East Hampton Town ordinance enforcement officers, alongside fire marshals and building inspectors for the town, all assisted by town police, conducted a dawn “operation” Sunday, July 29, on a house at the end of Railroad Avenue, a pockmarked private dirt road in Amagansett.
There were 32 people living in squalid conditions, according to Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc’s office. Eighteen of those in the house, which has a certificate of occupancy as a four-bedroom residence, were allegedly found sleeping in the basement on mattresses on the floor. One officer who was involved in the operation, and who asked not to be identified, described the conditions in the house as “disgusting.”
David Betts, public safety director for the town, cautioned not to call the operation a raid. The operation was based on a search warrant, he said. “We knocked on the door, and we were let in,” said Betts.
The house in question, at 38 Railroad Avenue, belongs to Evan Davis, who also has a Jamaica, Queens address, according to real estate records available online. Davis was not in the residence at the time. However, Braham Elorda, 32, who the town says was the manager of the property, was present when officers entered the house. He was issued an appearance ticket directing him to show up at East Hampton Town Justice Court, along with Davis, when both will be arraigned on numerous charges, based on discovered violations. Betts said the charges would be of a “significant” nature.
The town is also interviewing all 32 found inside the residence. It is the town’s belief that the residents in the house, all workers in the area, were paying between $100 and $150 weekly rent.
According to the supervisor’s office, beyond the dangerous overcrowding, inspectors found “substantial code violations that were direct threats to the life and safety of the occupants.”
“Of most concern was the presence of a gasoline generator and gasoline storage in the basement of the house where the 18 occupants were sleeping. This situation not only caused a fire hazard in that there were no smoke detectors in place, but the use of the generator could have created deadly levels of carbon monoxide. There were no required carbon monoxide detectors in place to protect the occupants,” the inspectors reported.
“The town will continue to actively enforce our codes to ensure the safety of all our residents,” Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said Monday.
“I haven’t seen the charges and don’t know all the details, but it’s my understanding that the people in the house are here legally to work,” Tina Piette, Davis’s attorney, said in an email Monday afternoon. “There is a crushing need for dormitory, seasonal, work force housing for those who serve the needs of large estates, and in delis, grocery stores, hotels, restaurants, and the like, where people can put their heads down at night.”