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Visitors crowd Bootleggers Alley beach; Town installs signage and portable toilets

“My father told me that the fishing is great on Shelter Island,” said Marc — who didn’t give his last name — from Bushwick, Brooklyn at mid-day Saturday on the beach at the end of Bootleggers Alley.

Marc said he drove out to the Island in the morning to catch some porgies, which are plentiful this time of the year, in the waters off Silver Beach. He added that most of the people who fish here are catching the fish to eat.

Before noon there were cars parked on the north side of Bootleggers Alley, several with New York City Taxi and Limousine plates, and several with plate holders advertising Queens and Brooklyn car dealershps. One vehicle had Illinois plates. Arriving vehicles were packed with people and coolers and fishing gear. The people were overwhelmingly Latino, pleasant, quiet and mostly unmasked.

There were more than 50 adults and children sunbathing, fishing and swimming before noon, enjoying some of the best Island weather in a long time.

The crowds of fishermen and their families were brought to the attention of the Town Board a few weeks ago by nearby residents, upset that the visitors were trespassing on private property, parking on both sides of the road, and using the bushes above the beach as toilets.

The beach at Bootleggers Alley on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. (Credit: Don Bindler)

Reaction was sparked at a public meeting, when Councilman Jim Colligan noted that the crowds on the beach were mostly Spanish-speaking residents of Brooklyn and Queens. In a subsequent meeting, Mr. Colligan said the issue should not be about discrimination, but about finding a way to ensure public health and sanitation.

At Wednesday’s Town Board work session, Supervisor Gerry Siller noted that “this isn’t a Shelter Island issue,” but an issue for most East End towns, with crowds of visitors coming to fish and use beaches that don’t have adequate sanitation facilities.

The Town Board ordered signs put up about following town ordinances and new parking regulations, and installed two portable toilets.

Shelter Island Police Officer David McGayhey, who was monitoring the beach on Saturday, said the town had a translator to speak to beachgoers in Spanish, letting them know that they must adhere to the private property guidelines set up along the shore to stay below the high water line, and that they must use the two new portable toilets. There is also a freshwater facility adjacent to the toilets.