An Amagansett man says the Cartwright Shoal is public property

Whose Island Is It, Anyway?

A map of Gardiners Island and the Cartwright Shoal to its south.

An Amagansett man is taking his grievance to City Hall. Or, in this case, East Hampton Town Hall, where Roderic Richardson has addressed both the town trustees and the town board in recent days regarding the status of Cartwright Island or Shoal, which is located south of Gardiners Island in Gardiners Bay. According to Richardson, the shoal, which becomes a beach every low tide, is public property.

Richardson was issued an appearance ticket July 25, and arraigned August 9. He was charged with a violation count of trespassing, as well as a misdemeanor count of criminal tampering. According to East Hampton Marine Patrol officers, they had received a complaint from Norman Tripp, a security guard who patrols the waters off of Gardiners Island, apparently at the behest of the Goelet Family Trust, the owners of Gardiners Island.

Tripp told police that, while on patrol, he was ordered by his boss, Jim Webber, to go to the shoal. There, Tripp said, he found Richardson and about 8 to 10 other people, including members of his family, on the shoal. Tripp said he warned them that they were on private property. Richardson challenged that statement, Tripp said, demanding to see a deed or document proving that the shoal belongs to the Goelet trust.

Tripp said that Richardson then pulled out two “No Trespassing” signs form the sand, “and threw them onto the beach.” He said that Richardson then waved one sign in his direction, taunting him, while the others began shouting. Webber shot video of Richardson and the boat he was using as they pulled away from the shoal.

Richardson had quite a different take on the confrontation. When he spoke to the East Hampton Town Board last Thursday, he told it that Tripp had approached his 12 year-old daughter, who was on the shoal, which is why he confronted Tripp to begin with. “My daughter had gone ahead to the foreshore to rest, parked her paddle board, and got off. And the security boat came screaming over towards her. I got off on the shore and ran up because I didn’t want my daughter intimidated or threatened,” Richardson said.

He told the town board that, in the past, when he has asked security guards manning the patrol boats for proof that the Goelet trust has legal control over the shoal, he has been told that there is a 17th century royal grant. “They told me that the Gardiners own Gardiners Island all the way into the water as far as an ox can walk up to its belly without getting its belly wet. Something I have heard in the past from these security guys. I have always asked them for a deed in the past. They have never been able to produce it. Something that shows me this language that they are telling the public.” He called the ox belly explanation “a fairytale.”

An additional problem with the Goelet trust claiming the shoal is that it has a different tax map number with the county than Gardiners Island, according to Richardson and David Buda, who also addressed the board.

He said that, if he is shown proof that the shoal is, in fact, under control of the trust, he will never return to the island or shoal again.

Richardson may finally get his way: East Hampton Town Justice Steven Tekulsky, during Richardson’s arraignment August 9, ordered both the district attorney’s office and Richardson to complete the discovery process by Richardson’s next scheduled appearance in court on October 4. Whatever evidence either side wants to use in a trial would have to be produced. If there is a belly of the ox decree, it will finally be revealed.