By Danny Schrafel
State and county lawmakers are urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to call the New York State Assembly back into session in order to ensure local municipalities can once again set their own restrictions governing where sex offenders can live.
The push comes months after the state’s top court threw out local sex-offender residency restrictions and three days after a registered level 3 sex offender convicted of possessing child pornography moved out of a Dix Hills home – a home located just 375 feet from the Commack School District’s Rolling Hills Primary School, where a press conference was held July 30.
Advocates say a special session is necessary to ensure protections are in place again before school is back in session this fall and before level 1 sex offenders begin dropping off the state registry. A requirement for level 1 sex offenders to register with the state also expires at the end of the year.
“Unfortunately, the Assembly majority has been slow to embrace what needs to be done when it comes to this issue. The governor can do it tomorrow,” Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-E. Northport) said. “I know I’m ready to go back to Albany. I know my colleagues are ready to go back to Albany. Let’s get this done before a tragic incident happens.”
Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Dix Hills residents and Commack School District officials are all too familiar with the issue. Wyoming native Kyle Reuter, who spent more than three years in prison after being convicted on child pornography charges, moved in just three doors down from the Rolling Hills school, located on McCullough Road. Laura Ahern, executive director of Parents of Megan’s Law, said the man moved back to Wyoming and left Dix Hills on July 28.
The court decision and lack of subsequent action has left communities “vulnerable to sex offenders who wanted to move in any distance from any public or private school,” she said.
“Across the state, victims now are not protected from their perpetrators moving in directly across the street from their house,” Ahern said. “Communities are not protected from having individuals [sex offenders] from moving in within 300 feet of a public elementary school.”
The court of appeals struck down all local and county residency restriction laws in a decision Feb. 17, ruling they were impermissible because state legislation already existed on the issue. State law restricts level 3 sex offenders who are under supervision from willfully entering school grounds or living within 1,000 feet of a school or daycare center.
Before the ruling, Suffolk County law prohibited level 1, 2 and 3 sex offenders from living within a quarter-mile from public schools and other locations, and restricted them from living a certain distance from their victim’s job or home. Huntington’s Child Protection Act, enacted in 2005, banned level 2 and 3 sex offenders from living within a quarter-mile (1,320 feet) of a school, child daycare center, day camp, park, beach or playground.
Since the Court of Appeals’ decision, eight sex offenders have moved into areas of Suffolk County they were once prohibited from, Ahern said. Two are in Huntington – one is 519 feet away from Walt Whitman High School, and another is about 1,000 feet from Elwood Middle School and John