This land is your land, this land is my land and these beaches are everybody’s land? That is the question that may be once again debated in the New York State Courts.
As of today, the handful of landowners of oceanfront property in Amagansett seem to be winning their claim. They have successfully stopped vehicular traffic from passing their homes and their lands along the beach. The New York State Appellate Court ruled decisively in their favor. Therefore, EH Town officials have been enforcing a prohibition of vehicles on a 4,000-foot stretch of ocean beach on Napeague popularly known as “Truck Beach.”
Yet that may change. There may be the possibility if not probability that a new legal challenge may be in the works. Perhaps a new angle on somehow re-establishing the concept that the East Hampton Town Trustees, along with the Town Board, oversee all of the coastal water and beachfront.Whether they have an authority that may precede and supersede the deeds of the specific property owners.
The owners of these properties are claiming their property rights goes to the ocean. Even if for generations local fisherman have used the beach to access the water to fish. No one is willing to go on record at this time to explain what legal logic or precedents will be presented to offset the last court ruling in favor of the homeowner’s association.
That ruling basically stated that the homeowners’ associations’ members respective land deeds extended to the mean high-water mark of the Atlantic Ocean.
The attorney representing one of the homeowners’ associations, successfully sued to hold the town in civil contempt for failing to prohibit vehicular access to the beach in an earlier injunction.
In a surprising decision, a panel of four Appellate Division judges forcefully reversed much of the East Hampton Town Friendly 2016 State Supreme Court decision. That ruling said in fact the 1882 deed in which the trustees conveyed some 1,000 acres on Napeague to Arthur Benson “clearly reserved some rights ‘to the inhabitants of East Hampton’ and, arguably, the allowances for some public use.”
Then when that decision was appealed, the N.Y. Appellate Division judges reversed the N.Y. State Supreme Court Ruling by coming to a different conclusion. A summary stated, “… contrary to the Supreme Court’s determination, the homeowners’ associations established their title claims by a preponderance of the evidence.” Then the ruling basically based on the fact that years back the trustees had conveyed title to the disputed portion of the beach to Mr. Benson.
What is at stake here is not just 4000 feet of access for vehicles, but the almost 340 years of authority of the East Hampton Trustees. An authority they have held concerning the Town’s waters and waterfronts that precedes even the establishment of the English Colony of New York, let alone New York State and its courts.
When East Hampton was founded in 1648 with the brief idea of being its own country called Maidstone, East Hampton Town was under rule by the King’s Representative in Hartford Ct.
Private ownership battles for the beachfronts of the town are not something the town wants to have a losing precedent of. The idea of billionaires using their resources to shut down, wall up ocean beach, to privatize, perhaps in the name of their security is frightening.