Don’t expect to see Southampton Town Highway Supervisor Alex Gregor playing at the exclusive Shinnecock Hills Golf Club anytime soon.
Officials of the club have been privately seething at Gregor since he put the clamps on its ambitious plan to close off a portion of Tuckahoe Road that runs through the golf course.
While reviewing the club’s proposal two years ago, championed by no less than former New York City Mayor and club member Michael Bloomberg, Gregor was less than enthusiastic.
Gregor noted in some of the correspondence exchanged at the time that the club believes it owns a “private” portion of St. Andrews Road that runs just north of the western boundary of the course adjacent to Montauk Highway. He’s not so sure, he said in an interview this week.
“The evidence points to my asking the question: Can you prove this? That’s my job,” Gregor said. He wrote a letter to the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on September 11 notifying club officials they were not authorized to close off a portion of the road and questioning whether the club had any ownership rights at all.
If the club were to rekindle its plan to close a portion of Tuckahoe Road, the so-called private road — which the club contends is a driveway — would play an important part: It would become a feeder road to reroute traffic off of County Road 39 and away from the portion of Tuckahoe Road near the clubhouse.
There are actually two St. Andrews roads in the town. The one that runs near the Southampton Montessori School abuts the golf course. The portion headed west toward the club is now blocked from public use. Gregor said he could see it as a valuable alternate route for people heading down to the village or coming from the village and heading north to say, the national golf course.
“The Highway Department alone has the right to determine whether a town road should or should not be closed,” Gregor said. In the September 11 letter Gregor addressed to Nicholas Conlin, the club’s general manager, he asked the club to remove “any signs and barricades.”
There were originally building lots planned along the road in question. The club was “never given title to any portion of the right-of-way. St. Andrews Road was to be accepted into the Town Highway system,” Gregor wrote.
Two years ago, Bloomberg seemed to have the ear of Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman. Brett Pickens, the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club president, put together a financial package that would compensate the town for the loss of the roadway.
But Gregor threw water on the idea that closing Tuckahoe Road and rerouting traffic away from the golf course was somehow a benefit to the town residents. He called it a “favor” to the golf club and the offer it made to help things along, “a bribe.”
This time around, Gregor’s letter triggered an angry response from the club’s attorney, Anthony Pasca of Esseks, Hefter, Angel, Di Talia, & Pasca. He said Shinnecock considers the portion of roadway in question “nothing more than a driveway” and warned Gregor that the club would not tolerate his “recent threats and antagonism.”
“Ever since the opening of CR 39 in 1932, the club has exercised excusive dominion and control over the abandoned section of St. Andrews Road,” Pasca wrote. “We must insist that you retract your letter immediately and refrain from any further action that could be construed as slander,” Pasca countered.
“All I did was ask them to prove it,” Gregor said. “This is what happens when rich people don’t get their way. Usually when they go nasty it’s because they know they don’t own it.”
Shinnecock officials believe the town abandoned the road. Pasca wrote to Gregor on September 20 that records showing the abandonment of this portion of St. Andrews Road are readily available at Town Hall. “You could have approached the club amicably. Instead you have unilaterally slandered the club’s title,” he wrote.
Gregor said the town supervisor may have considered abandonment back in 1932, but his recommendation wouldn’t be legally binding anyway.
More to the point, a 1947 town map shows the driveway as a full-fledged road, as does a more recent tax map. And three locals, one a retired cop, have come forward to state they remember two-way traffic on the road as recently as the 1960s.
Gregor said his department will get to the bottom of the mystery soon enough. “They’re not going to bully us,” he vowed.