A federal jury has decided that East Hampton Town is responsible for damage to properties along the Block Island Sound shoreline in Montauk because it failed to address erosion in the area.
A group of nearly a dozen Soundview Drive and Captain Kidd’s Path homeowners filed a lawsuit against the town in 2012, alleging that a pair of town-owned jetties on Lake Montauk Harbor exacerbated the problem and that the town had done little to remedy the issue.
The two jetties, each about 1,000 feet in length and 8 feet above the mean low water mark, were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the 1940s to protect the entrance to Lake Montauk Harbor, the state’s largest fishing port. The structures have disrupted the natural east-to-west flow of sand in the area, stripping away the beach from the inlet to Culloden Point, a fact the property owners said is not disputed by town officials or the Army Corps.
“The effects of the jetties was basically to destroy their properties,” said David Kosakoff, the plaintiffs’ Central Islip-based attorney. “My clients were sitting ducks.”
The Sound has encroached on the properties in the area, not only affecting the values of the waterfront homes, but making the land more vulnerable to severe storms, Kosakoff said. The property owners have spent $2.5 million to address the issue by building bulkheads and taking other measures.
Among the jury’s findings were that the town interfered with the property owners’ right to enjoy their land and that the town should reimburse individual property owners amounts ranging from nothing to $122,319. The jury did not find that the town impeded the public’s ability to use and enjoy the land.
Representatives from the town could not be reached for comment.
U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert, of the Eastern District of New York in Central Islip, will now decide a proper remediation for the problem.
“All we want them [the town] to do is take care of the damage they [the jetties] are causing,” Kosakoff said.
Remedies discussed include replenishing the shoreline with 500,000 cubic yards of sand, Kosakoff said, a fix floated by the Army Corps to the town in 2016. The Army Corps and other agencies were dismissed as defendants in the lawsuit, leaving only the town.
The Army Corps has also proposed building three groins perpendicular to the shoreline as a solution, but those structures are now prohibited under the town’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, its blueprint for coastal management.