Court Rules in Favor of Use of Napeague’s Truck Beach

Trucks parked at Truck Beach | safebeach.org photo
Trucks parked at Truck Beach | safebeach.org photo

The New York State Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the public use of ‘Truck Beach’ in Napeague, which has been used by generations of East Hampton residents for off-road access to the beach.

A group of private property owners neighboring the beach, known as Safe Access for Everyone, sued East Hampton Town attempting to uphold their titles to the waterfront property, and asking the court to uphold their claim that the trucks posed a nuisance on the beach.

The group argues that beach driving is a hazard in such a populated area, and points to the environmental destruction caused by trucks on the beach, as well as the partying and public urination of beachgoers at the beach.

After a five-day bench trial in June 2016, Justice Ralph T. Gazzillo issued a post-trial decision Monday upholding the rights of the East Hampton community to access Napeague Beach.

“The Town of East Hampton is very pleased that the court, in the strongest of terms, recognizes the longstanding public use of this oceanfront beach in Napeague,” said East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell in a statement Monday afternoon. “The court issued a commonsense decision rightfully rejecting the ‘questionable’, ‘unimpressive’, and ‘contradictory’ testimony of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, while finding those life-long community members who testified on behalf of the defendants’ to be ‘credible’, ‘harmonious’ and ‘persuasive’.”

“The court specifically found, ‘It is also clear and undeniable that in living memory—and even perhaps well before—the community has consistently used the beach as a recreation location which is open to the public,'” said Town Councilman Fred Overton, who was called to testify on behalf of the town and the Town Trustees.

SAFE c0-founder Cindi Crain said her group plans to fight on.

“While we are disappointed in the court’s flawed decision today, on behalf of the thousands of East Hampton families who support SAFE’s goals to eliminate beach driving on densely crowded beaches in order to protect both our children and our natural environment, we will continue to work diligently, and are confident we will ultimately prevail,” she said Monday. “We will explore all available legal options including the possibility of appeal.”

The court’s decision denied the plaintiffs’ private ownership claims of the beach, as well as their claims that the town was creating a nuisance by allowing public use of Napeague Beach.

“The town will remain steadfast in protecting our public access to our ocean beaches and
public land,” said Mr. Cantwell.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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