Opponents and supporters of a proposed amendment to Greenport Village’s definition of “family” had their say during a public hearing on the possible change at Monday night’s meeting.
Mayor David Nyce said the change was to keep the town’s code consistent, and that the new rental rules are “more broad-reaching.”
The proposed changes come after the board adopted a new rental permit law over the summer that defines a family as two or more persons related by blood and up to five persons not related by blood occupying a dwelling and living together as a traditional family.
Critics of the new rental regulations had called the village definition of “family” racist over the summer, saying it targets immigrants in the village; Greenport resident Dinni Gordon said the proposed “family” definition does the same, despite the fact that its inclusion of civil unions was a step in the right direction.
Currently, the code defines a family as “one or more persons occupying a dwelling unit as a single nonprofit housekeeping unit. More than five persons, exclusive of domestic servants, not related by blood, marriage or adoption do not constitute a family,” according to the existing code.
Ms. Gordon said the changed definition might make it more difficult for immigrants to find a place to live together, adding the change is “short-sighted” and would affect the village’s economy.
“Immigration is part of the village DNA,” Ms. Gordon said. “It should be protected, not prohibited directly or indirectly.”
But resident Margaret Richards said Ms. Gordon had it wrong: the change is designed to prevent boarding houses from taking root in town.
“I don’t feel that this code has to do with racism or immigration. It has to do with overcrowding,” she said. “A family is a family and everything in this code allows for any type of family whatsoever.”
Greenport isn’t the first village in Suffolk to hone its definition of “family” recently. Port Jefferson Village passed a measure in August, according to the Times Beacon Record, defining family “by criteria including members’ relationship to one another, whether they cook together and share household expenses and whether ‘the group is permanent and stable.’”
The public hearing was closed on Monday, and the topic will be discussed by the board at its December work session.