New York State Sen. Tony Avella has introduced a bill demanding more uniform sex offender residency laws after NBC 4 New York's I-Team discovered a discrepancy in how far from a school offenders can live.
Last week, the I-Team exposed a legal loophole that allowed level 2 and 3 sex offenders on parole or probation to live at the Bellevue Men's Shelter over the last several years, despite a state law saying they must live at least 1,000 feet from any school.
The private Churchill School and Center is just around the corner from the shelter, and depending on how someone measures the distance from the men’s city shelter on 30th Street, that distance can be above or under the mandatory 1,000-foot rule.
Under standards by the state Department of Corrections, which places and monitors paroled sex offenders, the front door of a sex offender’s residence should not be less than 1,000 feet from the front door of a school.
By those measurements, those sex offenders were OK to stay at the Bellevue Men's Shelter.
But the state penal code measures the required distance in a different way: it says the front door of the sex offender’s residence should not be within 1,000 feet of any part of the school property. By those standards, the 13 sex offenders at the Bellevue Men’s Shelter are living much closer to a school than the law allows.
"I was shocked to learn that the city was housing sex offenders so near to a school." Avella said.
The Queens senator's bill would clarify which agency is responsible for conducting the measurements and would determine where the measurements will be taken from. The senator’s bill would also mandate measurements to be taken from the school property line.
“Based upon NBC's investigative report, I'm introducing a bill today that would require the state Division of Criminal Services to determine once and for all which agency is responsible for overseeing the placement of sex offenders," Avella said.
The sex offenders living at the shelter got attention recently after one of them, Randy Stover, was arrested on charges he raped a woman in a Murray Hill bar restroom.
Stover was not on probation at the time while living at the shelter.
In response to the I-Team investigation, the city transferred 16 sex offenders from the Kips Bay shelter to other city locations earlier this week.
"The first and most important thing for us is community safety, and we care deeply for children and families," said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Lilliam Barrios-Paoli.
Barrios-Paoli said the 16 sex offenders removed were not on parole or probation so they had no residency restrictions.
“It's an abundance of caution,” Barrios-Paoli said.“These people were not residency restricted.”