Can Tourism be Destructive
For several communities across the East End of Long Island the tourism industry is a hotbed of economic potential. Since the 1990s tourism lead in revenue and employment passing the roots of the agricultural communities that has preceded it. Whether you’re spending a day out in Greenport at Claudio’s, sports fishing off Montauk, sipping wines in Peconic or fraternizing in the Hamptons, tourists are an unavoidable part of any East Enders life. As of current estimates tourism accounts for over 5.6 billion dollars of revenue each year and it has become an integral part of our culture. This raises some questions, can tourism be destructive?
There are few out there that would be willing to argue that something that creates such an opportunity for the East End could be actually hurting us. Many people would instantly draw offense to the mere concept of this thought. Initially, when I had first conjured up this idea I was sitting at work, I work as a beach attendant at some of the busiest beaches along the North Fork, all be them not nearly as comparable to the ocean beaches of the south shore, they’re little pockets scattered across the upper tip of the island. The day this question first arose I was working at New Suffolk beach, a very small, yet very popular beach within a very small community. The total capacity of this beach is 75 people according to all the available information I’ve been given. They encourage us to attempt to turn away people and redirect them to another local beach. At a recent Southold Town Hall board meeting a few weeks back some residents began to voice their opinions on the local beaches. Which suggested that we need to find ways to curb overcrowding at the beach, and their response was to do two things. The first of which was make the beach permit only, that means no outsiders could drive their car into the parking lot without a Southold town permit nor could beach attendant issue day passes to park for the day, all we could do was send them away. Second of all was to increase the patrols of traffic officers in the area to discourage illegal parking and to issue citations for violators. There were just a few flaws with this system. Removing the ability to issue day pass actually encouraged illegal parking exacerbating the issue rather than fixing it, and if it wasn’t people parking illegally it was disgruntled people who would visit the beach only to give the classic “Are you kidding me?”, “I’ll deal with the cop” and the “Hey if I give you 20 dollars can I park here” (which since beach attending is technically a government job that father with is eligible for at least one year in prison). And since there is improper signage on side streets to state “No Parking” traffic officers are powerless to those who choose to park in front of houses or local restaurants like Legends, one traffic cop told me. So rather than making this small town’s overcrowding issue at the beach better could it have become worse?
First of all, why does tourism thrive on the East End? The easiest thing to point to is a natural beauty. Decorated with an array of parks and beaches and upscale eateries it makes it an instant vacation destination. The South side promising a paradisiacal spot filled with sports fishing, 5-star accommodations, boating, surfing, golfing and Jimmy Fallon or the occasional Kardashian. While their brother to the north is a scenic getaway with wineries, breweries, natural beauty and peace and quiet. With the majestical promises of small port towns and open air, who wouldn’t want to vacation in either of those places?
Tourism brings in over an estimated 5.6 billion dollars to Suffolk County which is a conservative estimate and is mostly thanks to the East End. With the increased amount of people in the area raises the need for more police. Currently, all the towns with the highest paid average for police on Long Island are in East End towns. With the highest average salary coming in at Shelter Island’s average salary $131,362 with Southold in a close second at $125,018 and then the list is rounded off the top 5 with Southampton at the bottom with just an average salary $114,657 according to the Empire Center in New York City. These police officers are paid more than a majority of New York State teachers (median of $81,694) and nurses at New York hospitals (median $82,093), not to say the officers are undeserving, although it makes you question the price of policing. With the job to keep up safe from out-of-town drunk drivers who visit the vineyard or from illegal parking or from just the general overcrowding police are necessary to preserve our community. Although a majority of our budget for the towns go back into policing. Rather than infrastructure or community projects to help build the town and create opportunities for locals we are focused on maintaining our presence as a tourism giant. According to one Newsday report, Long Island towns spent over $339.3 million dollars to pay its law enforcement.
It is also said that one of the less spoken or thought of effects of tourism is its adverse effect on our environment. An increase in the number of people in an area correlates to an increase in pollution. Whether emissions from the heavy traffic, litter, sewage or noise, although these appear to have a small effect the create a butterfly effect in the long run. In a community that’s tourism industry was built upon its natural beauty, the very attraction to come is making those who do come slowly deplete it. And always a new store pops up every year or restaurant or summer house which cuts down trees and clears the land, changing what the East End once was. Rather than a sanctuary, it’s becoming a land more concerned with revenue than its appeal.
Tourism has created many opportunities for people across the East End, we all should to some extent be grateful. The reason we have so many of the great services we do is for that very reason. People enjoy the little paradise that we are gifted to live in. It’s important that the locals of this beautiful area take a time to reflect and appreciate what surrounds us. We should think about how we are given the opportunity to truly live in another’s paradise. We also should consider the potential adverse effects it may condone and create though. It’s important we are aware so we can have a chance to preserve our community and so we can share the great East End.