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Dust Rises Via Neighbors’ Complaint On Eve Of 12th Annual Polo Season

Originally Posted: July 09, 2008

Andrea Aurichio

Bridgehampton - Polo, the sport of kings played by mega-millionaires on a 27-acre field on Hayground Road, has come under fire from a handful of neighboring homeowners who are objecting to matches scheduled to begin on July 19 provided the Southampton Town Board votes to approve the required special event permit needed to proceed.

The matches have long been one of the highlights of the tony summer season.

Hayground Road resident Sherry Lynn Lovejoy provided a list of objections
to the annual charity polo event at the public hearing.

Two neighboring property owners appeared at the public hearing objecting to the noise, dust, and traffic they claim the popular event creates. One of these property owners also objected to the number of horses stabled on the property and expressed concern regarding the on-site trailers used to house the agricultural force workers employed by the Bridgehampton Polo Club for the season.

Representatives of the Bridgehampton Polo Club appeared at a pubic hearing held before the town board on Tuesday afternoon, July 8, seeking the go ahead to hold the Mercedes Benz Polo Challenge on Saturday afternoons beginning on July 19, and ending on Aug. 9. The polo club is also seeking a permit to hold the Hampton Cup matches on the same site from Aug. 9 to Aug. 23.

"We will be good neighbors," Alex Rodan, general manager of the club said as he addressed the town board as the club's attorney stood by his side.

The club's management agreed to wet down dirt parking areas to control the proliferation of dust and also expressed a willingness to post traffic signs along Hayground Road approaching the Polo field to corral traffic and reduce the speed of cars coming down the road.

The stream of horse trailers that pull out of the field in the early morning hours to the consternation of Hayground Road resident Sherry Lynn Lovejoy, who provided a list of objections to the annual charity event at the public hearing, was a different matter. Be that as it is, the club management agreed to try to re-route the trailers to enter and exit the grounds from points as far away from the neighboring homeowners as possible.

The club is also willing to plant a vegetative barrier in front of the housing trailers and use other plantings to privatize the grounds, as long as the shrubbery does not pose a fire hazard.

Bridgehampton Polo Club Manager Alex Rodan, flanked by the club's attorney,
indicated the management was willing to curtail dust and noise.

Ponies Arrive In Early Morning
Currently the polo ponies are transported in the early morning or late evening hours to avoid peak travel on the already congested roadways, particularly Montauk Highway and the Long Island Expressway, to speed delivery during the height of the hot summer season. "The horses will die if they are stuck in an overheated trailer on the LIE," Rodan said.

The specialized ponies, expected to arrive shortly, are being transported across state lines and are also being flown in from Europe and South America. Many need to be held in quarantine prior to being cleared for entry into the United States. There are six to eight teams scheduled to play in the two successive events. Each player brings several polo ponies with him.

In all, the events organizers expect at least 190 polo ponies to be stabled on the site. An estimated 2,500 fans will attend the matches and some 1,420 parking spaces are designated at the field; 12 parking attendants and 14 security guards are scheduled to work each match to supervise parking and traffic control.

According to information provided by the town attorney's office there were no complaints registered concerning noise or traffic regarding the last year's polo season.

Entrance into "The Tent" is one of the highlights of the social season for the few hundred invited guests who are carefully vetted by gatekeepers who run one of the tightest doors in town despite the event's open air locale. The viewing tent provides shade from the hot sun as well as seating to watch the matches that begin at four in the afternoon and end around six in the evening. The crowd disperses quickly once the match is over.

And what a crowd it is. International news media, world famous movie stars, supermodels, rock stars, hedge fund billionaires, and members of the local political and social establishment packed the tent, schmooze and occasionally watch the match, before taking to the field at half time to stomp the divots.

Horse lovers and true polo fans, watch the action packed, fast paced game from the
opposite side of the field.

Ordinary folk, horse lovers and true polo fans, watch the action packed, fast paced game from the opposite side of the field where they can park their cars, tailgate and climb onto the bleachers or sit in lawn chairs as the thundering hoofs of horses galloping past them at high speed literally make the ground beneath their feet quake.

On-Site Trailers And Workers
Lovejoy also expressed concern about the on-site trailers used to house the seasonal workforce. According to club management, there are two to four occupants housed in each of the trailers, usually amounting to no more that a total of 25 occupants who remain on-site for the short Polo season.

"Undocumented workers are among the most dangerous people," Lovejoy said. "Its on America's Most Wanted." Lovejoy suggested the Town Board require background checks and documentation on the workers. "There are 12 trailers there right now, "Katrina style," Lovejoy said referring to the temporary structures resemblance to emergency relief housing provided to victims of Hurricane Katrina, a storm that slammed into Louisiana a few years ago leaving thousands homeless and many dead.

Lovejoy purchased her home on Hayground Road in 1995. "These polo matches have devalued my property," Lovejoy asserted. "Terrance McNally lives across the street, and he is against this as well."

Speaking to safety issues and requested identity checks, Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst inquired if the club's general manager could attest to the hardworking, law abiding character of the seasonal workers.

"Absolutely," Rodan said. "We have never had a problem. The matches have been held on the field on Hayground Road for the past 11 years."

The Polo season ends shortly after Labor Day, at which time, the ponies, the trailers and the seasonal workers, all decamp. This week quiet preparations were underway amid the trailers.

Opting to let the dust settle and wait to vote on the special event permit application until Friday, Supervisor Linda Kabot said the matter would be put up for a vote at the 10 a.m. session at Town Hall.

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