After a long day, the Vardakises’ East Meadow residence is finally quiet. Their youngest, a 2-year-old, is asleep, and parents Allison and Andrew are getting their other children, ages 8 and 5, ready for bed. Then the doorbell rings.
A salesperson waits outside. The family dog begins to bark, the baby starts to cry and, Allison says, “It’s very hard to calm everyone down.”
Since the Vardakis family lives on a busy street, with no shortage of solicitors at all hours, they were delighted when the Town of Hempstead announced that it would be bringing back the “Do Not Knock” program, in which residents place stickers on their door sporting that message to protect them from unwanted interruptions.
Andrew Vardakis said he was glad to see the program return, because, he explained succinctly, if he and Allison aren’t at a store, they’re “not in the mood for buying.”
“We get enough spam calls, we get enough robo-calls, we get enough mass-phishing emails,” Andrew said. “I’m just glad the Town of Hempstead is taking a step to at least leave a little bit of that in the past.”
Town officials gathered at the Vardakis home on April 29 to announce the return of the program, originally launched in 2015 under then Supervisor Kate Murray, who is now the town clerk.
“The idea is, when husbands and wives are both working, you want quality time with your kids,” Supervisor Don Clavin said. “You want to enjoy yourself. You don’t want to be bothered. What happens is you have individuals knocking on your door, and some of them are legitimate, some of them aren’t. People don’t want that. They want peace of mind.”
The problem isn’t limited to East Meadow, Clavin said; it’s reported all over the town. He, too, has been interrupted by a knock at the door after coming home from work, when he wants to spend time with his children, who are 13, 10 and 8. The last thing he wants to do, Clavin said, is talk to a salesperson — especially during a pandemic, when in-person interaction with strangers is a bad idea.
“We’ll have a process where you’ll be able to basically get a sticker, have it on the door and stop having these peddlers bother you,” he said.
“This is about protecting our very hard-earned few hours of respite that we have in our homes after long, busy days,” Murray said. “We don’t want any interruptions at all, and even this past year, we’ve been even more concerned with the Covid-19 pandemic if you see a stranger on your front step.”
Murray explained that all peddlers and solicitors conducting business in the town must display a town-issued photo identification. They must also have a certificate of authority from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Under current town code, adopted in 2015, peddlers and solicitors are also not allowed to enter private property where there is a sign that says, “Do not knock, no soliciting, no peddlers.” And peddling and soliciting is legal only between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
“Peddlers and solicitors who are found breaking those town codes can have a fine up to $500,” Murray said.
Nonprofits, on the other hand, do not have to obtain a permit from Murray’s office, and the “Do Not Knock” program does not apply to them.
“I think of Allison Vardakis, who is a great [Girl Scout] cookie mom,” Murray said, looking over at Vardakis, who was holding her 2-year-old. “I spoke to one of your neighbors a minute ago, and he spoke about buying Girl Scout cookies from your girls every year. Organizations like the Girl Scouts, church groups, other not-for-profits, are not impacted.”
Murray added, however, that nonprofits selling, for example, Girl Scout cookies should alert their local police precinct before heading out so they will be aware if someone calls the police to complain about peddling in their neighborhood.
To obtain a “Do Not Knock” sticker, call the Town of Hempstead’s clerk’s office at (516) 489-5000.