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February 9th, 2007

The Hamptons

by D. Clark MacPherson

While Manhattan ponders the market, the Hampton brokers dream. They mostly dream about the fantasy market where houses actually sell. Actually it isn’t that bad–it’s worse. Recently a broker was describing how there really is activity in the market despite what everyone has been saying. His office sold two houses in one week, one for $575,000 and another for $450,000. After a long silence, he admitted that nothing was selling at all between $900,000 and $2,000,000. That’s a big between. Like the between that separates what used to be rich people, and what is now the so-called middle to upper-middle class. You know the people that keep the economy in motion and actually pay taxes?

Republicans have lost control of Congress, although you wouldn’t know it on the East End. There’s just one big happy party. Congressman Tim Bishop (D), Assemblyman Fred Thiele (R), and Southampton Town Supervisor Skip Heaney all party together no matter who is in the White House or Congress, and for good reason. With the help of the Democratic Party and its Chair Rich Schaeffer, the cross-endorsement technique has worked wonders. It actually has made the democratic process of voting practically irrelevant. It’s sort of like the Iranian version of democracy. We pick the candidates, the press cooperates and blacks out any coverage on candidates who challenge our choices, and we cross-endorse the front-runner so that there is only one candidate. And we have the nerve to criticize the middle-east for not embracing democracy! Treewolf West, candidate for Assembly, was incredulous about the fact that the press worked so well together. Neither the Southampton Press nor Suffolk Life gave West any copy, and Fred Thiele, his opponent, got lots of news coverage. The apparent instructions from the Democratic/Republican Cross-Endorsement machine were to keep West out of the news. While he remained philosophical, he couldn’t help but wonder about our democratic traditions.

Some Hamptons residents are not happy with the treatment at Southampton Hospital–the billing treatment, that is. It seems that billing practices are less than egalitarian, according to some of theirformer patients.

Apparently the billing practices are so slipshod (or downright punitive) that routine treatment which patients are told is covered by insurance, often results in bad credit reports. It seems that the Emergency Room Radiology billing (through Medical Data Resources in Riverhead) is so bad, that unpaid balances which are submitted to insurance carriers are quickly turned over to one “popular” collection agency by the name of S. Sokoloff. Payment for treatment or services which are covered by insurance can take a while to reach the provider, but it is against the law to report negative credit during the payment period. Former patients find out that they did not have the coverage they had thought they had or that payment is delayed, but the bill has often already been placed with a collection agency and their credit is fucked. In some cases the bill, which is ultimately the patient’s responsibility, has been sent to the wrong address. The Sokoloff agency would not return any of our phone calls and is described as totally unresponsive.

Think twice about where you go for medical treatment. Think three times about leaving without a paid in full bill. Only worry about billing, unless you’re heading for the morgue.

If you expect to live, you might want to find out about whether business arrangements between the billing department and the collection agency are a little too close.

Just when you thought East End politicians don’t give a damn, we were unexpectedly advised that East Hampton Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach reads the SoHo Journal. As one of the few voices other than the party line in Hamptons politics, the Journal contacted the Mayor for some of his views. Apparently, this former Detective Sergeant on the East Hampton Police force took office in 1992 and has been enjoying a long tenure in office. And, what we found interesting about Mayor Rickenbach is the fact that his administration is aware of the New York taxpaying property-owner base that enjoys homes in Manhattan as well as on the East End–and he professes an understanding of the “commonality of interests” with local residents. We mentioned the fact that homeowners in Southampton routinely receive “Criminal Summonses” for simple property violations, which go immediately to “Arrest Warrant” if they are not received, or mailed, and he said that East Hampton Village takes such problems very seriously and tries to “act in good faith.” Perhaps such aware politicians should become the norm in the Hamptons: a savvy Hamptons politician, now there’s a new concept.

Contrary to the rule of law, the Southampton Town Justice Court continues to run things like the “Wild East.” Violations for problems as simple as a missing house number can rally Renee, Chief of the Court Administration to mail a “Criminal Summons” to the offending homeowner. The notice is simply dropped in the mail, even though such a notice legally requires personal service by, at the very least, a police officer. Should the address be incorrect or out of date, should the mail not reach the recipient (as often happens), or should the offending party not be able to drive 100 miles during a work day and Voila, an Arrest Warrant! That doesn’t get served either, unless the Southampton Town police are in Manhattan for a party and want to have some fun dragging a homeowner back to the Hamptons in their cruiser. Oh, and by the way, the Justice Court is still in violation of the rule requiring them to hold evening session at least once a month which allows working people to get justice–and keep their jobs. So much for justice in the Hamptons.

Filed Under: Commentary | Politics | the Hamptons

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