One of the perks of living on Long Island’s North Shore is access to miles of beachfront, though some Rocky Point residents have said that enjoyment has been cut short well before sandals touch sand. Part of the confusion revolves around the complexity of who has access to the many miles of beachfront property.
Several residents have lately been making complaints on social media about security personnel at the beach ramp on Hallock Landing, a portion of which along with the majority of that beach is owned and operated by the North Shore Beach Property Owners Association. People on social media have complained of being yelled at, physically confronted and not being told or shown the correct access for Brookhaven town residents versus members of the NSBPOA. Some residents have rallied that overzealous security have made accessing the beach via the public ramp an issue.
Residents have sent complaints to the association, Brookhaven town representatives as well as Suffolk County Police. Many complaints lacked video or picture evidence to confirm what exactly happened in these instances, though many residents say previous complaints about security have gone unheeded for the past few years.
And as the hotter weather rolled in while pandemic restrictions were released, more and more people have sought to cool their heels in the Long Island Sound during the past few holidays and weekends. The issues were only exacerbated by more out-of-town people looking to use the beachfront after restrictions were lifted allowing Brookhaven residents to use the beach.
Michael Gorton, a past president and current treasurer of the NSBPOA, said the association created a Security Review Board after the board received a complaint about security in June, which the board found “was unfounded and verified by witnesses that accusations were false,” he stated in an email.
According to a statement by the property owners association, the review board has “been made aware of all situations regarding complaints at Hallock Landing,” and has since acted and made changes to security protocol, though a request for clarification on what those changes was not responded to by press time. The association’s board decided to increase security at the location this year.
“In the emails or phone calls directed to members of the board or to the association, the board took these complaints seriously,” the statement read. “Allegations or complaints from Facebook [posts] will be ignored and we will not address any of them. This has been the policy for years whether they are from last year or this year.”
Complaints have centered around two volunteers who belong to the association, husband and wife Tom and Leah Buttacavoli, who were acting as volunteer security at the beach’s edge alongside another security guard. The third guard’s name could not be confirmed by official sources, though NSBPOA released a statement saying he is an ex-NYPD officer and a licensed security guard. Guards, the statement says, do not carry tasers but the one hired guard does carry pepper spray to be used in self-defense. Many residents have complained online of that guard’s overzealous nature in maintaining the beach’s private status, including alleged instances of threatening to pepper spray individuals on the beach during Fourth of July or running along the beach in the morning.
Though police have been called to the location, requests for comment to the SCPD were not responded to by press time.
Thomas Buttacavoli did not respond to requests for comment via Facebook, though in June in posts to a community Facebook group he denied several claims he was the instigator of an issue with a group of young people at the entrance, saying he had been accosted by the individuals and that police responded and had concurred with his assessment of the situation.
The Town of Brookhaven and police have received numerous complaints of people coming from as far as New York City to come to private beaches on the North Shore, including areas around Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai and Rocky Point, according to several local officials. The town has hired its own private security guard to check for Brookhaven residents along its right of ways, including its access ramp next to the association-owned access.
Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said she has spoken to the NSBPOA about the security issues. The town-hired guard only checks for some kind of proof of town residency, which could be anything from a driver’s license to a library card. Those residents are allowed up to the mean high tide mark, which is considered public property. Bonner said residents cannot be restricted from accessing that space using a town ramp.
“We have easement agreements with all private associations, this instance at Hallock Landing, that is town property, that is our right of way, and we have permission to use their property for our stormwater infrastructure,” Bonner said. “Hallock Landing is a public access site, and [residents] have been restricted where they shouldn’t have been.”
As an entity, the NSBPOA owns the ramps at three separate locations in Rocky Point, some parts of the roads leading up to the beaches and the clubhouse located right off of Lincoln Drive. The association is very private about its membership as well as the people on its board. The names of trustees are not publicly available on the website.
Part of the Hallock Landing area before the ramps down to the beach is privately owned by the association, and one of the ramps is only accessible by members. The area that is part of the stormwater runoff pipes is owned by Brookhaven and is a town right of way. The private portion goes from the western-most part of the yellow gate to points north and east, as well as the rain garden and parking spaces right of the ramp.
“We have the right to prohibit access to our property to non-dues-paying members at the yellow gate that is in front of the ramp, due north and east of it,” the NSBPOA statement reads. “Public access can only be attained via the town right of way.”