For a number of years, the club that hosted the 2018 U.S. Open has blocked off a stretch of road that was once used as a town road with barricades and signs, and used it as a private driveway. Shinnecock Hills officials claim the town signed ownership of that section of the road over to the club in the 1930s as part of a land swap. But the town’s Highway Superintendent disputes that claim and says Southhampton needs to reassume control of it, in the interest of public safety.
The Highway Superintendent of the town of Southampton (N.Y.) wants to take back a private driveway that cuts through the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club to create a safer route for local drivers, reported The Southhampton Press.
However, the storied golf club, which hosted the 2018 U.S. Open, is calling for Alex Gregor, the Superintendent, to mind his own business, the Press reported.
For a number of years, the golf club has blocked off the stretch of road, which was once used as a town road, with barricades and signs and has used it as a private driveway, the Press reported. Shinnecock Hills officials claim that the town signed ownership of that section of road over to the club in the 1930s, as part of a land swap during the creation of County Road 39.
But Gregor maintains that the road was never actually turned over to the club, the Press reported. Instead, he suggests that the 1930s agreement focused on a different stretch of road that has since been abandoned—and he wants to make once again make the stretch that goes through the Shinnecock Hills property a public town road again.
In early September, the Press reported, Gregor sent a letter to the club asking it to remove the barriers and submit to an inspection of the road for possible acceptance into the town system, claiming that the town has continued to maintain the right-of-way to the road.
In response, the club’s attorney, Anthony C. Pasca, shot back a strong rebuttal, asserting ownership of the land and road, the Press reported.
Pasca went on to blast Mr. Gregor’s “threats and antagonism,” noting that his letter “can be characterized as nothing short of slander of title (which is a form of defamation that could give rise to a [sic] civil damages).” He stressed that the town does not have the authority—or permission—to enter the club property to examine the road, and he demanded “a formal retraction of your statement that the driveway is town-owned.”
Pasca also claimed in the letter that the town abandoned the road to the golf club in 1932 in a three-way deal with Suffolk County, which sought club land to construct County Road 39, the Press reported.
According to town records, the Town Board adopted a resolution requesting then-Highway Superintendent Richard Culver to abandon sections of St. Andrews Road, on the condition that the club agreed to the county’s plan. County records show the length of St. Andrews Road, which cuts through the golf course property, as “to be abandoned” in a 1932 site plan for County Road 39, reported the Press. Deed transfer records, and the eventual construction of County Road 39, suggest the deal was completed.
Gregor contends that the section of road in question was never abandoned or was improperly abandoned, the Press reported.
“I checked, and a title report came back and said that the right-of-way had never been abandoned,” Gregor said. “Plus, only the town highway superintendent has the right to abandon a road, not the Town Board.”
In an effort to make a safer route for commuters entering County Road 39 from St. Andrews Road, Gregor said he wants drivers to be able to access Tuckahoe Road from St. Andrews Road, and use the traffic signal there to enter the highway, the Press reported. Gregor called the current intersection of St. Andrews Road and County Road 39 “dangerous.”
In his letter, dated September 11, Mr. Gregor gave the club a month to remove the signs and barricades on both sides of St. Andrews Road, so that the Highway Department could inspect the road this fall. He said the department would set up its own barricades during the inspection so that officials could assess the condition of the road, reported the Press.
The club was also encouraged to submit the proper documentation, if it believed it had the legal title to the road.
Pasca told the Press that club officials were shocked by the letter. “This came out of the blue for us,” he said.
Pasca also noted that the club hasn’t heard from the Highway Department since 2016, when it made a bid to take over Tuckahoe Road from the town, turning the entire stretch that bisects the historic golf course into a private road, in exchange for the right to build a new road to the east of the club property, and other considerations. That proposal met with stiff opposition from the community, the Press reported.
Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman had met with Brett Pickett, the club’s President, and Michael Bloomberg, a member of the club who also owns a house in the neighborhood, to negotiate the deal. But the proposal, which Gregor didn’t support, never came to fruition.
The letter from Pasca also declined to supply Mr. Gregor’s department with documentation to prove the club owns the road, saying it would deal with the town attorney’s office to discuss matters of public record, reported the Press.
James Burke, an attorney for the town, said in an e-mail to the Press that he has asked Pasca to send “all of the information they are relying on regarding the abandonment” to aid in the investigation.
“We simply asked politely,” Gregor said in response to the accusation. “We did our due diligence, [and] we don’t see anything that says that the [club] owns the right-of-way. And we asked for them to do the same.
“I found the letter I got back to be a little offensive and threatening,” he continued. “It’s probably just attorney bluster, but they declined in their letter to give us documentation. But I guess when you ask questions that are difficult to the über-rich, this is the kind of response you get.”
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