Back in September, a woman named Mollie Zweig had 24 steel poles erected in concrete on the beach in front of her oceanfront home at Georgica Beach in East Hampton. Subsequently she had snow fencing attached to them to form a box, into which, supposedly, no one may go. This is an insult to a public beach rarely seen in the Hamptons.
Zweig’s argument is this is her private property. And indeed, property lines of oceanfront homes do often extend out onto the beach as the tides and storms either bring or take out the sand, but I have never seen this done before in all the years I have lived here because there are laws in place that prevent anyone from placing hard structures on the beach. Shortly after the steel poles went up, Ms. Zweig and her partner and contractor Bob Sullivan were issued three summonses citing three of these laws, all of which can bring either fines and/or jail sentences.
Since the laws violated are considered criminal, both Zweig and Sullivan were required to appear in person to answer the charges. On the appointed day, however, they sent representatives. The result was that the date was postponed. There is now a new date when they must appear personally.
Also during this time, the fencing and the poles were vandalized—and then restored. It seems likely that other Village residents—this beach is the only beach in the Hamptons where parking is allowed only for the villagers—might be expressing themselves with the act of law-breaking vandalism. In any case, this week, Zweig and Sullivan erected a tall wooden pole, atop which they have placed a light and a surveillance camera. There is nothing to prevent them from erecting a surveillance camera on the property. There are laws to prevent the building of a pole with a concrete foundation on a beach to hold it up. Village Code Enforcement Officer Tom Lawrence is considering further code violation summonses.
The laws being broken are on the books to allow free and continuous use of the beach to the general public, to allow free and continuous access of the public beach for village emergency vehicles, to allow only approved erosion control materials on the beach as ordered by the Department of Environmental Conservation and to preserve and save the ancient sand dunes that front the ocean and protect us all. Needless to say, permits are required to erect anything at all on the beach, even allowable snow fencing. In this case, none was applied for either before the steel poles were put in or since.
At the present time, at high tide, the poles and fencing extend down into the sea. The poles and fencing block access from one side to the other, emergency vehicle or otherwise. Zweig and Sullivan are at the very least exposing themselves to private lawsuits if a rescue at the beach goes awry because of their structure.
In another time, the Village might have responded by bringing heavy equipment down to the beach and pulling the offending structures down. Years ago, I recall them doing that in Montauk and in Mecox. Now however, they hesitate. Why? Well, we live in a litigious society and there are big bucks on the beach these days.
More to the point is this. If you leave your car overnight on a public street for a week where overnight parking is not allowed you will find when you get back to it seven parking tickets.
At the present time, as near as I can figure, there are just these three summonses served to these people, with a fourth pending. Penalties are up to $1,000 per summons. Jail time can be up to six months per summons.
I think the Village should consider issuing the three summonses for each of these 24 steel poles every day. If the enforcement officer comes back the next day and these poles are each still there, he should issue 24 x 3 = 72 new summonses. At $1,000 per incident, this would bring in $2,160,000 every month the hard structures remain up. And that would not even include the surveillance pole summons. Then of course, since this would be such a big boost to the village coffers, I would hold off on the jail time.