Colliding Rights - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2016411

Colliding Rights

Last Tuesday, I spoke during the public portion of the Southampton Town Board meeting regarding the proliferation of amplified music in Bridgehampton, as well as the rest of the unincorporated hamlets in Southampton Town.

I summarized the events of last month that were highlighted by Pamela Harwood’s Letter to the Editor regarding the inability of the police department to shut down the music at a party in our neighborhood that went on until 3 a.m. [“Enforce The Law,” Letters, August 11].

After I finished speaking, the members of the Town Council all seemed perplexed that the Police Department could not reach a code enforcement officer that evening, and that even if code enforcement had been on the scene, nothing could be done other than impose a $1,000 fine on the homeowner. I pointed out that to someone living in a multimillion-dollar house, $1,000 is hardly a disincentive to turn off event music.

The assistant town attorney explained that the homeowners’ Fourth Amendment rights protect them from police or code enforcement entering the premises, as the police didn’t have “probable cause.” If that’s the case, in this instance it seems the rights of the violators are protected rather than the protection of the quality of life of the neighbors who were forced to endure the thumping base for 11 hours.

But why are multiple calls from residents in the community not considered “probable cause”? And if code enforcement officers had been available with decibel meters, or if the police carried them, then that would also prove “probable cause.”

Supervisor Jay Schneiderman promised to “brainstorm” to come up with some ideas. Here are a few of mine:

Change the noise code so that all outdoor parties and events with music use wireless technology. Rather than using a speaker system, music is broadcast via a radio transmitter, with the signal being picked up by wireless headphone receivers worn by the participants. Those without the headphones hear no music. This has become a common practice elsewhere and should be a mandatory requirement in the Town of Southampton.

As far as penalties, rather than a $1,000 fine levied solely on the homeowners, levy the fine on all those in attendance, as well as the company providing the entertainment. This is in keeping with the existing Town Code “Section 235-5 on Noises and Presumption of Guilt: Anyone present with several persons whose collective behavior shall constitute noise pollution shall be rebuttably presumed to have participated therein and shall be subject to all the provisions of this chapter.”

This is a serious quality of life issue for all who live in Southampton and it needs to be prioritized by code enforcement, the Police Department and the Town Board.

Peter M. Feder

Bridgehampton Civic Association