Letter to the Editor: The following is an original letter sent to Patch by Rebecca Kirchner of Rocky Point.
As beachfront homeowners, a repetitive problem we encounter is a constant confrontation between 'public' on the "private beach’ and the issue of "Deeded Property/Beach Rights", and the rights of beachfront homeowners. As beachfront homeowners, we are out of our minds with the issue. I believe that the technical term is Reparation Rights. This means something to the affect of ‘it is in the property deed that we own our beachfront properties with exclusive access above the high tide mark; our deeds include a portion of beach’. I know this has been an ongoing challenge for some in the Hamptons too; but we don’t compare financially in our ability to fight the issues or draw attention to the problems. This is local Rocky Point and it needs some attention too.
I’ll clarify by referring to my family’s beachfront properties in Rocky Point (where I grew up). To elaborate; we live on a bluff overlooking the water with private stairs in our backyard. On a regular basis we have many fishermen in the back yard.... bon fires at night.... people changing their babies and leaving the diapers.... people using the cliff and beach as a rest room, children climbing the dunes, and MORE. What you don't see in my summer photo albums are the dozens of pictures I have taken of the trash and problems, including but not limited to FISH HOOKS and line, cans/bottles/solo cups, dirty diapers, food products, clothing (including underwear), used needles, and much, much more. It's absolutely disgusting!
I am specifically referring to Culross Beach which is the beach west of Hallock Landing. The end of Hallock Landing Road is a WATER RUN OFF with signs stating many things including NO SWIMMING and no lifeguard on duty. Culross Beach/Culross Drive is a private corporation with homeowners required to pay dues which include (but are not limited to) usage of Culross Beach and maintenance/insurance of the Culross common areas and seasonal road maintenance.
To the East of Hallock is the North Shore Beach Association - where there is a life guard, a tag-checker, and a public restroom; people pay dues there also. To the west of Hallock where Culross begins is a fence on the beach with signs that state "PRIVATE PROPERTY...etc". Once you have trespassed passed the private fence, the bulkheads along Culross also have further signage. The North Shore Beach Association is only different in that they pay a guard daily and a majority of those who belong to their association belong for the sole purpose of using the access steps – most of the Culross beach residents have built private stairs in their backyard and invest yearly to maintain them as well as the integrity of the cliff. Meanwhile, some people do not CARE to keep their kids from playing on the dunes - which contributes to the landslides and erosion.
When the public is on ‘our’ beach, the attitude of people we run into is one of entitlement as well as danger; they feel entitled to use the private beaches since they live here on Long Island. Many do not even live in Rocky Point when we ask them. We hear things like “we pay taxes too” or “we just wanted to be on a private beach”. A neighbor was hit in the head with a beer bottle by a drunkard when she politely asked them to vacate HER bulkhead (yes the police were called). We are constantly on the receiving end of threats such as “We’ll burn your house down,” “We’ll use your beach whenever we want and you won’t stop us” and “We’ll shoot your dog”. Our dog does have pellets in him and we’ve even found seagulls that have been shot. Yes, all of this right here in Rocky Point…so sad that life has changed this much.
My opposing view is that my family owns specific property and have worked their butts off to have a waterfront home(s). They also invest their own hard earned money to maintain the cliff from sliding. They pay taxes as well (high taxes). If people want to have the attitude of entitlement, then they should buy a waterfront home and MAINTAIN the cliff, which is not an easy task, nor is it cheap! I resent the people who come here with the attitude that WE are snobs and have no right to ask them to leave, especially when we want to use our beach in our backyard(s)..... And we do not want to be threatened or be in danger while being on our own property.
Now imagine it’s a beautiful day and you decide to take your kids into your backyard and swim... but in your backyard are five men fishing who by law are not supposed to fish where there are bathers but they do so anyway. Now you are left with two choices; ask them politely to move, or you do not use the beach. Next thing, your child steps on a fishing hook and your dog slices his paw on a piece of glass. Then next thing you know, your dog (who is leashed) is attacked by a non-leashed dog (Town of Brookhaven has a leash law) - and all of this occurs on YOUR property. So you call the police; the police do not want to be bothered, can't get there timely, and if you even mention that there is a bon-fire, 911 dispatch passes off the responsibility and sends the fire dept which makes it even worse. Yes this happens frequently. I know the PD does not like this type of call. I know the FD resents it as well. The police don't care; the fire department is not needed. Both agencies have been condescending (a whole other topic I could address with documented calls to 911).
We have not enjoyed one day at our beach, in our backyard, incident free. The fishermen bring their families on many occasions and by night there are easily 5-12 people in our backyard…using our cliff as their toilet etc and leaving their trash. We’ve had people even climb up our cliff, sit on our stair case, get drunk and ENTER our house, and rip down trees and wood from our yard for bon fires.
My parents are now seniors. My dad is a veteran, my mother is retired. They have grown to have little patience when this happens on a daily basis. The shrewd and crass people know that they can go below the high tide line. My father reacts...and it breaks my heart to watch. They are scared the cliff will burn down when one of these embers hits the dried bamboo - and rightfully so. There is no insurance to cover such damage and while they have everything to lose, the person on the beach could care less and has nothing to lose.
Recent, more serious confrontations between homeowners and the public were about bon-fires. During the recent time of the dry weather and the Manorville fires, we had people on the beach making bon fires up close to the bulkheads, with embers going into the cliffs. This is COMMON. In many cases, they are consuming alcohol and smoking pot and will eventually cause a fire.
My family is in a minority (coastal homeowners) and is sometimes viewed as "being privileged" or snobs or whatever. But they are not. They are just very hard working people who grew up here and chose these homes. It just kills me to watch my parents struggle with something some feel is so trite - but their home is their entire life and this beach thing is a daily issue in the summer.
This is the one thing I find myself reacting to in Rocky Point. Rocky Point is beautiful and living on the water is the epitome of a Long Island lifestyle. It kills me that my parents have NO HELP and have to deal with this stuff in today's economy where there are more pressing issues in life. But this is in our backyard - literally. Why do those who do not live here have to be so injurious?
Thanks for reading,