The narrative from the city tabloids and some national, and even international, publications has been clear: The Hamptons is ablaze with class warfare, and COVID-19 has fanned the flames.
Without question, there have been a few instances, and some grousing. Most of it was based on the sensible concern that people fleeing east from New York City, the world’s epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic, might be dangerous for an enclave that has been largely protected. But the same commitment to social distancing that made the region safer has held, and the arrival of new dwellers, whether they might be positive or negative, has not sparked a worsening situation for year-round residents.
Likewise, there were anecdotes of the sort that regularly pique locals: runs on groceries, arrogance in public, more people crowding outdoor facilities. A few celebrities who had the misfortune of having the virus were shamed for perceived lack of social distancing, fair or not. (Poor George Stephanopoulos had the temerity to go to the pharmacy! With a mask on!) The wealthy were called out for enjoying medical care well beyond what most can access, in a society where we’ve rejected universal health care as “socialist.”
It was all static. The overwhelming truth is much less sensational: COVID-19 is a challenge the South Fork has faced together. It has not spared the wealthy, even as it ravaged the working class. There’s no question that the most vulnerable residents have suffered the worst, both in numbers and in impact.
But this community responded in a way that a community should: working together to limit the spread, and gathering resources from those who can afford it to help those who cannot. It won’t make headlines, but this region has been a model of how a diverse cluster of people can survive a crisis — together.
A great example of the quiet dignity and responsibility of this special community, running completely counter to the popular narrative, is the unbidden generosity of a bastion of the 1-percenter presence here: the private golf clubs, some of the most exclusive in the world.
In a recent article, The Press noted that Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton used its existing foundation — which provides a regular pipeline of support to local charities — to tap its members for special donations. They provided more than $100,000, and counting, in funds that were channeled directly to the food pantries in the region that are providing a lifeline to the neediest people in the midst of a crisis. It was significant aid that will provide essential comfort.
But Atlantic wasn’t alone. At least two other clubs have stepped up in similar fashion.
The Bridge Golf Club in Bridgehampton, through its Bridge Golf Foundation, donated $100,000 to the reinvigorated All For The East End charitable organization, which was resurrected by Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. to address the COVID-19 crisis via its “Feed the Need” campaign by supporting local food pantries. It reportedly pushed the charitable effort’s coffers over the $500,000 mark.
Robert Rubin, who founded the club on a former racetrack property in 2002 and leads the Bridge Golf Foundation today, has used it to support urban youths and to expand an appreciation of golf to a more diverse community. But the coronavirus crisis is an “inequality accelerator,” he noted, that required emergency action locally, even as they continue working remotely with inner-city youths, and sending them healthy food boxes and even home gym equipment during the lockdown.
Also, the storied Shinnecock Hills Golf Club has quietly raised and donated more than $100,000 to food pantries in the region. This week, it provided an emergency $15,000 donation to the food pantry based at the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays — a crucial injection of cash that was equal to what the pantry lost by being unable to do its primary fundraising throughout Lent, because of the lockdown. Marion Boden, part of the food pantry’s management team, lauded the club’s “keen understanding of the needs of a community such as ours in a time like this.”
And that’s the important point. “The Hamptons” is often portrayed as the ultimate example of the “Haves and Have-Nots” — which is fair, since it is a place with both unimaginable wealth and lamentable poverty, sometimes just a short distance apart. But focusing on that misses that it’s also a community where the two have come together in a time of crisis, with one side offering vital aid.
There’s a Facebook meme that says, essentially, with COVID-19, we’re not all in the same boat, but we are in the same storm. Together is the only way we will survive it. Ignore the stock images coming from afar: People who live here know the truth: This community is a beacon in that storm.
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One fine body…