Judge: Get your trucks off this East Hampton beach
More than 6,000 permits revoked on Truck Beach
The fight over a disputed beach in East Hampton keeps on trucking along.
A judge last week ordered more than 6,000 beach-driving permits for a section of shoreline on Napeague be revoked, the East Hampton Star reported. The property, better known as Truck Beach, has been central to a dispute raging for years.
The permits being revoked were issued beginning in February 2021.
In addition to the permit revocations, the judge also held East Hampton Town and its trustees in contempt for violating a 2021 decision that determined the 4,000-foot stretch was privately owned. The town was fined nearly $240,000 for the violation, which is to be paid to five homeowners’ associations and four individuals.
Justice Paul Baisley Jr. wrote that the town and its trustees “clearly demonstrated an appallingly studied indifference and deliberate disobedience to the lawful and unequivocal orders of this court.” An attorney for the town quickly filed an appeal of the judge’s decision.
The legal dispute over public access began in 2009, when homeowners sued the town to stop the public from driving onto the beach. A Supreme Court judge ruled in favor of public access in 2016, but that decision was overturned last February, the date Baisley referenced in last week’s ruling.
The town asked the Court of Appeals to take the case, but the high court affirmed the ban on public access based on historical documents. Local officials have since continued to fight the decision.
In March, town trustees and a handful of fishermen filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of the town, calling for trucks and other vehicles to be allowed to return. The complaint said the right of fishermen to use the beach was enshrined in an 1882 deed.
Months earlier, police cited 14 fishermen for trespassing on the beach. The fishermen in October drove their trucks across the beach in protest and were issued summonses.
In last week’s ruling, the judge denied a motion to remove the cases of those fishermen from East Hampton Town Justice Court and consolidate it with the contempt hearing.
[East Hampton Star] — Holden Walter-Warner