I think there is now a war going on in the Hamptons between the summer people and the locals. There didn’t used to be one. But since about 2000, when the gap between the wealthy and the less fortunate began to widen big time everywhere, its effects were especially felt here in the Hamptons.
Today, millionaires and billionaires dominate this community. Before 2000, however, a vibrant, small-town local community made a living doing regular kinds of work. They’d become insurance salesmen, opticians, lawyers, doctors, farmers, fishermen, merchants, journalists, business owners and politicians.
But now many have moved away. Can’t afford to live in the Hamptons. As a result, the fabric of this small town has begun to crumble.
Fact is, local kids now grow up to serve the rich here. They become chauffeurs, valets, landscapers, nannies, cooks, security people, restaurant servers, swimming and tennis instructors, pool people and baymen and, at the high end, real estate agents to sell astronomically priced properties that bring high commissions.
Through it all, local people continue to hold government jobs. They are still mayors, town supervisors, judges, highway superintendents, ordinance inspectors and police officers.
So, perhaps rightly, they’ve still got some control of the situation.
You do have to consider, however, that the locals have succeeded in what they wanted. Until about 2000, they yearned for the area to become a world-class resort.
Now it’s happened. They got what they asked for.
What they didn’t count on, however, was that these 300-year-old communities would be compromised. It’s now sounded an alarm.
Some of the very wealthy — perhaps just a small percentage of them — behave selfishly. Money talks. They trample all over everybody because of it. And they couldn’t care less. And so resentments grow.
Restaurants. There are people who, instead of calling up and reserving a table at a restaurant for a particular evening — something ordinarily done without cost — now pay huge sums — reportedly as much as five figures — to reserve a particular table at a particular restaurant for certain days for the entire summer, even if the table remains empty on certain nights when they don’t show up.
Homes. Local people stand by silently when the homes they grew up in are torn down and replaced with homes 10 times the size — many in a neighborhood of small local homes. And then the homebuyers who did this, creating an elephant in a nice community, only come out for summer weekends, about 25 days a year.
As the years go by, it’s become an endlessly increasing conversation-stopper much of the day in this community. Efforts to create rules to reduce this noise have been announced, but they resulted in lawsuits from those flying in the rich that have currently stopped these rules from going into effect.
Six weeks ago, the owner of an aircraft company called Blade Air Mobility that brings passengers out from the city requested that a judge punish the owners of the airport — it’s owned by the town — by requiring them to pay him for limiting the total number of flights that can take place.
Here was the reasoning of Blade’s owner and his co-plaintiffs: The town is now requiring that planes and helicopters power down completely before loading and unloading passengers and cargo.
As a result, the plaintiffs say, it takes longer for the helicopter pilots to restart their engines and get ready for takeoff again, thus reducing the number of times a day he can bring patrons in and out.
Low-Cost Housing. There’s a plan afoot to tax a tiny percentage of real estate transactions in the five East End towns 0.05% when sold, to raise money for low-cost housing. It will be on the ballot in November. It could bring in $20 million every year.
The rich will be for this tax because the funds raised could result in more workers in the Hamptons to do the things the rich need done. Currently, there is a shortage of such workers because there is almost no low-cost housing.
The locals will be for this because they think this will result in a restoration of their historic community.
Little Things. Here’s two stories a local told me. He needed to get a screen door repaired because his dog had clawed holes in the screen. So he called up a store in town that repairs screens and asked them how long it would take to repair if he brought it in. They’d fixed screens before. Cost was about $80 for the fix. He was told it would be at least four weeks before they could get to it. So then he asked if just possibly he could get it repaired in a shorter period of time. He was told yes. However, there would be a fee for this “emergency:” $200.
He also wanted to get a fence on his property replaced. It was about 150 feet in length. The cost, he was told, would be $5,900. It seemed fair. So he said yes. But when he asked when it could be done he was told October. But only if, now, six months earlier, he sent them a check for $3,000 in June to be put on the list for October. He said never mind.
Conclusion. Locals have put up with a lot. Traffic is ridiculous. Parking is almost non-existent. Almost all the stores and restaurants downtown have become so high-end they are no longer affordable. (In March, a pocketbook store in East Hampton Village was robbed of nearly 50 designer handbags retailing from $1,090 up to $3,050 each. What? $3,050 each? Yup.)
Well, there are shopping malls now to shop in that they can afford. And Costco.
Can the locals win the war to bring back a thriving small town community of farmers and fishermen going back 350 years?
I think they are trying to give it a go.