New Montauk Controls

You can’t directly blame the big Montauk party spots for trouble like a recent car crash turned drug bust or a slashing at the 7-Eleven. However, these dramatic incidents, coming within hours of one another, do have, as they say, a way of focusing the mind. East Hampton Town officials are contemplating an approach to heading off new problems.

Montauk in the summer is out of control. A devil’s brew of short-term renters, day-trippers, the party crowd, and a serious drug problem has the easternmost hamlet rapidly changing. It is a wonderful place, with extraordinary natural attractions and a strong sense of community, but for much of the best months of the year, it’s not your grandmother’s Montauk. Heck, it’s not your parents’ Montauk either or even the Montauk you knew growing up there.

There is a certain sense of resignation in the attitudes of some here that one can’t stop progress. That might be so, but it sure can be directed. For example, some years ago, Southampton, with all the costs in increased police and local disturbances, was the place to go if you wanted to dance and drink. Then Southampton Town made a determined effort to change things. It may not be entirely a coincidence that the party scene moved east. 

East Hampton Town officials are going at it in a smart way. A proposed change in the code would force hotels seeking to add a restaurant, bar, or even a takeout window to provide its own parking for all its overnight guests and half of what the law requires for the new restaurants. This makes a lot of sense, especially in Montauk, where multiple resort and hotel properties have taken over what should be the public right of way, claiming it for their own, exclusive use.

Town Hall should make efforts to rein in the chaos even further by setting very strict limits on outdoor venues. Most of the crowds — but far from all the problems — come from night spots that literally pack hundreds of patrons onto their lawns or decks. 

Montauk need not be Long Island’s number-one party destination to maintain its prosperity. There may be limits to how far town officials can go, but tipping the balance back in favor of residents and respectful, quiet visitors is an important goal to reach for. Hitting these party palaces where it hurts — their lack of parking — is a brilliant place to start.