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Southampton Residents Angered By Shinnecock Indian Nation's Massive Electronic Advertising Billboards

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- There are signs of an impending showdown on the East End of Long Island, where the Shinnecock Indian Nation is putting up giant billboards at the entrance of Southampton.

Local leaders are calling them an eyesore, but the 60-foot high billboards are on tribal land, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday.

An assault on the East End. That's how Southampton officials describe what the Shinnecocks are quickly building at the gateway to the Hamptons, and just in time for the summer crowds -- a gigantic pair of two-sided electronic advertising billboards.

Shinnecock Nation billboards
(Photo: CBS2)

"The town is appalled by what is going on. I mean, we are outraged," Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. "They will completely change the character of our community we have fought long to protect."

Schneiderman said he was blindsided when trees were cleared on Shinnecock-owned land that spans Sunrise Highway to make way for the two six-story billboards, which he says are more suited for Times Square than farm country.

"I think it's going to make a lot of people really angry. I beg them to halt construction," Schneiderman said.

But the federally recognized sovereign Indian nation has ignored stop-work orders and police summons. Tribal leaders have told officials they are counting on significant revenue from the luxury ads, which will project 24 hours a day and tower over Hampton Bays homes, where residents were in the dark.

"Are they allowed to do that? Without any permission? Or without saying to the town? We didn't have any idea. It's very close to the house," one resident said.

"Theres gotta be some kind of rules," another person said.

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The structures violate town height, lighting and billboard restriction. There were no permits for tree removal, but tribal leaders claim they are exempt from local and state regulations.

As East End towns unite to fight, they're offering to work with the 660-member tribe on other types of economic development.

"We are appealing to the conscience of the Shinnecock people to not do this," Schneiderman said.

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Shinnecock trustees later replied to CBS2's request for comment, saying in a statement "our community has suffered greatly over the last several decades due to a lack of resources. Now, we have the opportunity to generate revenue and have access to the same standard of living as our much wealthier neighbors."

Town officials said tribal leaders told them at a recent meeting they are not asking for permission. They just wanted to let the town know they are proceeding.

The state Department of Transportation is also investigating to determine if the billboards violate federal highway regulations.

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