Tension is brewing in the Hamptons, as residents are now feeling the impact of the surge of minorities who have settled in among the multi-million-dollar beachfront homes. Latino population in the area surged 166 percent between 2000 and 2010 and Hispanics currently represent almost 15 percent of East Hampton’s population.
More apartments are needed for “working class residents” who have been priced out of the area, say town politicians. East Hampton Housing Authority director Catherine Casey has developed an $18 million proposal to build a 40-unit housing complex in Amagansett, and local residents are deeply opposed to it. More than 200 have signed a petition protesting the plan, citing concerns over traffic and taxes.
“The town will be changed for the worse and forever if the construction is permitted,” wrote Amagansett resident Alan Blum.
East Hampton’s Latino leaders are pushing the plan on social media, and have countered the opposition with 187 signatures of their own in favor of the project. East Hampton Assessor Jeanne Nielsen said she hopes people aren’t opposing the project “out of fear.” “We have a lot of locals that don’t have the ability to afford a single-family home,” she said. “I wish there was a way to wave a magic wand and make it better.”
Casey suggested, “It’s not that they don’t want Latinos, it’s that they don’t want poor people.”
The area is home to many well-known celebrities, including Paul McCartney, Sarah Jessica Parker and Jerry Seinfeld. “Real Housewives” star Bethenny Frankel, also has a home nearby, and caused a social media explosion when she tweeted in January about employees working the registers at Kmart who couldn’t even speak English. She refused to apologize for the rant.
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