Hamptons Summer Stories 2022: Pests, Diseases & Pool Rentals

"Killer shark luring in a menhaden" Hamptons cartoon by Dan Rattiner
“Killer shark luring in a menhaden” cartoon by Dan Rattiner

Dan offers a few strange or interesting Hamptons stories leftover from summer 2022.

SWIMMING POOL RENTAL

Some people took to renting out their swimming pools to visitors. The charge would be so much per hour per person. Sign this waiver. There was also talk about renting out your tennis court to visitors by the hour. Or the lawn, for a barbecue. All this sent government officials scurrying to their rule books to see if this was a violation of anything. Didn’t Airbnb go into business this way?

PESTS

Local officials are now seeing more invasive species attacking indigenous flora and fauna. The southern pine beetle for the first time is now chewing on trees in Napeague. A beautiful forest of 3,000 trees has been cut down as a result, so the healthier trees will not be attacked. The remaining trees are now too far away for the beetles to leap from tree to tree to get to them. Meanwhile, the spotted lanternfly, an Asian import that attacks grapevines, is poised to take on many of the vineyards of the East End. Lanternflies have already been seen flying west to east in Ronkonkoma, coming this way.

And bluetongue disease is upon us. Deer get it from eating midges. Their tongues turn blue, they get sick, then really sick and then they die. Motorists seeing dead deer on the side of the road may assume these deer have been hit by cars, but they will have died from bluetongue. And since some people consider deer an infestation needing to be reckoned with, this should thin the herd.

In any case, bluetongue only attacks deer. Not humans. Whew.

Also, a lot more sharks were seen swimming around in the ocean at our bathing beaches this summer. Lifeguards blew their whistles and got everybody out of the water when one appeared. And swimmers would stay out until the sharks left. After all, sharks bite, and big ones can kill, although that hasn’t happened here yet. Seems the sharks are attracted to schools of fish called menhaden which, once having been declared threatened, are now already re-thriving and becoming more abundant. As menhaden feed near shorelines, hungry sharks now come after them. So it’s our own fault.

And monkeypox was in the news this summer for a while.

A MEMORY

In the 1970s, Dutch elm disease, brought on by fungal spores spread by elm bark beetles, attacked the giant elm trees that gloriously lined and overarched both sides of Main Street in East Hampton. Most had to be chopped down, and so landscapers were hired to do that. They chopped the elms for the same reason that pine trees in Napeague are being chopped down today. Don’t let the bugs get to the next one.

But the people who chopped drove trucks that had signs on them reading, “Saving East Hampton Elms.” No room elsewhere on the trucks to explain it any further. So folks thought — saving them by chopping them?

How ironic.

Years later, with the carnage completed, new elms, immune to Dutch elm disease, were brought in. They are there today. Almost as tall, but not quite.

AFFORDING TO LIVE HERE

The public will vote on November 8 on whether or not to place a new tax on real estate sales. The new tax, 0.5% on all sales over $400,000, will be used to build housing for the locals. The well-to-do want it because they need housing for the locals who work for them. The remaining locals want it because they want to bolster their communities. Everybody’s on board. Vote for it.

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