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Pest control company sues for right to solicit door-to-door for business

Village Hall in Floral Park is seen on

Village Hall in Floral Park is seen on July 28, 2017. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

A Utah-based pest control company is suing the Village of Floral Park, which company officials said has a ban on door-to-door soliciting that hurts its business and violates its constitutional rights.

The village's law governing door-to-door soliciting has been in place since May 1943 and was amended in 1984. It states that a license from the village must be obtained to "canvass or to distribute handbills, pamphlets or other written material or solicit donations or contributions of money or property or financial assistance of any kind" on private property, house-to-house or in public places. 

The law does not allow companies “to hawk, vend, peddle, or solicit orders for the purchase or sale of goods, wares, merchandise or other commodities.”

Aptive Environmental, which is headquartered in Provo and has offices across the country, filed a lawsuit on Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court in Central Islip, alleging that Floral Park’s ban has caused the company “to lose thousands of dollars in sales” every day. Aptive's lawyer Jeremy Fielding, said Friday that the company heavily depends on door-to-door interactions with potential customers to generate sales.

“Aptive has suffered and continues to suffer immediate and ongoing irreparable harm to its First Amendment commercial speech rights, as well as significant damages to its business,” company lawyers wrote in court filings.

Floral Park’s attorney John Ryan, said the village has no comment on pending litigation.

Villages near Floral Park — including Lake Success, New Hyde Park and Russell Gardens — require door-to-door solicitors to obtain a license, as does North Hempstead Town. The neighboring village of Stewart Manor prohibits companies and their representatives from door-to-door soliciting.

Aptive’s lawyers said in court documents that Floral Park’s ban is "a flagrant violation of" sales representatives' First Amendment right to protected speech and the company’s 14th Amendment right to be governed under the same law as other entities. Aptive’s lawyers noted that religious organizations, political groups, benevolent and fraternal orders, and ice cream vendors are excluded from the ban.

Last week, Aptive lawyers asked Judge Joseph Bianco to grant an injunction on Floral Park’s solicitation ban. Court documents show that Floral Park officials agreed to a temporary injunction on Aug. 21, which allows company sales representatives to solicit for now. 

Aptive representatives will solicit door-to-door in Floral Park from 9 a.m. to dusk, court documents show.

Floral Park and Aptive's lawyers are scheduled to appear in court Oct. 4 so Bianco can determine whether the injunction will remain in place until the trial's outcome. 

Fielding said April 2018 marked the first time Aptive entered the Long Island market. Many other villages have granted licenses for Aptive representatives to solicit, but Floral Park and the Village of Poquott in the Town of Brookhaven have resisted and now face litigation, Fielding said. 

"We're really confident in our position on the law and we expect to prevail," Fielding said. "It's up to the villages to decide if they want to fight this or repeal the ban."

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