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Town moving on Bootleggers parking; new regulations would codify restricted access to street

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that  ­­the Town Board had voted for new parking regulations for Bootleggers Alley. That is incorrect. The board voted to hold open the public hearing on the matter and set a new round of discussion for July 31. The Reporter regrets the error. Below is an update to the story.

The Town Board kept open a public hearing on the situation at Bootleggers Alley.

New parking regulations were put in place in early June by executive order — powers granted by the state in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic — and at the July 10 Town Board meeting, members agreed to keep the discussion progressing on putting the regulations into the Town Code.

If passed, the new regulations will state that no parking would be allowed on the northwest side of the narrow street across from the end of the Peconic Avenue Extension running west 120 feet to the beachfront. No parking would be permitted within 6 feet of driveways, and all vehicles, including motorcycles, parked along the southern side the street from the beachfront running east to the Peconic Avenue Extension would have to display a parking permit issued by the Town Clerk.

No parking would be allowed at any time on the southern side of Bootleggers Alley from the eastern side of the Peconic Avenue Extension to Brander Parkway.

In addition to restricting parking for those without permits, it would also make it easier for emergency vehicles to gain access to the street.
The issue of off-Island weekend visitors arriving in large numbers — many of them Spanish-speaking people from New York City — in crowds of up to 100, staying all day at the beach at Bootleggers Alley to fish and picnic, has been discussed by the board for weeks, and sparked strong reactions, including that those objecting to the visitors on the beach are racist.

Don Bindler, a Silver Beach resident, described “hordes of visitors from the most infected parts of the city” arriving every weekend, He added that Those who mention discrimination are trying to make a political argument out of the situation, but, he said, “that’s a phantom argument.”

At another board meeting, Supervisor Gerry Siller spoke about the issues surrounding Bootleggers Alley. “I want to believe that the people of Shelter Island, who are openly loving and caring of their neighbors, are as loving and caring, or at the least tolerant, of visitors who come to spend a day with their families,” the supervisor said.

Residents of Silver Beach and Bootleggers Alley have attended virtual Town Board meetings to voice their concerns about public health issues, with a lack of social distancing, and some visitors using the dunes as toilets. In response, the town put up bilingual signs about proper pandemic protocols and installed two portable toilets at the end of Bootleggers Alley, which touched off an even more vigorous round of dissent from neighbors.

Police patrols have been increased and, responding to complaints that visitors are trespassing on private property, the town is in the process of engaging a surveyor to determine exactly where the mean high tide line is on the Island’s waterfront.

Private and public beaches are determined by that line, which can usually be seen by crushed shells and seaweed where the high tide stops and then recedes. The public is allowed anywhere below that line, but above that is considered trespassing on private property.

The new parking regulations would have an effect of discouraging visitors from coming to the beach, but nature might also be playing a part. Police reports indicated far fewer people coming over the last several weeks, because the porgies that visitors were catching have moved away.