A Suffolk County judge dismissed two lawsuits in which the Town of East Hampton and over a dozen fishermen raised issues with the disputed stretch of Napeague oceanfront known as Truck Beach.
Judge Paul Baisley sided with a group of oceanfront Amagansett homeowners who were defendants in the lawsuits and previously won related litigation over the land in which the court ruled in 2021 that the public did not have a right to drive off road onto the shore. Attorneys argued that the ruling improperly violated longstanding rights of fishermen.
“What is fishing-related activity?” asked Daniel G. Rodgers, the Southampton-based attorney for the fishermen, who said he plans to appeal the ruling. “Is it as simple as a fishing pole and a bucket as the homeowners contend? Or is it more nuanced, such as with carts and trucks, as local fishermen have used for over a century?”
Suits and countersuits have dragged on for years over Truck Beach, which critics fear signals a precedent for privatizing beaches.
Neither town officials nor their attorneys immediately responded to requests for comment on the ruling. The town’s appeals of Baisley’s prior ruling that found officials in contempt of court are pending. Attorneys for the homeowners declined to comment, but have previously stated that the town and fishermen are seeking to relitigate a settled issue.
Rodgers maintains that the court has never answered the question of what defines fishing-related activity.
“The 14 fishermen will continue the fight, fighting to earn a living and feed their families, as they have done for centuries,” he said.