One of the first things that happened when Larry Cantwell took over as East Hampton Town Supervisor was his battle with Uber. It was not pretty. The town had taxi license laws. And they had to be followed. Also, in East Hampton, the law says taxi drivers have to be fingerprinted, photographed and have to have local offices in the town. Uber said they were not a taxi company, they were a “facilitator” company, so they didn’t need taxi company licenses.
The scuffles began. One Uber driver was issued a summons for appearing to police to be driving while intoxicated. Another was reportedly asleep in his car. Uber higher-ups came to try to sort it out. In the end, Uber withdrew from serving the town of East Hampton. They could drop people off here. But they couldn’t pick anybody up until they got out of town going west, after Wainscott.
Along with the Uber battle, the town got serious about dealing with Cyril’s bar on the Napeague Stretch. It’s been there for nearly 20 years and it gets more and more popular. The Town considers the property a pre-existing non-conforming use property, so it can’t grow, but it has. The battle’s been simmering for years.
The Town had filed charges over the years against the operators of Cyril’s Fish House and owners of the Cyril’s property. Recently, there were reports that the owners of the property and the Town agreed to cut back on the seating to just 62 seats and make additional adjustments regarding occupancy, service and the structure itself, and that the landlords had avoided a trial by entering into a Stipulation of Settlement with the Town and would pay a $60,000 fine.
As for Cyril himself, who was not named in criminal charges, he followed up in court to fight the code violations filed against his company, and lost. Although he is appealing, it was announced on the Cyril’s Facebook page this week that the popular restaurant will not reopen. That’s a town with fangs.
The parade of rough and tumble continued over the winter. Protesters picketed against the Army Corps of Engineers beach project in downtown Montauk. But the Town stood firm, and the project was finished in April, on schedule.
Local residents in Montauk formed a group called United Montauk to rein in bad behavior—people defacing property, getting drunk, publicly urinating, sleeping in cars and on the beach. It was beginning to look too much like the Jersey Shore to suit many people. A lot of homes in Montauk and elsewhere are renting out as share houses, with the entrepreneurs or owners packing them full of partygoers who couldn’t care what town they are in so long as there is loud music, stuff to drink and plenty of people to party with. (It was a sobering experience for me to learn that my parents’ dream house, built years ago, high on a hill in Montauk overlooking the sunset, was one of the share houses last year.)
In part because of this, the town responded by passing a new law creating an East Hampton Town rental registry. If you want to rent rooms out in your house to visitors, you have to register the property, and list, among other information, the number of bedrooms, the number of beds and the names of the people paying you money to stay over. There are also other restrictions. Yet, more than 1,000 people have so far registered. And if you don’t register, you can be fined if you rent your house.
Two weeks ago the Town police sent a press release out to announce their first strike using the new law. But it was not against people making group houses, people with overflow B&Bs, people with lots of alcohol, music and other stuff.
Its target was some local people of foreign extraction living in Springs.
The raid occurred at 105 Springs Fireplace Road in East Hampton. Found living in this small house were nine adults, year-around residents paying rent to a landlord not present. There were also four children, some students at the Springs School. The police said there were too many cars out front, too many people in the house, code violations and issues with property maintenance.
Between the town police and code enforcement departments there were a total of 39 appearance tickets given out to tenants Carmen Rocio Yamba Tenezaca, 30; Jaimo Uzhca Namina, 31; Wilson Guillca-Satian, 30; Melida Yamba Tenezaca, 33; Jose Donaire, 40; Angel Uzhca, 32; Angel Maza-Namina, 32; Rafeal Felix Llauri, 23; and Moncayo Arnulfo Rivera, 27. The charges included 1 count of overcrowding, 1 count of partial occupancy, 5 counts of no or inoperable smoke alarm, 2 counts of no carbon monoxide detector, 3 counts of change of use or type of occupancy, 3 counts of no building permit, 3 counts of no certificate of occupancy, 5 counts of no egress (blocked egress window or door), 8 counts of non-compliant egress opening, 1 count of multi-family occupancy, 1 count of property maintenance—litter/debris, 1 count of excessive vehicles in a rental, 1 count of a rear deck in disrepair, 2 counts of exposed wiring, 1 count of improper use of extension cords in lieu of wiring and 1 count of no Rental Registry number. In addition, the owner of the property, Leslie Cooper Life Estate, also was to be charged with the same 39 counts. The police also arrested two males at the scene on other charges.
There are probably dozens or even hundreds of small houses in the Springs alone that are overcrowded with year-round workers like this. Many can’t individually afford the high rents in this area. They’ve been doing this for many years, in many cases illegally. For the most part, they are hard-working people trying to go the immigrant route to be part of this country. Frankly, they don’t make much noise, on weekends or otherwise. Although some of them do like to play volleyball games in their yards.
Well, as Perry Duryea III wrote in his very public open letter last fall after the difficult summer rental season in Montauk:
“Drunken revelers make the post-midnight scene look like a page out of Apocalypse Now. And when you wake up to find that an inebriated stranger has wandered into, and passed out in your house, there is really a problem.”
East Hampton is on the job. Maybe not on the job you might have thought. But nevertheless. Roar.