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Tony Conn. Town Defends Sandy Turf

June 18, 1999

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) _ Folks in Greenwich hate it when someone says their residents-only beach policy is a bid to keep the riffraff out of one of the nation’s toniest towns.

``That just isn’t so,″ insisted Dolores Deck, a real estate agent who visited sandy Greenwich Point on Thursday. ``We pay taxes for this beautiful beach. Why should we open it to outsiders?″

But the controversy reached a new _ some say absurd _ level this week as police staged an undercover operation to capture a would-be intruder who, officers said, advertised for black market beach passes.

``I mean, to set up a sting operation _ I’m sure there’s other crime in Greenwich that requires their attention. It just strikes me that their resources could probably be used more effectively,″ said Brenden Leydon, a lawyer from neighboring Stamford who has sued Greenwich over the policy.

Greenwich is a town with resources that small countries would envy. Former President George Bush grew up in the place that today contains the bedrooms of those who work in New York City’s loftiest boardrooms.

The average home sells for more than $1 million, and the people who live in them play polo on ponies, not in some measly pool. Diana Ross, Mel Gibson and Leona Helmsley have homes here.

Don’t live here and want to visit the beach? Find a resident to accompany you and fish out $6 for the guest fee.

The town has argued that allowing outsiders would worsen a parking crunch, hurt the environment and could make it difficult for emergency vehicles to get around.

Leydon filed his lawsuit in 1995 after he was barred from jogging into Greenwich Point, a 147-acre park with a pristine beach on Long Island Sound.

He claims the town’s restrictive policy violates the First Amendment’s right to free association and Connecticut law. The case was dismissed last year, but Leydon has appealed. The court is expected to hear more arguments later this year.

Locals celebrated when the trial court tossed out his claims _ one person said, anonymously, that he needed a ``good old-fashioned spanking.″ But the undercover sting conducted to uphold the town’s ``zero tolerance″ beach policy has the outsiders again calling the insiders a bunch of rich snobs.

The caper went down like this: Victor Consoli, 34, allegedly placed an ad in the Greenwich Time newspaper seeking beach passes ``For prof’l Stamford cpl w/child. $100 + expenses.″

Readers and the town’s own parks agency complained; police set up their mark.

Detective Mark Larobina called Consoli and said he was a Greenwich resident interested in selling two passes. They arranged to meet. At a McDonalds restaurant.

Larobina said Consoli handed over $100 for the two passes.

``That’s when I advised him I was, in fact, a police officer,″ Larobina told the Greenwich Time. ``He was more disappointed than anything else. Disappointed and shocked.″

Consoli was charged with violating an ordinance that prohibits anyone but a town resident from obtaining or possessing a beach pass. He can either pay a $60 fine or plead innocent and request a hearing.

Consoli did not return messages left at his home Thursday, and no one answered the door at his Stamford home, near the Greenwich town limits.

Police Capt. James Walters said his officers staged the sting because of ``the level of concern for the safety and security of the beaches.″

Walters also couldn’t understand why the suspect went to such lengths to get the passes, despite the town’s highly publicized policy.

``I think it was a bit ridiculous, to be perfectly honest with you,″ he said. ``The man lives in Stamford and has access to several beautiful beaches in Stamford, and for whatever reason, he was so intent on obtaining a Greenwich beach pass, I just don’t know.″

Residents, meanwhile, are applauding that the sanctity of their shore has again been upheld.

``It’s so crowded now,″ Deck said at Greenwich Point, ``if we ever let it open to outsiders, you’d never be able to come here.″

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