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Long Island Sound boundary at Oyster Bay Harbor decided by courts

Clam fisherman Bryan Murphy stands on his fishing

Clam fisherman Bryan Murphy stands on his fishing boat on the Long Island Sound in the vicinity of Whitewood Point off the shore of Lloyd Neck in the Town of Huntington, Sept. 20, 2014.  Credit: Steve Pfost

Baymen called on Oyster Bay officials to move jurisdiction markers for shellfishing beds at the boundary of the Long Island Sound as decided recently by a state appellate court.

“I want the markers to come down,” North Oyster Bay Baymen’s Association president William Painter said Tuesday. “I want new markers to be placed, showing an accurate line.”

Last month, the New York State Appellate Court, Second Department, upheld a 2016 lower court decision in a lawsuit against the town that ruled the boundary of  the Sound runs along a line from Rocky Point in Oyster Bay east to Whitewood Point on Lloyd Neck.

Oyster Bay had argued that the town’s boundary extended farther north, from Oak Neck Point east to Lloyd Point.

“The record in this case demonstrates that the state’s proposed boundary line is the only fair interpretation of the Andros Patent,” the court wrote in its April 17 decision, referring to a Colonial-era patent that defined the town’s northern maritime border. The evidence presented by the parties did not support the town's proposed boundary, the ruling stated.

Oyster Bay officials did not respond to requests for comment.

At issue was who could shellfish in those waters.

As state land, the shellfish beds are open to holders of state-issued licenses. Oyster Bay granted exclusive rights to shellfishing company Frank M. Flower & Sons Inc. on underwater lands that overlapped with the disputed area in a lease that expires in 2024.

The case arose after Nassau County police ticketed independent fisherman Bryan C. Murphy in 2010 for shellfishing in those waters.

Murphy sued the town, arguing he was shellfishing legally in state-owned waters. The state Attorney General’s office argued for the boundary that the courts later ruled was correct.

Town records show that Oyster Bay retained California-based Wendel, Rosen, Black and Dean, LLP, in 2014 to assist with the case and subsequently paid the firm more than $250,000. In 2016, a lower court ruled in favor of Murphy and the state. Oyster Bay appealed that decision and last month the appellate court upheld the earlier ruling.

Murphy’s attorney, Darrin Berger of Huntington, said Tuesday the appellate court’s ruling means fishermen with state licenses “can now shellfish in those waters with impunity, without having fear of being given any type of citation or violation.”

Murphy said the town’s boundary markers should be moved “immediately” to reflect the state boundary line.

James Cammarata, attorney for Frank M. Flower, said Tuesday that the ruling was a “disappointment,” but “we have to respect the decision of the court.”

Cammarata said the company will lose about 450 acres out of 1,800 it leases from the town because of the ruling.

“We’ve lost some harvesting ground,”  he said. “It’s not going to harm our business terribly, but it’s certainly an impact.”

Oyster Bay Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr., who is challenging Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino in November, said the town should return the waters to the public and the baymen.

“The time for exclusivity is over,” Altadonna said Wednesday. “The town should move the boundaries and vacate the lease in that portion of land.”

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