NY, Shinnecock Billboard Fight Enters Round 2

Desirée Keegan
Shinnecock Billboard.

The New York State Department of Transportation sent a letter to the Shinnecock Indian Nation demanding that the tribe halt construction of its second electronic billboard on the side of Sunrise Highway in Hampton Bays.

The debate has been winding its way through the court system since the Shinnecock built the first billboard on the eastbound side of Route 27 in 2019. The Shinnecock maintain they are within their rights to build the second billboard on the westbound side of the highway.

“Despite the court’s refusal to order the Nation to cease construction and operation of the monuments … the DOT issued a stop work order to the nation to halt the construction of the second monument,” the Shinnecock Council of Trustees said in a statement. “Just one day after the stop work order was issued, the DOT sent a letter to the nation brazenly threatening the destruction of the monuments if the nation did not comply with the DOT’s demands. The nation, however, refuses to cave … because the DOT lacks authority over nation lands.”

The tribe, which is using advertising revenue from the billboards to fund its programs, said the state cited safety concerns, which the Shinnecock dispute.

“The nation has either met or exceeded all safety measures recommended by the DOT and the courts have agreed that the monuments pose no unacceptable safety risk,” the nation said. “The DOT’s purported safety concerns over the construction and operation of the monuments ring hollow in light of the fact that the state, itself, has paid to advertise on these very same monuments … The DOT’s latest threat serves as just one example of the mistreatment the nation has suffered at the hands of the state.”

Joseph Morrisey, a spokesman for the DOT, said the state is within its rights.

“State Route 27 is a state highway and the billboards are located on the state’s right of way,” he said. “The construction of these structures is in direct violation of federal and state law — jeopardizing eligibility for federal funding to maintain and renew this section of the highway — and poses an imminent health and safety risk to the public, as no engineering work was performed and no protection from motorists striking the signs is in place. We will continue to pursue legal remedies, including the pending litigation, to protect New Yorkers’ health and safety.”

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