The Changing Face of Montauk
(Part of an occasional series)
Memorial Day 2016
I can’t believe Memorial Day is upon us. And why not another installment of this ongoing series…
You might remember last fall the hamlet of Montauk (which is part of the Town of East Hampton) was licking its wounds after a summer of drinking and rowdiness, thanks to an influx of 20-somethings. Even the hipsters were annoyed.
Even if you only blew into town to fish a midnight tide, you had to run a gauntlet of drunken revelers from places like the Memory Motel and The Point. A midnight cup of joe from the 7-11 could be about as stress free as getting a beer at a Rangers game at the Garden.
The good news – maybe the only good news in all of this – is that the long time residents clearly were not going to take these changes sitting down, and beginning with the 5th of July 2015, a long series of town halls and debates culminated with a bunch of new laws and enforcement actions that will have an impact on Montauk in 2016.
Some of this will be noticeable to those who combine family vacations with fishing (as I do), but I think even you day trippers (or night Hawks) may feel the effects.
Quite a number of drinking establishments ran up a tab over the years when in comes to code violations. To an extent, it finally caught up with them. The visual might be like your college buddy who accumulated 300 parking tickets… but still acted surprised when he came out one morning to see his Camaro finally being towed away.
Cyril’s fish house was one such establishment that collapsed under the weight of code violations. I never did get a chance to talk to Cyril (Fitzsimons) about it, but I will miss this place. Right or wrong, I never really associated it with the Montauk booze fest, maybe because it was west of Hither Hills. Maybe because – unlike the new ‘velvet rope’ type of places – there was always room for my kids and family, and he was always interested in serving food too. Well, as of last weekend it’s still boarded up. There were still rumors of it reopening as a much smaller establishment. I cannot fathom an income producing site going dormant, but we shall see.
The Sloppy Tuna is under new (court appointed) management. Between the reports from the courts and the old owner’s claims on Facebook, this was a train wreck that was doomed to fail, even when the town was not turning up the heat. At the moment the new management team is promising a family style restaurant – ahem, and a bar. I have a hard time believing there won’t be a long line at 11pm with kids peeing on the streets and in the dunes, and without drug deals going on along the side streets. But the police promise to be out in extra numbers again this summer, accumulating plenty of overtime.
There is now a Rental Registry in place requiring home owners to fill out a bunch of forms detailing intentions and terms to rent. East Hampton always had ordinances against share houses and frequent turnovers, but anyone could go on Craig’s List or Air BnB and see just how many local homeowners were thumbing their nose at the town. This allowed drunken revelers a place to crash for the night, but it was also a disaster for any local homeowner coming to realize their neighbor had indeed rented to the Delta House. ‘FOOD FIGHT” While this will not prevent flagrant violations of law on rentals, it just might give police and town inspectors enough ammunition to know what they are dealing with at certain addresses. Early accounts suggest fewer homeowners are offering their houses for rent in 2016. Here again, we shall see.
On the fishing front, the most obvious thing you will notice is that Johnny’s Tackle is gone. A ‘For Rent’ sign that was up earlier this spring is now gone, and as of last weekend the windows were covered in newspaper. I have no Intel on this whatsoever, but I kind of doubt another tackle shop will make it here. We don’t need another surfer themed organic fusion spiritual speciality food shop, staffed by dudes with man buns from Williamsburgh, but I guess we shouldn’t act too surprised if one pops up here.
Over on the beach ‘behind town’ get ready for a ‘new and improved’ dune. Despite protests from local environmentalists the Army Corp did get their way. As of now the overall beach is slightly wider, but because so much it is now fenced off as protected dune, you might find it a little tight to navigate back and forth in your 4×4. I sure did at high tide. I guess I’m so used to seeing this at many other places that the shock value is long gone. Sand moves and beach profiles change rapidly, but humans do have a very hard time dealing with change. There is no jetty, thank god, but there are ‘geotextile’ sand bags buried under three feet of sand and in the dunes. If you want to see what they look like, take a drive down after a really good Nor’easter.
Otherwise, I think you can expect pretty much the same Montauk, hopefully a bit toned down from 2015.
Sure, prices are up for both lodging and food (we ate at the new Dureay’s last weekend, $18 for a ‘side’ of fries, I kid you not).
But if the last few weeks are any guide, fishing pressure has been off. The parking lots so far have been relatively quiet, and some nights I’ve gone a few hours without seeing another fisherman. That said, do make sure you have the proper permits, and don’t assume the police won’t be patrolling the town lots after hours – those days are long gone.
And finally, if you do decide to finish the night with a bonfire, make sure you know the rules. This is one more ‘freedom’ that is under review due to so many complaints of un safe fires, very drunk people, and lots of garbage left behind.