Weekend Maxed Out, All Hands on Deck

Police logged 447 incidents, made 12 arrests
Crowds flooded into the street in downtown Montauk on Tuesday to watch the Fourth of July fireworks there. The four-day holiday weekend kept East Hampton Town police, fire marshals, and ordinance enforcement and marine patrol officers busy. T.E. McMorrow

With the July Fourth holiday weekend beginning on Friday and the Fourth itself not until Tuesday, the number of visitors in East Hampton did not quickly abate, and traffic, crowding, and egregious, even illegal behavior, remained a focus of town officials. By Wednesday morning, with the Independence Day fireworks over, the community was still “maxed out,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said.

From police to fire marshals to ordinance enforcement and marine patrol officers, “Our people are out there enforcing the law. Obviously we have a lot of people in the community. We’ve got all hands on deck,” Mr. Cantwell said, “just trying to keep peace and good order.”

While East Hampton’s year-round population is around 21,000, it’s not news that the number of people here in the high season, and particularly on summer holiday weekends, goes up exponentially. A consultant who analyzed hotel occupancy, the number of additional seasonal visitors, and second homes for a recent economic study of the town found that East Hampton has the peak potential for more than 73,000 people.

Town police saw a lot of activity over the weekend, but Mr. Cantwell said the volume was not unusual. Between Friday and Monday morning, police responded to 447 incidents. There were 12 arrests, including three for driving while intoxicated, 18 traffic accidents, and 105 traffic citations issued for moving violations.

Police were “very busy,” Mr. Cantwell said on Monday, answering more than 160 calls in a 24-hour period and making half a dozen arrests. On Tuesday night in Montauk, “the fireworks were very heavily attended,” the supervisor said.

Noise complaints emanating from residential neighborhoods numbered 56, while there was only one complaint about noise from a commercial site. “The compliance level was excellent,” Mr. Cantwell said.

However, he described one major overcrowding issue in a restaurant and bar in Montauk. A fire marshal who visited the Grey Lady, which is on West Lake Drive, found an excessive crowd and brought in police and ordinance officers to empty out the place. Patrons were allowed to return, but only as many as allowed under the business’s maximum-occupancy limit.

Meanwhile, the resumption of service here by ride-hailing companies — Uber, Lyft, and other services called through an app — had little impact over the weekend, according to Mr. Cantwell. “Uber was present and working, but this weekend we were not overwhelmed in Montauk by Uber activity,” he said.

In an effort to impose order on an increasingly chaotic taxi situation last year, when many cabbies jockeyed for fares, East Hampton had adopted a law that made a business office in East Hampton a prerequisite for a town taxi license, effectively banning the so-called transportation network companies such as Uber. Uber launched a campaign among its customers protesting the law, but the town held fast until state lawmakers placed ride-hailing companies under state purview earlier this year, superseding local laws and clearing the way for these services to return.

Uber drivers, along with all other taxi drivers, are still held to town traffic and other regulations, and there were “a significant number of summonses issued,” Mr. Cantwell said, for cabs parking in public parking spaces longer than the 15-minute limit.

A free shuttle bus in Montauk, set up by the town and run by the Hampton Hopper, a bus company that has been operating among East Hampton hamlets for several years, was “off to a very good start,” Mr. Cantwell said.

On the first day of its Montauk loop, between Hither Hills, downtown, the train station, and the dock area, the shuttle provided 72 one-way rides. That number rose to 86 on Thursday, 180 on Friday, reached 448 on Saturday, and was 306 on Sunday.

Police responded to an additional 249 calls from Monday morning through yesterday morning and reported an additional 14 vehicular accidents in that time period.