Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman issued an executive order May 27 banning all outside visitors from town beaches through Sunday, May 31, while reserving the right to extend the ban beyond this coming weekend.
“Southampton Town Supervisor Issues Emergency Order Temporarily Closing All Beaches to Day-Trippers,” read a press release sent out this morning, going on to say, “After Hellish Holiday Weekend, Town Beaches Restricted to Local Residents and Renters.”
Southampton Town saw an influx of hundreds of visitors Memorial Day weekend, many of whom parked their cars along roadways near beaches, where parking was not restricted. The town had spent weeks preparing to open several popular bathing beaches for the holiday, including Ponquogue Beach, Sagg Main Beach, and Long Beach. They were busy, the town said, but not overwhelmed according to Schneiderman. Weather conditions were not ideal for sunbathing, which limited beach attendance, but, even in the rain, people flocked to other beaches to go fishing and off-roading.
“Weather didn’t encourage quite as many people — the cloudiness and colder days,” town Public Safety & Emergency Management Administrator Ryan Murphy said during the May 26 town board meeting. “By and large it was a successful weekend, but those homeowners near those road endings saw congestion. It was a litmus test for us to see how we can do this successfully — opening up what we can safely and proceed forward.”
Schneiderman said some of the congestion was likely due to beaches being closed in other areas.
The problem became acute at the end of North Sea Road in North Sea where nearly 500 people congregated on a narrow stretch of beach on Saturday evening. Police were forced to close the beach after determining that social distancing could not be achieved based on the volume of people.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to enact these restrictive measures,” Schneiderman said, “particularly as we enter Phase 1 reopening, but after what we experienced last weekend with droves of visitors overcrowding our beaches, we are left with no other choice to prevent the resurgence of coronavirus in our community.”
“We have to get a message to the people coming from New York City,” the supervisor added. “We finally got to Phase 1, and we don’t want to go back.”
The town received numerous complaints of people not wearing masks, not obeying social distancing rules, about litter, public urination, juvenile fish being caught, bonfires, and people camping on the beach.
“We are being inundated,” Schneiderman said. “I can’t fault people for going fishing. They love to fish, God bless them. But, we are overwhelmed.”
The newly-issued emergency order extends the beach parking restrictions to include all town roads within 1000 feet of a road-end directly leading to a public beach or water body. This change is aimed at stopping the parking of cars throughout town neighborhoods that are within the vicinity of beaches and road-endings leading to the beach, but were not restricted.
Those parking at or near the beach will need to display a valid town parking sticker on their vehicles. Anyone entering the beach, or on the beach, may be asked to provide proof that they are living or renting within the town. Those visiting friends or family, and hotel guests are excluded from the ban. Acceptable proof would include a valid state driver’s license or non-driver ID showing a Southampton Town address; or a valid car registration showing a Southampton Town address; a utility bill showing a Southampton Town address, or any proof of a legal rental. The supervisor said the police would only ask for identification when overcrowded conditions exist.
Parking on East Landing Road, West Landing Road, and Petrel Lane in the hamlet of Hampton Bays, has also been restricted in the emergency order to parking by permit only.
Violators will be asked to leave and could face a penalty if they refuse. Cars not displaying the proper sticker will be ticketed. Cars parked overnight may be towed.
Schneiderman also asked that East Hampton begin to issue non-residential parking passes for renters. He said renters in Wainscott will naturally migrate to Sagg Main Beach if they can’t park at an East Hampton beach.
Southampton Town Police Department, code enforcement, fire marshals, and Department of Parks and Recreation personnel shall be enforcing these new restrictions.
“The new emergency order limits the use of all town beaches, not just parking lots, to residents and legal renters until May 31, and restricts roadside parking near beaches as well,” the town said in a statement. “Emergency orders like this, suspending local laws, are limited to no more than five days. However, Supervisor Schneiderman indicated the order is likely to be extended.”
T.E. McMorrow contributed reporting.