By Claire Walla
Providing some hope for Sag Harbor and Noyac residents publicly outraged that Southampton Town would restrict parking on a town-owned road, the Southampton Town Board voted last Tuesday, June 28 to adopt a resolution that would allow up to 100 feet of concrete on the south side of Noyac Bay Avenue to be free and open to the public. One-hundred feet is equal to about four parking spaces.
Joanne Staffa, secretary of the Northampton Colony Yacht Club (part of the driving force behind the restrictions), spoke on behalf of the group when she said “we are willing to accept the proposed compromise” on 100 feet of free parking.
“But, we have one request,” she continued, “that at the easternmost part of the road, 40 feet remain open at the end to allow emergency vehicles” space to turn around.
Though on Tuesday the board acted on a measure that would only lift the parking restriction for 100 feet, board members plan to bring Transportation Director Tom Neely into the discussion to ensure all safety measures are met.
“I think it’s a good first step,” said Southampton Town Councilman Jim Malone who played a large part in developing the legislation that will effectively overturn the town’s original 2008 decision to post seasonal no-parking signs within this Noyac community, known as Northampton Colony.
Since then, the parking restrictions — effective May 15 through September 15 — have been located along 2,000 feet of roadside on the easternmost portion of the avenue, where Noyac Bay Avenue dead-ends at a channel of water leading from Sag Harbor Bay to the Northampton Colony Yacht Club. At issue for some Northampton Colony residents it the fact that the street is wedged between a private beach club belonging to Northampton Colony residents (to the north) and a private marina (to the south).
The parking restrictions were sanctioned by the board after 28 residents cited issues of theft and public safety, referencing primarily fishing equipment that had been stolen from several boats kept in the marina.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said the town has asked its police department to step-up patrols in the area.
Residents against such parking restrictions, however, have said the cause for concern is not theft, or even public safety — which they argue is hardly significant, there has only been one crime there reported to Southampton Town Police since 2008.
The issue for many is one of public access.
“The point of this discussion is whether all members [of the community at large] will continue to have unrestricted access at the ends of these little roads,” said long-time resident Joan Weingartner, who grew up in North Sea in the ‘30s and ‘40s. “These are places we visit to sit, to walk around the beach, to enjoy a lovely view.”
With parking restrictions, she continued, “some of the elderly are going to have to use a wheelchair to get down there.”
“They can’t be out surfing or swimming, but they can go down and look at the water,” Weingartner added. “And you’re taking that away from them.”
Those in opposition to the town’s decision to restrict parking included representatives from the Surf Rider Foundation and local grassroots organization Citizens for Access Rights (CfAR), which opposes designated private beaches on the East End. And almost a dozen residents spoke to the need for unrestricted access — many of whom urged the board to act beyond the compromised resolution brought before the town council that evening.
“I would like to know why the demands of 28 people are trumping the needs of 56,000 tax payers?” Noyac resident Lisina Ceresa queried.
Because the road is town-owned, she pressed the notion that all residents in the town of Southampton — whose town taxes are used to maintain town roads — have the right to use them.
“On a personal level, the idea that we as your government representatives are not here to safeguard public access is troublesome,” Supervisor Throne-Holst said. “We certainly heard the neighbors who are concerned about crime, and perhaps some safety issues. But we’ve attempted to find a compromise here.”
In addition to voting on that evening’s resolution, Throne-Holst made a motion to schedule another public hearing in July to address lifting the parking ban entirely. She said the discussion would continue as long as there are concerns. And there are still grey areas in this case.
“The right to public access is something that we all value greatly,” said Councilwoman Nancy Graboski, speaking for all members of the board. “But we need to get some clarification from the trustees regarding the ownership of this particular beach.”
According to the Dongan Patent of 1686, which puts all waters in the town of Southampton under the care of the town trustees on behalf of the residents, the trustees have the right of “pass and re-pass.” In other words, even if the shores along the private beach club belong to those in Northampton Colony, the citizens of the town “would still have the ability to go back and forth on that beach.”
Northampton Yacht Club Harbor Master Larry Trullo told the board that the majority of the shoreline along the edge of Noyac Bay Avenue is privately owned.
“Everyone keeps referring to this as a beach, but there is no beach here,” he said. “The town owns maybe 50 feet.”
However, Councilwoman Bridget Fleming said she believed the area does constitute as a beach, and Throne-Holst added: “It’s not for you or anyone else to decide whether it’s good access or bad access.”
“It’s a waterfront community, it’s why we’re all here,” Malone continued. Restricting that access for the members of the Town of Southampton, he added, does “a grave injustice” to the entire community.
The town will re-visit this subject and consider lifting the no-parking ban entirely at a town board meeting July 12.