January 12, 2011
No To Accessory Apartments
We respect and admire East Hampton Town Councilwoman Theresa Quigley but we are adamantly opposed to new accessory apartment legislation regardless of the form it takes when it finally becomes a written resolution.
Quigley, like all of us, realizes there are a lot of illegal apartments out there already, and wants to find a way to bring them into compliance. Allowing more, or granting amnesty to those who flaunt their illegal apartments in the faces of their neighbors, is not a solution – In fact, it will make a bad situation worse.
Aggressive code enforcement and beefed up laws as ineffectual as they may be, are the only way to deal with the problem. That means having officers out at midnight on weekends, when the violators are more easily spotted. It means cooperation between the school districts and the town, and it means stop peddling this nonsense that the schools can't legally identify students who are housed illegally. We need to stop hiding behind silly excuses and political correctness. If the parents of school children are living in illegal apartments they are not protected by student confidentiality laws.
This community is based on single family residential lots. Bedrooms and bathrooms can legally be added to existing homes to accommodate family members who want or need to move back home. Rooms can be rented out -- legally. Those types of expansion are vastly different than creating multiple family dwellings, which, once approved, will bring down the quality of life in this town and ruin entire neighborhoods.
If the town feels strongly about the issue it – or a quasi governmental agency like the housing authority – should undertake an affordable apartment project and locate it within walking distance of hamlet centers so residents don't need cars to get to the market.
This business about being sued for putting people out on the streets is a laughable smokescreen with no basis in fact, law, or practice. People who can't afford to rent a legal apartment are a problem for the Suffolk County Social Services department, not the taxpayers of this community – it is not our job to find homes for them. By the way, when hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes to foreclosures during the past two years, guess what? They were put out on the streets – literally, their remaining belongings piled on the sidewalk. Where was the public outcry then? Where were the shrill hysterics? Where was the A.C.L.U.?
One Springs school official said he was surprised the ACLU doesn't sue the district because Latinos are forced to endure overcrowded conditions at the school. Aren't children of all races and nationalities sitting in the same classrooms? Are Latinos afforded an extra level of protection?
It is important to realize there are two types of "illegal" at play here. People can be legal residents of this country but live in illegal apartments. It is the town's job to penalize the landlord, and it is the school's responsibility to provide an education to the children as long as they live in the district.
People who are in the country illegally have no inherent rights or protection under the U.S. Constitution and the school districts are not obligated to educate their children. The problem is our school districts don't make students prove citizenship before accepting them but claim they can't reveal information about the students to authorities once the child is enrolled.
Creating accessory apartments in this town will add to parking and traffic woes, overburden our cesspool systems, add scores of students to schools that have no room for them, increase property taxes across the board to every homeowner of this town, and encourage out-of-towners to move here and partake of the joys of living in a resort community while the rest of us pick up the tab. Worst of all, property values will plummet.
We agree with Councilwoman Julia Prince that a law currently on the books, that would allow apartments under strict guidelines – including making them affordable and having the landlord live on premise – was well thought out and could be a solution to some of the overcrowding if homeowners chose to avail themselves. That most haven't tells us illegal apartments are driven by greedy landlords in it for the money. Let's flush them out and fine them into submission.
We have a town board that is being widely criticized for shooting from the hip; public opinion for the most part is ignored. Doing so in this case would be a huge mistake, for the town board members and for all of us.
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