Fight over Greenport rental regulations far from over

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Ed Reale of the North Fork Housing Alliance speaking during the Village Board’s rental law hearing Monday.

“Cruel.” “Unjust.” “Over the top.” Those were just some of the harsh words Greenporters, many of them landlords, used to describe a proposed village law to regulate rentals for residential properties during Monday’s public hearing on the issue.

The proposal aims at eliminating illegal apartments within residential homes, which the board believes encourages the deterioration of the Village’s housing stock – leading to blight, excessive traffic, parking problems, an overburden on municipal services and general public health and safety concerns.

The controversial issue has been in limbo for at least three years, according to Mayor David Nyce. Back in December 2012 the mayor said the draft law was changed because residents had expressed privacy concerns. At that time, the Village Board voted to keep the public hearing open and to send the draft law back to the code committee for further review.

During the past several months the draft ideas have been bounced around in code committee. The proposal was recently amended, however the changes do not satisfy residents.

“This is completely out of touch with village history,” said former Greenport mayor David Kapell, who said the laws regulating rentals that are already on the books are sufficient due to past adjustments to regulations.  “Trustee Hubbard, Trustee Phillips, Trustee Robins you were all here in 1979 when Greenport was described as housing some of the worst slums in Suffolk County. There is just no comparison to the conditions that exist today and the conditions that existed then.”

Furthermore, Mr. Kapell said the new proposal targets the poor.

“I don’t know who wrote this thing but it reads like a fascist manifesto to attack immigrants and low-income families that distinguish this village. It talks about a traditional family. What is a traditional family? Who decides? The mayor? It’s preposterous.”

He went on to say that law-abiding landlords would be subject unfair criminalization under the law and leave many more year-round residents, who rent rooms in private residences, on the streets.

Mr. Kapell was not alone in his opinion. Not a single speaker favored the rental regulations.

“This is a mean-spirited law,” said Ed Realer, founder and member of the Board of Directors of the North Fork Housing Alliance and a real estate agent. “It’s vindictive and unfair and I don’t think that’s how this village has operated in the past.”

Mr. Reale said the law was practically uninforcable and intrusive. “The presumptive evidence is way over the top,” he said.

In a letter submitted to the board, an unidentified resident wrote: “This insults me to my core. What is it about this board that thinks it needs regulate other people?”

CYNDI MURRAY PHOTO | Village Trustees (from left to right) David Murray and George Hubbard and Mayor David Nyce listen to the criticism of the proposed rental law.

The law would establish minimum quality standards for habitation, including partitioned bedrooms and separate entrances, kitchens, electric meters and cable lines.

Homeowners that wish to lease space in their homes would be required to obtain a rental permit. A five-member board appointed by the mayor and approved by the Board of Trustees will review the application.

Those found in violation could face fines of up to $5,000 or imprisonment.

The board will readdress the issue on July 22.