The small town of East Hampton has gained a reputation as the playground for New York’s well-heeled elite, a place to spend the idle summer months in their million-dollar homes.
But some of its wealthy residents are upset at an influx of less well-heeled workers who they say are lowering the quality of life and diminishing the appearance of the quaint Long Island town.
A campaign group is focusing on the Springs area of East Hampton, dubbing itself ‘Unoccupy Springs’ and calling for an end to multiple families of low-wage workers living under one roof.
While the group insists that race, religion, and creed do not factor in, most of the residents are from ethnic minorities – many of them immigrants – and find employment servicing the area’s luxury properties.
Carol Saxe Buda, the creator of group Unoccupy Springs, told the New York Times that regardless of race, crowding in homes is bad for business, adding that multiple families’ children all living under one roof caused an imbalance in taxes.
Ms Buda said in a recent town hall meeting that the people using single-family dwellings for multiple families were not committing ‘victimless crimes.’
The housing code states that up to four unrelated people or one family can occupy a single-family dwelling.
Resident Frank Weinberg, who is also a member of Unoccupy Springs added: ‘Imagine yourselves living next to a house with 5, 6, 7, 8, 10 cars and debris strewn about the property – neglected and blighted.
‘And imagine that your taxes are going up every year, significantly, while your property value is going down,’ the East Hampton Star reported.
Deputy town supervisor Theresa K. Quigley told Times that while Springs does have very high tax rates, the motive behind the Springs HomeOwners Alliance and the Unoccupy Springs movement is more ominous.
She told the newspaper: ‘The people who came to the Town Board insist there is nothing radical intended. They say they’re talking about overcrowding, but they’re talking about Latinos.’
Ms Quigley added that it may be easy to blame minority groups like Latinos for the problems in Springs and East Hampton. ‘Doesn’t that sound a little familiar?’ she asked,’ Like blaming the Jews for troubles in Germany.’
According to the New York Times, the Hispanic population has tripled in the past decade, and the Hamptons’ traditional residents are making waves about their new neighbours.
The Times notes that most immigrants live on the southern part of East Hampton, which is less expensive but also farther away from the ocean.
The area, called Springs, is home to modest houses –some of which, residents said – are over-crowded with multiple families and children.
Unoccupy Springs’ website says the movement was founded by concerned citizens who want to ‘improve our quality of life’ and are ‘concerned about enforcement of single family zoning code provisions’ and ‘very burdensome school taxes.’
The website describes Springs as a ‘dumping ground for the town’s low-end multiple housing.’
The Star reported that there are four full-time officers and one part-time official to patrol the town.
The 2010 census revealed that 37 per cent of residents in East Hampton were Hispanic.
According to Greatschools.org, the cost of living in East Hampton is 390 per cent higher than the national average, with the median home price settling in at a staggering $1.66million.
East Hampton serves as the summer pied-a-terre to celebrities like P. Diddy, Jerry Seinfeld, designer Calvin Klein, Martha Stewart, and celebrity chef Ina Garten, among others.