By ASHLEY HELMS
Two motels have had their licenses renewed, but one of the approvals didn’t come to pass without a bit of controversy in the Village of Mamaroneck.
Concern centered on Vincent and Son’s Motel, located at 1514 E. Boston Post Road, next to Rye Neck High School and Middle School. The murder of a 17-year-old girl at the motel 28 years ago was the main bone of contention for Jeff Dorfman, a Rye Neck resident and parent. Dorfman said he is displeased with a motel operating in such close vicinity to a school. His 11-year-old daughter is a sixth grader at the middle school.
“I’m not anti-motel, I’m pro-child,” Dorfman said. “No one seems to know anything about Vincent’s Motel.”
Following the 1985 murder of 17-year-old Maria Azevedo, a sophomore at Rye Neck High School at the time, every year in December, the Board of Trustees must approve licenses for the two village motels in order for them to continue operating.
Azevedo was grabbed by 19-year-old Anson Moore—who was staying at the motel the night before he committed the murder—while she was riding her bicycle to school that morning. Her body was found inside a Vincent and Son’s motel room. The motel has been in business since 1967.
Motels submit a licensing application yearly and the village building inspector and fire inspector conduct an evaluation. Applications include information such as a detailed description of the system used to register patrons who are residing in the motel, according to village code.
Regarding Vincent and Son’s renewal this year, Dorfman said he collected a petition containing 150 signatures of Rye Neck residents who are against the motel’s relicensing. He suspects motel patrons are not members of the Mamaroneck community and may not even live in Westchester County.
“Who are these costumers and are they safe being around middle and high school children?” Dorfman said.
To mitigate residents’ concerns, Dorfman suggested motel staff install security cameras around the premises that are connected to, and monitored by, the Mamaroneck Police Department. This is the best compromise in order to allow the motel to stay open while keeping the community safe, he said.
Dorfman said he employs the same technology at his home, where about 14 security cameras monitor activity outside.
“I can get all 14 cameras on my iPhone in 30 seconds; it’s not like the technology isn’t there,” he said.
The resident also suggested the police department conduct background checks on every patrol of the motel, looking for a history of sexual assault and other violent offenses.
Mamaroneck Police Chief Christopher Leahy said he was unsure if background checks on every motel guest are even possible.
“I’d question the legality of that,” he said.
Trustee Andres Bermudez Hallstrom, a Democrat, said he lives across the street from a store on Mamaroneck Avenue that uses security cameras, but fights still break out occasionally outside of the store. Due to these instances, the trustee said he questions how effective security cameras are at cutting down on crime.
The 1985 murder was committed by a high school dropout, Bermudez Hallstrom said, and a background check on him wouldn’t have yielded any information that would have prevented the murder.
Paul Noto, a lawyer who represents Vincent and Son’s Motel among other business interests in the village, said setting up cameras, employing background checks and remaining fearful over who is staying at the motel is a “witch hunt” with no evidence to support it.
“We’re in line with all of the provisions of the motel. They’re in the business to make money and you don’t make money by allowing people engaging in illegal activity in your motel,” Noto said.
Barbara Eckstein, owner of the Mamaroneck Motel, located at 1015 W. Boston Post Road, suggested building a gate around the Rye Neck schools instead of forcing Vincent and Son’s to comply with extra security measures.
“It’s not the businesses; I think the responsibility has to be at [Rye Neck schools] and not in the community,” Eckstein said.
The Board of Trustees approved relicensing for both the Mamaroneck Motel and Vincent and Son’s Motel, but noted that it would consider amending motel insurance policies to address community concerns.