From empty beer cans and food packaging to full trash bags and even an unwanted boat, the Shinnecock Indian Nation has seen a steady flow of refuse dumped in recent months on their piece of bay-side property in Hampton Bays, causing tribal leaders to call for round-the-clock surveillance of the land.
The Westwoods lot—a 77-acre swath of mostly forest that is actually two properties that stretch from Sunrise Highway north to the Great Peconic Bay, has long been targeted by trespassers looking to go off-roading through the woods and make use of the towering-duned beaches, Shinnecock Indian Nation Tribal Trustee Bryan Polite said last week.
Despite signs both near its entrance and within the property discouraging trespassing, Mr. Polite, 32, who became a trustee in December 2013, said the issue has been constant, with an uptick of activity during the summer months as people are drawn to the tribe’s waterfront land. In response, the tribe plans on ramping up its protection of the property.
“We’re starting to get a lot more proactive,” Mr. Polite said. “A few years ago we had 24/7 security, and we’re thinking of reinstating that here shortly.”
Mr. Polite, who declined to share how the tribe would finance the rebooted team of licensed security officers, said some members of the tribe have donated their own home surveillance equipment to help monitor the Westwoods lot.
Earlier this summer Mr. Polite said someone discarded a medium-size boat on the property and, despite efforts by the tribe members to move the vessel onto Newtown Road for Southampton Town to haul away, the boat ended up back in the woods just a few days later. Tribal Trustee Sachem Eugene Cuffee said the tribe had to cut the boat up into small pieces and haul it away.
Some trespassers also have taken it upon themselves to ride their four-by-four vehicles and dirt bikes on the clear cut parts of the Westwoods lot—or even carve their own paths on the land, which is bisected by Newtown Road. He added that a few years ago someone vandalized a trailer that the tribe was keeping on the southern parcel by painting slurs and derogatory phrases on it.
“We’d like to keep [Westwoods] free and open for our people,” Mr. Cuffee said. “We don’t go over and dump things there—it’s the outsiders who do.”
Mr. Cuffee said he would like for the New York State Police to do more to protect the land, noting that the federally sanctioned reserve falls under that department’s jurisdiction. He also said he’d like to see the Southampton Town Police patrolling Newtown Road more consistently.
Southampton Town Police Sergeant Susan Ralph and State Police Captain David Candelaria said this week that neither of their departments has yet received requests for additional patrols or support.
Aside from being targeted by trespassers and those looking to dispose of waste in recent years, the Westwoods property had been a hot topic of discussion over the past decade as tribal leaders considered constructing a small casino on the land. Despite a resurgent effort in 2012 to build such a small gaming facility, that movement has been quiet in recent years.