RIGHTS OF OCEANFRONT HOMEOWNERS / RIPARIAN RIGHTS
A property owner whose land adjoins the Atlantic Ocean, the Peconic Bay, or any other body of navigable water has what are called “riparian” or “littoral” rights. This is another complex area of real-property law that is ancient in origin but very much alive today on the East End of Long Island. Any infringement of a waterfront property owner’s rights must be evaluated in light of the substantial body of case law on riparian rights that has developed in New York State courts over the past centuries.
One key legal problem that presents itself repeatedly on waterfront properties is the balance between the rights of the public and the rights of the private landowner. While the public has legally-recognized rights of water access under New York law, in many cases the precise limits on those public rights is open to debate.
As an example, I am currently representing oceanfront property owners in the Village of Southampton whose property has been designated by the Village as an all-day beach parking and driving area — essentially turning my client’s land, which they own to the high-water mark of the Atlantic Ocean and pay substantial taxes on, into a public parking lot. This, in my opinion, is unconstitutional. This case has been widely reported in the media and is currently the subject of a motion for summary judgment.