Us vs Them: Hamptons Culture Clash Reaches New Heights

Hamptons culture war cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Sag Harbor is gone, they say. Up until this year, it was the same small town with all the mom-and-pop stores and the narrow streets and tiny houses from the whaling days.

Now, this winter, it turned the corner, they say. Some of the old antique shops and bars that closed at the end of last summer are being replaced by high-end women’s clothing stores. The old Sandbar, this year, is a new restaurant by a New York City celebrity chef who seeks Michelin stars. And on some of the little residential streets, the planning board is approving giant six-bedroom mansions to be called “extensions” to two bedroom cottages. It’s a mess. And the people don’t like it. And that is in spite of the fact that the new mayor is a longtime local village employee.

Hitch up your jeans and get ready. The Hamptons as we know it is over, so over. Get ready for war.

In East Hampton and Southampton Village, communities still controlled by locals, plans are underway to create laws to reduce the square footage that a house could take up on a small lot. Currently, in East Hampton anyway, there are size limits that can prevent megastores. Now they are looking for size limits for summer-people McMansions, and it’s not just five bedrooms instead of six. The phrase “mine is bigger than yours,” is now under attack. There’s a fight by the locals to restore “I love the charm of the village.” The natives are restless. But can they make this change?

The locals are after the folks that run Airbnb and Uber. This is 21st century stuff. The locals are from the 17th century. A sting operation was put into effect recently. Plainclothes officers from East Hampton hailed taxis to take them from the new “it” destination of Montauk to East Hampton. They were looking for gougers. They were looking for taxis with no taxi permits. They found one driver, an Uber driver, with a blood-alcohol level of .13. On June 5, Uber announced it was withdrawing all its cars and drivers from East Hampton. It’s just a mess.

The locals are up in arms about the Napeague Stretch. Used to be this four-mile stretch of road had a clam bar, a lunch place called “Lunch” and that was about it. Now those are teeming with patrons, as is Cyril’s Fish House, which got set upon by the local authorities when it became the “hot” place to be last year. At the end of the summer, the town board urged the State Liquor Authority to pull Cyril’s liquor license, and they did. But now Cyril’s is open again, and it’s got its liquor license back. It happened at a Liquor Authority hearing in April. Cyril said there were no fights, no drunkenness, no liquor-related violations at his place ever, and he has, for the last four years, closed at 9 p.m. He didn’t want the late-night traffic. They gave him his liquor license back. “The Napeague is a traffic jam,” the East Hampton Star editorialized. “Something must be done. The place was so thick with taxis they parked everywhere. Cyril illegally closed a part of the stretch in front of his bar with traffic cones, so only taxis could park there.”

This spring, the Town of East Hampton passed laws to reduce the noise coming out of East Hampton Airport, which the town owns and runs. Originally to begin May 19, there’d be shorter hours for aircraft coming and going, limits on aircraft rated at 93 decibels and louder. Those in the air travel business sued to stop the laws from going into effect. As a result, the town delayed enforcing the laws as a judge ponders issuing a temporary injunction against the town.

Huge wooden utility poles were put in along King Street and McGuirk Street in East Hampton Village to increase the power quality of that village, and everywhere eastward. The poles mar the North Main Street shopping district. Lawsuits were filed and a temporary injunction obtained, so as of this day the wires on them can still not be electrified.

In Bridgehampton, a large 9,000 square foot CVS project has been withdrawn for the center of town after protesters stood on the site with NO CVS signs shouting at passersby. The 9,000 square foot project was approved with the understanding that no single store exceed 5,000 square feet. CVS planned two 4,500-square-foot stores, one on the first floor and the other on the second and everybody said oh, we get it. The foundations are in. But it now remains a construction site. Yes, the natives are restless.

In Sagaponack, there is a mile of protected potato farmland that extends from Hedges Lane down to the dunes at the sea. It’s a stunning view, precious to the area and protected by the Peconic Land Trust. Last week, the owner of a piece of it who had his application to build a house there rejected, planted Christmas trees across the farmland, that will soon effectively block this great, protected view. He says, “I always wanted to farm this land.”

In Montauk, local environmentalists teamed up with a local surfer organization to file a lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers, which has resulted in the delay, possibly even abandonment, of an emergency $9 million dune-enhancement project in the center of town designed to keep the whole business district from flooding.

And now traffic on the Montauk Highway is completely out of control. Traffic tie-ups are in both directions, and the Town of Southampton recently considered changing traffic lights to flashing yellow lights eastbound in the early morning so nobody could come on the Highway from a side street. That’s been done in other resorts, although in Europe, not in America. If you’re going to drive, you just have to plan ahead. The proposal was withdrawn when the Tuckahoe School said they didn’t see how they could get the school buses to bring the kids to school on time during those hours.

Now comes the final blow, the icing on the cake, the straw that broke the camel’s back. The FDA has approved a little pink pill called Flibanserin that will do for women what Viagra has done for men. The pill, which is an aphrodisiac for women, not a blood flow enhancer to the penis (women do not have penises), has side effects for some, just as Viagra does for men, for some.

Before this summer is out, there will be herds of eager, howling women patrolling the Hamptons, looking for love, using Uber and out-of-town taxis, staying in the Airbnbs, flying in at the East Hampton Airport, ordering the tasting menu at the Michelin-bound restaurants, shopping for high fashion in the new clothing stores in Sag Harbor, for surfing gear, waders and wetsuits in the downtown Montauk surf shops, climbing tall telephone poles, planting Christmas trees and constructing giant McMansions next to cutesy little cottages.

It’s all over. And there’s only one thing to do.

To head off a violent insurrection of locals, the rich people taking over the Hamptons will have to do what they always do, which is to buy off the locals with handfuls of cash, maybe millions of dollars.

Wait. They’re already doing that, buying locals’ two-bedroom homes for seven figures.

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