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Sep 2, 2011 2:39 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Storm Brews Over Georgica Beach Fence

Sep 7, 2011 10:34 AM

A storm continues to brew on Georgica Beach in East Hampton Village, where a fence has been going up in front of Mollie Zweig’s residence on West End Road.

Bob Sullivan, a contractor who has been building the fence since Hurricane Irene scoured the dune in front of Ms. Zweig’s house, has said he is not blocking access to the public beach, although others dispute that.

Rather, Mr. Sullivan said, he is staking claim to what is now a leveled stretch of land seaward of the house. “The dune passed my fence 40 feet out,” he said, adding that there are monument markers to prove his case.

“Our fence is one foot inside our boundaries,” Mr. Sullivan added. “All we’re doing is putting back what we had.”

On August 29, the day after the storm hit, Zach Zweig, Mollie Zweig’s son, was staking out a portion of property in front of her house with yellow police tape. Idoline Duke, whose family, the Scheerers, own the house just to the west, was arguing that Mr. Zweig had no right to impede access to a public beach enjoyed for years by all. Mr. Zweig countered that he was simply protecting that portion of the property from being taken over by the East Hampton Town Trustees.

In East Hampton, the Town Trustees own the beach on behalf of the public from the crest of the dune to the mean high water mark.

Last Thursday afternoon, Mr. Sullivan was driving tall, galvanized steel poles into the sand at Georgica, between which he has said he plans to install a snow fence. At some point, a “no trespassing” sign went up, as well, in front of the Zweig residence.

By last Thursday, Ms. Duke’s family had signs of their own on the dune in front of their house: “Georgica Beach is for everyone” and “Mi playa es tu playa,” they said in contrast to the Zweigs’.

On Tuesday of this week, East Hampton Village Administrator Larry Cantwell said that, irrespective of who owns what now looks like a beach in front of the Zweigs’ house, “that property is still regulated.” Village officials are “still trying to get a better understanding of what he wants to do in a regulated area,” Mr. Cantwell said of Mr. Sullivan, and what regulations and permit requirements pertain.

On Friday, Mr. Cantwell had said that the fence seemed to be on the Zweigs’ property, but that it was the village’s position that they needed a permit for the work, whether under local dune protection law or coastal erosion hazard law, or both, and possibly from the State Department of Environmental Conservation as well.

“In terms of erosion protection, there may be certain things that the property owner can do there, but not without a review and a permit,” Mr. Cantwell said. Village code enforcement officials were discussing the matter with DEC officials, who were expected to pay a visit on Tuesday, he said this week.

Mr. Sullivan said later on Tuesday that Tom Lawrence of the East Hampton Village Building Department and a “gentleman” from the DEC had been down to Georgica that day and that he had been asked to wait a day to resume work on the snow fence, which he said is intended to contain sand in the next storm. He quit because of the rain anyway, he said, and would probably have to hold off the next day as well.

The no-trespassing sign, he said, was put up after a young girl was hurt on rocks that were exposed on the Zweig property after Hurricane Irene.

A call to Diane McNally, the clerk of the East Hampton Town Trustees, was not returned before deadline on Tuesday, nor was one to Bill Fonda, a DEC spokesperson in Stony Brook.

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Looks like a year round permanent snow fence to me. Larry Cantwell is afraid of the Georgica residents.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Sep 2, 11 3:16 PM
looks more like the beginnings of a chain-link fence, or something much much worse.
By Georgicafan (7), East Hampton on Sep 7, 11 8:16 AM
1 member liked this comment
The State DEC has Jurisdiction over the wetland (300) feet from the water in this case. According to neighbors in the area, The State issued a stop work order yesterday, as this guy was putting steel pilings into the beach with a jackhammer. Regardless of ownership of the property he would have needed a wetlands permit. The State will probably negotiate something with the owner even though his new pilings are in the water at high tide. Interestingly enough, if you were fishing in front of the ...more
By fishbait (1), amagansett on Sep 2, 11 8:47 PM
4 members liked this comment
The ocean giveth and the ocean taketh. When my family goes to the beach, and it's low tide, should we find a spot closest to the water's edge, we can claim "ocean front property" if we so desire. But when the tide comes in, we don't have the right, nor should we, to tell the folks behind us to "move back" just so we can keep our "ocean front status". We simply pick up our belongings and move to another available location or leave.
By nita2293 (1), east hampton on Sep 2, 11 9:08 PM
2 members liked this comment
About twelve years ago, an oceanfront homeowner in Quogue installed "geotubes" to protect his property against erosion. These are tubular nylon casings, like sausages, about three feet across and six to twelve feet long and filled with sand that, according to a tendentious, hired-by-the-homeowner "coastal geologist", are functionally different than rocks. At high tide they prevented residents from walking along the beach. Some shameless vigilante sliced them all open.

Considering LI ...more
By highhatsize (3957), East Quogue on Sep 2, 11 10:27 PM
I have my doubts about "vigilantes".

Nylon, ain't kevlar.

But, it can be sexy...
By Mr. Z (11099), North Sea on Sep 2, 11 10:37 PM
Not only should the fence be removeed, these residence should be removed and not allowed to come back.I hope that "vigilante" HH is talking about makes his way out to easthampton with a chainsaw.
By GoldenBoy (339), EastEnd on Sep 3, 11 8:54 AM
2 members liked this comment
Just wait for the next cat. 3 or 4 hurricane to come by.
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Sep 11, 11 2:37 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By highhatsize (3957), East Quogue on Sep 4, 11 11:18 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By bigfresh (4237), north sea on Sep 4, 11 12:28 PM
OK, what is the problem here? These people got hit harder than anyone in EH and they're just trying to save their property before the man takes it away and has a bunch of summer idiots tanning on their land while they still pay taxes on it. What would you do if someone tried to take your land, would you just say the hell with it and give up god knows how much in property value, or would you fight for it? Kudos to them. The trustees should be more concerned with pumping sand onto our beaches BEFORE ...more
By mr.rite (4), East Hampton on Sep 5, 11 1:35 AM
1 member liked this comment
Of course he'll get his land back if the beach comes back. New York legal precedent (and law) clearly shows that everything below the average high-tide mark is public, so as that average progresses seaward this guy's property will do so also.
By Georgicafan (7), East Hampton on Sep 5, 11 1:21 PM
2 members liked this comment
Nobody is trying to "take their land". He can claim it all he wants. Just don't block the public's right to walk on their beach and don't pollute Georgica with ugly, plastic sandbags that won't save anything in the next big storm. This is just about greed. They own a multi-million dollar property with or without this parcel of Georgica.
I wish they'd just relax and enjoy their slice of paradise but I suppose that's just asking too much.
By Georgicafan (7), East Hampton on Sep 6, 11 7:52 PM
1 member liked this comment
summer idiots?
By Georgicafan (7), East Hampton on Sep 7, 11 8:17 AM
Why was my comment deleted? There were geotubes in front of a house in Watermill in the early 90's that suffered the same fate as the ones in Quogue, how is that innapropriate?

Mr. Rite: We have the right to access ANY BEACH IN THE TOWNSHIP! We have an easement that allows us to 'pass and re-pass" without interfrence. Pumping sand is a waste of money, the folks who live on the beach are there on borrowed time and should thank God for the days they have enjoyed.
By bigfresh (4237), north sea on Sep 5, 11 7:57 AM
2 members liked this comment
the immediate issue hear is that he is not allowed to pleace metal structures on ocean beaches and also is not allowed to place non maritine sand on the beach, which they are doing. also they are irrigating the dune. next, this home owner has acknowledged the napeague lawsuit and also stated/yelled to a passer by that they are going to sue also. STAND UP FANS OF GEORGICA BEACH. dont give in an inch to these people, there neightbors are not happy with them either. this IS a land grab
By tito (56), e hampton on Sep 5, 11 1:11 PM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Evorino, sagaponack on Sep 6, 11 12:24 PM
1 member liked this comment
The irony here is that the only way to insure that there is absolutely no beach in the future is to try to "protect" it with hardened structures like we see here. Erosion will hit the neighboring properties twice as hard until the owners there feel forced to take action and so on and so on until we have, in essence, a seawall and no sand.

I'm ashamed that our local govt responds faster to shutting down the silly GILT house than an action that threatens the most prized natural resource we ...more
By shocean (16), Southampton on Sep 6, 11 1:51 PM
2 members liked this comment
I just wanted to let Tito know that he does not know what he is talking about. First, the only sand being used to fill their beach are sandbags made with maritime sand from (fittingly) georgica pond, which they used in their basement during the storm and will cut open when their OPEN WOOD fence is done. Second, they are not irrigating the dune, but rather using water as a clever way to drive them down in the sand, so when the waves from Katia come, their property lines wont get washed away again.
By mr.rite (4), East Hampton on Sep 6, 11 7:00 PM
Apparently the son told his neighbor that he' s a surfer and a member of the Surfrider's Foundation. Ha! One of their main goals is to protect beach access!
As for the sandbags, who cares where the sand comes from. It's ugly and stupid and a violates the sanctity of a sacred public place, and also the law.
NY courts have repeatedly ruled that private property ends at the mean high-tide line and that beaches are the public domain. These greedy people need to be stopped. Unfortunately the ...more
By Georgicafan (7), East Hampton on Sep 6, 11 7:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
Sorry, I got cut off before. To continue, thirdly, i know these folks and they are not planning to sue anyone. If anything, theyre worried about being sued themselves by someone playing on those rocks. They are not greedy, they are good people who are just protecting what they still rightfully own. The only land grab here is the town trying to grab their land while they still tax them on it. This has happened before to homeowners in the area, and the trustees are very opportunistic about it. And ...more
By mr.rite (4), East Hampton on Sep 6, 11 10:12 PM
Once the tide covers it, it's no longer "their land". Irregardless, they have no right to erect a fence that in any way impedes the public's right to access the beach and any land below the mean high water mline.
By bigfresh (4237), north sea on Sep 7, 11 8:00 AM
1 member liked this comment
well mr rite, or friend of zweig or sullivan contracting this is what i know. 1st. until you post reciepts for the geourica pond sand they are just from another gravel quary. also there is NO need to place them on the beach, without a permit, just to get to the beach. walk around the block to access the beach. 2nd. the irrigation has been there for a long time i am sure. it is not a green hose they are using to water down the METAL pipe. To do this all so quickly and hastily shows that the ...more
By tito (56), e hampton on Sep 7, 11 9:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
Mr. rites comments regarding "protecting what they rightfully own" illustrate the whole problem here. People who live on the beach should not expect to maintain fixed property lines when the ocean is in control and the landscape is constantly moving. Allowing hardening of any kind to stand sets a dangerous precedent that should not be allowed. WHERE IS THE DEC?
By shocean (16), Southampton on Sep 7, 11 10:41 AM
2 members liked this comment
Ok I see the dilemma here but I really think we should leave these guys alone. After Hurricane Katrina, the government in New Orleans wasn't staking out people's land even though water was covering their houses and property. It was in a state of emergency - just as Georgica beach is now. These folks are just protecting their home as I'm sure ANYONE in their right mind would do. So let's stop villainizing them as if we wouldn't protect our homes as well. The beach will come back...there's already ...more
By Nolita (1), East Hampton on Sep 7, 11 12:45 PM
So why do they need to do what they are doing then?

By bb (862), Hampton Bays on Sep 15, 11 6:00 PM
An illegal, chain link fence is protecting their home how?! It's an illegal encroachment on our right to pass and re pass the beach. What a pair of steel ones.
By bigfresh (4237), north sea on Sep 8, 11 2:43 PM
2 members liked this comment
you guys are out of control. All he is going is restoring the dune to what it once was.
By Summer Resident (227), Manhattan on Sep 11, 11 11:49 PM
Once was when? Which age and stage do you restore to? The dunes and ocean are constantly changing. Inlets naturally come and go. He isn't restoring the dune with a fence or rocks which aren't naturally there.
By bb (862), Hampton Bays on Sep 15, 11 6:02 PM
Read the Dongan Patent, Summer Resident from Manhattan. It will explain why this is an illegal act. The protections afforder us under the apatent make this a unique and beautiful place to live. Do some research before you spew more nonsense here.
By bigfresh (4237), north sea on Sep 12, 11 6:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
I would be curious to know if the fence has been erected at the normal mean high water line. or if the water only comes up this far in a storm and if the latter is the case, I am not sure the Dongan patent would apply. In any event this fence is very much out of character with the surrounding area. Why cant the man just be allowed to restore the dune with maybe a beach fence on top

By Undocumented Democrat (1909), southampton on Sep 17, 11 9:16 PM
Bigfresh is correct on this one, the Dongan Patent rules and has been upheld many times in higher courts. The owner and his attorney knew about the Dongan Patent and the easement the people of East Hampton have, or should have known. The DEC certianly knows. This is a non story and the steel fence will be removed shortly, once the Homeowner is educated by his attorney on just what restrictions go along with the property he has bought.
By gusbeme (33), southampton on Sep 18, 11 8:31 AM
You seem to have evaded my the premise of my question while simultaneously reinforcing your opinion
By Undocumented Democrat (1909), southampton on Sep 18, 11 12:23 PM