By Kitty Merrill
"I think it was a dud," one patron at the Star Island Grill said last Friday night. For all the controversy leading up to it – East Hampton Town Board members clashed over the mass gathering permit seeking approval for a party expected to host close to 4000 people at the Montauk Yacht Club – the "Shark Attack Sounds" event didn't fulfill dire expectations of traffic horror across the hamlet on the already busy July Fourth weekend.
It was loud, all right, and the attendees were, for the most part, very young and by 11 PM very drunk. But a last minute parking scheme that applicants claimed would see 800 cars parked in Amagansett, then bussed to the site, was underutilized. No more than 100 cars at most parked there.
Parking along West Lake Drive was prohibited, a rule that from The Independent's observation appeared to be obeyed. And, rather than draw business away from other clubs, as some feared, the party actually sent more (if sloshed) customers to other nightspots, thanks to a stipulation in the permit calling for the music to cease at 11 PM.
The Independent arrived at Star Island at around 9 PM. Stopped at the entrance to Star Island Drive by a local police officer, this reporter convinced him the yacht club wasn't the only business on the road, which had been closed to traffic. A security supervisor let us through, with a caution to be aware of pedestrians. And there were plenty of them, making the trek from the yacht club to the gates where busses waited to take them elsewhere. They didn't feel the need to get out of the way of a car.
One witness at Star Island Yacht Club said by 8 PM (the party started at 6), as many people were leaving as arriving. Inside the grill across the street from the party venue, the music was so loud, people had to yell to make themselves heard. Reportedly, many of the MYC's clients crossed over to the grill for a measure of peace, one even stating that he planned to deduct the night from his $300 a day dockage bill.
The din ended promptly at 11 PM, and a mass exodus began. Star Island Drive was clogged with tipsy 20-somethings and while staff from a private security firm attempted to persuade them to stay out of the road, they didn't. At the gate the hordes crowded school busses, staggered down West Lake Drive or packed waiting limos. There were between four and six officers at the entrance to Star Island and easily twice as many security guards in the same spot, attempting to herd the revelers onto busses.
They didn't go home.
According to East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker, the partiers moved on to popular nightspots like the Sloppy Tuna, The Point, The Memory Motel, Ruschmeyers and the Surf Lodge. Traffic at the latter two was "all fetched up" due to the volume of people trying to gain entrance to the clubs.
Earlier in the week, the town board held a special meeting to consider a revised application for the Shark Attack Party.
Although officials complimented the applicant for submitting a comprehensive application, in proposing a parking scheme to accommodate the expected 800 cars, the applicant listed the use of Rita's Stables down West Lake Drive. Trouble is, the town purchased development rights to the property in 2004 and the agreement permits no other uses beyond agriculture. The permit had to be revised with a new parking plan.
Last Wednesday morning, board members complained about the idea of parking cars in Amagansett and bussing people to Montauk for the party. But, ultimately, the Republican majority outvoted Democrats Sylvia Overby and Peter Van Scoyoc allowing the show to go on.