This is an assemblage of Letters to the Editor from the East Hampton Star, published August 9, 2018

Want to Know
New York City
August 6, 2018

Dear Editor,

I read your article “Gardiner’s Island: Arrest Prompts Question” with unique interest. I grew up coming to the East Hampton/Gardiner’s Island area for all 57 years of my life. As a kid, I probably went at least once a summer out to Cartwright Island, imagining that there was buried treasure and the like. I have taken my kids there as well. Like many others, I too want to know the answer to the question, is Cartwright private and part of Gardiner’s Island or one of the many other public treasures that make Gardiner’s Bay so wonderful.

The idea of this being part of some royal decree or royal privilege seems like a large overreach. Therefore, if this is public land, as it seems to be and in particular below the high tide mark, then I am in full support of complete public access. I am ashamed to hear about the public harassment that Mr. Richardson recently experienced. You have brought up an important issue that needs to be resolved so that harassment of this type does not occur again, nor are public funds being wasted defending bogus claims.



Shoal and Tidal Zone
East Hampton
August 4, 2018

Dear David,

I believe the family that owns Gardiner’s Island is overreaching in their claim to Cartwright Island, which is mostly a migrating, ephemeral sandbar and not part of the island itself. They should not be allowed to harass people who respectfully use the shoal and tidal zone at the least. I support efforts to resist their dubious claims.

Thank you,


Unfettered Access
East Hampton
August 6, 2018

Dear Editor:

As an avid outdoor enthusiast, I find tremendous joy and peace spending time in the waters around the Town of East Hampton, especially Napeague and Gardiner’s Bay. The area that is located off the southern tip of Gardiner’s Island, often referred to as Cartwright Island, is a natural treasure.

I have been frustrated by the enforcement of trespassing rules pertaining to those areas where land masses are perpetually in flux due to wind and tidal influence. I have paddled from the Accabonac inlet to Napeague Harbor, bypassing the shoals to the south of Gardiner’s Island. Recently, I noticed signs along that archipelago that are partially submerged in water, asserting no trespassing. Aside from the nuisance that submerged signage creates, it also drastically reduces public access to areas that are in the public interest to embrace and appreciate.

I encourage local officials to support the needs and interests of the public by allowing unfettered access to the foreshores of Cartwright Island. Thank you for your attention.



Entirely Accurate
New York City
August 6, 2018

To the Editor:

I was there and witnessed the entire Cartwright Island incident as per your article. I can confirm that Mr. Richardson’s account is entirely accurate, as I read it here.

The security forces were belligerent and intimidating — not only to Mr. Richardson, but to all parties who were in and around Cartwright Shoal that day.

Here is the real question that this arrest prompts: Doesn’t the Goelet family have anything better to do with their time and resources than to waste it on this foolishness?



Open to All?
New York City
August 4, 2018

To the Editor:

I took special interest in your story “Gardiner’s Island: Arrest Prompts Question.” I believe that there are many of your readers that would like to know the answer: Is Cartwright Island private land and part of Gardiner’s Island or is it a Gardiner’s Bay treasure open to all?

Like Mr. Richardson, I, too, grew up with summers that included trips to Cartwright Island. Like Mr. Richardson, I have many fond memories of sailing there, picnicking there, fishing there, and I have taken my own family there on several occasions.

I would like to avoid the horrible experience that Mr. Richardson has endured because of his recent visit. If, in fact, Cartwright is private land, then I will sadly avoid ever going there again. If it is public land, then I would like to know that I can visit without worry of harassment.

Thanks for reporting on this story. I believe that many of your readers would benefit from knowing the answer and I believe you would be providing a public service if you could help uncover the truth.



Can’t Understand
New York City
August 6, 2018

Dear Star,

I was disturbed to hear that a friend of mine, Rod Richardson, was arrested for visiting Cartwright Island with his young daughter and friends.

I used to go there when I was a child with my uncle on his boat and had so many good times playing on the quiet sandbar that it is. I feel it should be accessible to all and can’t understand why it’s not and why Rod was arrested for enjoying public land that’s not part of the private Gardiner’s Island.



Deceptive Behavior
August 6, 2018

Dear David,

My father, Randy Richardson, used to take our family for picnics on Cartwright Island, an island south of and separate from Gardiner’s Island, going back to the 1960s. Many East Hampton families have done the same, for centuries.

Now, when boaters stop by the island and their children play on the shore, one or two military-style patrol craft, with the word “SECURITY” prominently displayed, swing by to intimidate these families, threatening to call Marine Patrol. These employees of the Goelet family trust tell these families they are trespassing to even anchor there, or walk on the shore, because “the Gardiners have a royal grant that gives them ownership of all of Cartwright Island into the water, as far as an ox can walk without getting its belly wet.”

That is exactly what happened Saturday, the last day of June, to several families that were anchored on the foreshore in four boats, who were told their children could not play on the foreshore, and that Marine Patrol had been called.

In my opinion this is regrettable, deceptive behavior. I have visited the island at least once a year all my life. A few years back, I heard security told people the water had to hit “the belly of a horse, 14 hands high.” Now it’s an ox. So I say, “Show me the ox!”

I asked security in the past, and again now, to show me the deed that grants ownership of Cartwright Island, or any part of the foreshore of any island. But despite an investment in security personnel and boats, they can’t seem to afford to carry one piece of paper proving their ownership claim.

I have read every one of the royal grants for Gardiner’s Island, and there is no ox or horse mentioned as a boundary marker. Nothing else in the grants gives them ownership of the foreshore either.

The “beaches” are not granted to the Gardiners in their Dongan Patent or any other of several royal grants, confirming earlier grants. All such “beaches” are clearly marked as New York State property on the tax map, and all maps and charts show separate, distinct islands, separated by water, going back to the earliest 17th century charts. (Beaches are specifically mentioned in the Dongan Patent to the East Hampton Town Trustees, by contrast.) All the deeds refer only to Gardiner’s Island.

According to my research, Cartwright Island is not a private island owned by the Goelet family trust. I understand it to be owned by the people of New York, who have every right to visit and enjoy this local treasure. As with nearly every local beach foreshore not owned by

the town trustees, the foreshore of Cartwright and Gardiner’s Islands is New York State land up to the high-water mark, often visible as a wrack line. The vast long, thin, low majority of the island, where I was at the end of June, has no wrack line at all, because it is all below the high-water mark, so low, in fact, that the center portion of the island, above where the alleged incident took place, is now underwater at high tide, a month later.

That Saturday, my young daughter and I and some friends were paddle-boarding around Cartwright, when we came across Goelet security demanding others to leave. I stopped as the families told me what had occurred, and my daughter and friends paddled ahead. I told the families what I knew, and they said they suspected as much, and were glad for the friendly support.

A little way ahead, my daughter and her friend had landed on the shore. The patrol craft made a b-line for them. I did not want my daughter threatened, intimidated, or made to feel like she could never visit this beautiful shore. So I landed my paddleboard and sprinted over toward them. I asked the security guard to address me, not my young daughter. I asked him to explain himself. He offered the same tale of the ox. I asked him to show me the deed proving this ownership claim, as I had in past encounters. He said he was only doing his job, and pointed to the “Private Land” signs on the foreshore.

I examined the sign, as he suggested, which prohibited fishing, which is allowed from the public foreshore. From past research, I know that this kind of sign falsely claiming ownership of the public foreshore and attempting to discourage the public from enjoying their rights, is deemed a “public nuisance,” according to New York State Office of General Counsel enforcement guidance. I suspected it could also be considered unsightly litter, improperly abandoned and spoiling a natural area. So I took the sign down and departed, leaving it on the island, with the children now happily playing on the sand, very glad someone had stood up for them.

In my opinion, the Goelets had me tracked down by Marine Patrol and filed trespass charges against me, only because I dared to question their security force regarding the basis for their claims since as far as I know not one of the other families I saw on the same area that day has been prosecuted.

In my opinion, it is a waste of East Hampton Marine Patrol and judicial resources to have me arrested based on allegations that I was on what I understand is a public beach. This is especially so when A) I simply asked for proof of their claims that they own into the water. B) Their security guard invited me to examine the sign closely. And C) since such enforcement action is contrary to New York State enforcement policies, with respect to allegations of trespass on foreshore and intertidal land when proof of ownership is in doubt and not firmly established. Every town official, trustee, and public interest group concerned with civil rights and public access should denounce waste of taxpayer resources to enforce a complaint of trespass on the public foreshore and public land that is Cartwright Island.

The Goelets insist on making this a public matter, despite the fact that I offered to resolve this privately, as reasonable folks should do, and as is recommended by Office of Government Commerce guidance. I reached out to them, via counsel, to say I would agree to never visit the Island again if they would simply show me clear proof of ownership, as claimed. They refused to do so.

Now that this is public, I don’t mind saying I suspect the reason they refuse to show me proof of ownership is simple: The Lord of the Manor has no clothes. No ox either, for that matter.

The charges against me are without merit and contrary to the public’s basic rights of access to the beaches.

In my opinion the island needs a better local steward or trustee of the public trust, for it has none; at present public rights and liberties are at issue. All stakeholders (town trustee and board, CfAR, Surfrider, East Hampton Trails Preservation Society, South Fork Natural History Museum, concerned local citizens, New York State, etc.) should be involved in the resolution of this public matter. But still, it should be done by conversations among reasonable people, with all facts on the table and available to the public.

Sunshine is a wonderful disinfectant.