Montauk United Revs Up

Seeks solutions to midsummer mayhem, cab crisis
Tom Bogdan, the founder of Montauk United, has signed up 975 members and is readying a questionnaire to be mailed to homeowners to find out what they want for Montauk. Janis Hewitt

After last summer’s debauchery in Montauk, when crowds of drunken young adults wreaked havoc on the Fourth of July weekend, Tom Bogdan, a retired businessman who has lived in the hamlet for 46 years, created Montauk United. His goal was to get 1,000 members to lobby East Hampton Town officials to stop the madness. He said this week that the membership has grown to 975, and the group is ready to make its next move.

By early June, a mass mailing with 20 questions will go out to about 4,500 taxpayers, in an effort to find out what they foresee for the future. Mr. Bogdan said the business community is well represented among Montauk United’s membership, but that the questionnaire will reach the people who matter, the property owners.

The questionnaire was drawn up over the winter with the help of several retired police officers and marketing professionals who have joined the group, which hopes to find a solution through talks with the businesses that attract rowdy guests, and also to find a way to deal with the cabs that come east in the summer to make a quick buck.

Mr. Bogdan and others contacted other small municipalities to see how they coped with similar out-of-town-cab situations. One place closely resembling the Town of East Hampton was New Rochelle, N.Y., he said, which set up a taxi commission, run by a single police sergeant, to handle everything from licenses and fines to enforcement. “And she does it very well,” he said.

Mr. Bogdan and his wife, Marilyn, were living in the city 46 years ago when they took a ride out to the South Fork on a Sunday afternoon. By the next Thursday, they were back, looking for a place to rent. “We thought we were the luckiest people on earth,” he said. Over the years they have owned 18 stores selling high-end merchandise, some in the Gosman’s Dock complex. Ms. Bogdan still runs Summer Stock, a women’s luxury clothing shop at Gosman’s. 

They live in a sprawling house perched on a hill overlooking Fort Pond. A back porch leads down to a rolling lawn, past a pool tucked in for the winter, to the pond, where a few kayaks are stored. The couple has always been involved in the community. Mr. Bogdan’s contributions and fund-raising played a big part in the rebuilding of St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church, and both he and his wife had a hand in starting Project Adventure, which arranges for children suffering from cancer to enjoy activities in Montauk in the fall.

Montauk United is also concerned with the question of airport traffic, now that flight times have been limited at the East Hampton airport. Mr. Bogdan said  air traffic over the hamlet had already increased last summer and may affect the entire population if it continues. He knows personally, he said, of helicopter companies that are offering flight packages including ground transportation from the Montauk airport on East Lake Drive to East Hampton and back. 

Recipients of the questionnaire will be asked to return it within two weeks, or to fill it out online at Mr. Bogdan anticipates a good response. “Imagine this,” he said. “We’ve always been told what we want. Now, we’re really going to find out statistically who we are.”