Driving on long Island beaches in Jeopardy
Over this, Assemb. Richard Brodsky (D-Hartsdale) and Southampton officials agree: There is nothing better than surfcasting on the beach on a hot summer day.
On whether current standards for driving on certain beaches to get to the water are sufficient, they stand -- and surfcast -- in disagreement.
Brodsky and State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) have introduced a bill in the state Assembly and Senate prohibiting motor vehicle access to beaches considered "coastal erosion hazard areas" if the municipality cannot show it is "consistent with protecting the public health and safety of surrounding property."
Brodsky said the standards would be determined beach by beach. If the current system of permits is assessed and considered sufficient, nothing would be changed. "It's not my job to tell them how to handle any beach," Brodsky said of the towns. "Nothing in this bill makes anyone's life difficult."
Southampton Town trustees and local surfcasters say otherwise. "This bill is an attempt to remove the common resident off of the beaches of not only Southampton but all of Long Island," said trustee President Scott Strough. "We're gonna fight this bill."
The beaches in question include much of the Hamptons and property along the Atlantic coast considered a "coastal erosion hazard area" -- land state law deems subject to erosion over a period of 40 years.
The current regulations for state and Suffolk County parks, as well as many towns, require holding a permit and, in some cases, being a local resident, to drive through erosion hazard areas. Buggy associations and fishers often drive SUVs and pickup trucks along these areas to access the water.
Southampton Town trustees and others think their regulations are sufficient in protecting against erosion, and fear the bill would put access to Long Island beaches in the hands of the state. "A legislator or an assemblyman in Westchester is trying to change the environmental conservation law in Long Island?" said Trustee Fred Havemeyer. "That's a heck of a thing."
Town trustees have submitted a resolution to the town board and are supported by the Long Island Beach Buggies Association and the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officers, they said.
William Young, president of the Montauk Surfcasters Association, said it would be difficult to carry fishing equipment on foot. "Not many people walk five miles to enjoy an activity," he said. "It would be impossible to go to some areas. Most of the areas."
The bill was passed by the state Assembly's Committee on Environmental Conservation and is before the state Senate's Committee on Environmental Conservation.
Assemb. Robert Sweeney (D-Lindenhurst) was among those who voted against it.
"One of my concerns is whether this is going to return us to the bad old days when beachfront areas were for the very wealthy," Sweeney said.