Trustees Balk at Booze Ban

Intoxication, not alcohol, is problem, clerk says

Even before a hearing could be scheduled, a proposal to ban alcohol within 2,500 feet of lifeguarded areas at Indian Wells and Atlantic Avenue Beaches in Amagansett while guards are on duty drew strong opposition from the East Hampton Town Trustees, who assert ownership of the beaches on behalf of the public.

A resolution to hold a hearing on the proposal was introduced by Councilwoman Sylvia Overby at a town board meeting last Thursday, but was quickly tabled.

Councilman Fred Overton would not second the motion, saying that he wanted the trustees’ input before a hearing could be held. Supervisor Larry Cantwell also suggested allowing the trustees to weigh in before a hearing was scheduled. But, Mr. Cantwell said, “I know the clock is ticking,” referring to the upcoming summer season, and cautioned that “we have not found some other, easier alternative to this in terms of dealing with this specific problem.”

Ms. Overby had issued the proposal in response to complaints from numerous residents about alcohol-fueled rowdy behavior and public urination as large crowds of young adults gather at Indian Wells, in particular.

She said that she would still like to hold a hearing before the season, “because I’m getting too many phone calls” from people eager to comment on the situation at Indian Wells Beach.

Tim Taylor, of Citizens for Access Rights, which advocates for the public’s access to beaches, asked the board to work with the trustees, “who were elected by the public,” on legislation pertaining to beaches. “We ask that you work with them to allow them to do what they were elected to do,” Mr. Taylor said. Mr. Cantwell said that the board would be happy to do that.

Diane McNally, the clerk of the trustees, asked that the “spirit of cooperation” that had existed between the town and the trustees be restored. The law as drafted, she said, would not meet the trustees’ approval. Mr. Cantwell said that the board would not consider adopting the law until the trustees had an opportunity to review it and offer their opinion.

Ms. McNally reported to her colleagues at the trustees’ meeting on Tuesday. Mr. Cantwell, she said, “finally caught on, that ‘why are we going to hold a public hearing on this proposal if we know the trustees don’t agree with it?’ ” But, she added, “Where we’re going to go with this, I’m not sure.”

Ms. McNally said that she had started to research how other municipalities have addressed similar situations. There are, she said, “a lot of ways we can go around this to address the problem, which is the intoxication, not the alcohol itself.”

Nat Miller, a trustee and bayman, said he is on village beaches, where alcohol is prohibited, in the mornings and always sees empty beer cans and plastic cups. “It’s a selective way to enforce whatever their agenda might be,” he said of the proposed amendment.

That agenda, said Sean McCaffrey, a trustee, was that “they don’t want loud music, they don’t want that group of young people coming down with a cooler, sitting there all day drinking and carrying on.”

“There have been instances where people have been offended by the behavior,” Ms. McNally conceded. The trustees debated additional signs specifying prohibited behavior. But Tim Bock said that he goes to Indian Wells Beach every weekend in the summer and has witnessed none of the problems described. “There’s nothing more than certain Amagansett residents who have always claimed that it was ‘their’ beach, and now they see this group of people down there,” he said. “Just because they’re there, they want to claim their area and don’t want to see them. It’s nothing more than that. There’s no loud music, there’s none of what they’re saying.”

Deborah Klughers, a trustee, said that the town should “enforce the laws that are on the books.” She said the town should go ahead with plans to modify crowd-control efforts that were implemented last year — an attended booth to prevent access to the parking lot by nonresident vehicles, taxis, and buses. “Or let them do their experiment in Montauk,” she said of the proposed ban on alcoholic beverages.

In a playful yet serious swipe at the town, Ira Barocas, who ran unsuccessfully for trustee last year, delivered a $100 check to the trustees for “the First Annual Atlantic Beach/Indian Wells Trustee Beer Bash.”

Addressing a litany of complaints made by some beachgoers, Mr. Barocas said that beer for the party “should be brought on the beach by truck, dogs welcome without leashes, clothing optional,” that the party include a fire in proximity to lifeguards, and that it be held during daylight hours, “preferably cocktail hour — which is always sometime.” The trustees accepted his donation.

With Reporting by Joanne Pilgrim