Even though the high season may be fading into dim, albeit unpleasant, memory, East Hampton Town’s candidates for elected office must force themselves to grapple with the summer of 2013, which, hands-down, was the most crowded, most annoying, noisiest, and most out of control yet.
Few residents we spoke to, who wrote letters in these pages, or who went in all futility to Town Hall to seek redress, found much good about the crowds, save those whose pockets were filled by the transient hordes. Like Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” East Hampton had a glimpse of the future and did not like it one bit.
It would be easy as the din dies down in September and October for our political hopefuls to pretend the recent summer of woe did not happen, but to do so would be a disservice to those whom they seek to represent. There will be discussions on all sorts of issues as Election Day nears, but unless Larry Cantwell, Fred Overton, Dominick Stanzione, Job Potter, and Kathee Burke-Gonzalez, three of whom will join the town board in January, take on quality-of-life concerns for residents and taxpayers before all else, other issues will barely register.
The fault lies not in East Hampton Town’s regulations themselves, or lack thereof; indeed more than a generation’s hard work went into crafting a town code that, while imperfect and sprawling, is actually up to the job of maintaining order and promoting neighborliness. Rather, the will and adequate staff has been lacking to enforce the rules, going back several years, but amplified a hundred-fold recently. Town Hall has capitulated to craven interests, allowing even blatant illegalities, such as the conversion of a motel parking lot in downtown Montauk into a full, open-air bar. And this has occurred while police officers have had to be offered overtime deals to keep the peace.
If one concept can be gleaned from the hellacious summer of 2013, it is that East Hampton is nearing a breaking point, “a red line,” if you will, beyond which residents will decide enough is enough and move on, severing the fabric of this wonderful community. The pattern is clear enough. Seashore resorts up and down the East Coast have had to think hard about how to say no when too much of a good thing really is too much. Putting residents first has to be the priority.
The current anything-goes attitude in Town Hall has proven a failure and a source of dismay. It is up to the town board hopefuls to chart a different course. Make no mistake: The stakes are as high as it gets. Let’s hear what they have to say.