Police and code enforcement shut down a party when nearly three times the amount of people allowed descended on in Montauk on Friday night.
Fashion photographer Ben Watts — the brother of actress Naomi Watts — threw the 10th annual "Shark Attack Sounds" party at the East Lake Drive restaurant and marina, nearby his Montauk house, along with hotelier Ben Pundole and Mazdack Rassi, the founder of Milk Studios.
A permit was in place for 800 people, police and code enforcement said but about 1,200 more people attended causing a major traffic jam. Others estimate there were as many 3,000 people in attendance, including designer Charlotte Ronson and model Kelly Killoren Bensimone.
Regardless of the exact number, a town police sergeant deemed it a public safety hazard, according to Police Chief Ed Ecker. Even an ambulance was unable to get by the array of cars parked along both sides of East Lake Drive and the people walking in the street.
Chief Richard Schoen said the situation was dangerous, preventing emergency responders from getting down the street. An ambulance was called to 435 East Lake Drive at 11:09 p.m., but couldn't get anywhere near the property. A town police officer had to transport the patient in a squad car to meet the ambulance on Montauk Highway, Schoen said.
Luckily, the chief said, the patient had no life-threatening injuries, but needed stitches, though he did not respond to the call. "It was a relatively minor injury and they were able to transport. Had it been a heart call, possible drowning, any serious episode, it would have been a nightmare," he said.
Guest of a Guest reported that one man fell between the docks and was knocked unconscious, though it was not clear if this patient was one in the same.
"Suppose there was a fire down there?," Schoen said. "We would have done anything we had to do to get to the fire — flipping over cars, moving them out of the way, anything we had to."
Richard Gibbs, the property owner, said he was in the kitchen during most of the party, but didn't believe there was any major problem. He said he shut off the music when police asked him to. "I do this one Fourth of July party. I’m family food and done by 10 every night. I never have a problem with anyone really," Gibbs said.
The Ordinance Enforcement Department intends to issue violations for failure to adhere to the permit, overcrowding, music after 11 p.m. and noise associated with an outdoor DJ, said Patrick Gunn, an assistant town attorney and public safety administrator.
"This was an egregious abuse of the mass gathering permitting process. The Ordinance Enforcement Officer that responded was actually unable to leave the scene for over an hour because of the traffic," he said.
The police chief said cars were ticketed and that it took police a few hours to clear everyone out. "It’s a tiny little road, when it gets packed, it’s a problem," he said.
The fire chief, meanwhile, said he hoped to speak to the East Hampton Town Board about the situation at its work session in Montauk on Tuesday. He would like the fire department to be notified of major mass gathering permits that have been approved. He also said he would suggest banning parking on one of the side of East Lake Drive during events.
But, the chief is worried about large crowds gathering outside of any restaurant and bar, citing specifically , The Point, The Memory Motel, and Ruschmeyer's — where the party reportedly continued after it was shut down at Rick's. "It's amazing we haven't had more people dead," he said.