Ice Cream Follies

The moment is ripe for a few constructive thoughts

Getting a snack or a little ice cream at one of East Hampton Town’s beaches on a summer’s day is one of the simple pleasures of living or visiting here. That is why (we guess) the town allows vendors to lease spots at most of the ocean beaches where lifeguards are stationed. On paper, at least, it’s all for the good. However, if you stop by a few of the beaches on a crowded and hot afternoon in July or August, what goes on is a little much. Beachgoers, including children, of course, mill around, drivers try to pass them, and litter overflows from receptacles. With the town board agreeing to provide electrical service in a few of the locations for vendors and the season fast approaching, the moment is ripe for a few constructive thoughts. 

Our chief observation concerns the way in which private operators have been allowed to use a public asset without sufficient oversight to assure they are not creating problems with vehicle flow and excess waste. It is almost impossible to imagine that the town would happily haul away a brick-and-mortar restaurant’s trash, but that is exactly what happens at the beach, where customers place wrappers, cans, paper plates, and napkins in road-end bins. Town workers make almost perpetual rounds to keep up with it all. Instead, vendors must be made responsible for the cleanup rather than taxpayers. Depending on location, the rents vendors pay the town run from about $4,500 to $13,000 a year, a fraction of what renting from a traditional commercial landlord would cost. 

More thought also must be given to exactly where food trucks and the like are allowed to set up. The Beach Hut at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett is exemplary in that it is set back from the parking lot, keeping frozen-treat-seeking children away from the risk of being struck by someone backing up to look for a parking space. Furthermore, it hardly seems reasonable that vendors are allowed to take up more space than the barest minimum in the parking lots, which might be better used for bicycles or safer drop-off and handicapped access pull-ins.

Buying goodies at the beach is a summertime ritual. Far be it from us to play the killjoy by suggesting vendors be eliminated. Rather, it is clear that more thought must be given to how they operate — making sure safe and adequate parking, easy traffic flow, and cleanliness are top priorities.