A candlelight vigil planned on the Flanders waterfront has sparked a debate about beach rights among residents.
Members of the Flanders, Riverside, and Northampton Community Association have plans to mark the loss of community members over the last year with a memorial service at a small beach located at the end of Long Neck Boulevard. But when the Bay View Pines Civic Association learned of the plans, which required approval by the Southampton Town Trustees, who oversee the town’s waterways, they balked.
At a recent FRNCA meeting, Lorraine Paceleo told the group it was not very neighborly to seek approval for the event without first coming to the civic association because members have deeded beach rights. She said there are more than 40 residents from the neighborhood who have said they do not want the event held at the beach, and she expressed concerns about traffic congestion at the end of the dead-end block.
Members don’t mind the idea of a memorial, but request it be moved to a more appropriate location, she said.
“Our beach is not up for grabs. We are prepared to protect it to the fullest extent of the law,” she said.
FRNCA president Ron Fisher said the organization does not plan to back down from its plans for the June 30 service, which he expects will draw about 100 people to the beach. He said the service will be beautiful and cathartic for the community.
“It’s a nice idea, and truthfully, residents of Southampton are guaranteed beach access,” he said.
Southampton Town Board of Trustees’ Chairman Ed Warner said the beach is not private. He noted the town owns to the high tide mark at the beach and the state owns below the mean high tide mark. Additionally, there are two pieces of property that were preserved by the town that are adjacent to the beach, he pointed out.
Trustee Ann Welker, who is the board’s liaison to the Flanders area, said she plans to meet with the civic leaders to discuss the dispute.
“I hope it’s a situation that can be resolved in the best interests of all concerned,” she said.
Despite the trustees’ claims, a sign is installed before the entrance to the beach stating that it designated for residents of the Bay View Pines neighborhood.
Saturday afternoon beach goers were seemingly unaware of the growing debate. One resident who owns a home nearby said she has been frequenting the beach for years and believed it to be private.
“I always thought it was private,” said the woman who declined to be identified, noting there is a sign before entering the beach stating that it is for residents only. “To me, that meant everyone in Bay View Pines. Occasionally, I’ve seen people who looked like they didn’t belong. I didn’t care because they didn’t cause problems, but I thought really, legally, they didn’t belong here.”
Alan Cohen, who was walking his dog at the beach, said he has lived in the area for 30 years and said the beach should be as the sign states.
“If public means that anyone on Long Island can come here, then you can see what a horror show that would be. What? Are people supposed to have people parked up and down the road for half a mile? They wouldn’t let you do that in Southampton, that’s for sure,” he said.