Santino Declares Town Parks, Beaches "No Drone Zones," Proposes Law to Restrict Unmanned Aircraft

Standing on the shore at Civic Beach in Point Lookout on Friday, May 27th, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino announced his proposal to make the township’s beaches, parks, pools, golf courses, preserves and other facilities “NO DRONE ZONES.”  The Supervisor declared that the start of summer was the perfect time to propose legislation that would protect the privacy of residents, ensure the safety of park goers and protect wildlife by putting a stop to the noise and nuisance associated with the remote-controlled aircraft.  Joining Santino at the press announcement were Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, Town Clerk Nasrin Ahmad and Receiver of Taxes Don Clavin as well as local Point Lookout homeowners.

“As the summer season is about to start, I think it is the perfect time to restrict the use of drones at our town’s beaches, pools, parks, preserves and other places where neighbors come to enjoy peace, tranquility and privacy,” said Santino.  “What’s more, residents deserve to enjoy a safe setting at town facilities that is free of the noise and nuisance associated with drones.”

Citing a proliferation of the use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, at town facilities, Santino and other officials have studied the impact, consequences and dangers of unrestricted drone usage.  One of the key concerns that has surfaced is the danger presented by drones inadvertently hitting people, cars and wildlife.  Injuries and property damage have appeared in news articles and reports.  The town’s responsibility to safeguard the protected piping plover at area beaches was cited by the Supervisor as a striking example of the high stakes associated with unrestricted drone usage at town beaches and preserves.

Just this past October, a drone being used for photography crashed into a business on Main Street in Sag Harbor and burst into flames.  Santino cited the incident as one recent example of drones endangering safety of the public in local neighborhoods.

Additionally, the privacy of town patrons in roofless dressing areas at municipal pools is an area of profound concern.  Further, the township’s beach cabanas and individual boats at town marinas present serious privacy issues.

At the same time, Santino observed that town residents who visit nature preserves, beaches and golf courses have a reasonable expectation to enjoy town facilities without the noise and nuisance presented by drones flying in an unrestricted manner at these locations. 

“I applaud the Supervisor for ensuring the safety and peacefulness of town parks and beaches by restricting the use of drones,” stated D’Esposito. “The privacy of park patrons and protection of wildlife are important priorities to which I am committed, and controlling the use of drones in our town will help to achieve these priorities.”   

The use of drones at town facilities would be regulated, and restricted use of drones would be allowed through a permitting process to be overseen by the Hempstead Town Clerk.  Coordination with administrators at parks, beaches, pools and preserves would provide for use of drones in a manner that would not endanger the public and wildlife, while also safeguarding privacy and minimizing public disturbances.

Penalties for violating the proposed ordinance would range from $500 for a first offense to $1,500 for a third violation.  Enforcement officers in the town’s building department, public safety division, highway department and sanitation workforce would uphold the town code and be empowered to issue summonses. 

Santino’s proposal to restrict drone usage at town facilities will be the subject of a public hearing at the June 7th Hempstead Town Board meeting.

“Hempstead Town has the best beaches, pools, parks and nature preserves anywhere,” concluded Santino.  “By restricting the use of drones at these and other town locations, we will keep neighbors safer and ensure their enjoyment of everything the town has to offer without the noise and nuisance of drones.”