerns.
The cases that led to the hearing to close the motel were the predicate offenses in late July and early August. Mason highlighted an arrest on Monday, July 24, at the Capri Motel, charging the individual with lewd acts. Another arrest, a couple of weeks later, was for selling drugs on the premises. A decision to deem the building a public nuisance would empower the board to order its closure or boarding for up to a year under Town Code Section 91.5.c.
Inspector James Crawford, commanding officer of the 5th Precinct, gave testimony regarding the years of crimes that were committed at Capri. Crawford, who has been commanding the 5th for the past seven months, has been in the Nassau County Police Department for the past 18 years and has served in seven of the eight precincts. Crawford stressed that the Capri is a criminal hub, placing an undue burden on the community, with a staggering 597 police visits in the past two years, including ten unexplained deaths. Crawford showed the Council a summary of the cases that have been opened in the last few years due to activity at the motel, which he estimated at around 50 pages. “It is a burden to the precinct,” Crawford testified.
The council began the public comment section with Legislator John Giuffre, who thanked the council for conducting this meeting and presented a joint letter from himself and Legislator Bill Gaylor to be entered into the record. “We are writing to express our full support of the Town of Hempstead’s efforts in shutting down the Capri Motor Inn in West Hempstead,” the letter reads.
“For years, this facility has been a bane on West Hempstead’s community. Residents and community members have been loud and clear that they do not want this crime-infested business in West Hempstead. This latest round of criminal activity and safety violations is the last straw.”
In opposition to the closure was Jeff Schreiber, attorney for the owner and manager of the Capri Motor Inn. Schreiber immediately became contentious with the council, demanding that both Supervisor Don Clavin and Town Councilman Thomas Muscarella, who represents the area on the Town Council, recuse themselves from the proceedings for making public statements, claiming that they have already prejudged that the motel is a public nuisance. Supervisor Clavin knocked back, saying that Schreiber should not “put words in anyone’s mouth,” and that he’s “delighted that [Schreiber] came all the way from New York City.” Schreiber also demanded that he have an opportunity to cross-examine everyone who gave a public comment, to which Town Attorney John Maccarone roundly rejected. “This is a public forum; no one is being sworn in to testify,” Maccarone said.
Schreiber asserted the establishment’s compliance with zoning rules, cleanliness, and cooperation with law enforcement. He contested the closure and emphasized the motel’s role in accommodating those in need, including the 27 employees who required the income from the motel and those housed upon request by the Department of Social Services (DSS). Schreiber claims that his client is as much a victim of the crime at the motel as anyone, and employees of the motel are the ones who contact law enforcement.
Closing out the hearing were comments from community members, most notably Maureen Greenberg (President of the West Hempstead Community Association) and Marge Kelly (President of the Community League of Garden City South). Greenberg presented a petition with 757 signatures urging for the motel’s permanent closure and referred to the motel as a “blight on the community [that] should be closed forever.”
The meeting concluded with an announcement of a continuation hearing on Wednesday, September 6, allowing for further examination of the situation.