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It could have been a scene out of “Billions,” the Showtime series about a larger-than-life hedge fund villain, Bobby Axelrod, who drew the ire of federal prosecutor Chuck Rhodes after the mogul paid $63 million for a beach house in the Hamptons.

The TV scene played out at Axelrod’s sprawling estate on what’s known as “Billionaire Lane” in Southampton Village — Long Island’s largest hamlet — which Showtime rents from private investor Michael Loeb. The financier has been known to charge $800 an hour, or $275,000 a month, for the 18,000-square-foot mansion on a nine-acre spread at 1610 Meadow Lane.

But instead of Axelrod decking a fellow hedgie for driving drunk with his kids in tow, what happened in real life was far uglier. On July 15, Loeb, 62, allegedly punched out a teenager who was attending a $500- to $5,000-a-plate fundraiser at his home, a barbeque cook-off with celebrity chefs like Jonathan Waxman serving up ribs to benefit autistic children.

Avery Arjang, 18, had been invited to the event by Loeb’s son, a childhood friend. He ended up with a broken nose, a concussion, and surgery as a result of the pounding that occurred when Loeb allegedly flew into a rage after one of the teens Arjang had brought with him got drunk, threw up, and soiled himself in Loeb’s garage.

The CEO of Loeb Enterprises was charged with misdemeanor assault and pled not guilty. But the saga is far from over. The Southampton police could upgrade the assault to a felony should the damages prove to have long-lasting, serious repercussions, says Arjang’s attorney, Michael Griffin, who estimates that damages could result in a $100,000 lawsuit against Loeb. Neither Loeb nor his attorney returned calls for comment.

It was just another Saturday afternoon in the playground of the rich, the fabulous, and the wanna-bes, where too much sun, booze, and money often come with dire consequences. “At least once or twice a season, people become unhinged,” sighs Griffin.

What is it about the Hamptons — home to gorgeous estates, pristine beaches, and quaint villages — that makes people go crazy? Is it the lack of cell service just about everywhere? Every summer stories abound of drunk revelers trashing houses, crashing cars, and getting into fights, occasionally over property lines. Each year the population of the Hamptons more than triples during the summer, to what is now about a quarter of a million people, all on a slim stretch of land less than 50 miles long. That strains everything from septic tanks (the Hamptons has no sewer lines) to nerves.

As more people find their way here, the popularity of the Hamptons and the money that comes along with it threaten to destroy the qualities that make the place so special. Residents fret about airplane noise, lack of parking, beach erosion, water quality, and the rudeness of the interlopers. Some longtime Hamptons locals believe that a tipping point has been reached. East Hampton Star editor David Rattray, whose family has owned the paper for three generations, is perhaps the most vocal.

“The region has reached a point at which growth should actually be reversed,” he wrote in an editorial earlier this summer. “The surge of summer residents is well beyond what any rational planner would consider a sustainable level, given all the constraints dictated by the landscape, lack of sewage treatment, and limited roadways and emergency services, to name but a few.”

Alas, the Hamptons scene in the summer of 2017 showed little sign of slowing down. Real estate was coming back, art was selling, Airbnb was bringing in the riffraff, and restaurants were catering to young Wall Streeters by trying (illegally) to turn themselves into nightclubs. Never mind the bacteria in the water.

The storied end of the South Fork of Long Island known as the Hamptons is a state of mind for New Yorkers. It’s the ultimate getaway from the steamy summer grit and grime of the big city, a paradise where — if you’re wealthy enough to own a ten-bedroom manse with tennis courts, a pool, and staff — you should finally be able to relax away from the frenzied life on Wall Street. You can see the stars; walk on wide, sandy beaches; and swim naked in your infinity pool. Because it’s full of New Yorkers, of course, it’s also a place to see and be seen — for everyone from young hedge fund managers looking to hook up in Montauk to bankers hoping to cut deals to politicians raising money for their next campaigns to socialites soaking the rich for worthy causes on tented lawns in Southampton.

“There’s too much money and too much ego,” says longtime Sag Harbor resident Mark Borghi, who runs an art gallery, Mark Borghi Fine Art, in Bridgehampton. “I’ve been coming out here for 30 years, and every year it gets worse. It’s exponential.” Just going to the neighborhood café to buy a cup of coffee can rile him. “People go in front of you in line because they feel they are entitled,” he grouses.


The modern fascination with the  Hamptons was largely spurred by bohemian artists, particularly post–World War II abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock, who lived in the woodsy working class hamlet of Springs, adjoining East Hampton. That’s where he made his famous drip paintings in a barn and became the greatest living American painter of the era. In a classic case of Hamptons excess, Pollock, at the age of 44, died in the summer of 1956 when he was driving drunk and his car spun out of control less than a mile from his home and hit a tree, as he and two female companions were en route to a party. Now the aging farmhouse he and Lee Krasner, his wife, bought for $5,000 in 1945 is a National Historic Landmark museum, including the barn. Visitors must wear special foam shoes to walk on its paint-splattered floors.

Fast-forward to the 21st century, and there are no bohemians of any sort to be found. The Hamptons is dotted with billionaire art collectors (hedge fund legend Steve Cohen once paid $52 million for a Pollock), pricey art galleries, a couple of museums, and an art fair — though two other fairs were shut down this year. Still, Borghi insists business has been brisk this summer at his gallery, which sells small works by the likes of abstract expressionists Willem DeKooning and Helen Frankenthaler. Borghi says one man walked in off the street and plopped down $375,000 for a painting this year, his biggest sale of the summer.

Now when clients ask him if they should come to the Hamptons, he jokes, “I tell them, ‘There’s nothing to do. Don’t waste your time.’”

One problem is that before you get to paradise, you have to endure one big traffic jam. Whether you’re driving a Honda Civic or a Mercedes SUV, you’ve got to wait. On a recent Friday night, there was a ribbon of cars as far as the eye could see on Montauk Highway, the road that traverses the Hamptons. More than 50,000 cars a day cross the highway at Southampton in July, according to the New York Department of Transportation. “The growth happened pretty quickly, and our infrastructure can’t keep up,” says Laura Tooman, president of Concerned Citizens of Montauk, an environmental group.

Driving isn’t the only way to get there, either. For just $695 one way, billionaires can travel via helicopter from midtown to either East Hampton or Southampton, a trip that takes 35 minutes. About 70 aircraft fly into the East Hampton airport daily. And for the plebeian day-trippers and weekend revelers heading out to the honky-tonk that Montauk has become, there’s always the bus — the Hampton Jitney — for $33 one way, or the slightly cheaper Long Island Rail Road, which offers a $29.25 one-way peak-hour ticket.

No wonder the überwealthy stay ensconced behind their hedges. “I never leave my house once I get here,” says one hedge fund manager.

The crush of people has occurred despite the fact that the Hamptons keeps getting more and more expensive, with more people priced out of the market and a steady exodus of locals. The previously sleepy hamlets of Montauk, once a fisherman’s port, and Sag Harbor, a former whaling village where writers have congregated for decades, have seen some of the biggest booms in recent years, according to realtors. Sotheby’s International Realty reports that during the second quarter of 2017, Sag Harbor home prices jumped an average of 21 percent, to $1.9 million.

It’s true that Hamptons real estate took a dive after the financial crisis, but prices recovered to peak around the end of 2014. Sales in second-quarter 2017 were the best in two years, according to Douglas Elliman, which reports that most of the action continues to be at the very high end. The overall average sales price in the Hamptons for that quarter was $2.5 million, with the average sales price jumping 28 percent. Sales above $10 million doubled.

With the stock market riding high this year, some also see the frothy market as a good time to sell. Goldman Sachs co-chair J. Michael Evans owns the second-most-expensive property on the market this summer. It is a multiple-home spread, with two putting greens, two swimming pools, and tennis courts on 16 acres in Southampton, with an asking price of $150 million. In mid- August another Southampton waterfront estate, once owned by the Ford family, bested that price, listing for $175 million.

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