SUNY New Paltz students received an email from the university police on Oct. 25, notifying them that three registered sex offenders had relocated to New Paltz.
Of the three, two were designated risk Level 2, indicating a moderate risk of repeat offense. They are currently living at Best Inn, which until January was known as the Econo Lodge, located at 530 Main Street. This brings the total number of known sex offenders living at the motel to at least eight.
(The third sex offender was classed by courts at Level 1, indicating a low risk of repeated offense. The law provides that only an approximate address based on zip code can be shared for Level 1 offenders.)
Tim Rogers, Mayor of the Village of New Paltz, and Bettez met with the owner of the motel last year to discuss the decision-making behind providing housing for sex offenders. Bettez said the owner said it was for financial reasons after motel business was negatively affected by the pandemic with fewer travelers and short-term guests during lockdown. The owner of the motel did not respond to requests for comment.
After some New Paltz residents expressed concern, the Town of New Paltz unanimously passed a local law on Nov. 12, 2020 limiting the number of sex offenders that can be housed at one given location. The motel is now challenging this law in court.
“We’ve gotten a bunch of complaints,” said Bettez on what prompted the local law. “People were worried.”
Community divided: housing vs. not in my backyard
Registered sex offenders in New York cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school or any other facility that cares for children, like a day care center. That restriction can limit housing options for offenders out on parole and make budget motels located a safe distance away from schools, like the Best Inn, an ideal option.
Many community members and students that Times Union: Hudson Valley spoke with expressed concern about the Best Inn’s decision to house multiple offenders. The motel is located along the Empire State Trail and is close to the SUNY New Paltz campus.
“I was immediately nervous when finding out because I thought about the fact of how easy it is for these offenders to blend into society and potentially do it again,” said Katherine White, a student at SUNY New Paltz.