East Hampton Town will curtail vehicle access to the popular "Truck Beach" in Amagansett following a recent New York State Supreme Court decision granting homeowners near the beach a restraining order demanding the town prevent any driving on the beach.
East Hampton Town officials issued a statement Thursday announcing the 4,000-foot stretch of beach — located east of Napeague Lane in Amagansett and west of Napeague State Park — has been determined by the court ruling to be private property. Because of this, driving or parking on the beach is no longer permitted until further notice. In addition, any beach vehicle permits East Hampton Town issued, regardless of date, do not authorize people to drive or park on the beach.
The town and a group of homeowners in Amagansett have been at odds for years over whether the beach is public or private property. Homeowners sued East Hampton in 2009, claiming the beach was private and the town had no right to allow people to drive on it.
Stephen Angel of the Riverhead-based firm Esseks, Hefter, Angel, Di Talia & Pasca LLP, who represents homeowners, told Newsday on Friday that while the town was correct in calling the area "private" property, how the town enforces the ruling will be more important.
"There were days when there were 200, 300 trucks on this property and the town did nothing about it," Angel said. "The question is what they’re doing on the ground to make sure their permit holders don’t drive and park on the private property."
The New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of East Hampton in a 2016 decision. However, a Feb. 3 decision this year from the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department essentially reversed that order, ruling in favor of the homeowners while allowing the public access to the beach for fishing.
State Supreme Court Judge Paul J. Baisley Jr. granted the homeowners a temporary restraining order on June 4 demanding the town "prohibit and prevent any and all driving and/or parking on the beaches owned by the plaintiff homeowners associations." If East Hampton does not comply, the town risks being held in contempt of court.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said last week at a town board work session that he would continue to fight the homeowners’ claim of private ownership over the beach.
"We need to take every step necessary in order to insure [sic] our traditional beach access rights, no matter where they are within the township, and I’m committed to using every possible means to do so," Van Scoyoc said. "But in the interim we’re asking the public to just be patient and comply until we get further clarification and chart our next step."
The town may consider pursuing previously suspended plans to start condemnation proceedings regarding the beach, Van Scoyoc said. That would involve the town taking the land through eminent domain to grant the public access.