Crisis! The Hamptons Are a Sewage-Swamped, Caviar-Deficient Mess

Crisis! The Hamptons Are a Sewage-Swamped, Caviar-Deficient Mess
Imagine snow on this beach, no caviar, and poop water everywhere. Also people with guns. Image:Kena Betancur / AFP (Getty Images)

During the earlier stages of the pandemic, many wealthy people with second homes in the Hamptons decided that living in New York was no longer a tenable solution, and decamped for their beach houses to wait it out. Some of these people came back after the coast was clear, using whatever calculus for personal safety to justify both their returns and their initial exits. Others have stayed. And now that winter is here, the people that remained in their beach homes are having a rough time. 🙁

Vanity Fair published a delightful little report from the front lines of Easthampton, where it sounds like shit is getting Purge-adjacent: there’s no caviar, no one can find ammo for the guns they bought in March, and there’s poop water everywhere because on Long Island there are no sewers. Tripp, call the Jitney, pour me a gin and tonic in my Yeti mug, and get me to Sagaponack, stat!

Now that winter is fully here, and there are still a few months yet to go before the outside is open, those who have made the Hamptons their home-home are struggling to find the amenities that were previously available to them. Food is a particular issue; though I do not think anyone who has made their summer home a permanent home for the foreseeable is in any danger of starving, there are some nice things they are accustomed to that they simply cannot find:

Farm stands selling organic greens have closed, and just try getting your hands on a tin of caviar. At Citarella in East Hampton, demand for truffles, uni, and caviar has “doubled to tripled” due to “a different type of winter than ever before,” said Ronde Coletta, a Citarella spokesperson. At times, she said, the store has sold out completely.

Though I am not personally in the market for caviar, uni, or truffles, I have to imagine that if the people in question were to return to New York, they would find all of these necessities on the shelves of their local Whole Foods. Organic greens, while delicious when purchased at a farm stand with the dirt and the dew still clinging to their stems, are available in those stupid clamshells at any bodega if you look hard enough. If the food situation in the Hamptons is as untenable as Vanity Fair says it is, then I am wondering what the hell these people are eating, because another problem that the city refugees are encountering is poop water.

For those who aren’t sewage aficionados, that’s who you call to clean out the tank that holds the solid matter that exits your toilet. In other regions, a municipally maintained sewer system would do the job. Much of Long Island is sewer-less.
This, the pandemic has revealed, is news to owners of cottages and eight-bedroom mansions with ocean views alike, many of whom were seemingly unaware that the system has to be emptied regularly. That’s sparked emergency calls for systems that have completely failed. And failure isn’t pretty. “It could be lawn seepage, or it could back up into the house—the basement, the tub or washer or toilet—wherever it can exit,” said Danielle Quackenbush, co-owner of the company. “If you’re doing laundry or have just taken a bath, it could be a lot. If you have a water filtration system, it could happen while you’re out.”

Long Island is essentially a sandbar upon which people have decided to live, so these sewage issues make sense to me! It also makes sense to me that no one living in a Hamptons house that was meant to be a part-time occupancy would be aware of things like septic tanks and their maintenance. However, if I were a homeowner in the Hamptons (god help me), and I decided to stay in my fancy big home for the winter, I might do some research into things like “where does the poop go when it’s done” and “should I stay here or will I turn into Jack Nicholson from The Shining? No one looked into the former, and the latter is a bit more worrisome. It seems that all of these people have guns?!

Yes, well-heeled first-time gun owners are experiencing a shortage of bullets for the weapons they purchased in March to safeguard their Clorox stockpiles. “Prices for ammo were already going up and it was getting hard to get,” said one local gun enthusiast, a self-described “Jewish Buddhist who trains with military-grade weapons” who uses the shooting range as a form of “meditation.” He said he was bombarded with calls in March from friends wanting to arm themselves, and now says they’re getting calls from those who can’t find ammunition. “Then it fell off the market. It was gone.”
Why did so many people in the Hamptons suddenly panic-buy guns? “Why do people stock up on toilet paper?” he said. “It’s the mob mentality.”

I’ve been to the Hamptons once, to Montauk for a weekend. I slept in a van because we were being “scrappy” and also, didn’t really plan for how long it would take to drive back to Brooklyn. It was nice, the beaches were lovely, and I understand why people might want to stay there. However, the Hamptons are now, in my mind, a war zone where the streets are full of doo-doo and everyone is armed, dangerous, and hangry because the Citarella is out of caviar. No thank you! Good luck.

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