A judge heard arguments Tuesday about whether the Town of Oyster Bay or New York State owns certain underwater land -- a controversy that flared after a shell fisherman got tickets from the town for fishing without a license.
Court papers show fisherman Bryan Murphy got two citations in 2010 for shellfishing without a permit on underwater land the town says it owns. But the Huntington man started litigation and has claimed he didn't need a town permit because he was shellfishing in state waters and had the Department of Environmental Conservation permit he needed.
The debate involves where Oyster Bay ends and the Long Island Sound starts, according to filings in the civil case before State Supreme Court Justice Stephen Bucaria in Mineola.See alsoBeach Finder: Ultimate Guide to Fun in the Sun
"We want the court to declare who owns this property," Murphy's attorney, Darrin Berger of Huntington, said in an interview Tuesday.
Court records indicate the outcome will impact who controls the land, including leasing it for shellfish cultivation.
Oyster Bay claims its land ownership stems from a 1677 colonial grant from the King of England, a document known as the Andros Patent after Sir Edmund Andros -- then New York's governor-general.
But a town court filing acknowledges that while the patent declared the land grant is "Bounded on ye North by ye Sound," the northern limit and the division between the bay and Sound remain undecided.
Lawyers for the town argue in court papers that the closing line of Oyster Bay is a straight line from Oak Neck Point to Lloyd Point. But attorneys for the state have countered that the proper boundary between the bay and Sound is a straight line running between Rocky Point and Whitewood Point.
"We believe that if there is ambiguity, the court has to rule in favor of the state," Assistant Attorney General Kevin Olson told Bucaria Tuesday.
But Matthew Rozea, assistant town attorney for the Town of Oyster Bay, has asked Bucaria to deny the state's motion for summary judgment and to rule in favor of the town.
The judge said Tuesday that he might have to travel by boat to examine the site before he could make a decision, which isn't expected until after September and more court filings in the case.