Short-Term ‘Brown Tide’

The makings of a big headache

   One of the smartest analysies of the traffic problem — and much else — plaguing the South Fork this year that we have seen so far came from an interesting source. In our letters to the editor this week you can read for yourself a take on what has gone wrong from Judi Desiderio, who runs a successful real estate firm here. She placed much of the blame on the rise of the Web-enabled short-term housing boom. This, she argued, has led to a sharp increase in the number of cars on the roads, as well as an interesting side effect: greater and more frenetic activity as weekly (or shorter) renters rush to get it all in.
    To this we might add a couple of points: First, those who rent out rooms or illegally converted garage apartments or sheds, for example, are increasing the residential capacity of their properties. And, while taken singly, the additional beds may not seem like much, multiply them by 1,000 perhaps, and we have the makings of a big headache. Separately, we spoke off the record last week with one of the organizers of an East Hampton share house, who claimed ignorance of the law and said that the up-to-a-dozen vehicles often parked at the property, which neighbors have complained about, were just “guests” going to the beach.
    Ms. Desiderio likened the short-termers to a “brown tide,” evoking the algae blooms that can bring death to marine life in our harbors and bays — and she had a point. One gets the sense here that, banner house-sales notwithstanding, the summer population has exceeded what most residents want — as well as the ability of governments and emergency services to meet its needs. Something has to change, and targeting illegal, short-term rentals is a place to start.