The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought a crush on new residents to the Hamptons, and while that surge has waned significantly two years later, the sparsely populated winters and springs have taken on a more four-season allure, have said residents and government officials.
It’s harder to get a table at a restaurant in Sag Harbor on winter weekends. Car traffic is on the rise. Garbage collection is still requested. And they said the ever-present affordability crisis for low-wage workers has been exacerbated by soaring housing costs coupled with higher demand.
“I think the loss of seasonality in the East End is certainly mostly pandemic-related,” said Will Flower, of Winter Bros., who has an office in Quogue and provides private garbage collection services in towns. from East Hampton and Southampton, where there is no municipal pickup.
What there is to know
- The 2020 census showed a 20% increase in the population in the towns of East Hampton and Southampton, from 78,247 in 2010 to 97,421 in 2020 – and record property sales in the South Fork driven by the pandemic.
- Southampton 2022 spending plan called for a 5.8% increase to meet growing demand for city services due to nearly 22% population growth in the wake of the pandemic, according to City Supervisor Jay Schneiderman.
- The median home value in the sleepy hamlet of Remsenburg, where there is no downtown or ocean access, has gone from $837,500 in 2019 to $1.74 million in 2021, noted Dawn Watson, real estate agent at Douglas Eliman. Westhampton Beach, known for being less expensive than other South Fork villages, went from a median price of $1.37 million to $1.8 million at that time.
Flower said trash pick-up business increased 30% to 40% for the South Fork division of Winters Bros. in March 2020 and had not decreased. The company’s team of 25 workers in the Hamptons has grown to 33.
“The East End business is much like our garbage business on Long Island now, in that the seasonal fluctuations are much less significant,” he said.
The population trend is reflected in the latest census – which showed a 20% increase in population in the cities of East Hampton and Southampton, from 78,247 in 2010 to 97,421 in 2020 – and record property sales in the South Fork driven by the pandemic.
Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said in his annual budget message last year that the 2022 spending plan called for a 5.8% increase to meet growing demand for city services due to a growing population nearly 22% as a result of the pandemic. Schneiderman, speaking last month, noted that another impact has been record revenues from the city’s Community Preservation Fund, which is funded by a 2% property transfer tax. Southampton received $118m in 2021, down from $80m in 2020 and $43m in 2019.
“We collected more in 2021 in Community Preservation Fund revenue than property tax revenue, which is a first,” Schneiderman said.
Dawn Watson, an agent for estate firm Douglas Elliman, said she was seeing a shift as wealthier clientele snapped up properties in traditionally more affordable areas west of the Shinnecock Canal, even in the city of Brookhaven. She noted that in the sleepy hamlet of Remsenburg, where there is no downtown or ocean access, median home values have fallen from $837,500 in 2019 to $1.74 million. dollars in 2021. Westhampton Beach, once known for being cheaper than other South Fork villages, went from a median price of $1.37 million to $1.8 million at that time, he said. she declared.
“You could have a house that you inherited from your family that your parents bought for $100,000 and you can sell it for a million.”
Dawn Watson, Agent for Douglas Elliman Realty Company
For middle-class people who may have inherited their home or bought in another market, selling now could mean a major improvement in quality of life, Watson said.
“You could have a house that you inherited from your family that your parents bought for $100,000 and you can sell it for a million,” she said. “If you thought about it, you should withdraw money because you’re going to be able to live somewhere else like the rich live in the Hamptons.”
Some indicators suggest that while the South Fork is still busier than years past, this winter hasn’t been as crowded as it was in early 2021 now that vaccines have become widely available. Long Island’s seven-day average of positive COVID-19 cases was 1.68% Thursday, the state said, with no deaths reported in Nassau or Suffolk. A month ago, the positivity rate was over 15%.
State Department of Transportation data shows the average daily commute through the intersection of County Road 39 and the Sunrise Freeway terminus in Southampton, a major thoroughfare, was 39,908 in January 2020. It rose to 42,297 in January 2021 and then declined slightly. at 41,683 in December, the most recent month available. Over the past two years, during the high season in July, more than 44,000 vehicles were on the road.
Backing up, moving or trying to stay put
Rosemary Sharp, who spent the start of the pandemic at her home in Southampton Village while her residence in the city was being renovated, said she felt completely comfortable returning to full-time living at Manhattan once she was fully vaccinated last March. From his point of view, this winter seems closer to years past.
“For the most part, people have gone back to their routines to some extent,” said Sharp, who is in her 60s. “Everyone I knew tried to get vaccinated and vaccinated to feel some semblance of normality.”
Stephen Dubb hunkered down in his Amagansett home at the start of the pandemic, when uncertainty about the virus meant touching an elevator button was stressful. Dubb, 36, director of the Beechwood Organization, which builds developments like the 19-condo The Latch project in Southampton, said one of the perks of living in the East was a quick surf in Montauk before the day of work. But the arrangement was not meant to be permanent, and he, his wife and their daughter, born in May, resumed their full-time lives in New York in September.
“I now see the value of being in the office, in person with people,” he said. “In our work, it’s so much easier to operate and things get done faster, and they get done better. I think hybrid or totally remote working can be really isolating for a lot of people.”
For many, more crowded Hamptons and a booming real estate market have had negative consequences or led to a lifestyle change they hadn’t anticipated.
Marvin Franklin, 73, a porter at the Southampton Stop & Shop grocery store who has a second job cleaning a parking lot, said he moved to Sag Harbor about four years ago because he had family nearby. He originally paid $900 a month to rent a room in a house, but the rate has since risen to $1,000 a month as rental demand skyrocketed, he said. He’s looking elsewhere, but moving to a more affordable neighborhood would mean a longer commute.
“I didn’t want to go all the way to Mastic-Shirley to travel,” Franklin said of a trip that could take over 60 minutes during rush hour. “You know, it’s just too far.”
Others have cashed in their earnings from the Hamptons and are living well elsewhere.
Dell Cullum, a wildlife rescuer who grew up in Amagansett, left last year and said he felt like he’d hit the lottery.
Cullum was renting a two-bedroom house in East Hampton for $2,600 a month, paying ‘too much for too little’, he said while conceding it could be seen as a bargain for the East End .
“Over the past two years, on a scale of 1 to 10, he [rude behavior] went from 8 to 12.’
Dell Cullum, a longtime Amagansett resident who left in 2021
Cullum, 59, described growing up there as living in Mayberry, the setting of 1960s sitcom ‘The Andy Griffith Show’, but said the growing population over the years had destroyed the ‘aura’ of the place. Behaviors he saw as outsiders eroding the quality of life of others — littering, disrespecting wildlife, disrespecting local traffic laws — have dramatically worsened during the pandemic, he said. .
“Over the past two years, on a scale of 1 to 10, he [rude behavior] went from 8 to 12,” he said. “That’s how bad it was.”
After his mother died at 91 in June, Cullum, who was a trustee of East Hampton Town from 2018 to 2020, decided to move.
Last year, he and his wife Dee moved to Hardwick, Mass., a town of about 2,700 people two hours west of Boston. They bought a two-story house that sits 15 feet from a pond — where Cullum watches otters swim — and paid cash.
“Right now, I’m just sitting around, paying my utility bills and enjoying life like I never have before,” Cullum said. “I got my Mayberry back.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect amount for Marvin Franklin’s pre-increase monthly rental rate.