Sticker Time: Hampton Township Creates New Gull Permit to Add Revenue

line drawing of man fishing off a pier with seagulls on every post, and a gull on his head
Cartoon by Dan Rattiner

Spring is the time of year to get your permits to enjoy the Hamptons.

There are permits needed for driving beachfront at county parks. There are permits needed for East Hampton’s Main Beach, Coopers Beach in Southampton, Indian Wells and Atlantic in Amagansett, and other permits for things in Bridgehampton, Southampton Village, Hampton Bays and Westhampton Beach. Some are for parking, others are for beach cabanas. There are permits needed for large parties held in your home, and for rentals and signage, even permits for filming documentaries or movies on public property. There are fishing permits, duck shooting permits, and they come from villages, towns, counties, states and federal officials. There are red ones, orange ones, blue ones, green ones, yellow ones and brown ones.

The income from permits enables officials to pay the ever-increasing costs of running a summer resort. Salaries are a big item, particularly for summer police and the ordinance inspectors who give out summonses for those failing to have the right permits.

This year, Mayor Anderson of Hampton Township has announced a new kind of permit never offered before. He said revenues have been lagging expenses. He’s had to do something.

Beginning May 1, seagulls will be required to buy permits for dock piling perching. Until now, they’ve been doing this for free. Now it will cost. Each piling will be rented for the full season, from May 1 to October 1, for $375. (Having daily permits would be a nightmare.)

Only one seagull and his immediate family will be allowed to sit on a piling, and only one piling will be allowed per family. There will be no hogging the pilings. Pick the one you want and it’s yours for the summer. You also have first dibs on that piling for next year.

Purchasing seagulls must list all the individual members of their family. A tiny beige tag with the piling number will be attached to one leg of each of the family’s seagulls, and a number corresponding to the tag will be attached to the piling top that matches the number on the tag permit. It will be theirs for the season.

Those perching without the matching tag will be issued summonses—$50 for first offense, $100 for second offense and $300 for all further offenses. Scofflaws after a third summons can be sentenced to 30 days in a birdcage. This will give them the opportunity to sit and think about this.

Bill Wilkerson, who owns a marina in Hampton Bays, lauded this new law as a boon to the dock areas of that town, and also for Sag Harbor and Montauk.

“It’s about time someone took the bull by the horns,” he said, noting that the town intends to install many more dock pilings to accommodate what they expect will be a rush for these permits.

“This is not an attempt to provide something for a privileged few,” the Mayor said. “No one will be turned away and we will be installing as many as are needed.” The mayor is a Democrat.

A spokesman for the ASPCB, which is an offshoot of the ASPCA, said “wrapping a permit around any bird’s leg is an interference in the natural order and could cause either crooked flying or unnecessary crashes by these birds.”

A spokesman for the Animal Behavior Institute said the interruption of the longstanding tradition of “the strongest gets the piling and the weakest has to look elsewhere,” could be detrimental to seagull pecking order rules.

A spokeswoman for the Anti-Discrimination League said that “offering up private piling tops for just one species will cause permanent emotional damage to other species. This is wrong, any way you look at it.”

A spokesperson for the Real Estate Board of the Hamptons said they have a wait-and-see attitude about this. “On the one hand, more dock pilings could spoil some of the previously unobstructed homeowner water views. On the other, there could be a great influx of billionaire bird watchers. And they will be needing homes.”

Some permits have already been issued to early birds who have an “in” at town hall. They get to choose their desired piling first, as they should.

Meanwhile the Hamptons is looking into tag permits for turkeys, osprey, eagles and swans.

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