Seven local Water Mill residents were arrested by the police late last night trying to steal an old unused highway tollbooth that once was used on the Robert Moses Causeway leading motorists out to Jones Beach.
The police apparently were tipped off. They waited behind the old warehouse at that beach where this tollbooth, all three bays of it, is stored. And so, as the seven men were hauling it out to their waiting moving van, the police struck, and with guns drawn, stopped them in the act and took them in.
The seven are Frank Milkman, George Jessup, Frank Hendrickson, Bill Blades, Henry Heidrich, Howie McFarland and Bill Goldberg. They spent the night in the Babylon Town Lockup, were arraigned early this morning in Suffolk County Court in Islip, and were released after posting $20,000 bail each. Their leader, Frank Milkman, held a press conference at noon today at Southampton Town Hall and explained things.
“Our intention,” he said, “was to take this old tollbooth out to the Shinnecock Canal and set it out across the Sunrise Highway. It would be not there one day, and then there and in operation the next. Our plan was, and still is, to regulate who is allowed into the Hamptons. Only eastbound traffic will be dealt with. Mostly, we intend to drastically cut down on the number of people who want to come out to the Hamptons in their cars.”
A reporter from Newsday asked if they intend to plead guilty.
“We will plead not guilty. Sometimes it is just necessary for public-spirited citizens to take matters into their own hands.”
“But you have lost that tollbooth,” a New York Times reporter noted.
“Yes. But we have a Plan B. This won’t stop us. It slows us down, yes. We can’t just wake up in the morning and a tollbooth is there. But there will be a tollbooth by July 15. Count on it.”
“Why are you doing this?”
“We local people have had it up to here,” he said, moving his index finger across his throat. “There’s the efforts to reduce traffic at the East Hampton Airport. There are efforts to stop the seaplanes from landing in the waters off Sag Harbor. There are efforts to create affordable housing for people who have grown up out here but who can’t afford to live here anymore. There are efforts to cut back on boat traffic. Things are way out of control. Enough is enough.”
“So you are setting up a tollbooth?
“None of the efforts so far have addressed the main problem. The main problem is cars. Millions of them. Cars are everywhere. Traffic is at gridlock. People are desperate. And we can’t take it anymore. It’s time for a tollbooth. And we intend to succeed.”
“How so?” the reporter from The Wall Street Journal asked.
“The tollbooth, manned by farmers and fishermen, will be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Local people who’ve had to move to western Suffolk County will get a green sticker to put on their windshield that will get them waved through the tollbooth without stopping. Local working people living in western Suffolk will get a red sticker for their windshield allowing them to come in before 10 a.m. and leave before 6 p.m. every day without stopping. And no charge for that. Tourists will get stickers. They will be rainbow-colored stickers. But tourists will have to buy them. Cost is $50. Good for the day.”
“How many tourist stickers will you give out?” a reporter from New York magazine asked.
“Five thousand a day.”
“That’s not many.”
“We think it’s plenty. After the 5,000, all tourists will get turned away. Come back tomorrow.”
“Who else will be allowed in?”
“Summer people can buy pink stickers for a day for $200 or get yellow stickers good for a month that cost $10,000. Millionaires will be charged $1,000 a day. We’ll give out 10,000 to millionaires per day. And billionaires will be charged $100,000 per day. For billionaires, there will be no limit.”
“Can millionaires and billionaires buy more than one day at a time?”
“No. They have to show up. Or they could send somebody on their behalf. Somebody they employ.”
“Are these stickers sold at Town Hall?”
“No. Only at the tollbooth.”
“What about Amazon trucks?”
“Delivery trucks will all be welcome. No limit, $50 a day. Amazon, FedEx, USPS, UPS, food trucks, furniture trucks, clothing trucks, restaurant suppliers, buses, construction vehicles, landscape and pool trucks. All $50 a day. No limit.”
“And special people, artists, writers, actors, directors, and musicians will get purple stickers. Good for the summer. Just $10. We love special people.”
“Will you take credit cards?”
“Of course. But there will be a 3% processing fee.”
“Do any of the town governments know about this?”
“Not yet. But we plan to contact them shortly. Also, the Shinnecock Nation tribal leaders. We think they will help this. A century ago, they were forced to lease out part of their property so the Sunrise Highway could come through with a right-of-way. We intend to share income with them.”
“What about us?” the NBC reporter asked.
“The media? The media is free to leave the East End at any time. We will watch you go. No interference.”
“And can we come back?”
“We haven’t actually decided.”
How about medical people?”
“No limit, $50 a day”
“We’ll have to see who’s with us and who’s against us.”
“And you are?….”
“We have come to take back what is ours. We have come to discourage rudeness, holier-than-thou attitudes, crowds, noise and any cars that cost more than $100,000. Cars costing more than that will be confiscated.”
“…….No. Go away.”
“Thank you, Mr. Milkman.”
“What shall we call you?”
“Call us the Hamptons Citizen Battalion. We have a Facebook page, a website, a Twitter account, a newspaper, a TV station, a radio station, plans for 90,000 affordable apartments in many of the woods, and a 50,000-seat stadium which will be built in the woods of Noyac for a Hamptons’s Got Talent show.”
“That’s it. No more questions.”