Police cited 14 Hampton fishermen for trespassing on Amagansett’s “Truck Beach” last week in protest for access to the stretch of sand.
The fishermen who drove their trucks across the beach as a demonstration were issued summonses and are set to appear in town justice court on Oct. 27, according to Newsday.
Dan Rodgers, an attorney representing the fishermen, said they will argue that they are legally allowed to access the beach.
The legal dispute over public access to the 4,000-foot beach started in 2009 with a lawsuit by local homeowners against the town. They sought to bar the public from driving onto the beach, a popular practice that gave the spot its nickname.
Rodgers pointed to an 1882 document as the origin of the dispute. That year, town trustees conveyed the parcel to developer Arthur Benson with the stipulation that the public could use it for fishing.
The New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of public access in 2016, but that decision was overturned in February and the town was ordered to stop the public from driving on the beach.
The town appealed that decision before New York’s Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state, reaffirmed it.
Local officials vowed to keep up the fight and some have gone as far as saying they would attempt to condemn the 22 acres of the beach via eminent domain.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said in June the town would “take every step necessary in order to [ensure] our traditional beach access rights,” and asked the public to stay away from the beach in the meantime.
It was the second protest by the fishermen over the decision. Rodgers told Newsday it won’t be their last action.
“I can tell you this, the baymen and women that I represent are going to fight like hell to maintain the right to something that they’ve done for 300 years,” he told the outlet.
Ken Silverman, president of the Dunes at Napeague Property Owners Association told Newsday the organization has no problem with commercial fishermen accessing the beach with permission, but “we don’t believe we have to allow the trucks.”
[Newsday] — Dennis Lynch