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Residents Get Raw Deal

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 16:43

Why should some residents hate summer here? We think this is a shame, and that it is the responsibility of the East Hampton Town Board and political challengers to consider a recalibration.

May has arrived, and suddenly there is traffic on the roads as retailers and the trades hustle to get everything ready. For all the action, however, a shared sense of foreboding has emerged. By the end of the month it will be busier, and busier than that by the beginning of July, with the roads, restaurants, and beaches at capacity or, as many would say, beyond their capacity.

One thing should be understood: East Hampton Town taxpayers are not to blame. Instead, the town’s growing status as an East Coast short-term resort and party central has made summer close to unbearable for many year-round and seasonal residents. Why successive East Hampton Town Boards have let the balance shift so far away from the people whose interests they were sworn to protect is difficult to say. It seems they find the needs of an outside investment group’s nonconforming nightclub as important as the town’s residential taxpayers. 

Many officials would object to such an unfavorable characterization. Yet the tenor of East Hampton is not set in sweeping master plans but in all the smaller concessions handed out at Town Hall, or not tended to by code enforcement officers. Does no one find it inappropriate that some of our elected officials are on a chummy, first-name basis with the same people causing many of the town’s most egregious problems? Or is no one disturbed that given enough money and time, most commercial entities — from Marc Rowan’s Duryea’s redo in Montauk to the Dunes drug and alcohol rehab center in Northwest Woods — end up faring just fine? 

And why is the former Cyril’s Fish House, site of dozens of past code violations on a sensitive, residentially zoned parcel, about to reopen as something new despite remaining inactive for three years and by law losing its as-of-right use as a restaurant? Under the town code, time would appear to have run out on the nonconforming use of that property as a restaurant — 18 months after Cyril Fitzsimmons declared on Facebook that he was done. 

We have never seen a serious economic analysis of the supposed dollars over-packed, traffic-snarling places bring to town. A significant portion of their revenue may not do anything other than flow out of town as fast as it comes in, through payments to suppliers and, in many cases, remittances to workers’ families in other countries. It is difficult to figure how taxpaying residents fit into all this — other than by having to suffer noise and traffic. 

The current town board has taken a few easy steps, for example, making a Ditch Plain parking lot residents-only. But this is far too little if policy is ever going to tilt back toward those who call East Hampton home — or summer home — instead of toward those who merely want to make a buck here. There are few levers to pull to change the direction of the town, but controlling crowd-attracting nuisances is the one most obviously available.

Why did East Hampton turn into a place unfamiliar to those who grew up here or bought property before all hell broke loose? Because town boards forgot why they were put in office in the first place.

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