Partying in Hamptons Could Get Harder If One Village Has Its WayBy
East Hampton law would regulate events with 50 or more guests
Steve Cohen says his wife will just ‘throw smaller parties’
The must-have party accessory in the Village of East Hampton could soon be a permit to entertain, printed on an unluxurious scrap of government-issue paper.
A proposed special-events law would require homeowners, including Dan Loeb, Barry Rosenstein, Martha Stewart, Howard Schultz and Steven Spielberg, to apply for permission to host 50 people or more -- including staff -- at events held even partly outdoors.
In this village on Long Island’s South Fork, where parties are the lifeblood of the summer season and oceanfront mansions can cost more than $50 million, the legislation has struck a nerve. While recognizing the importance of public safety, some residents see the proposal as heavy-handed and impractical.
“It’s crazy,” said concert promoter Ron Delsener, who also took aim at the village’s deer-control policies and regulations on the size of homes and pool houses that he and his neighbors near the Maidstone Club are already contending with. He said he plans to ignore the law and pay the fines, which start at $500.
The village board of trustees is scheduled to vote Friday on the proposed law, which would take effect Oct. 1, after the June elections and this summer’s social whirl. Officials said they don’t intend to keep people from entertaining; they simply want advance notice so they can monitor noise and traffic and protect the welfare of its residents. Critics see it as yet another village restriction allowing local officials to exert their power.
“They’re like old co-op boards in New York,” said Norman Benzaquen of investment manager Gilder Gagnon Howe & Co., who has a house near Georgica Pond. “They want a role for themselves.”
Village Administrator Becky Molinaro Hansen said the proposed regulations are similar to ones now on the books, and won’t significantly change what homeowners are already doing. The current statute requires a permit when public parking will be used, or more than the usual amount of trash is generated. Last year, the village issued 64 permits to private property owners. Hansen, who’s in charge of approving permits, said the proposed law will require submitting more event details, allowing the village to plan better for the swell of parties in the high season.
Still, 50 is low compared with other East End jurisdictions. Sag Harbor requires a permit for a party with 75 or more people attending, while Southampton’s cutoff is 100 guests.
Reaching that threshold isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Take a lobster-and-rose lunch on a Saturday for a family of five, prepared by their own chef, served and cleaned up by live-in help. Add the kids’ friends, some house guests, the neighbors and the Goldman Sachs partner you ran into on the golf course, and you’re at 50 people for an impromptu get-together few would call a special event.
“It takes away some of the casualness of having a dinner at your home,” said Alan Patricof, co-founder of Greycroft Partners. “It makes life more complicated.”
Over the quiet winter months, some homeowners banded together in opposition. In village hearings, lawyers for residents including Ron Baron and Charles Phillips argued that some of the proposed law’s language is unconstitutional, especially the part granting police the right to search a property during an event without a warrant. That clause has been removed.
Nine of the village’s clerics expressed concern the law would apply to their weekly worship or other functions. Language was added exempting gatherings held at religious institutions. After Lenny Ackerman, a lawyer who has a house on Georgica Pond, pointed out that a shiva, a Jewish gathering held immediately after the death of a family member, couldn’t be planned 21 days in advance, an addition was made allowing for permit applications to be considered closer to the event.
The village’s five inns could suffer the most under the proposed law, which prohibits special events at such businesses in residential zones. The inn’s defenders have included caterers and waiters who rely on them for income, families who have booked their nuptials and people who’ve held events before.
“Allowing events such as these is exactly what a village should be,” said Charlotte Sasso, owner of Stuart’s Seafood Market in neighboring Amagansett, who hosted her son’s bar mitzvah party at the Hedges Inn.
Mayor Paul Rickenbach, who’s held the office since 1992, said the inns aren’t meant to be party venues. “There’s just been a flaunting of zoning, and what you could do and not do,” he said in a phone interview. “The village is going to draw a line in the sand and say this is primarily a residential community.”
Some well-known seasonal residents are taking a more pragmatic view toward the proposed changes.
“My wife will throw smaller parties,” said hedge fund founder Steve Cohen, who has an art-filled oceanfront home on Further Lane and is building a new one next door.