In response to a letter from the CONCORDIAN outlining the hazards of the unused foundations and asking for help in protecting Concord villagers therefrom, the Long Island Home Builders Institute, Inc., has just replied to CONCORDIAN reporter Pat Cleary as follows:
THE CONCORDIAN, 1954
On November 27, Newsday carried a long story to the effect that “A West Islip woman claims that Islip Town police did nothing about dangerous trash fires left during by builders while Chief Richard N. Tucker asserted ‘There is just so much we can do.’”
If you recall the CONCORDIAN’S story about the unused foundations on North Dyer Avenue and the fires started by builder Nat Siegel’s men; if you keep in mind that I am the “West Islip Woman” mentioned by Newsday; if you remember that my investigation and subsequent copies were made as a CONCORDIAN reporter trying to get to the bottom of a diffuse and dirty situation, you will have a better understanding of what has happened and what follows below.
On October 29 at 2 P.M., Mrs. F. Greco of Burning Lane North called to report that the elders men had started a fire of building material and left the fire un-attended. I said I would call the Fire Chief at his home as he had asked me to do when I spoke to him about the situation the previous week.
I called the Fire Chief at his home. His wife said it was very difficult to get in touch with him. I called the listed Babylon Fire Department number and spoke to a police officer. He said it was very difficult to get in touch with the Fire Chief, but he would call Islip Town Police and would have them investigate the fire and put it out.
MORAL: DON’T LET YOUR HOUSE CATCH FIRE DURING BUSINESS HOURS
4 P.M. Mrs. Greco called. Again to report another, even bigger fire had been started and left unattended. She also said that she and Mrs. Zenk had called Babylon F.D. to report it and were both told that the matter would be reported to the Islip Town Police. The Islip Town Police did nothing.
5:15 P.M. I checked to see if the fire was still burning. It was. I called the Fire Chief at his home. He said that he had come out to investigate and found no fire. (He had looked only around Alwick Avenue). I assured him that there was one. He said that there was not much he could do about it anyhow, but that he would come out in the morning and speak to the builder. If the builder asked for a permit to burn, which he did not have, the Fire Chief would give him one. He would not issue a summons, just a warning, he said, and it was foolish to discuss the possibility of the builder leaving another fire unattended. The builder could do as he pleased n his own property. Furthermore, children should be obedient and not go near fires. The Fire Chief’s children never do anything that they have been told not to do, he said.
The Fire Chief came out to investigate the next morning. Apparently he issued the burning permit because there have been several fires set and left unattended since that date. These I did not know about at the time, but at least one was reported to the Fire Chief’s home and his wife said it was very difficult to get in touch with him.
I have written to the Town board and received an answer dated November 17 stating that the matters have been turned over to Building Inspector Arthur B. Smith and Police Chief Richard N. Tucker and that both would get in touch with me. I have not heard from Chief Tucker, but following is Inspector Smith’s letter.
November 23, 1954
Mrs. Patricia Cleary
633 Alwick Avenue
West Islip, New York
Dear Mrs. Cleary:
Your letter addressed to the Town Board, attention of Mr. Kroupa, has been referred to me.
I had one of my Deputy Inspectors inspect the foundations you speak of on North Dyer Avenue, West Islip, and find these to be backfilled without any construction now being started. Also his report shows that people living in the vicinity do throw old grass, etc. inside the foundations.
M. Siegle, the builder, came in to discuss the situation at the foundations and he has informed me that within a short time he will be erecting a house on each foundation. As long as the builder keeps his permit active, we do not have a specified time when he must complete a dwelling, nor do we have control as to make him fence in the property or foundations while a development is being carried out.
I have informed Mr. Siegle to do everything possible to protect the community as far as health and welfare of the people and children and he said he would try and do so.
If this does not meet with you favorably please do not hesitate in contacting me directly.
Very truly yours,
Arthur B. Smith
I sent copies of the CONCORDIAN to the Long Island Press, Newsday and the Long Island Home Builder’s Institute. Apart from Newsday’s story, reprinted below there has been no response. (Mr. Siegel has just been elected vice-president of the Suffolk Division of the L.I.H.B.A.)
There is now an abandoned truck in the empty lots. Its windows are broken and the jagged glass is a menace. There have bee reports that rats have been seen in the area. You can tell children to stay away from rats as Chief Tucker suggests, but can you tell the rats to stay away from the children?
Newsday, November 27, 1954
Charges PD Won’t Act On Fire Dangers
West Islip — A West Islip woman claims that Islip Town Police did “nothing” about dangerous trash fires left during by builders while Chief Richard N. Tucker asserted “There is just so much we can do.”
Though notified, the cops never investigated the incidents in Fern Homes adjoining Concord Village, Mrs. Patricia Clearey of 633 Alwick Avenue wrote the Islip Town Board.
She charged that small boys playing near the unguarded fires sustained minor injuries on October 21 and Oct. 29 and “police did nothing.”
Tucker said his men investigated “as soon as the complaints were received but we are limited as to what we can do if we haven’t got the evidence. If we investigate and there is no trouble then action is unfounded. If the people signed a complaint att the fires are a hazard or a nuisance that would be different.”
On Oct. 21, John Cody, 14, a Newsday honor carrier working his route, saved Leonard Wojno, 5, from serious injury when the younger boy’s pants went aflame from a smoldering trash fire. Wojno’s cries attracted Cody, who was the only one within earshot at the time.
Supervisor James F. Willis asked Tucker for a written report of Mrs. Clearey’s allegation that police failed to respond when called. Tucker said yesterday that “that is not true.”
A complaint by Mrs. Clearey that 12 open foundations have been a hazard in her neighborhood for over a year was referred to the building department.
According to the Concordian
In recent issues, the CONCORDIAN has had occasion to point with mixture of disappointment and anger to what appeared to be the indifference of town officials to the obvious danger of children and untended fires, one official said, quite simply, “Tell the children to keep away.”
In the news pages of this issue, you will find a complete report of Reporter Pat Cleary’s investigation into the matter of the unused foundations and the trash piles in and around them.
We have told the story as it happened and was told to us and have tried not to put editorial emphasis on any of the facts. Nevertheless, the facts themselves seem so crystal clear that in their light, Mr. Siegel comes off as a man with a job to do.