Dan Rattiner's Stories

Save Our Views! Truck Beach & the Road in Front of My House in East Hampton

As this is written, a judge is listening to testimony from some citizens of East Hampton who have had to live through years and years of people bringing four-wheel-drive vehicles on the beach in front of their oceanfront homes. It’s pretty intolerable, they say.

The plaintiffs hired a videographer to provide to the court footage of what is going on in front of their homes. The videographer went up and down the beach, filming. He’s made many, many hours of footage. And the best parts, the best 25 minutes, have been shown at the trial. They show people camping, backing up, shouting, fishing, sunbathing, collecting seashells, playing in the sand, playing radios, flying kites, taking walks, even urinating, and their dogs were urinating too, on the beach.

“I don’t feel safe taking my son down there,” one woman said. “We had an incident once that made me not feel it was safe to take my son there.” What happened, she said, was a four-wheel-drive vehicle drove by and the driver gave her the finger, she said. She’d bought her house in 2007.

Others with property here have said that having to look out at the trucks and fishermen and dogs out there is more than they can bear. People leave trash there. They make noise. They sunbathe and drive their 4x4s on the beach, sometimes too fast. One man said there were only a few trucks out there when he bought his house in 1985, but now there are many more.

The issue has escalated over the last decade. People on one side say four-wheel-drive vehicles have been used out on the beach legally since four-wheel-drive vehicles were invented. And before that, in 1688, a law was passed that gave the right to the citizenry to use wagons and other vehicles on the beach. And a law passed a quarter of a century ago confirmed it.

The plaintiffs in this case say their property has passed from one owner to another since colonial times, and that a deed from a century ago gives them fee-title to the beach. This question of who owns the beach, along with questions about Town codes regarding beach usage and how people can gain access for vehicles to the beach, among other issues, are at the heart of the case.

Naturally, if they can kick the general public off this nearly mile-long stretch, their property values will go through the roof. The nearest parking area to this ocean beach, other than in the homeowners’ driveways, is a mile away. So they’d have it all to themselves.

If this is decided in favor of these aggrieved homeowners, I intend to also file a lawsuit against the town for the activities they have allowed to occur on the street in front of my house that frighten my family and block my view of Three Mile Harbor.

My house is just 160 feet from the harbor, but there’s a road here that passes between my property and the water. And I have researched the deed about this road and I find there is about a six-inch gap in the right of way deed rights between where this road used to end—south of my house—to where it continued on going north up to Maidstone Park.

This gap is right in front of my house. Its lack of proper wording makes the passageway to vehicles in front of my house illegal. They can go up to the six inches, and they can begin again beyond the six inches, but they cannot transverse the six inches. This deeded error occurred in 1922, during the Harding Administration.

My lawsuit will claim that cars and trucks pass in front of my house. It was not so bad when I bought my place in the 1970s—I knew about this road—but since then it’s gotten completely intolerable. Sometimes people park along the roadside to watch the sunset across the way. It can block my view of part of it, particularly the larger vehicles. Some people—what gall they have—even park their cars by the side of the road where the sun sets and put signs on their windshields reading FOR SALE and walk away, leaving them there for days.

It’s difficult to cross this road to go to the boats and the little beach on the harbor here. Cars whiz by dangerously. Sometimes they drive on the shoulder. Sometimes, ambulances or police cars race recklessly by, flashing their lights and sounding their sirens. Gangs of motorcycle riders come by from time to time. We are awakened from our beds when this happens. Teenagers with boom-box radios in the trunks whiz by. We get joggers and bicyclists. Sometimes cars even crash right in front of my house. And it’s happening more and more. Nobody should have to put up with that. It’s crazy. And the things some people do on those boats—well, I take the kids to the cellar.

And then there are the utility poles and their attendant wires. When I bought my house in 1978, I paid $45,500 for it. And there was just a single telephone wire and a single electric wire. Now there are thick cables for Wi-Fi, cable and God knows what else, and they not only block the view where before we could forgive it for just the two wires, but these cables are sometimes tiptoed across by nasty squirrels or sat upon by birds who, at this time of year, often fly up and chase one another around in an apparent effort to fornicate. I take my kids to the basement again.

I can tell you that some of these birds and squirrels even put “droppings,” as someone so delicately put it, right on my new Tesla.

I do not have to tell you how awful all this is. And I am a taxpayer. In 1978, I paid $550 in taxes. Today I pay $11,300 in taxes.

When I moved here, I did not know about the six-inch gap. I figured the road was just something I would have to live with. Indeed, back then, in the wintertime, it was a comfort to see some cars out there every once in a while. It would get pretty dismal out here in the wintertime, and they were a welcome sight. Sometimes we’d even wave at one if we sat out on the deck.

No more. Today is not like it was. It’s different. And now that I’m here, I am entitled to peace and quiet and don’t want anybody else disturbing my wonderful view unless I invite them. I’ve put up with this long enough. And now it’s my turn.

My lawsuit will be for $5 million, which is what my view and sunset and property will be worth once I have won. And then there will be an additional $10 million I will ask for, for the pain and suffering I’ve had to endure for all these years. And that’s just a minimum.

This town is soon to know up front and center what they are dealing with.

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