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Mar 19, 2018 4:31 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Judge Dismises Lawsuit Challenging Picnic Area Beach Driving, Parking In Southampton Village

The Picnic Area. GREG WEHNER
Mar 22, 2018 12:38 PM

A State Supreme Court justice last week dismissed a lawsuit challenging the use of the “Picnic Area” beach in Southampton Village, upholding the public’s right to drive onto the beach and park in summer.

Beach driving proponents had been closely watching the decision by Justice Joseph A. Santorelli, worried that it might set a precedent that would threaten beach driving regulations in Southampton Town and Southampton Village. The ruling ended up in the town’s and village’s favor—but an appeal of the March 12 decision is expected to be filed.

“The people of Southampton can continue to enjoy the beach as we have for years,” John Kosciusko, the president of the Southampton Association For Beach Access, said of the decision.

The lawsuit was filed in October 2015 by Southampton Village-based attorney Nica B. Strunk on behalf of Kathleen Araskog Thomas, Andrew S. Thomas, Rand V. Araskog and Jessie M. Araskog. Throughout the court proceedings, all plaintiffs except for Ms. Araskog Thomas dropped out.

The defendants were the Southampton Town Trustees, Village of Southampton and State Department of Environmental Conservation.

The lawsuit claimed that the village and Town Trustees unfairly and illegally allow SUVs and 4x4 vehicles to park on a 2,000-foot-long stretch of beach, known as the Picnic Area, during the day in the summertime, while excluding them from other beaches. The plaintiffs argued that the practice singles out nine property owners to be affected by the practice, which is otherwise restricted in the village, and created a “noxious and unsafe situation.”

The judge’s ruling had three parts, covering eight different arguments made by the plaintiffs. Most significantly, it upholds the village’s policy of allowing parking in the easement as constitutional, saying its use does not constitute a “taking” without compensation, as the plaintiffs maintained. Related claims that the use was a nuisance were rejected as well, because the plaintiffs did not show “unreasonable” action had been taken by the Town Trustees, he said.

Steven Stern, an attorney from Carle Place-based Sokoloff Stern LLP, who represents the Southampton Town Trustees, said a 90-day statute of limitations factored into the judge’s decision on whether damages resulted from any public nuisance, but noted it was not a major part of the decision. Mr. Stern explained that the Araskog family’s lawsuit was filed on October 21, 2015, so any claims prior to July 23, 2015 were not allowed to be acted on by the courts. In this case, the Araskog family and their representatives failed to prove that allowing people to drive on the beach was a public nuisance.

The part of the lawsuit targeting the DEC was dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to show that the DEC acted outside its right to grant permits on a discretionary basis, according to the judge’s ruling.

Southampton Village code does not allow people to drive on the beach between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the summer on the majority of beaches, but an exception lies with the Picnic Area, between the western boundary of the village and Road F, where residents of Southampton Town and Southampton Village are permitted to drive onto the beach and park for the day. Beach driving also is banned on town beaches during the day from June 15 to September 15.

Some of these claims accuse the town and village of taking private property without permission and allowing people to drive on the landward side of the debris line. The lawsuit also claimed the village allowed the beaches to become overcrowded, opening the door to uncontrolled public intoxication, urination, defecation and littering on the claimants’ private property.

“We disagree with the decision entirely,” Ms. Strunk said on Monday, noting she will be filing an appeal later this week.

Southampton Village Attorney Wayne Bruyn told Village Board members at a meeting on Tuesday that the village is not completely eliminated from the lawsuit. He explained that the court ruled in favor of the claims made by the village, but the village did not challenge the claims made regarding allegations of a nuisance use.

He added that the Town Trustees had made a motion to dismiss the claims of nuisance against them, and won. “It’s a very positive step for the village at this point,” he said.

“We are please with the outcome of the case,” said Ted Sklar, an attorney with the Smithtown-based Devitt Spellman Barrett, LLP, which represented the Village in the case. “The primary issue of the case was whether village regulation of the beach was constitutional, and we prevailed on those claims.”

Mr. Sklar said his firm chose not to challenge the nuisance claim because the constitutional claims were more important.

If an appeal is filed by Ms. Strunk, Mr. Sklar said his firm plans to continue representing the Village.

“As the primary defendant defending the village code, we will defend the appeal,” Ms. Sklar said.

Homeowners along the oceanfront in Southampton Village own the beach from their house to the mean high water mark, and the Town Trustees hold a public access easement along all ocean beaches within the town, which extends from the crest of the natural dunes to the high tide line. The Dongan Patent, from 1686, established that easement and allows the Town Trustees to regulate activities in that zone, such as fishing and collecting seaweed.

Mr. Stern said the court’s decision factored in arguments made by the Trustees. These arguments include that the Trustees’ actions were not unreasonable, that they hold an easement for the public, and that there was no nuisance at the beach.

“The Trustees are pleased that the court recognized the significant history and authority for public access to the beaches, and will continue to vigorously defend its rights through any appeals,” Mr. Stern said.

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Money can't buy love...
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Mar 19, 18 5:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
HALLELUJAH!!!!!!! Hope we prevail on appeal.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 19, 18 5:22 PM
Thank you to our Trustees for protecting our access to our beaches. Good job.
By Michael Tessitore (76), East Quogue, New York on Mar 19, 18 5:34 PM
Now to get back the lettered roads
By BeachBum545454 (9), Southampton on Mar 19, 18 5:44 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you to the Trustees for all their hard work to protect our right to the beach. Thank you to SABA for keeping us all up to date. Have been driving to the picnic area for over 40 years and am thrilled to be able to continue to do so.
By masinmary (11), southampton on Mar 19, 18 5:49 PM
Great! A victory for the good guys and locals. The rich do not own the
beach. Moreover, their false accusations of the Beach is being abused and
left untidy is just not true. Iv’e been a user and observer of our beautiful
beach for more than fifty years. The locals love and cherish their beach!
By Jimion (129), Hampton Bays on Mar 19, 18 6:03 PM
Excellent news! Post a picture of the picnic area, not the county park!
By Lefts, Rights, A-Frames (3), Water Mill on Mar 19, 18 6:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wasn't the Picnic area there before the houses? Didn't that land sell for less then other lots on Dune Road because of the vehicle access to that beach area?
By metsfan2 (163), southampton on Mar 19, 18 6:40 PM
Picnic Area was always there....long before the houses
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 19, 18 9:41 PM
We used to be able to access ALL beaches in the town by 4x4 , 24/7 365 , no crowds and no problems. Over time , due to capitulation by our local officials in the face of legal threats from ocean front homeowners, we were forced into smaller and smaller areas. In 1983 we lost all daytime access except the 2000' we now have. Every homeowner now residing there purchased their property after this happened, knowing full well that we would be there. The term CAVEAT EMPTOR comes to mind.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 20, 18 8:23 AM
3 members liked this comment
So the Picnic area is sort of equivalent to the Shinnecock Reservation?
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Mar 21, 18 12:59 AM
Run the despicable local attorney for the plaintiffs out of town. Traitor!
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Mar 19, 18 7:09 PM
Thurston Howell and Lovey never should have purchased a lot on the ocean - in front of a well known local - and family enjoyed recreation area.

It's time fer some nasty old four wheelin' truck drivin' in front a that there manshun of theirs. Maybe they're just mad because they don't get to grill. Someone kindly invite them over - and tell em we serve Grey Poupon.
By Harbor Master (114), Sag Harbor on Mar 19, 18 7:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
I think I can speak for all those who went to all the meetings in support of saving our beaches
..our prayers have been answered!!!! Thank you to our trustees for not backing down and fighting for all us to keep our most cherished and beautiful natural resource. One to be shared with generations to come.
S & S
By Susanv (1), Southampton on Mar 19, 18 7:12 PM
Good. Looks like Nica Strunk out on this one.
By Lets go mets (377), Southampton on Mar 19, 18 9:13 PM
Thank u Trustees! Thank u to everyone of you who has spoken at so many of the meetings. And Thank u to Fran A , Jim W an Jim M!! You all do much more than just speak on our behalf. Thank you for going those extra miles and keep kickin a##

Long live the beach <3
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 19, 18 10:13 PM
Did anyone hear a fat lady singing??
By aging hipster (201), Southampton on Mar 20, 18 7:59 AM
It wasn't a song as much as it was a moan or a shriek.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Mar 20, 18 8:08 AM
On a forum so often riven by political dissension, how gratifying it is to read an article that provides a unique opportunity for ALL us Southamptonites, regardless of political affiliation, to join hands and shout together, in one, full-throated roar:

F-U Araskogs!
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 20, 18 8:24 AM
Completely inappropriate buddy! There’s no need for such a nasty remark !! While u rejoice on your own, shouting obscenities , others will celebrate this recent win with a HALLELULAH and an AMEN

I’m shocked that your comment hasn’t been removed

By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 21, 18 7:04 AM
idiotic post O Pompous One
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 21, 18 12:30 PM
@ toes in the water & bigfresh


The nauseating sanctimony of a creeping Jesus & the revolting fawning of a craven sycophant of wealthy property owners (like the Araskogs) whose family service business hangs entirely on their patronage.

Salty language, by comparison, is SO untroubling.
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 22, 18 1:52 AM
Good God man you have lost it! Spouting a hearty F U to someone on a public forum shows an incredible lack of civility and intelligence. We'll all be on the beach in a relatively short time, why antagonize your neighbors? The battle has been won, showing some decency is in no way fawning.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 22, 18 7:33 AM
@ bigfresh


"The battle has been won ... "

- - - and that's ALL, as Kathleen Araskog Thomas's decision to appeal the verdict proclaims. The WAR goes on. She is still trying to steal our beach.

I don't want a rapprochement with this woman. The East End has suffered the predation of vipers like her from the city for decades. These solipsistic, anti-social arrivistes move into our community and promptly attempt to arrogate public ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 22, 18 8:47 AM
1 member liked this comment
In what twisted world can we not tell the family attempting to restrict public beach access for their own benefit to F. off?

The level of sensitivity is amazing here. It's perfectly acceptable to spit on the names of greed driven aggressors.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 22, 18 10:09 AM
Where's PW commenting on the snowflakes?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 22, 18 10:30 AM
amazing how the liberals here bring up class envy at every opportunity. Cue JuneZ in 3--2--1
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 22, 18 10:33 AM
If mocking wealthy people for using their wealth to exercise control over public land is class envy, color me green.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 22, 18 10:37 AM
They didn't prevail, let it be. Certainly our energies can be put to a better use regarding beach access , how about opening up MORE areas for daytime driving? Are you a SABA member? Have you ever been to the beach in question?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 22, 18 10:42 AM
1 member liked this comment
opening up more driving access in the summer is a terrible idea for the majority of us who enjoy beaches that do not resemble parking lots.
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (747), southampton on Mar 22, 18 10:48 AM
Rich people throwing the weight of their wallet around to achieve results detrimental to the public deserve all the derision that gets thrown their way.

Anyone who lives in Hampton Bays knows better than to drive to Southampton for a beach.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 22, 18 10:56 AM
I agree, that's why there is a very real chance for a daytime access beach on your side of the canal
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 22, 18 11:06 AM
I'm not here to fight for daytime access, just to mock wealthy folks whose prerogative is to use their wealth to the public's detriment.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 22, 18 11:09 AM
In what twisted world is it acceptable to tell someone to F off on a local news paper comments section? And In what twisted world would a local paper pick an choose which nasty comments remain an which are to be taken down? I am completely guilty of bashing the homeowners in previous articles but have learned the error of my ways. Many of us our upset an angry and rightfully so. Big fresh is spot on with his comment.... “certainly our energies can be put to a better use regarding beach accessl.” ...more
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 24, 18 8:16 AM
And HH, “She is still trying to steal our beach.” I see that you reside in East Quogue....your energy could be put to very good use by promoting and supporting more 4x4 beach access in Hampton Bays. Allowing more access on our small tourist filled East End will aide in alleviating the growing beach congestion at all the beaches ...

By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 24, 18 8:29 AM
See "Daytona."
Mar 24, 18 8:38 AM appended by VOS
Please do not take this as any criticism of the decision in the case at hand but rather a warning to use extreme caution in the consideration of more than very carefully limited expansion of such areas. Access in Hampton Bays appears to be working just fine with the limited hours currently on the books.
By VOS (1241), WHB on Mar 24, 18 8:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
Thanks to all who came to all the meetings, The Town Trustees for fighting for our rights. The power of the many out weight the power of the few.!!!
Please continue to enjoy the beach as we have done for many years and years to come
The Trustee roads are next and some permanent bathrooms at the Helipad parking lot..
By Local247 (39), Southampton on Mar 20, 18 9:00 AM
Ladies and gentlemen: Please show some respect and decency here when it comes to the Araskog family, while we have had our differences about 4x4 access, we are all members of the same community and all love our beach. I just got off the phone with Fran Adamczeski , he doesn't have a subscription to post here but asked to forward this request. Thanks.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 20, 18 5:15 PM
We are not all members of the same community. Liking the beach doesn't excuse the type of territorial claim that this family made and the devastating impact it would have had on our entire inhabited coastline. Everyone that owned a home on the beach was watching this and we came very close to losing access. The Trustees are toothless, we got lucky because we got a good judge.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Mar 22, 18 1:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank Fran and SABA for their diligence. Trustees are also doing a good job.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Mar 21, 18 1:11 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you to Fran, the SABA board members, and everyone who supported! Thank you to the Trustees who supported us. The community at the picnic area is one of a kind and is what this country and democracy are built on. Let's keep the positive energy and vibe of the picnic area going throughout the entire community. Social and civil engagement was key in getting the word out about how important the community and tradition of the picnic area are to all of Southampton - both Village and Town. You ...more
By Lefts, Rights, A-Frames (3), Water Mill on Mar 22, 18 12:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
We need to make life so uncomfortable for that family that they leave. They attempted to destroy our beach and lay precedent that would upend our entire way of life.

Nobody should ever feel confident enough to come through here, overpay some blown out real estate agent for a beach house, hire a despicable anti-local attorney and attempt to threaten our community again.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Mar 22, 18 12:35 PM
Slime u have certainly just hit an all time low with ur rather threatening and suggestive comment. If memory serves me correctly,you are opposed to beach driving. Take your sociopathic remarks an shove them where the sun doesn’t sun. DONT try to make the beach community look bad with your twisted comments!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 24, 18 8:45 AM
Odd how you save your most potent vitriol for the locals. Your small minded world is not safe and what you think you're fighting for belongs to all of us. This isn't a play date, these freaks mean business and this is far from over.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Mar 24, 18 9:22 AM
No. She's right. You should not be threatening anyone...now take your remarks and stick 'em up your azz. Like the woman who is against threatening language said.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Mar 24, 18 11:30 AM
Slime, u left a trail of negative remarks opposing 4x4 beach driving. “Truck Beach Lawsuit appelead by Amagansett Homeowners” and now your in favor of 4x4 beach driving ?! Are u sure your a true local?? Seems like ur stirring the pot for fun? My “most potent” comment was an equal and opposite reaction to yours because it’s not a play date. Our beach is important. We need to be part of the solution an not the problem.
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 24, 18 2:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lefts, Right, A Frames You are correct !!!!!!!!!
By Local247 (39), Southampton on Mar 22, 18 1:38 PM
@ toes in the water

Both you and bigfresh suffer from the delusion that Southamptonites have WON. You are mistaken. The fight will continue in the appellate court.

Relaxing our vigilance now, as you and he suggest, would be suicidal. It is residents' unified outrage that has propelled our political representatives' defense against Kathleen Araskog Thomas's predatory taking to this point. If these worthies sense that we have become disinterested, they will be much more likely ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Mar 24, 18 9:11 AM
1 member liked this comment
HH, Nowhere did I suggest us “ Southamptonties” have won and that we can all relax. Rejoicing over the most recent lawsuits dismissal is far from delusional. We will never give up the fight.

Regarding my “pick and choose” comment, your absolutely correct. You took a moment to ensure you presented it properly where the Press wouldn’t remove it. Had u spelled out those 2 special choice words, it would have been removed. As for your logic on publicly using antagonizing ...more
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 24, 18 3:47 PM
When they are, all eyes will undoubtedly focus on pictures of the couple's 50th anniversary party last summer, where the theme was pirates and the search for buried treasure. "Just follow the map by sea or land," said the invitations, "until you reach the home of Jessie and Rand!" But the treasure, as far as the Araskogs are concerned, is not buried in the sand or hidden in a cave. It's in plain sight, between the ocean and bay, right there in Southampton—the house itself. "When we saw it, ...more
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Mar 24, 18 9:29 AM
Wow some of these posts are really obvious that some just don't like those for no other reason that they have been financially successful and nothing to do about whether there should be beach access. It is the same few that keep listening to the song in their heads and not really gasping the issue at hand. Yawn yada yada yada,
By HB Proud (889), Hampton Bays on Mar 24, 18 9:29 AM
The issue isn't with people who are well-off. It's with folks who use their financial success to the public detriment.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 24, 18 9:37 AM
You're damn right. Those very lovely people have every right to sue to keep local off their beach. What is wrong with people!

The world needs more understanding. I'm on my want to drop off brownies at the Araskogs to help them get through the temporary set back.
By even flow (1023), East Hampton on Mar 24, 18 11:29 AM
1 member liked this comment
What makes it "their beach"?
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 24, 18 11:35 AM
Slime: your posts of May 14 and 15 2017 are in direct conflict with your latest rants. HH- no one is less vigilant , we are well aware of the upcoming appeal. The inane, border line hostile comments will not help us in court, now do you understand my reticence to encourage the torch and pitchfork crew?
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 24, 18 11:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
Presumably because you think rather than help, they'll hurt?

However, I doubt these comments will be entered into evidence, nor can I imagine what function they'd serve.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 24, 18 11:37 AM
Fore, The negative comments dont help. The family is aware of all the negative remarks being made over the years on Social Media/27east. It was mentioned during one of the Public Hearings in the Village. I’m completely guilty of being one of those people making negative comments and I do my best these days to keep my remarks decent since that Hearing.

Also u made a recent post, suggesting “Anyone from Hampton Bays knows better than to drive to Southampton”. Is it safe ...more
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 24, 18 4:14 PM
What I meant by that is HB has plenty nice beaches, which I do attend. It's true that I am not a beach driver, nor do I support expanding or reducing beach access to vehicles during peak season.
Mar 25, 18 1:31 AM appended by Fore1gnBornHBgrown
I'm also glad to hear the family is aware of the public opinion. When you take action against public access, you open yourself up to criticism.
By Fore1gnBornHBgrown (8265), HAMPTON BAYS on Mar 25, 18 1:31 AM
Keep fighting. And once you’ve won, keep your trucks off the beach. It’s ridiculous.
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Mar 25, 18 7:42 AM
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 25, 18 8:19 AM
I, and our family, are LOCALS ..... back to 1640. The history supports those residents and others their rights to use the beach, land and water, up to the High Water mark. There is also the Dongan Patent signed by the Gov. Dongan back in the 1700's. That paper has been adjudicated many times in the Courts always proving the peoples rights to their use of the beach. The rich think their money can buy anything. I believe in the LAW. I think there should be a LAW saying the realtors and the LAWYERS ...more
By summertimegal (97), southampton on Mar 25, 18 7:04 PM
Stovies (picnic area) 24/7 4x4 access was codified by the Village in 1983, NY State has the Public Trust Doctrine that allows the public access to all beaches in the State, as stated above In Southampton and East Hampton Townships we also have the Dongan Patent that grants us the RIGHT to access and to "pass and repass" and enjoy any beach in the Towns. No one purchasing a multi million dollar home on the ocean does so without careful research, surely they were all aware of the laws in place. Much ...more
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 26, 18 6:42 AM
Big Fresh, your sentence "No one purchasing a multi million dollar home .." really made me laugh! How innocent you are. If you think a realtor is going to point out a negative! He/She avoids the question leaving it to the lawyer to explain life in the slow lane. Standing in the dunes, the view, the sound of the ocean and having shown the side lines to the buyer they go on. Only the smart buyer checks out all the facts. As to the Dongan Patent, that has been brought up many times, usually by ...more
By summertimegal (97), southampton on Mar 29, 18 2:57 PM
Due diligence is the operative word. There’s no way a successful individual would spen MULTI millions on a property and not have their attorney, or attorneys , research all there is to find about said property. Caveat emptor.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Mar 29, 18 6:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
...2150 Meadow Lane was purchased 11/04/2004. The owners concurrently owned another inland village property...which they sold. At that time the beach was ALREADY DESIGNATED A DRIVE-ON/PARK-ON PICNIC BEACH. Three months later...in Feb 2005 the owners wrote to the Board to complain. 3 months...in the middle of WINTER. Seems to me there weren't many oceanfront props left...oooh lets buy 2150....it's cheap...(er) ...SO what if there's a drive on beach...we'll sue the village and win. Caveat Emptor. ...more
Mar 30, 18 12:12 PM appended by foodwhiner
See you at the beach! :D
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Mar 30, 18 12:12 PM
She drives her jeep from the house onto the beach to "tries" to surf in the same waves as all of us....it's hilarious...she could just walk out her back door but she gets in her jeep and drives onto the beach (FPSS knows what I mean...they are usually with her...bunch of sellouts)
By GO HOME (7), Southampton on Mar 30, 18 1:10 PM