Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Westchester and Rye Town Shut Off Access to Long Island Sound

I've said this before: Those of us who live in New York or Connecticut own Long Island Sound, literally, not figuratively. The waters of Long Island Sound below the mean high tide line belong to the people of New York and Connecticut, and are held in trust by the government for everyone to use.

But in Rye, the Westchester County government and the Rye Town government have locked two Long Island Sound beaches because it's too expensive to keep them open for the winter, or so they say. So even though the people of Westchester and Rye own those beaches (Playland and Rye Town Beach), they can't use them to get to the Sound, which they also own.

Years and years ago (probably the late 1980s), Bobby Kennedy Jr. told me that Riverkeeper or the Pace Law School environmental litigation clinic (or both) was hoping that budget cuts would prompt Westchester County to close the Edith G. Read nature preserve, which is on the Sound in Rye, for the winter, because Riverkeeper/Pace was looking for a public trust doctrine case to litigate.

In essence the public trust doctrine says that the waters and the shores of the sea (among other things) are held by the government in trust for use by the public. I'm not in a position to opine as to whether Rye Town and Westchester County are violating the public trust doctrine, but it'd be nice to hear from some lawyers about it.

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