A pristine, secluded beach can add enjoyment to nearby homes — and big money to their market value. A noisy, crowded beach with truck traffic, maybe not so much. So it’s understandable that homeowners near so-called “Truck Beach” in the town of East Hampton on Long Island, New York, would prefer things a little quieter. But a long-standing tradition has the beach open to the public — including vehicle traffic. Many beachgoers like it that way. And the competing interests have led to long-running political and legal contention.
In the latest chapter, a local judge has opened the door to homeowner associations to pursue legal action that could make the beach private. Crain’s New York has a report (see: “East Hampton homeowners move to reclaim popular beach,” by Matt McCue).
“A Suffolk County judge has concluded that 4,000 feet of Atlantic Ocean beachfront managed by the East Hampton Trustees is actually deeded to a collection of homeowners' associations that have been trying for years to limit activities on their stretch of paradise,” Crain’s reports. “The motivation for the action, property owners say, is what has become of the beach. With no restrooms or garbage cans on the premises, the dunes have become bathrooms and the sand trash-strewn. And then there are the cars. The beach, nicknamed ‘Truck Beach,’ is the only one in town that lets vehicles on it during the day. Residents have counted as many as 600 of them coming and going to load and unload beachgoers and their wares on summer weekends.”
The case could hinge on legal fine points. Homeowner associations say they have a legal chain of title that goes back to 1882, subject only to the rights of fishermen. But the town says that the beach is public property for all intents and purposes: "As far as the town is concerned in this particular area in Napeague, the trustees have the right to control and manage that beach," said attorney Michael Rikon, special counsel to the Town of East Hampton. "The plaintiffs have been complaining that their property has been taken for over 20 years, but even if that's true, there is a three-year statute of limitations,” Rikon added.
The dispute is not new — on the contrary, it has flared up every summer for several years. In 2011, the East Hampton Star reported on the long-running dispute (see: “Rights and Expectations Conflict at ‘Truck Beach’,” by Russell Drumm).
“For the mostly local families who gather on a portion of Napeague’s ocean beach, a perfect summer day might well involve driving along the strand to a sandy retreat they have known for much of their lives,” the Star reported. “For a number of oceanfront homeowners, a perfect summer day would include a view of the glistening Atlantic without a mile-long reef of parked vehicles obscuring an otherwise pristine beach.”