A party expected to attract nearly 4,000 attendees to the Montauk Yacht Club will go on after all Friday and Saturday after its organizers won last-minute approval on Wednesday morning for an alternative parking plan in Amagansett after their previous plan fell through.
The East Hampton Town Board, in a special meeting called just for the “Shark Attack” party application, rescinded the event’s previously granted mass-gathering permit after realizing that the proposed parking area, Rita’s Stables in Montauk, could not be used for that purpose because its development rights had been purchased by the Community Preservation Fund.
The three Republicans on the board, Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Councilwoman Theresa Quigley and Councilman Dominick Stanzione, voted in favor of the new plan, which allows event parking at a large field at 531, 551 and 561 Montauk Highway in Amagansett.
Democratic Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc voted against it, noting how the Fourth of July weekend is the busiest of the year, as did Democratic Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, who said she did not feel parking in Amagansett, which is several miles farther away from the original site, was an improvement. The votes fell along the same party lines as they did when the party, which is being billed as a fundraiser for the Montauk Playhouse, which Mr. Van Scoyoc called “misleading,” was approved last month.
“What we have is a well-planned party,” Lawrence Kelly, an attorney representing the yacht club told the board, “and as John Adams said in a letter to Abigail Adams, he believed that the day of the signing of the Declaration would be celebrated around the country for generations to come.”
The field in Amagansett, he noted, has been used for parking for past events, like Soldier Ride’s “Rock the Farm” concerts. He and the club’s general manager, Lloyd Van Horn, also stressed that the majority of ticket-holders can be contacted by text messaging and other electronic means so they will be aware of the change in plans. Nearly 3,000 tickets have already been sold, they said.
East Hampton Town Police Lieutenant Chris Hatch described the new plan, which his department received for review that morning, as complete and comprehensive. He said the new location is safe, offers plenty of room and would translate into fewer vehicles in Montauk. Board members expressed concern that partygoers would be loath to park in Amagansett, more than a dozen miles away from the event, and catch a shuttle bus. Some may opt to bypass the bus and head straight for Montauk, they said.
Lt. Hatch also noted that the change in parking venue to one off a state highway would entail a greater expense for the town, with more officers needed to direct traffic.
Mr. Kelly said the hosts would consider incentives for parking in Amagansett, such as prizes, and that they were considering making a contribution to the Amagansett Fire Department.
Meanwhile, the question of how the original plan won approval, despite its flaw remained unanswered.
“It didn’t get discovered, not because we didn’t get it sooner, but because it’s not our job to do the minutiae of checking of the issues...for a mass gathering permit,” said Ms. Quigley. “I’m not going to double-check the police on the parking, I’m not going to double-check the attorneys on legal issues, and I’m not double-checking planning on whatever they do .... That’s their job. ... “I don’t trust that you’re incompetent, and if they’re all incompetent...let’s fire them all, and if they’re not incompetent, let’s trust them to do their jobs correctly.”
The same event, held last year at Rick’s Crabby Cowboy Cafe in Montauk, was shut down after an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 attendees turned out for the event, which was intended for 800 guests.