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Great Neck bans front yard clotheslines

Great Neck Village welcome sign on Aug. 16,

Great Neck Village welcome sign on Aug. 16, 2012. Credit: Brittany Wait

Great Neck to residents: We don't want to see your underwear.

Clotheslines have been clotheslined in the Village of Great Neck, where trustees concerned about the sight of wet laundry hanging along village streets voted this week to ban the devices from front yards.

"We're embarrassed there is a need for this," Mayor Ralph Kreitzman said as he introduced the legislation at Tuesday night's board meeting, where it passed unanimously.

The new law prohibits clotheslines in front yards and closer than 10 feet to any property line, and carries a maximum $1,000 fine, 15 days in jail or both. Backyard clotheslines remain legal.

"The board doesn't think it's appropriate behavior to hang your wash in your front lawn," Kreitzman said before the meeting. "We don't think it's the right thing for people to do in an attractive village such as ours."

The Town of Southampton passed a similar law in 2002, but lifted the ban six years later after protests from impromptu laundry-rights activists.

Building Department Superintendent Norman Nemec said he received at least one complaint about a line in a front yard in the spring. He went to the home and discovered not just a clothesline, but a rack -- "for lingerie," he said. He later informed the board that there was nothing in the code prohibiting it.

"The last thing you want to see every day when you open the front door is somebody's underwear," Nemec said.

Elizabeth Allen, a Great Neck resident -- and self-proclaimed "proud owner" of a backyard clothesline -- questioned why the move was needed.

"I just wonder what is so offensive about clotheslines?" she asked.

Trustee Jeffrey Bass said the practice detracted from the "standards" of the village.

"Frankly, I think it's rather disconcerting for people to come into a neighborhood and view in the front lawn of someone's home various articles of clothing, undergarments, what have you, flapping in the breeze," he said.

Next on the hit list for the village: living-room couches on the front porch.

"I just think it's one of those things that adds to the shabbiness," Trustee Barton Sobel said, although he added that the board would "maybe address that at a later date."

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