The contentious issue of dogs on East Hampton Village beaches, and specifically their owners’ rights and responsibilities, will be among the issues addressed at the East Hampton Village Board work session today at 11 a.m.
Though the village’s trustees have invited a small number of people, including Diane McNally, an East Hampton Town trustee, to informally participate, today’s work session is not intended as a forum for residents to share opinions or air grievances.
Larry Cantwell, the village administrator, was careful to point out that today’s session is not a public hearing. “There’s no specific proposal before the board,” he said on Tuesday. “They’re going to continue their discussion about it.” Presently, dogs are prohibited from public beaches between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. from the second Sunday in May through Sept. 30.
Mr. Cantwell said that the board and Mayor Paul F. Rickenbach Jr. have talked with various people since the Feb. 7 meeting, at which Jennifer Berkeley and Matthew Norklun, village residents with opposing views regarding dogs on village beaches, spoke at length. Today’s session, Mr. Cantwell said, “is the board’s regular monthly work session, not some secret meeting.”
Steven Gaines, an author who lives in Wainscott, described himself as part of a group of dog owners concerned that the village will place greater restrictions on dogs on its beaches, if not an outright ban. He and others have formed Citizens for Responsible Dog Ownership, which is described on its Facebook page as “an organization of dog owners in East Hampton . . . dedicated to teaching dog owners to pick up after their dogs on beaches and keeping them leashed at appropriate times.”
Mr. Gaines said that an organization modeled on Citizens for Access Rights, which advocates for public access to beaches and opposes privatization efforts, would provide a powerful voice to dog owners that hope to preserve present regulations. “I’m part of a group of concerned dog owners and part of the committee,” he said. “We’re going ask the village to give us a year to do a passionate education program for the public. The beaches must be clean. In order to do that, we don’t have to ban dogs.”
Mr. Gaines cited a cultural shift in New York City, following a 1978 law requiring dog owners to clean up after their pet, as proof that village beaches can be both pristine and dog-friendly. “I lived in Manhattan in the ’70s,” he said. “A guy across the street would say to whomever, ‘Pick up after your dog.’ Other dog owners would give you newspaper. It got traction. What happened in Manhattan can come out here.”