Concert Foes Worry About a Woodstock-Style ‘Rampage’

(January 13, 2011) A permit for a three-day music festival in Amagansett in August, issued last month by the East Hampton Town Board, remains in place despite calls for the board to rescind it.

In the face of a rising chorus of opposition from Amagansett community groups and individuals who fear a Woodstock-style bacchanal, or at the very least, traffic tie-ups from the up to 9,500 people who may attend, town board members declined to reconsider their decision at a town board meeting on Tuesday.

The permit would allow the concert with 18 bands, as well as booths for restaurants, nonprofit fund-raising, and “pop-up” stores, to take place on the Principi farmland on Montauk Highway from Aug. 12 to 14.

“I don’t see any need to rescind what we did,” said Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson on Tuesday, responding to a letter from Rona Klopman, the chairwoman of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee, asking for the permit to be pulled. Councilwomen Julia Prince and Theresa Quigley, who approved the permit last month along with Mr. Wilkinson, agreed.

“I’m not asking you to,” said Councilman Dominick Stanzione about rescinding permission for the event. Mr. Stanzione had, however, abstained from the vote approving the permit, saying that the board should first solicit more input from the community. He maintained that stance this week.

Councilman Pete Hammerle, who voted against issuing the permit, was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

“This town is in financial stress,” Mr. Wilkinson had said earlier at Tuesday’s meeting. “We have a commitment to try to help, from a social point of view, our charities. This was a wonderful opportunity for a private-public partnership.”

He said that he had weighed the proposal and its impacts and come out in support of the show. “The residents — who basically don’t go out on weekends — would basically sacrifice for two days . . . and that begot $100,000 for our charities.”

Councilwoman Julia Prince said that the promoters would be asked to issue a bond to insure that the donation occurs.

The town board will discuss potential beneficiaries. “It’s our responsibility to determine where the money goes,” Mr. Wilkinson said.

Town Councilwoman Theresa Quig­ley suggested that the board develop a list of eligible nonprofits. “I would like to come up with a list of social commitments for our community, and then see which charities fit those commitments,” she said.

At a meeting last Thursday night, board members got an earful from numerous people who questioned how they could have approved such a large event during the busy summer season.

“I’m saddened and disheartened,” Joan Tulp said. “I can’t believe you let Amagansett down so badly by allowing a three-day rock concert in Amagansett. The promoters or the town board never bothered to check with the people who live and work here year round.”

The event is being organized by Bill Collage and Chris Jones, both of Sag Harbor, a screenwriter and resort owner who plan to use the festival as a springboard for a music TV show and an event-planning business that they say will provide job opportunities here. Mr. Jones and Mr. Collage both attended a meeting on Friday to answer questions from concerned community members.

“You, the board, are jeopardizing our property values and our quality of life,” Helen Kuzmier said last Thursday. Summer visitors who come here “are getting away from places that attract rock concerts,” she said.

“This reeks of a Woodstock acid flashback,” said Arlene Reckson, who said she attended that concert. Like Woodstock, she said, “I think that this is going to grow out of control.”

“Are you going to set up a booth in Manorville to make sure these kids have tickets?” she asked. “I thought maybe I was turning into an alta kaka,” she said, using a Yiddish phrase for an old person, adding “I was 22 at Woodstock.”

“I asked my 24-year-old daughter, and she said, ‘Are you kidding? What are we, the Jersey shore?’ That’s what you’re turning us into,” Ms. Reckson said.

Other speakers questioned whether the board had adequately addressed the considerations spelled out in the town code for issuing mass-gathering permits, such as how an event will affect neighbors, and whether other large events are taking place at the same time.

Some raised the specter of young people sleeping on the beaches during the concert weekend and “rampaging” through the town.

With performers still to be announced, Mr. Wilkinson said it remained to be seen whom the show will attract. “But,” he said, “I don’t think that anybody between the ages of 20 and 39 is unpleasant. I think we have a lot of troops serving overseas in that age group that could come here to a concert.”