Representatives from the Montauk Friends of Erin, the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, the East Hampton Town Police Department, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will gather next week at Gurney’s Inn to discuss how to discourage drunken, under-age people from attending the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in the hamlet.
Chamber officials drew up the petitions that have been posted in the chamber and at local businesses asking the transportation authority not to send trains to Montauk on March 12, the day of next year’s parade.
“In the past few years, those trains have brought thousands of youths, many inebriated and under age, and has resulted in taking away the fun, family tradition that had been enjoyed for many years,” the petition says.
Residents have embraced the petition, Joe Bloecker, the president of the Friends of Erin, said. He explained that the plan is to have the petitions at the meeting so that the representatives of the M.T.A. can see just how many people in Montauk don’t like what happens every year at the parade.
“It’ll give us a leg to stand on,” Mr. Bloecker said. “The problems are coming off the trains. We don’t want that and we don’t want them to send any trains. They’re not doing us any favors.”
If the M.T.A. doesn’t cooperate, the Friends of Erin are considering starting the parade at 10 a.m. to circumvent the revelers, most of whom, according to Mr. Bloecker, will have attended parades in other areas on the previous day and will be too hung over to jump a train that early in the morning. But the idea has not been “set in stone,” he said, and the group is happy to negotiate.
Chamber members don’t want to see the time changed, as that will deter families from driving out for the festivities, which have attracted crowds of up to 40,000 people in the past. “People up west would have to leave at 5 a.m. to get out that early,” said Laraine Creegan, the chamber’s executive director. “We’re really not taking a stand. We love the parade. We’re just concerned about the earlier timing.”
Sal Arena, an M.T.A. spokesman, said yesterday that the agency would discuss the parade with Ms. Creegan at next week’s meeting.
Apparently last year’s parade was one of the worst. Mr. Bloecker said that 95 percent of the arrests were related to under-age drinkers trying to get into bars and the fights that ensued. He said the bars all had good security, but that “the reason the fights take place outside the bars is because they won’t let them in. And then it makes them look bad” when the revelers hang around.
Following last year’s parade the Friends of Erin started brainstorming on how to tame the rowdy crowds and return the parade to the families. They came up with the earlier start time but kept it a secret until recently, Mr. Bloecker said. “Enough is enough.”
Several years ago, security was tightened, with a wider range of police officers — from the town, the M.T.A., the state park police, and the highway patrol. They were posted at the train station with drug-and-alcohol-sniffing dogs and confiscated containers of alcohol as they were carried off the train.
It helped for a year or two, but the trouble escalated at last year’s event when, to avoid the police and a search of their backpacks, a number of paradegoers jumped from the train, sneaked under the platform, and exited on Industrial Road, south of the station, Mr. Bloecker said.
The Friends of Erin and the chamber of commerce are encouraging public comment to help in the final decision.
“We need to let the people in Montauk know that we don’t support these people coming out here,” Mr. Bloecker said. “If they don’t stop the train, we will change the parade start to 10 a.m.”