Pranksters working under cover of darkness Sunday or early Monday installed a mock-up of a submarine conning tower in a controversial drainage sump off Route 114 in East Hampton. The sump, a roughly square pit just over an acre's breadth, had been left awash with runoff from the past week's heavy rains.
Drivers passing by Monday were startled to see an angled black tower complete with what appeared to be a periscope rising from drainage pit's muddy water. The numbers "114" were painted in white on either side of the carefully executed craft, which stood about four feet high.
Paul D'Andrea, a land steward who works in the Nature Conservancy office next door to the property, circulated photographs of the prank after arriving at work on Monday morning.
There was no indication of who was responsible.
An excavation contractor hired by the Town of East Hampton dug the pit in 2012, and apparently sold the valuable topsoil that came out of it to private clients. Though the structure worked as designed to reduce nearby road flooding, a problem surfaced when it was discovered that the town had improperly authorized the work without consulting Suffolk County, which long ago had bought the development rights to the farmland of which the site was a part. County officials were outraged.
East Hampton Town made little attempt at a resolution until Councilwoman Theresa Quigley, who had been the project's main proponent, left office at the end of her term in December. Since then, negotiations have resumed, with Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc taking the lead on a plan for a scaled down sump and the partial restoration of the property.