Parking in East Hampton Village is now being administered by computer. You can park anywhere you want and you don’t need a parking sticker. But if you leave your car standing for more than 2 hours, the computer will catch you and send you a ticket if, beforehand, you have not downloaded the parking app and entered your info to agree to pay the approximately $10 extra-hour fee. It’s a whole lot cheaper than paying the parking ticket, which could run you close to $100. Notably, if you are a Village resident and have put your sacred Village resident sticker in your car side window beforehand, the fee and the ticket, if any, are waived. So actually, you do not need the app.
Turns out there are several competing services that offer this business. And it turns out that one of them, which the Village stopped using, is suing the Village for nearly $100,000. What happened is this: During summer 2020, the Village officials looked into the offerings of several computer firms, looking ahead to the summer of 2021 when they intended to put all this into effect. One of these firms was Tannery Creek Systems. Indeed, the Village officials liked what was offered and at the end of last summer, signed a contract with them to begin the service in May 2021.
After a couple of weeks of service, however, the Village officials changed their minds about using Tannery Creek. What they hadn’t counted on when they signed the agreement was the appearance of the vehicle that would drive around downtown every day scanning the license plates and transmitting the data up to Albany to find out who owned what and for how long, and whether where the vehicle was parked was in compliance with the rules or not.
East Hampton Village is noted for its peaceful appearance. Flowers are everywhere. There are two town greens, one at each end of Main Street. At one is a wooden 18th-century wooden windmill 40 feet high. At the other is Town Pond with ducks and swans paddling this way and that. In between are several 17th-century saltbox homes and two other wooden windmills.
The vehicle that Tannery Creek put on the job is adorned with enough flashlights, computer laser guns and motion sensors to make itself look very angry. On one side in the rear there is even a long tube with chalk on the end. Press a button on the dashboard and the tube swings down and makes a mark on a tire. It’s got everything. And in big letters on each side, it says “Parking Enforcement.”
In towns where crime is running rampant and a lot of people are shooting at each other, this thing would fit right in. But here? From the get-go, the powers felt that something would have to be done, and that this thing was not in keeping with the image that the Village would like to promote.
“That vehicle looked like a monster,” East Hampton Village Mayor Jerry Larsen said.
After a little back-and-forth with the company about this, a decision was made by the Village to cancel the agreement they had made with Tannery Creek. They contacted another firm. That firm had a more unobtrusive vehicle to offer. They’d go with that firm.
Tannery Creek allowed that the Village was within its rights to cancel their contract. But in something like the phrase “It’s a joy to look at and a pleasure to hold, but if you break it then it is sold,” the firm announced they would not take their loony-tunes SUV back. The firm’s attorneys stated in legal documents, “The Village utilized the equipment for two months.” And when East Hampton Village officials declined a second time to keep it, Tannery Creek filed a lawsuit for $48,860, the cost of parking monitoring equipment still owed by the Village, plus $100,000 in damages. And that’s where the matter stands.
At the present time, the vehicle is parked in one of the Village-owned lots with all its doodads and horns still on it.
Lawsuits can be expensive. Because of that, I suggest that the Village keep this vehicle. All they need do is change the lettering on the side. Remove “Parking Enforcement.” In its place write “Ghostbusters.” And once a month, maybe on the first of every month, take it out and drive it around town so as to keep the town free of ghosts. It can be done.
Better than that, make an event out of it. Park it inside the Gardiner Mill. Gardiner Mill is one of the three English windmills in town, about halfway between one end of town and the other. The ghostbusters truck, with 6 inches to spare, will fit inside. And then, in Groundhog Day fashion, or better yet, in cuckoo-clock fashion, have a crowd on hand when the doors are opened, the sirens are sounded and the ghostbuster truck is let out for its one-day-a-month snoop through town.
By the way, nobody can park in the Village lots for 4 hours or more without getting a ticket—even Village residents.
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For some reason, this story brings to mind the second year of the Hamptons International Film Festival in 1994. This was 27 years ago. I was standing out front of the East Hampton Cinema just before sunset when a young woman on a giant tricycle appeared amidst the traffic going eastbound and heading toward us.
She was a beautiful young person and she wore a skintight silver suit with spangles and a pair of 4-foot-long diaphanous wings attached to her back. With every push on the pedals of her bicycle, these wings would flap up and down. Pedal, flap, pedal, flap. But then she was forced to pull over and stop right in front of the theater. A policeman had brought her to a halt.
“What do you think you are doing, little lady?” he asked.
“I’m promoting a movie,” she breathlessly replied.
“Well, you just turn your little self around and flap your way back out of town the way you came in,” the officer said.
And she did.