April 20, 2011
Businessman Feels Targeted
Forgive Bernard Kiembock for being upset and confused. He's lived in East Hampton for 40 years and was a volunteer fireman for 25. He employs a significant number of locals, and served on the budget advisory committee during the town's financial crisis.
"I have never said no to anyone. I donate to everybody. I'm a good businessman in the community," he says.
But he has been caught, unfairly, he thinks, in a burgeoning controversy over a swath of beach in Napeague, where locals congregate during the summer – in their trucks. Although Kiembock is just one of about 400 litigants suing the town because they believe they own the beach, he has become the antichrist to the pro-beach driving group. He has been threatened and nearly beaten up on the beach, and now bloggers are posting frightful taunts, enough to make him, for the first time, leery of even being seen on the street.
"I am threatened. Do I need protection?" he asked in a recent interview. Kiembock's White Sands Motel isn't even near the spot where most beach drivers congregate – it's miles to the east. But unruly revelers have been a constant problem during the summer. "There's music blaring until midnight. Some nights the fires are so intense they set off my alarms. My staff goes out and cleans the beach. I go out there and come back with broken glass, 2 x 4s with nails sticking out."
One group, CFAR (Citizens For Access Rights) is calling for a boycott of another business Kiembock owns, The Village Hardware store. "I don't understand what the hardware store has to do with anything," he said.
The fact is, the survey of his White Sands property squarely indicates the property line extends out to the beach. "The survey says I own it. I pay taxes on it. I never said don't drive on the beach. All I say is keep it clean," Kiembock said. He noted that no other beach has the truck traffic this one does, and said there is clearly an enforcement problem.
"They are drinking, and no one does anything about it. That's supposed to be illegal." It is not unusual to see people up on private property going to the bathroom. And there is some sentiment that because the beach draws a local crowd – including some local police, retired and active, that there is a certain immunity attached to violators hanging out at the spot.
At night, Kiembock said, "They drive drunk like maniacs. They are destroying the beach."
Kiembock said the town "needs to patrol the beach." He laments the fact that somehow he is being singled out for a problem that has festered for years. "Twenty years ago people would come down and fish or picnic. These people park here 10,12, 14 hours a day. It's not beach driving, it's parking." Though Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said he didn't think enforcement was a problem, most regulars quizzed agree there is virtually no police presence on the beaches, especially at night. In the past, those who patrolled were part timers who were so ineffectual that according to justice court records, 90 percent of the summonses issued had to be dismissed because they were sent to the wrong address. In one laughable instance a ticket was issued to "Daffy Duck."
The authorities need to get the problem in check, Kiembock said, and that includes trespassing on private property to urinate or defecate. Kiembock is also tired of being threatened. "It is a crime," he pointed out.