By Louis Pagillo and Aaron Viltres
Residents of Bellport Long Island should expect fewer knocks on their doors if a proposal made last Monday at the Town Board meeting is approved next month.
The proposal made by the board of trustees aims to enable residents to put themselves on a list that would forbid solicitors from coming to their homes. It states that solicitors will include anyone who travels door to door uninvited, including salespeople, political canvassers, and religious missionaries.
“Yeah, I’ve experienced this a couple times where someone has asked me for money or a ride somewhere… and I’m fairly new to the area,” Julia Tagliaferro, Long Island resident, said.
The goal of the proposal is to help prevent older residents from being scammed. According to data provided by the United States Census Bureau, the median age of Bellport is 54.
“The island is getting older and we wanted to emphasize protection of our older residents as it could oppose a public safety concern having strangers knocking on doors,” Deidre Cicciaro, Bellport’s Deputy Village Attorney, said.
Many towns had their own versions of a no soliciting law, but experienced problems such as lawsuits by commercial entities stating it was against the 1st amendment.
“We looked at other towns and at upstate and noticed the lawsuits, so when we made our proposal we wanted to be proactive rather than reactive and jumped ahead by looking at why NY courts opposed and tailored our proposal to what is being upheld.”
Many small businesses rely on door to door knocking and canvassing as a method of marketing, but with this new proposal many small businesses and political campaigns may begin to struggle.
“Regardless of us living in a digital era canvassing was one way that allowed me to grow my painting business as I started from nothing and was the cheapest alternative,” Virgil Gonzalez, a former College Works Painting manager, said. “In one summer alone I was able to generate almost $28,000 in revenue from 12 clients just from door to door marketing.”
Concern has also been raised about how the proposed law could affect political canvassing.
“The one thing that is free in every political campaign is effort, and if you have effort you can knock on more doors than your opponent,” Joshua Lafazan, a Nassau County legislator, said. “To take that away from challengers is not only unfair, but it’s going to breed a less healthy democracy.”
Prior to the proposal, the laws in Bellport defined solicitors as any person or entity travelling door to door with the purpose of selling something. This definition excluded religious missionaries who weren’t requesting money, but the proposal seeks to redefine that and include all unwanted guests travelling door to door.
“Yes, this new law would affect Jehovah’s Witnesses as we’ve reconstructed the definition of what soliciting is so there’s no confusion,” Cicciaro said.
Some residents have expressed disagreement with the new law showing concern on how political campaigns are supposed to reach people.
“I personally haven’t had an issue with this, its as simple as either answering or not answering a door, but how are you supposed to reach the people as a political candidate,”Allen Zarba, Bellport Village resident, said. “I disagree with it.”
Despite Cicciaro being in support of the proposal, she believes that it won’t affect solicitors as much as others are saying.
“I don’t think it’s going to step on anybody’s feet, because if someone went up to the door of someone on the no solicitation list, they’re not going to get their information to that person anyway,” Cicciaro said.
Once the law is approved, residents would be able to apply at the village hall, and the town board may provide online applications later. The next town board meeting where the proposal will be voted on will be held on November 18.