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Jun 6, 2019 5:00 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Project Managers Say They've Suffered Damages From State And Town Efforts To Stop Billboards; Tribe Will Continue To Ignore State Court's TRO

The Shinnecock billboard on the south side of Sunrise Highway on Thursday, June 6. It has been operational since the day the temporary restraining order was issued almost two weeks ago. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Jun 11, 2019 4:26 PM

Shinnecock Indian Nation leaders and the billboard company the Nation hired to build the 61-foot signs on Sunrise Highway say that enforcement actions by New York State and the Town of Southampton to try to halt the project have taken a toll on both the project and the tribe.

Larry Clark, a manager of the billboard company Iconic Digital Displays, LLC, filed an affidavit in State Supreme Court on June 6 alleging that the state’s and the town’s stop work orders caused advertisers, vendors, banks and subcontractors to express concern over the status of the project, resulting in financial losses and a damaged reputation for his firm.

Tribal Council Chairman Bryan Polite said this week that the interference and resulting delays forced the Nation to postpone for months some public assistance programs that were scheduled to start soon, to be funded by proceeds from the billboards.

Mr. Clark claimed that workers abandoned the site because they were afraid of being arrested and fined, forcing Iconic to hire new workers at a cost of $60,000. State Troopers threatened workers with jail time when serving the state’s third and final stop work order in May, the document stated.

The document also stated that over $1 million in advertising revenue was lost because the number of advertisers dropped from 15 to two, and that financing entity Valley National Bank put its $3.3 million investment on hold.

“The actions taken by the Town of Southampton and the State of New York have damaged and will continue to damage the reputation of Iconic within advertising and outdoor display industries,” Mr. Clark wrote.

Mr. Polite confirmed the allegations. “They were threatening them with lots of jail time, not just minimal jail time. They gave a whole bunch of tickets to a whole bunch of people,” he said of the troopers, adding that “big-dollar advertisers” were lost.

The day after the state served its final stop work order, Shinnecock Indian Reservation residents were at the construction site with chainsaws to cut down trees themselves, picking up where the workers left off.

Workers returned several days later when the Nation posted its own work permit. Shinnecock residents stationed themselves at the site in the following days to protect workers from more summonses and arrest threats, Mr. Polite said.

He said that the Nation’s public safety and affordable housing programs, scheduled to start later this month, were pushed off. “These were things that were about to take place, and now the delays and the harassment have basically stopped us from providing services to our people,” he said.

In the affidavit, Mr. Clark additionally sought to remove Idon Media and Digital Outdoor Advertising as defendants in the suit and replace them with his company, Iconic Digital Displays—the name displayed on the completed billboard’s base—stating that Iconic is the “exclusive agent for the Nation on this project.”

Tribal Trustees filed a motion to dismiss the case from State Supreme Court on June 10, stating that the tribe has sovereign immunity from the suit, and that Congress must waive the immunity for the case to proceed, which it has not done, according to court documents.

The State Department of Transportation commissioner and the State of New York filed papers in State Supreme Court against tribal leaders and their contractors more than two weeks ago. Papers included a request for a temporary restraining order, which was granted later that day.

The TRO, issued by State Supreme Court Justice Cheryl Joseph, prevents the tribe and its contractors from “conducting any and all activities relating to the construction, maintenance and operation” of the pair of billboards along Sunrise Highway in Hampton Bays—simultaneously on tribe-owned land and a state highway right-of-way—until the court makes a determination on the case.

Tribal leaders made it clear that they refuse to acknowledge the TRO, nor the state court’s jurisdiction, as they continue to operate the completed digital billboard and are proceeding with plans for the second one.

On the same day that papers were filed in state court, on May 24, the Nation filed papers in federal court against the DOT and the State of New York, over their efforts to stop construction, including three stop work orders and a cease-and-desist letter. Because of the tribe’s status as a federally recognized tribe, tribal leaders have ignored all authoritative attempts from the state.

“We don’t recognize the DOT’s authority or the state’s authority, and we have sovereign immunity from suit,” Mr. Polite said on Thursday, June 6.

The Nation’s federal complaint made the same claims described in Mr. Clark’s affidavit, outlining the chronology of the state and town stop work orders and their damaging effects on the project. The Nation removed its complaint from federal court about a week after it was filed and plans to resubmit an amended version soon, Mr. Polite said.

The tribe completed its first 61-foot-tall electronic billboard in late May and had it operational the day the TRO was issued. Construction on the second, identical, billboard, directly across the highway, began over a month ago but has not advanced past the initial foundation work. Plans for further work will likely begin in a few weeks, according to Mr. Polite.

Regardless of whether or not the tribe acknowledged the state TRO, Mr. Polite said that they were waiting for materials to arrive, so construction on the second billboard was not scheduled for a while anyway.

A hearing was scheduled on Friday, June 7, but Mr. Polite said that it later changed to a case conference, in which attorneys for both parties discussed matters related to the planning and arrangement of future court dates.

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There is no such thing as "kinda" sovereign. You either are or you aren't.
Leave them alone!
By lursagirl (245), southampton on Jun 6, 19 6:13 PM
It has not yet been decided by a federal court that THAT land (the Westwoods Property) is sovereign land. Until then the entire thing is up in the air.
By rrrglynnn (23), Hampton Bays on Jun 6, 19 7:07 PM
2 members liked this comment
The Sunrise Highway is not sovereign land. It's a right of way.
By mcreste (6), Hampton Bays on Jun 6, 19 11:11 PM
That sounds reasonable But, don't you think they are more up on the their legal boundaries and right to do this before actually doing it? Just asking. Be pretty dumb to just do this without knowing for sure you could don't you think?
By lursagirl (245), southampton on Jun 6, 19 11:54 PM
I'll bet longshots all day as long as I'm using OPM (other peoples' money.)
By VOS (1241), WHB on Jun 7, 19 3:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Walt (292), Southampton on Jun 8, 19 9:26 AM
That would end well.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jun 8, 19 9:31 AM
The entire thing is pretty complicated for sure and this I can tell you won't be sorted out for a while. It was pretty foolish of the Nation to not have this sovereign land claim sorted out before they built the signs in the first place. It is very likely at this point that they will be forced to take them down in the future anyway as NYDOT can easily make a safety argument over them. This is due to their close proximity to the on and off ramps or the parking area (The law says it is simply not ...more
By rrrglynnn (23), Hampton Bays on Jun 8, 19 3:25 PM
It may also come down to what where the exact details of the land easement that was made in the 1950’s. Even in the unlikely case it is proven to be sovereign land, it may say in that easement that the DOT still has the right to use the land and enforce laws along its right of way even if they don’t own it. Which could include billboards. Who knows at this point.
By rrrglynnn (23), Hampton Bays on Jun 8, 19 4:04 PM
Where are they getting the electricity to power this monstrosity.
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Jun 6, 19 7:54 PM
There’s a rented generator just south of the monument.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jun 6, 19 9:46 PM
1 member liked this comment
Boycott Pow Wow, smoke shops and anyone who places an add on them.
By Hamptonsway (107), Southampton on Jun 6, 19 8:53 PM
i'm sure you have already been doing that-not a big deal
By BrianWilliams (87), on Jun 6, 19 11:45 PM
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Jun 7, 19 5:55 AM
Maybe the Town can paint some rocks to look like Piping Plover eggs and etch a nest in the sand at the crest of the sign. That’ll show ‘em!
By foodwhiner (148), Southampton on Jun 7, 19 6:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
By Enviro Guy (55), Southampton on Jun 7, 19 8:28 AM
If the Billboard was located "as you entered the Hamptons" they would be located just west of Westhampton.
By beachbar (4), Hampton Bays on Jun 7, 19 7:54 AM
No no, don't you know?? The REAL Hamptons don't start until you cross over the canal. Take it from someone who grew up in Westhampton Beach and now lives in Southampton Village.

I agree with you by the way, just wanted to point out the stupid technicality
By Enviro Guy (55), Southampton on Jun 7, 19 8:31 AM
1 member liked this comment
Good for them, they need to stand up for their rights or freedoms. Native Americans have been victimized enough by the greedy elitists, take a stand now or be slaves forever.
By Preliator Lives (437), Obamavillie on Jun 7, 19 8:30 AM
2 members liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jun 7, 19 8:44 AM
Knitter, where’s the outrage towards other people who sell cigarettes?
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jun 7, 19 8:52 AM
The gym floormats ads must be a boom to the tribe's economy.

By harbor (415), East Hampton on Jun 7, 19 8:57 AM
1 member liked this comment
By themarlinspike (542), Northern Hemisphere on Jun 7, 19 9:04 AM
when i see them bbqing next to the sign i want to stop and hang out
By BrianWilliams (87), on Jun 7, 19 9:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
Wait till the wind farm gets going..."Windmills at Westwood"...;)
By V.Tomanoku (790), southampton on Jun 8, 19 9:28 AM
They’re “waiting for materials to arrive” before starting construction on the second billboard “in a few weeks”? Maybe yes, maybe no. Just as a matter of market economics, I’m guessing that their backers here want to see how the response from advertisers is before they put up any more money for a second billboard. With their electronics, foundation, and ‘monument’ look, these things aren’t cheap. Makes perfect sense that an investor would stop ...more
By Turkey Bridge (1979), Quiogue on Jun 8, 19 3:19 PM
1 member liked this comment
I agree, TB. Test the waters... I’m sure Mr. Polite and Mr. Gumbs told Iconic Media that there wasn’t an issue when this all started.
By Draggerman (955), Southampton on Jun 9, 19 9:42 PM
My question is why would any investor bother with this entire thing knowing that they’d be very controversial and not really knowing for sure if they are legal?
By rrrglynnn (23), Hampton Bays on Jun 11, 19 1:16 PM
2 members liked this comment
I don't mean to micro-manage the Shinnecock Nation, however, I suggest build two rest stop stores, one on each side of Sunrise Highway, serve food, have picnic tables, sell Native American jewelry and souvenirs. People will stop and shop. They will love it!

Billboards only distract the drivers.
By HamptonClassic (132), Southampton on Jun 8, 19 10:15 PM
2 members liked this comment
Their land, gas station, sand mine or oysters and cigarettes???
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Jun 9, 19 10:29 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By Jolly Roger (31), Southampton on Jun 9, 19 3:23 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By themarlinspike (542), Northern Hemisphere on Jun 9, 19 3:54 PM
The rich folk helicopters are a bigger problem, how about the town doing something about the noise they make Sunday night and Friday night are out of control.
By HB salvation (27), Hampton bays on Jun 9, 19 6:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
The Nation is flexing it's muscles by desecrating the land it claims to love with these garish billboards, the result of which can only create resentment, disgust, and rancor towards the Tribe. Congratulations, Shinnecocks, you are 'winning.' Time to move on, and stage boycotts against any companies and products providing ad revenues to the perpetrators of these despicable platforms.
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Jun 11, 19 7:36 AM
Hampton Classic is on to something with the suggestion for rest areas above. Contribute something positive in the space you are given. Good will follows good deeds.
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Jun 11, 19 7:38 AM
2 members liked this comment
According to today's revised article:

"The Nation removed its complaint from federal court about a week after it was filed and plans to resubmit an amended version soon, Mr. Polite said."

All parties should get this entire situation before a federal court, as soon as possible, and the new federal judge should stay all state action until he or she can get everyone on the same page.

There are many important federal and state issues at play here, and everyone is just going ...more
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 11, 19 7:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
Love it!

Now Gumbs et al. are claiming that the tribe's social welfare programs ("public safety[?] and affordable housing") have had to be put on hold because law enforcement efforts are preventing the Shinnecocks from realizing the income they expected.

Dare one suspect a cynical motivation behind this unsubstantiated claim?

By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Jun 12, 19 11:49 AM
3 members liked this comment
The contractor building the billboard must have foreseen this would happen. That's the risk they took by accepting the job.
By HB90 (164), southampton on Jun 12, 19 11:29 PM
3 members liked this comment
Fascinating. The affidavit says the builder fronted all the money, apparently without considering the obvious problems with that location. Later, Valley National Bank provided financing - what were they thinking (or not thinking)? The underlying claim here is that any land owned by Indians is exempt from all laws - even if it is not a reservation. How can that be?
By Liman (30), Montauk on Jun 13, 19 9:33 AM
Shinnecock has a proud history of being a billboard advertising tribe. If you look close at the seal on the billboard there’s a billboard. They actually invented the small text at the end of car and medication commercial. They also invented the giant “no trespassing” sign
By milkdilk (49), Southampton on Jun 14, 19 4:58 AM
1 member liked this comment
Playing devil's advocate- Do you think the Indian Nation is just testing the waters with the billboards to see if they can put up a casino without the States approval? Just curious...
By Triumph67 (4), Sag harbor on Jun 14, 19 9:45 AM
4 members liked this comment
recommend not patronizing any business that advertises on the billboards. The town could retaliate by shining a search light beam on the the signs to diminish their effect, but that would be as childish as the tribe has acted - we’ll see what the court says
By e&h (2), hampton bays on Jun 14, 19 4:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
The one single question that has never been answered in all the weeks this has been in the paper is "Who's land is this on?". There are lots of posts saying "right of way" but I've never heard of the state building a major highway on a right of way. They either buy the land outright or condemn the land thru eminent domain and take ownership of the land. Perhaps someone could clarify this in legal terms, not common spoken terms.

Second unanswered (or unreported) issue, if the signs actually ...more
By bird (829), Sag Harbor on Jun 15, 19 11:19 AM
That billboard is a driving hazard. I was looking at it and found myself trying to read Who was advertising and almost swerved off the road. I know they want you to read it, but it’s like reading and texting. It’s dangerous and an eyesore. I actually saw some of the Shinnecock Indians barbecuing there the other day also. Really? If you advertise on this monstrosity, I, as well as my friends will never patronize your business. It’s cheesy and so are you.
By Psc (1), Southampton on Jun 19, 19 6:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
if that billboard distracts you that much, you might wanna start thinking about taking the bus.
By Fred s (3321), Southampton on Jun 19, 19 6:57 AM
Boycott and blackball the advertisers.
By InnerBay (72), Southampton on Jun 19, 19 5:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Somebody needs to come up with a list of all the companies that have been advertising on them? I rarely take the highway to go out east so I haven’t noticed.
By rrrglynnn (23), Hampton Bays on Jun 20, 19 3:45 PM
Really hurt businesses that are working hard and employing people? Very selfish.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Jun 20, 19 12:00 AM