When one thinks of the Hamptons, what jumps to mind are masters of the universe and their mansions by the sea. But a strong, steady stream of immigrants has been flowing to the area for years, drawn by a service economy that demands hedges be trimmed and houses be cleaned. In the Springs, a hamlet in the town of East Hampton, where most of the houses are small and the year-round population is relatively large, the Hispanic population has tripled in the past 10 years — and tension has emerged.
Some longtime residents of the Springs and similar areas complain that homes are being illegally crowded, that houses with half a dozen cars parked outside are a blight on the street, and that the many children living inside are overwhelming the local schools and causing property taxes to rise.
“When you tell people you live in East Hampton, the first words out of their mouth are usually, ‘Do you live next to P. Diddy or Alec Baldwin?’ ” said Dennis Michael Lynch, an East Hampton resident and a filmmaker who made a documentary about illegal immigration called “They Come to America.”
“People have a perception of the Hamptons,” Mr. Lynch continued. “They don’t have an image of illegal immigrants packed like sardines into houses.”
The pockets of tension are concentrated in year-round communities, where the immigrants, legal and illegal, tend to live alongside the landscapers and the contractors with whom they are competing for business. These areas are far less affluent than the southern end of town, where Manhattanites spend the summer by the ocean, in homes hidden behind 12-foot hedges.
“South of the highway, the rich people, they don’t care,” said Ricardo Rodriguez, a carpenter from Colombia who has lived in East Hampton for 12 years. It is among “the working people, regular people like us,” he continued, where less welcoming sentiments can be found. “You can feel it.”