BASICS: "Hummingbirds.....where is the person, I ask, who, on observing this glittering fragment of the rainbow, would not pause, admire, and turn his mind with reverence..." (J. J. Audubon).
This is a blog about my summer life at the Baiting Hollow Hummingbird Sanctuary, at my winter garden, Calypso, in the Bahamas, and aspects of life in general.
This private sanctuary is now permanently closed to the general public, as a result of a lawsuit brought by a neighbor. Only my friends and personal guests may visit (

Friday, January 3, 2014

2-prong attack on the Sanctuary!


We arrived at our winter home on Eleuthera on dec 30 (Jetblue to Nassau, then Pineapple Air to North Eleuthera, then a long, but pleasantly shared, taxi ride to Calypso). Everything here is lush, green and warm. On dec 31 after a long beach walk we got a call from Stony Brook to say that I had been served* with a "Summons and Complaint" (see first page below, which was scanned and sent on to me; I've not seen the full summons, which is very long) from 6 of our neighbors, demanding that the Hummingbird Sanctuary be closed and that we pay them $3 million in compensation for their suffering the existence of the sanctuary.
There seems to be a coordinated and carefully-timed 2 prong attack by my 6 neighbors. One of them is himself a supreme court judge, and artfully decided not to join the lawsuit (which will be heard in Supreme Court), but instead attack me via the Town.
There seem to be 2 key points here (although the suit apparently lists 47 individual complaints, some of which contain many sub-complaints).
1. Does the Town Code permit me to maintain my property in a natural state as a bird (specifically hummingbird) sanctuary?
2. Does the Code permit me to receive invited visitors at my residence there, via the established, deeded and surveyed Right of Way from Sound Ave?
Unless I am completely deluded (which is quite possible, especially after the pressure of the  events of this year!), the answer to both of these questions is clearly yes, in which case both of these actions collapse.
I am undecided whether I will continue to document this unpleasant saga on this blog. For the moment I'm inclined instead to focus on happier happenings.
Please note that you, my dear reader, can comment on this and all other posts, at the blog itself. Suggestions and advice, especially from the environmental/legal community, are especially welcome.

* actually not properly served, since the Summons was merely placed on our doorstep.


  1. It is such a shame that this lovely paradise is in jeopardy. Paul has been so kind to share this with us all. I hope that the sanctuary can remain open and continue to be a place of peacefullness and inspiration. There is nowhere else on Long Island that one can view such an abundance of hummingbirds. What a wonderful gift to us all. I support all your efforts to keep it open.

  2. Pat - thanks for your kind and supportive comment. I will do all I can to ensure that the sanctuary remains open. As you say, we need places like this to provide the peace and inspiration we all need in the trials of everyday life.
    The issue will turn on 2 crucial points. While the relevant section of the Town Code cited in the "Notice of Violation" (see december post on this blog), "108-20.2 RA-80 Zoning Use District" does not explicitly permit the "operation of a hummingbird sanctuary", the "Purpose and Intent" of the zoning is, inter alia, to "conserve wooded areas and other natural features." (Paragraph 108-20.1). Since the only thing required for "operation of a hummingbird sanctuary" is precisely the conservation of wooded areas and other natural features (specifically, hummingbirds), it seems virtually impossible that this should not be an as-of-right use, not requiring permits. Essentially "operating a hummingbird sanctuary" involves leaving the land in its natural state, and I find impossible to believe this requires a permit, or is outlawed. If this were the case, all undeveloped land in Riverhead would be illegal.
    So really the issue boils down to whether I can invite people to visit me at my residence or on my land (whether primarily to view, or at least talk about, hummingbirds, or for other purposes), via the existing, surveyed, deeded ROW from Sound Ave. Again, it would defy credibility if this were illegal, and would make the use of all developed land in Riverhead illegal.
    So the only reasonable interpretation of the "Notice of Violation" would be that the whole of Riverhead, developed or not, is illegal! So I think somewhere there must be a mistake.
    Now, if the hummingbird sanctuary is not illegal, most of the substance of the lawsuit evaporates. The only possible remaining ground of complaint would be annoyance to neighbors by the extra traffic causes by visitors. As a minimum, they would need to show that the traffic to my residence is far greater in volume, over the year, than the traffic to their own
    As my readers and visitors know, I already take great pains to minimize the impact of traffic on neighbors. I am very open to discussions, with the Town, with my neighbors, or with their representatives, of additional ways to minimize the volume and impact of my visitors, provided that these do not greatly restrict the ability of people to visit me at my property. If on the other hand quantitative studies reveal that the volume of traffic to my property is less than that to other residences, perhaps we could negotiate reductions of the impact of that traffic on me!
    Of course, misled by logic and my imperfect knowledge of my native language, I might have completely miscontrued the situation. To this end I am taking the best legal advice I can find and afford.
    Per ardua ad astra.

  3. Since it is usually open for only one month, you might have something there. I am sure your neighbors' traffic over the year
    could be greater than yours. You might need to limit the traffic a little more to satisfy them, if that is possible. Good luck with this valiant crusade, Paul.

  4. Paul, Please let me know if there is anything the Great South Bay Audubon Society can do to help you.

  5. Judy - thanks for the offer of help, I'll communicate with you privately (no need to let the enemy see our hand!)