Judge: Oyster Bay day laborers have right to seek work in public

A district court judge has ruled that day laborers in Oyster Bay have the right to look for work in public places.

The decision struck down a 2009 town ordinance that prohibited people from standing on the sidewalk soliciting employment, and also banned drivers from stopping to pick up the workers.

The ordinance prompted the New York Civil Liberties Union and two other organizations to take the town to court.

The town argued that it is responsible for public safety and making sure that vehicles and pedestrians can safely move through the town. In the decision issued today, the judge pointed to the fact that there are already New York state vehicle and traffic laws in place to protect drivers and pedestrians.

Today, parties to the lawsuit celebrated their victory. "This is a core First Amendment right to be able to go out to public spaces in our communities and let it be known that you are available for work," said Jason Starr, of the NYCLU Nassau Chapter.

Town Supervisor John Venditto said he is disappointed with the court's determination. He said the ongoing threat to the health, safety and welfare of all the town's residents, including day laborers themselves, will determine whether or not the town will appeal.

The town says it's also considering modifying existing laws to address the issue.

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