The Hamptons Police became involved last week in a successful effort to prevent a group of desperate drivers from settling permanently in the median strip of Sunrise Highway on the outskirts of Southampton. While the drivers’ actions were clearly in violation of many different local, state and federal laws, it took police five days to finally evict them from the location they had apparently come to think of as home.
Police spokesman Larry Hirsch says his department began getting calls about an encampment developing in the area early on Tuesday. According to Hirsch, police initially assumed cars were simply running out of gas or breaking down in the big traffic jams occurring on the routes into town, and that callers were overreacting. The reality was slow to dawn on the police.
“Different people have different reactions to extreme traffic jams, I guess,” Hirsch said during a press conference about the situation. “With the U.S. Open going on, of course, things got worse than usual for eastbound traffic, and some people obviously despaired about getting any farther and began to see the median strip as a very attractive place to put down roots.”
Hirsch said the settlers must have worked “surprisingly quickly” to establish an infrastructure of primitive but sturdy shelters. By the first day they were sending out young men to gather sustenance from the surrounding woods and waters, while the womenfolk began lighting fires to cook and to keep predators at bay.
“People wonder why it took so long for the police to react,” Hirsch said. “What I wonder is, where did these people learn how to rough it like this? Talk about Swiss Family Robinson. By the time we got there on Sunday, they were boiling pots of deer bones to make glue. I’m not even sure what they planned to use the glue for.”
The median colony came to an end on Sunday afternoon as police brought in bulldozers and leveled the settlement.
One of the settlers, Jeb McClure, was defiant as the officers ushered him back to his Mercedes, which was parked in the breakdown lane nearby. Until Tuesday, McClure had worked at a hedge fund in Manhattan. Now he was clad in crude but serviceable deerskin garments.
He struggled with police, screaming that he would not submit to living by society’s rules anymore. However, when police pointed out that Sunrise Highway was finally free from traffic and he could make his way back to his Sagaponack estate in about 15 minutes, McClure became thoughtful. Soon, he quietly removed his primitive raiment, grabbed his smartphone, jumped into his car and sped off.