Taxis and Share Houses

East Hampton Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, right, received a warm welcome on Monday when Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee members learned he will be their new liaison to the East Hampton Town Board. Janis Hewitt

       East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc received a warm welcome, and an earful, from the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday.

       Mr. Van Scoyoc replaces former Councilman Dominick Stanzione as the town board’s new liaison to the committee.

       Mr. Cantwell told the group that he will not be able to make every meeting but would like to occasionally drop in. He spoke of the beach erosion problem in downtown Montauk and said it is a project he would like to get everyone working on as fast as possible. He was disappointed, he said, that the former town board had taken so long to get the project moving.

       He noted that it might take awhile to work out all the kinks in Town Hall, including learning its new phone system. But, he said, “We’re going to hit the ground running.”

       The new supervisor sat in the audience but stood to address the group and then returned to his seat. Mr. Van Scoyoc took his place at the head table facing the committee of about 25 members and guests that attended on Monday. The councilman said that code enforcement will be the top priority for the new administration, which is looking to take a broader approach and work with other departments, such as the police and fire marshals, to get people and businesses to comply with town rules.

       He spoke of a new taxi task force, which was formed in the fall in response to the large influx of cab companies operating in the town in the summer and the high fares some were charging customers. Town officials would like to get a wider range of people on the task force, including a town attorney, a police representative, and taxi company owners. The town’s current taxi legislation needs to be clarified, Mr. Van Scoyoc said, saying that the permitting process allowing cabs to operate in the town should be tightened and requests strictly scrutinized when they reach the town clerk’s office for approval.

       Committee members asked that cab companies be required to have a physical address in town and not just a post office box. Last summer, committee members who studied the situation found that many out-of-town companies were using the same post office boxes or addresses on their permit applications. They also suggested raising the permit fee so the town could profit from the influx.

       “These guys are making money and we’re making nothing on it. You want to play, you need to pay,” said Lisa Grenci, a member and former chairwoman of the committee. Another member suggested the town also initiate on-the-spot drug testing for cab drivers.

       Illegal share houses came up next, with Ms. Grenci, who is a real estate broker, telling the committee that quite a few people lie to brokers when looking for a summer rental. She said customers will claim they’ll be sharing the house with family and will probably have grandma and grandpa visiting.

       “Next thing you know there are eight to nine cars in the driveway and they’re all Greenwich Village hipsters living in the house,” she said.

       The town is looking into developing a rental registry, said Mr. Van Scoyoc, and is consulting with Southampton Town officials on how to do so. A rental registry would allow the town some judicial intervention, he said. “It would be a real deterrent.”

       Members also complained that downtown Montauk is too dark and is unsafe, a recurring issue for many, who say the bulbs in the downtown lights are not bright enough and are not cleaned regularly. 

       The committee also discussed its own membership numbers at length. With almost 40 members, the Montauk group is said to be the largest of any of the town’s advisory committees, yet even with such a large group, half of the members have to be in attendance in order to have a quorum and pass any resolutions. Members agreed Monday that if someone missed more than half a year of meetings, they will be removed from the committee.