Downtown Montauk was out of control over the Fourth of July weekend this year. It was a scene of drunken people, speeding taxis, public urination, overflowing trash, litter and loud music. Residents were understandably upset and angry. In response, they protested by the hundreds at a Town Board Meeting. “What occurred over Fourth of July weekend was unacceptable to everyone,” said Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell, according to 27east.
Angry residents, bewildered politicians and overwhelmed police began to look for a culprit. In this atmosphere the concept of a rental registry re-emerged despite its overwhelming rejection by Town residents just six months prior. By mid-July there was a petition promoting a rental registry. Comments were made, "I want our beautiful Montauk back!" and "This small town is becoming overrun with partying kids who stay at share homes." Rental properties, as a group, became a convenient target and a scapegoat for the problems in Montauk.
Who's really to blame for the party scene in Montauk?
The Town Board holds a lot of responsibility. The attitude of past administrations has been "Let the party go to Montauk." Recently, Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc sponsored a Resolution adopted by the current Town Board that removed obstacles in the planning process for the locally owned and operated Montauk Brewing Company. Mr. Van Scoyoc touts this accomplishment as "pro-business" in his current campaign for re-election. Pro-business, yes, but who in their right mind would remove obstacles for a brewery expansion in a place where there's already a drinking problem? What message does this send in a town where the famous tee shirt "a quaint drinking village with a fishing problem" was claimed to have been invented?
Lack of code enforcement is also to blame. Local residents argued for enforcement of existing laws, which is what finally brought the problem in Montauk under control. As proof, during the Ordinance Enforcement Report to the East Hampton Town Board on October 13, 2015, there was much praise for how multiple departments, working together, contained the problem. It's worth noting that rental properties were not targeted in this enforcement campaign, further proof that rental properties were not considered a significant contributing factor.
The problem is also cultural. Dan's Papers in a 2012 article "Montauk Hot Spots Of All Temperatures" stated: "The Surf Lodge . . . returns to Montauk for another fun-filled summer . . . But if cheap drink specials, loud music, and not ending your night till the wee-hours of the morning is more of your calling then consider The Sloppy Tuna . . ." Dan's Papers is not alone in fostering this image of Montauk.
The trouble in Montauk and in East Hampton is that rental properties and their owners are being unfairly singled out. The fact is, the majority of homeowners who rent their properties are law-abiding members of our community who only want law-abiding tenants.