Off-Season Boost, At Uncertain Cost

Questions about official oversight, or really the lack thereof

   Aside from the Hamptons International Film Festival, which drew crowds to East Hampton Village last weekend, the South Fork has had plenty of other events in the last few weeks — and their popularity is raising questions about official oversight, or really the lack thereof.
    The Montauk Chamber of Commerce also held its fall festival last weekend, and in previous weeks we saw the Hamptons Marathon, a couple of triathlons in Montauk, and Sag Harbor’s HarborFest and outdoor music concerts. Each contributed to a busy-seeming beginning of the season, good for shopkeepers and hotels and inns, but perhaps less so for those inconvenienced by runners and bikers clogging otherwise quiet roads.
    In particular, a marathon and half marathon on Sept. 29, a Saturday, irked some Springs residents. Runners, too, were flabbergasted at having to get around cars and trucks, which were forced to slow to a crawl by the masses of people. Curse words were exchanged in one incident we heard about. The marathon, which collected at least $300,000 in registration fees this year, gives a portion of its yearly profit to charity, notably Project MOST, an after-school program for Springs and East Hampton grade-school students. Surprising perhaps to those who were inconvenienced by the race, the East Hampton Town Board waived all the usual fees it could otherwise have assessed the marathon organizers — including $20,000 in police overtime.
     In Montauk, questions came up at the most recent citizens advisory committee about whether the town was being compensated adequately by the organizers of triathlons, who charge as much as $98 per competitor; 526 were listed as finishing on Sept. 30. Police overtime and other fees associated with this race, however, did not appear to have been waived.
    A suggestion made over a year ago that the Town of East Hampton should do more to scrutinize races and other crowd-inducing events before handing out permits has been ignored. It may be time to reassess the minimal supervision and to consider the views of affected residents before next year’s approvals are granted and more expenses left for taxpayers to cover.