Expensive Taxis Lambasted

    A dozen or more people who left town when the season started and haven’t been seen at an Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee meeting in months showed up on Monday night for a well-attended meeting, much of it devoted to talk about rapacious taxicabs.
    Taxis have, to his knowledge, been charging as much as $75 or $80 for a ride from Montauk to Amagansett, said Michael Cinque. Was there any way to regulate them?
    East Hampton Town Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, the town board liaison to the committee, answered that 65 companies had bought business licenses from the town clerk’s office this year, at $150 apiece. Companies presumably have more than one vehicle, she said, and each one must display its own vehicle license, according to the town code, “attached to the upper left of the rear windshield of the vehicle and to the upper right of the front windshield.”
    The town can regulate taxis up to a point, Ms. Overby said. For example, at Indian Wells Beach last weekend, “I saw three kids in back of a cab, three on top of them, and two more in front. [The law says] you need one to a seat belt. But we don’t have enough people to say, ‘You can only take four, not the eight you’re cramming in.’ I saw it happening over and over last Saturday.”
    “They go back to New York with thousands in cash,” said Kieran Brew, ACAC’s chairman.
    “Can I just go and buy a taxi permit?” asked John Broderick.
    “You must fill out a form,” including proof of liability insurance, Ms. Overby told him.
    Someone else wanted to know how much the town knew about the drivers of the cabs. “There’s regulation, but no background check,” said the councilwoman.
    “Then, is the company responsible for its drivers?” Mr. Broderick persisted. The town code says it is: “Owners are to review the criminal history of any operator, including renewal operators, in a manner consistent with Article 23-A of the New York State Correction Law.”
    “We want the town to regulate this, but there’s not enough people,” said Mr. Brew. “Seems like everything we discuss ends up like this. The situation at Indian Wells is far from over. It wouldn’t break my heart to see no taxis there. If you can’t have nonresidents, why taxis?”
    Indian Wells is a resident-sticker-only beach, a fact that did not keep hordes of beer-drinkers in their 20s and 30s from cabbing in and taking it over, in large part, this summer. The town board responded to complaints with an increase in police and marine patrol presence, which resulted, Mr. Brew wrote to the board on Friday in a thank-you letter on behalf of ACAC, in “less parking lot congestion caused by waiting taxis, less public drinking and apparent intoxication in the parking lot and bathrooms, fewer people using the dunes as a restroom, and a little more respect from this crowd toward the other people that use the beach.”
    He added, however, that “our members still strongly feel that the situation has a long way to go before it can be considered under control.” Members of the committee had received copies of the letter by e-mail, and Mr. Brew got a nice round of applause for it.
    Mr. Broderick also had a question about the sign for the forthcoming Amagansett Estates, erected by the developers of the old Nesbitt property on Montauk Highway west of the hamlet. Was it legal, he wanted to know, calling it “big and garish.”
    “That’s a code enforcement issue,” said Ms. Overby, suggesting it was the province of the Town Architectural Review Board.
    After requesting the information from East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker, Ms. Overby gave the committee a rundown of police statistics specific to Amagansett, from the Friday of Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, covering this year and last. By far the biggest change from one season to another has been a surge in the number of traffic tickets: 428 in 2011, 543 in 2012, an increase of 115. “Parking complaints” also rose, from 33 to 50, as did larcenies, from 11 to 25. The number of 911 calls, however, showed a steep drop, from 169 in the summer of 2011 to 100 this year.
    Motor vehicle accidents within the hamlet fell from 91 to 73. There were five fewer “civil complaints” this year than last (19 vs. 24), five fewer cases of criminal mischief (9 vs. 4), and five fewer reports of “prowlers” (2 vs. 7) as well. Arrests, however, went up from 22 to 32, and noise complaints from 95 to 106.
    Most categories showed little change from one year to the next, including assaults (none in 2011, 1 this year), burglaries (3, 4), custody disputes (1, 2), “distressed swimmers” (2, 6), dog complaints (6, 4), and “calls for service,” which could involve anything from a cat up a tree to a heart attack (1,160 vs. 1,154).
    Police also reported almost twice as many arrests this summer for driving while intoxicated, 67 in 2011 and 130 this year. That statistic pertains to the entire town, not just Amagansett; D.W.I. arrests are not broken down by hamlet.
    After Sheila Okin asked about it, Ms. Overby gave members an informed rundown on the town’s scavenger waste plant, observing with a half-smile that she is the town board’s liaison to “sanitation, scavenger waste, and the litter committee.” Many stories have appeared in The Star on the plant, which has been closed for years. It is currently being used as a transfer station, which may itself be temporarily closed. A public hearing on the closing was held last Thursday in Town Hall and is reported elsewhere in this issue.
    Finally, there was some good news about the hamlet’s long-wished-for public bathrooms. Ms. Overby reported that she has been working with Tom Talmage, the town engineer, to get an extension of the county health permit that will at last allow their construction, the original permit having expired before any work was done. If all goes well, she said, by next summer there will be two unisex bathrooms in a prefab building standing to the far west of the town parking lot behind Main Street. An alley near the Stephen Talkhouse leads from Main Street almost directly to the spot, which, someone observed, should be mightily convenient.
    The advisory committee will meet next on Oct. 15 rather than Oct. 8, which is Columbus Day.