Winter Amnesia

According to amNew York, it doesn’t have to be summer to be a good time for Montauk anymore. “The East End hamlet has been redefined as a summer party destination with the influx of bars like the Sloppy Tuna and the Surf Lodge,” it just explained in a preview of the Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day parade, which will be on March 25. 

Time was Montauk was only really crazy one day a year, as thousands of green-bedecked revelers descended looking to get loose. Now, and by comparison to just about any weekend night between June and September, the St. Patrick’s Day events are tame. 

It is not a source of pride for most town residents that Montauk has become party central. And yet, we get little sense that officials and the hamlet’s business owners on the whole are trying to turn things around. In part, this is due to a kind of willful amnesia in which the overwhelming crowds and ravages of the summer are forgotten in the winter, when most town policy is made. To wit: New master plans for the town’s several business centers, including downtown Montauk and the dock area, arrived last month but were not followed with action.

In a town somewhat enamored of moratoriums, allow us to propose another only half in jest: No large planning projects or zoning board decisions should be allowed in the off-season. And, at a minimum, changes for pre-existing, nonconforming businesses in residential zones should never be considered other than between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That way, officials would not have to be reminded in January just how bad things can get in August; it would be right in front of their faces.