Hamptons residents protest 60-foot tall billboards by Shinnecock Indian Nation

HAMPTON BAYS, Long Island (WABC) -- People who live around Sunrise Highway in Hampton Bays are protesting the construction of two 60-foot high electronic billboards being erected by the Shinnecock Indian Nation.

"These are Las Vegas type billboards or Times Square type billboards that are going to be seen for miles," said Maria Hults, President of the Hampton Bays Civic Association.

The billboards will be situated on the eastbound and westbound sides of Sunrise Highway around exit 66. They will have electronic displays on both sides.

"The brightness of the light, you won't be able to see the stars anymore," said Susan von Freddi, with the Hampton Bays Beautification Association. "It's going to harm the animals in the woods here."

Tribal leaders have said they are constructing the billboards to raise revenue for their nation. The land is owned by the Shinnecock Nation, so tribal leaders have said they are free to move forward with the project and not be subjected to any federal, state or town regulations regarding the billboards' size.

However, according to a spokesperson for Congressman Lee Zeldin, the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has found no records of the land being held in trust. If the land is not in trust, the state can enforce federal regulations, which, under the Highway Beautification Act, ban these types of billboards on certain roadways.

"It's now up to the NYSDOT to determine if there was a violation of federal highway law and, if so, it's up to them and the New York Attorney General to enforce it," Zeldin spokeswoman Katie Vincentz said.

A spokesperson for the New York State Department of Transportation said the matter is still under review.

Vincentz said that according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Shinnecock Nation has not sought any action or approvals from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Eastern Region, Real Estate Services for the billboards.

Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he has been in regular contact with the tribal council leader.

"He knows my feelings," he said. "I think the nation knows my feelings, but I think they're going to continue to build these things."

Eyewitness News reached out to the Shinnecock Indian Nation several times Wednesday, but our phone calls were not returned.

The Hampton Bays Civic Association is hosting a meeting with the tribal council leader Monday night to discuss the billboards.

"We're hoping that maybe we can come to have some conversation together and try to come up with perhaps a compromise," von Freddi said.

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