Tribe fights to keep 61-foot-tall billboard along Sunrise Highway on Long Island

HAMPTON BAYS, Long Island (WABC) -- It rises from the side of the highway like a skyscraper. In fact, it's taller than just about every building in this corner of Eastern Long Island.

A 61-foot-tall electronic billboard was constructed and operated by members of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the Native American tribe that has a federally-recognized claim to just over one square mile of land in Hampton Bays, Long Island.

Some 600 people live on the reservation, which includes a sliver of Sunrise Highway, where the billboard was placed.

"I think it's OK because actually what we do is we're welcoming people to The Hamptons," said Billy Pearson, a member of the Shinnecock tribe.

But the billboard -- and its eye-popping size -- has stunned many others who live and vacation here. In the wealthy enclave known as The Hamptons has some of the strictest zoning regulations anywhere in America.

"The Hamptons is a very quiet, low-key town, and big billboards just don't look right," said Harvey Marcus, a Southampton resident.

On Friday, tribal lawyers and attorneys for Iconic Media, the billboard's manufacturer, appeared in New York State Supreme Court where the billboard is being challenged by the state of New York and the Department of Transportation.

"It's a remarkable opportunity for a tribe that for a couple hundred years hasn't been able to take advantage of the land that they have out here like so many of their neighbors," said Sean Byrnes, Iconic Media's attorney.

A temporary restraining order has already been issued, but the Shinnecocks claim it's their land and zoning laws don't apply. They've already poured the foundation for another billboard.

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