Indian Wells Beach was again on the radar Monday night at a meeting of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee, though the talk was more temperate this month than last, when many members were hearing for the first time about the throngs of 20- and 30-something beer drinkers who have made the beach their own on weekends this season.
A recent lifeguard tournament held there was a welcome change for local families who have been mourning the loss of “their” beach, according to Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, the town board liaison to the committee, and the newly permanent presence of a marine patrol officer who “tries to be friendly, handing out fliers, the friendly way to try to get compliance” has helped, she said.
The disappearance of the snow fencing that protects the nests of piping plovers, which are listed as endangered by New York State, also helps, said Kieran Brew, ACAC’s chairman. “Since they removed the plover fence the crowds have spread out down the beach,” he said.
“There’s still the alcohol problem,” someone objected. East Hampton Town has no law against drinking on its beaches, other than prohibiting glass containers, and ACAC wrote to the town board after its last meeting suggesting that it might be time to enact one. Asked what board members had to say about that letter, Ms. Overby answered that “nobody responded.”
Mr. Brew then observed that he had heard from Tom Field, who was unable to be there Monday night, that Supervisor Bill Wilkinson was at Indian Wells on Saturday to see the scene for himself. Mr. Field “would like the committee to write and thank the board for responding,” said Mr. Brew.
“There’s been no response on the massive drinking issue on a public beach,” said Kent Miller, whose term as ACAC chairman ended last month.
“But they’re beyond the flags,” said Mr. Brew. “These guys walk a good bit down the beach.” He again urged that the committee send a letter to the town board “to thank the town for stepping up response.”
“Thank Eddie Ecker [chief of the town police force] and Ed Michels [head of the marine patrol],” someone muttered.
Mr. Brew persisted: “Tom Field wants ACAC to write and thank the town board.” Members eventually voted to do so, though not without some headshaking.
“Why are we thanking them?” somebody said afterward. “Because Bill Wilkinson went to the beach?”
Bud Light cans and other leavings at the end of the day, not just on the beach but in the hamlet as well, were another concern. “Can you limit how much trash people leave?” one woman wanted to know.
“You’d have to have someone standing there,” said Ms. Overby. The Parks Department has increased the number of employees who pick up trash, she added, and “I give credit to town employees. They do their job and don’t complain.” She said that the town will soon be getting two solar-operated recycling cans capable of holding far more trash than the bins do now.
“I can ask that Indian Wells have one,” she said without much hope.
Sheila Okin, the committee’s vice chairwoman, remarked that having two cans in front of Mary’s Marvelous now has helped. Nevertheless, beer cans and plastic cups are often spotted on fenceposts or in “the little hollows of trees,” one person complained, especially on Saturday mornings before the trash collectors make their rounds.
Not only that, but “open containers are all over,” not just on the beach but in the town, said Ashley Silverman. “There are tailgate parties in the town parking lot [behind Main Street] on Friday nights. They bring the beer in on the train. Friday night is like a block party.”
She said she was “uncomfortable walking to Indian Wells from the Jitney on Friday nights.”
“They drink in the street where they don’t have to pay for it,” someone agreed. “Then when the good band is on, they go in [to the Stephen Talkhouse].”
After the talk about drinking in the parking lot and on Main Street, it was a short jump to Amagansett’s continuing lack of public facilities. Bathrooms, which would be built toward the rear of the parking lot, have been promised to the hamlet since before a few of the people there that night were born. At one point all the county health permits were in place, a bond was floated, and the project seemed set to go, but it never went, and now the permits have expired. Last month one of the two toilets at the Amagansett Library backed up and overflowed beneath the pressure of anxious tourists who have almost nowhere else to turn.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Mr. Brew. “The permits have expired, the money is gone, but it has to happen.”
“You need to make sure the town board promises to fulfill the promise of public bathrooms,” said Ms. Overby. “For the businesses, the tourists, and the residents.” The councilwoman noted that the board is starting to look at budget items this very month, and urged the committee to move quickly. “Put it in a letter,” she advised. “A short, strong letter that says, ‘It’s time.’ Short and sweet. A lot of capital letters. Exclamation points!”
“Throw something in about drinking and urination,” said Britton Bistrian.
“If it ever gets built it’s going to be a very busy bathroom,” Joan Tulp predicted. “We’re not a little town anymore.”
The meeting came to a resounding close with a volley of potshots at Eli Zabar’s farmers market, which has been in ACAC’s sights since it opened on Memorial Day weekend. A broken-down fence out front has been a particular target, and on Monday, after someone pointed out that a new, split-rail one has been put in place, all hell broke loose.
“The trellis is still filthy dirty,” said Rona Klopman.
“The cart is the worst,” said Ms. Bistrian. “It’s totally dilapidated.”
“There’s still weeds and garbage,” came a voice from the back. “When Pat Struk was there it was always neat and clean.”
People all over the room began chiming in.
“It’s like a disaster.”
“The playhouse is the worst. Rusty nails, no floor.”
“You would never let your kids play back there.”
“They haven’t done anything since Pat left.”
“Except increase the prices,” Mr. Brew said above the din, standing up to signal that the evening was at an end.