On July 3, Brett Barna, a 31-year-old portfolio manager at a Wall Street hedge fund, held an Independence Day party at a 14-bedroom mansion in Sag Harbor.
“About 500 people attended the charity fundraiser,” said a spokesperson for Mr. Barna.
Barna also had a bunch of dwarfs dressed in red-white-and-blue costumes and a whole lot of Champagne.
Barna did not own the house. He’d made an arrangement, through a real estate contact, with investor Omar Amanat, 43, who owns the house but lives full-time in New Jersey.
According to Amanat, Barna told him the party would be for 50 people and it would be a fundraiser for Last Chance Animal Rescue. A spokesperson for Barna says, “Mr. Barna informed Mr. Amanat in advance that he planned to hold a large charity fundraiser for several hundred people at the house,” adding, “Mr. Barna did not tell Mr. Amanat that there would be just 50 guests.”
The price was $27,000, Barna said, but just before the party, Amanat asked for more money, and after the party an associate of Amanat’s demanded Barna pay an extra $13,000 for the use of the house, to cover the cost of damage done by Barna’s party, although, as Barna told the Times, there wasn’t any to justify this. Barna wouldn’t pay more. Barna didn’t have cash on hand at the time of the original deal, he said, so it went as a transaction through Airbnb.
“Mr. Barna was the target of a misinformation campaign by the owner of the home, Omar Amanat, after he declined to pay more than agreed for a house that had been double-booked to another group of 25 tenants for the same weekend,” Barna’s spokesperson says.
The party was well covered by the media. The New York Post described it as A WOLF OF WALL STREET STYLE RAGER. It was categorized as a Sprayathon. This is something new on the party scene. Crowds of partygoers assemble around a pool, and a great number of Champagne bottles are popped, with the spray showered onto the attendees. It’s being done in New York City and at some party clubs in the Hamptons. Go to napaspray.com and you’ll see how it’s done in California.
Anyway, photo and video coverage of the party shows pizza slices and bottles floating in the pool, a DJ exhorting the crowd, people whistling and screaming and all sorts of other things going on.
After the party, Barna disputed the charges on his credit card, because he did not have full use of the house. There had been other renters using the house, he said. According to The New York Times, he said he had his security people, including a retired police chief, keep the revelers out of the house, and he had the whole thing only outside, around the pool. He also had eight portable toilets, the story said.
Barna told the Times he’d received texts from Amanat, which he had saved. One said, “I’ll keep my cool for another 24 hours, then I’ll handle things another way.” Later, another text came from this phone. “When you least expect it one night, something so unspeakably bad is going to happen to you (maybe its karmic law, maybe it’s a friend of mine who heard what you did to me.) Personally, I won’t do a thing to you.”
With the party over, Amanat told the Post his house and property were trashed and that he was going to sue Barna. But Barna’s spokesperson refutes these claims, explaining, “Mr. Barna hasn’t received any notice of any legal action against him by Mr. Amanat or anyone else as a result of his fundraiser.”
Amanat also said to the Post that “the animals were the people, a thousand of them…I am not surprised Brett got fired. A friend of mine who has been staying at the house knows Louis Bacon (founder and CEO of Moore Capital Management) and his wife personally and called them directly to tell them about the destruction Brett’s party caused. The friend said Louis was appalled and fired Brett immediately.”
Moore Capital Management released a statement about it. It reads “[Barna’s] personal judgment was inconsistent with the firm’s values,” and yes, he was fired.
Barna, who had worked at MCM for seven years, told the Times that the party was “good clean fun,” but that if he were to do it again, he probably would not have hired the costumed dwarfs. He also said that his party raised $100,000 for Last Chance Animal Rescue.
“We raised $100,000 to save animals that would otherwise be killed in rural municipal animal shelters. These animals will now live on to become loved members of families across Long Island,” Last Chance Animal Rescue founder Whitney Knowlton says of the event. “This year’s fundraiser doubled what we raised last year with half as many attendees,” Knowlton continues, adding, “We were very surprised by the initial media coverage of our fundraiser because it described an event very different from the one we held.”
On July 13, according to The New York Times, Omar Amanat was arrested at his New Jersey home by federal authorities on fraud charges relating to a wire and security matter involving an internet startup called Kit Digital. This has nothing to do with this party in Sag Harbor.
This is the kind of story that makes you proud to be in the Hamptons. Nothing like this goes on at the Jersey Shore.
* * *
And this brings me to another story.
On Saturday, July 23 at 2 p.m., exactly 10 days after Mr. Amanat was arrested, there was a knock at our front door. A handsome young man of about 30 was there, carrying a note to me and a bottle of wine. He was there, he said, because he had rented the house next door to mine and was intending to have a party that day. The wine was a gift for any disruption it might cause us. He handed me the note.
“Dear Neighbor,” it read. “I just want to say hello and let you know that we are having some friends over for a BBQ today, which will end at 9 p.m.. Please let me know if the music is too loud—my number is 212-xxx-xxxx. We are having our guests park away from here so hopefully our party is relatively tame :-). Please take this wine as a gift for any inconvenience.
Thank you! John.”
I was rather impressed by this. I live on a residential street, and from time to time the neighbors on either side of me have a big party such as this. It’s good if it’s once a year. You just put up with it. And this was good manners.
“How many people?” I asked.
“Fifty,” he said.
I told him I would let him know if we had a problem.
“We’ll try to aim the music in the opposite direction,” he said.
That afternoon, he had his party and he kept his word. It was pretty loud until six, and then everyone was gone, we expect to one or another of the clubs in the area.
On the other hand, it does make me wonder what is happening to our residential neighborhoods. This house next to mine used to be the vacation home of a schoolteacher and his wife and his family. Yes, they had a party once a year, but it was for family and friends. On the other side of me lives a local family with pickup trucks who do the same.
The house the schoolteacher owned is being used as a summer rental. I looked it up on the internet by its address. It was rented this summer and so was not listed for this year. But for last year’s rental, info was. It was for rent for $35,000 a month, water view, pool, five bedrooms.
When I was visiting my neighbors in the old days, it was a three-bedroom house. Something must have been added on, or internal changes made, one presumes legally. But what family needs a five-bedroom house? It shouts summer rental and summer share house. Five bedrooms, 10 people, 10 weekends!
I’m not saying it is. But the truth is that it has come alive every weekend so far this summer, not with 50 people, maybe 15 people. They party. I can hear them and see them. Not so loud that I’d complain about it. But the truth is, this residential neighborhood is going. The times are changing, and I’m not sure we can do much about it, other than to take a zero off the price of all real estate property offerings.