State Smiles on Trustees

    Both houses of the New York State Legislature have passed a measure that would allow the municipalities of East Hampton, Southampton, and Southold to transfer land, at little or no cost, to the trustees of those townships.
    The measure, which awaits Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature, was championed by Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle of Port Jefferson.
    Typically, said Mr. Thiele, under the general municipal law, local governments can transfer land to other local governments for public purposes at no cost or reduced cost. However, such transfers may only be made to municipal corporations defined as county, town, village, or fire district.
    The trustees of the freeholders and commonalty of East Hampton, Southampton, and Southold, elected bodies created in the 17th century by the Nicholls and Dongan Patents, are autonomous and are not defined as municipal corporations.
    “They would greatly benefit from the ability to receive land at no cost from the county or other local governments,” Mr. Thiele said.
    The bill also provides that real property received by trustees in this way cannot be sold, transferred, leased, exchanged, or otherwise conveyed unless by an act of the legislature. 
    Although historically, all the East End’s independent town trustees have tried to keep the state at arms’ length so as to maintain their special authorities, Diane McNally, the clerk of the East Hampton trustees, said she saw no drawbacks to her nine-member board becoming a municipal corporation.