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September 3rd, 2008


by Sean Jaeger

Batten down the hatches, board up the windows, belt your butt to the mast.

It’s a perfect storm, an economic nor’easter, and like the actress said to the bishop, “Hang on. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

Some of the top economists in the country say this sucker of a storm isn’t going to blow over any time soon. In fact we are looking at years of low to negative growth. Some are not talking recession anymore. They are whispering warnings about the big “D” word. That’s D for depression, D for desperate times, D for drowning in debt, D for do you remember 1929?

Take a look around you. Housing prices are plummeting, with foreclosures multiplying like flies on dead meat. Oil prices are skyrocketing. Stock markets here and around the world are falling off a cliff. Inflation is boiling over. The job market looks like the California hills: nothing but scorched earth. And the dollar is not even a 98 pound weakling. It’s falling like a rock overseas and going downhill fast at the supermarket, the gas pump, the drug store, and about any place else you might want to buy something.

What do you call it if they are taking away your house, you’ve got no money, you’ve got no job, and you are going deeper in debt?

D for depressing.

The whole country is beginning to look like a remake of The Grapes of Wrath, with banks failing, desperate savers lined up on the street trying to get their money out before the fall, people being evicted from their homes, and more homelessness every day.

And don’t forget, with both milk and gas heading toward five bucks a gallon and no relief in sight, those economic geniuses in Washington keep saying there is no inflation.

D for dumb.

Inflation isn’t the only thing going up in the Hamptons. Another flurry of prejudice swirled around Westhampton Beach in a totally phony uproar about a totally symbolic Eruv.Who knew, but once upon a time an Eruv was a symbolic “home” for the more strict among the Jews, an area marked off by string, so they could do things outside normally restricted to inside the house on the Sabbath, things like push a baby carriage to the Synagogue. Of course they could hire a gentile to push their baby carriage for them, an ancient tradition when it comes to lighting candles, but it might not look right.

Now even the string is symbolic, with merely the corners of the area marked out on handy utility poles where the string might have gone.

The high point, or maybe the low point, of this depressing dispute came with fliers from the Westhampton Beach Alliance for the Separation of Church and State. Separating sharply from sanity the Alliance screamed that an Eruv would turn Westhampton Beach into an Orthodox Jewish Community. Now, almost everyone on Long Island lives in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Center. Does that make them Catholic? Does it make Long Island a Catholic community? Most of Westhampton Beach is within the sound of the bells of St.Mark’s Church. Does that make them Episcopalians? Is it like being cockney because you were born within earshot of the bells of St. Mary-le-bow in London? Is Westhampton Beach an Episcopal village? Did the whole village turn Irish when they painted a green stripe down Main Street for St. Patrick’s Day? Some of these people bear a suspicious resemblance to those who want to ban certain books from the school library.

Putting up village Christmas trees is fine. Prayer in school is good. Breaking up the pledge of allegiance to wedge “under God” into it is great. But suddenly a couple of symbolic markers high up on some ugly utility poles threaten to violate separation of church and state? These people want to choose their church and everybody else’s too. What this country needs is another declaration of independence from busybodies who want to impose their views and morality on everybody else but feel free to go out and sin themselves.

It’s sort of like affordable housing. Politicians bemoan the lack of it around election time but the old guard in the Hamptons wants nothing to do with affordable housing. The last time someone suggested it in Quogue they got nothing but threats for their trouble. Create affordable housing and who knows who might move in?Why do you think there are so few condos in the Hamptons and traffic was such a mess? The powers that were in the Hamptons didn’t want condos or wide roads. They wanted to keep people out of their private little playground. The only affordable housing they want is housing reserved for their sons and daughters. No one else need apply. Then there’s short-term affordable housing, summer shares, and group-grope houses for yuppie puppies. Actually much of the Hamptons was built on boarding houses and rooming houses—and very posh places some of them were, far different from the wall to wall mattress crash pads making headlines in the local rags. The code enforcement Taliban is running around busting into places, demanding identity papers, sending dawn patrol SWAT teams to check smoke alarm batteries, scaring immigrants legal and illegal, counting cars in the driveway and butts in the beds, all in the name of enforcing town building codes. This isn’t law enforcement. It’s intimidation of people those in authority don’t like. Bust the Latinos and harass the house-sharers but don’t bother the village official with an unlicensed bed and breakfast. Some are still more equal than others.

Next time you read about proposals for a new hospital just remember one of the big board members is a top dog from Prudential Elliman Real Estate. They could make a lot of money by selling the idea of a new hospital and selling off the old hospital, which happens to be right smack in the middle of the new estate section of Southampton village.

A multi-million dollar new hospital would become a massive white elephant and a recipe for disaster for everyone except the buyers and sellers. What the Hamptons needs is a hospital administration with a long-term commitment instead of a revolving door collection of career builders at the expense of the hospital. Just remember, the board is the group responsible for picking all these winners.

The Hamptons roller coaster ride is going to get bumpier before it gets better.

Filed Under: Articles | Commentary | Politics | the Hamptons





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