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July 6th, 2004

Curmudgeon’s Corner

by Sean Jaeger

Death and taxes whacked the heavenly Hamptons harder than late snows this year. Trouble in paradise seemed to lurk wherever you looked and TV trucks popped up like spring crocuses on both sides of the canal. Quentin Tarantino does Peyton Place on the beach.

In this corner, actually Riverhead, not far from Tanger Mall and BJ’s, Daniel Pelosi is on trial, charged with killing Theodore Ammon, the then husband of his (Pelosi’s) wife to be. Later he took the wife’s ashes to a Manhattan bar for a few drinks, after they separated and after she died of cancer. You can’t make this stuff up.

Not far away came the case of two burning cars, a burned man and a murdered woman.?Ǭ A flaming Toyota Camry lit up the sky near Hampton Bays in late February. That car belonged to Vinessa Hoera?Ǭ and she had vanished after leaving work in Westhampton Beach the day before. Some thirty miles away but not far from the same time, another burning car, and a young man who had apparently escaped from the flames. He suffered critical burns, so bad they induced a light coma to give him a chance to survive and heal at nearby Stony Brook hospital. The name of the burned man, Fausto Chavez, and he worked at the same Westhampton Beach Seafood store as the woman who vanished, Vinessa Hoera. Could there be a connection, or do cars just break out in flames all over Suffolk county some fine mornings? More than a month later Fausto Chavez was charged with arson, for the fire in the Toyota Camry of Vinessa Hoera. It was suggested his injuries came from that fire. But some would ask how a critically burned man goes about scattering burning cars around Long Island. Then, seven weeks after she vanished Vinessa Hoera’s body was discovered in the Pine Barrens. A person or persons unknown had cut her throat. As of the beginning of May, the charges against Fausto Chavez still covered only arson, in the case of the burning Camry (charges which have now been upgraded to murder one). But questions remain. Did he know where the body was? How could one man scatter two burning cars and a body around a thirty mile stretch of Long Island? What happened to the heavenly Hamptons?

Now if ever there was a man who needed a break it must have been Ira Rennert, who has been building a Xanadu in the dunes in Sagaponack to rival Kubla Khan’s fondest dreams. Those geniuses from Ohio who did the Southampton town reassessment figured out a way to increase the assessed value of Rennert’s ocean front monster, and at the same time to reduce his taxes by 16 percent: $75,000 down to $392,610. Let’s see, his pleasure place is now assessed at $170 Million. So if taxes are shared out equally, some soul with a cheap $1.7 million mansion should be paying less than $4000 in taxes. Huh? Not likely.

Properties were flying off the shelves in the Hamptons, but for everyone who thinks it is time to buy there has got to be someone who thinks it is time to sell. You have got to ask what happens to carrying charges if interest rates ever really go up. Is that the rule, what goes down must go up?

Right now six grand a month will carry the freight on a million dollar plain vanilla thirty year fixed mortgage and fancy ARMS can give money a lot more legs than that. But a one percent hike in interest rates can lead to a ten percent hike in payments, and remember real estate tax hikes. If that mortgage rate goes up to ten per cent that million dollar loan suddenly costs nine grand a month to feed. That’s a big difference.?Ǭ We’re talking fifty percent here, folks.

Benjamin Franklin said long ago nothing is certain but death and taxes. Could he have been almost as far sighted when we wrote there no such thing a good war or a bad peace. Speaking of bad wars, one major connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Ladin is that they both carried guns for Uncle Sam. Before Saddam became a bad guy for invading Kuwait he was our good guy for fighting Iran. And Uncle Sam loved Osama Bin Laden and the mujahedeen back when they were fighting the Soviet bad guys in Afghanistan.

And now, those really cute pictures from Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. The place was already notorious around the world as a center for abuse, torture and murder. So why go there? Open the doors. Open the gates. Make it a memorial to those who died there unjustly. Turn it into a hospital, or a library or a museum. But please don’t even think about picking up the keys, locking the doors on another generation of prisoners and taking on the image of just another jailer in hell. Why?

Real Estate, Real Money, Real Dirty Secrets

The dirty little secret of the oh so hip Hamptons comes out again. Arty froth provides a flimsy disguise for a cultural wasteland. Another dirty little secret. Real estate trumps everything. That promises to provide a neutron bomb to blow away the sprinkling of cultural dust at Long Island University’s Southampton College. Could it be the overpowering smell of the profits from up to a hundred, two million dollar homes on the beautiful campus? Until recently that land was a bit of a bastard child, surrounded by railroad tracks, hi tension power lines, the highway and Montauk highway. Now suddenly there is gold in them thar hills, zoned residential.

Perhaps someone should mention that Chancellor Robert F.X. Sillerman wasn’t chosen for his academic credentials. He is a very rich man who is supposed to know other very rich men, who should be convinced to donate money. Ante up or amble off. But don’t glom the goodies. After all the cumulative deficit of?Ǭ $77 Million, after 40 years, comes to a puny average of $2 Million a year. The whole pile barely amounts to chump change for some Hampton players, like Mr. Sillerman himself, and Ira Rennert, whose humble ocean-side abode is about the same size as the whole college. Hey, it’s tax deductible. You going to take it with you? Maybe some of the artists like Sienfeld, Speilberg, and Billy Joel should ante up. And the town fathers, with the hand out. Rezone the place now, as non divisible and only zoned for single colleges and universities offering undergraduate and graduate degrees, with special provisions for ancillary institutions affiliated with the University, like art museums, libraries, full scale live theaters, concert halls, and the like. No one will bid under the table for land that is worth nothing except as a university, except a university. There is only one way to look at this. It’s a land grab. Time for the robber barons to emulate Andrew Carnegie. Stop grabbing and start donating.

Sean Jaeger

Filed Under: Articles | Politics | the Hamptons

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