Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lawsuit: Latino Influx Into Eastern Long Island Town Making Locals Antsy; Officials Allegedly Target Landlords Renting To Hispanics w/ Code Violations

In East Hampton, New York, the New York Post reports:

  • They forced him to clean dirty toilets while everyone else lazed on four-hour lunches. They left him notes such as “Now just why in the hell do I have to press ‘1’ for English?” with a picture of John Wayne. Then they denied him leave to care for his dying mother-in-law.

    It’s hell being Hispanic in the Hamptons.

    Chilean immigrant Jorge Kusanovic, 67, has lived among the rich of East Hampton for 36 years. But now he’s suing the town for $3 million for back pay he says he is owed — as well as his dignity.

    The park worker filed a suit this month that alleges a decade of toil, where white supervisors threatened to fire him at every turn. “Because I’m Spanish, I have to pay a price the rest of my life to live here,” Kusanovic said. “You start to think this is normal.”

    Tension over Hispanic residents in the Town of East Hampton, population 21,457, is nothing new. But the conflict has gotten hotter this summer, as residents have complained about new immigrants, and Kusanovic has bared his case in court.

    This spring, residents packed town board meetings during public sessions, demanding officials enforce East Hampton’s housing code to stop people from living in town illegally. Some residents, particularly in the hamlet of Springs, say large immigrant families are packed into single-family homes.

    They brought photos of their neighbors’ homes to town board hearings — saying their multiple satellite dishes and car-covered lawns were ruining property values.

    Deputy town supervisor Theresa Quigley blasted the complainers for targeting “Latino” families. During one meeting, she was overheard calling the complainers “Nazis.” “I’m telling you, this is disgusting,” she said. “I don’t want to be in this town.”

    Census data shows that the number of Hispanic residents in East Hampton has skyrocketed 94%, with 5,660 in 2010, compared to 2,914 a decade earlier.

    Lawrence Kelly, an attorney for Kusanovic, says the feuding has gotten so bad that the town is targeting landlords who rent to Latinos — issuing building violations just to coerce them into changing tenants.

    It’s pitted neighbor against neighbor, with longtime resident Tina Piette calling some people’s efforts to spy on newcomers “disgusting.” “People move to East Hampton or retire there and don’t expect to see Ecuadorians next door, or someone who speaks Spanish and is a permanent resident,” she said.

    Still, Kusanovic says such unwelcome treatment of Latinos in the Hamptons is the norm. He purchased his home in Montauk during a housing lottery in the ’70s. At the time, more than a dozen minority families signed up for two homes, but Kusanovic was told he’d win because he has light skin, light eyes and a European-sounding last name.

    Those attributes never proved helpful again, as residents made clear he would never be one of them.
For more, see Hamptons race rift (Hispanic influx, lawsuit roil the East End).

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