Montauk is a very special place not only for its pristine natural beauty but also for its rich history. This site is packed with historical information which remains powerfully important today and information about the extensive Olmsted park system which we are in the process of recovering through the courts. While the current content is necessary and interesting, we look forward to the day when this site will also serve as a community bulletin board for our community and our many visitors.
Controversy surrounds the fact that Montauk, and East Hampton, were legally established as proprietary commonwealths and governed under constitutional protection as such until early in the 20th century (around 1911). The incorporation of these lands in the 1686 patent affirmed the powers of a township established by th 1666 patent making East Hampton one of the first incorporated townships in the nation. Montauk was incorporated both by royal letters patent in 1686 and separately by the New York State Assembly at chapter 139 of the Laws of 1852 subsequent to the 1851 court ordered division of the lands covered by the 1686 pattent.. Both incorporations established Trustees for administering the dominion created and affirmed the underlying powers of a Township.
When this was discovered the natural question was: How does the current "town board government" claim its jurisdiction? It currently collects our taxes, controls our police and determines our land use (zoning), but, clearly, those powers are reserved to the incorporated bodies of the Trustees. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with the Town of East Hampton in September of 1996 asking them to show their papers. In the State of New York a government has to have incorporation papers or some form of enabling act from Albany. The Town Board has been unable to produce such papers.
The above issues are raised in an action currently before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. We have requested a remand to the lower court for full discovery and a trial. We expect the outcome to be historic and beneficial to all.
The Montauk Friends of Olmsted Parks corporation (MFOP) was established in 1994 to administer and protect an extensive Olmsted designed park system which was conveyed by covenanted grant of the family of Arthur W. Benson to be for the common use of all Montauk proprietors. At the time MFOP was founded, we were unaware of the 1852 incorporation of Montauk's proprietors and this history. In 1996, when our previous incorporation was discovered the MFOP corporation adopted a resolution assuming the powers of the 1852 corporation.
We have come to believe that under the Constitution of the State of New York the 1852 incorporation carries with it all of the powers of a Township. The "town board government" of East Hampton has been unable to refute this assertion. We are moving toward seeking judgment from the Supreme Court affirming our powers.
(NOTE: Knowledge of this situation by development and real estate interests has caused a mad rush of development activity. I would caution all developers and purchasers of real property in Montauk that the Town of East Hampton and the Water Authority have been noticed of certain prohibitions on construction due to lack of jurisdiction, unclear title, and lack of water availability. Although the court will naturally hesitate to order buildings removed, there is the real possiblity that it may order this relief. Additionally, everyone should refrain from buying undeveloped land in Montauk AND new construction north of Fort Pond (North Neck), on East Lake drive (Indian Field) or upon lands north and west of Gurneys Inn (Hither Woods))
In closing, perhaps most fascinating aspect of this site is that East Hampton (and Montauk) should be credited for being the Father of democracy in America! Although East Hampton was itself the son of the democratic colony of Connecticut, it was by way of a legal petition by a June, 1682 Town Meeting that the Assembly of the State of New York was founded and the first constitution of democratic government in America was established under royal authority. You will find these documents contained within this site.
This places a special responsibility upon the MFOP as the claimant successor trustee corporation. We seek to deliver a constitution for our new township which recognizes the efforts, understandings and beliefs of our Puritan founders. We seek good government which engenders wholesome community and which will retain its integrity into the future for our posterity. In God we trust.
Nobody likes change, but the retention of the status quo is causing very unwelcome changes to Montauk. We are confident that the recovery of our lawful powers will be a greatly welcomed by the community (once they get involved) and by those who appreciate what is truly special about Montauk and want to see it preserved. I believe that our Puritan forebears did not demand democracy just because it was nice but that they did so because IT WORKED BEST for administering the interests of Commonealth.
We welcome your visit to this site and hope that you will provide us with feedback.
For good, for law, for Montauk, I am
acting president, Montauk Friends of Olmsted Parks, inc.