SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. (AP) — This is a town where people are so rich that a $2 million home can be a handyman’s special. A town where the thrift shop is stocked with donations of designer dresses and handbags.
But Southampton, with its privet hedges, pristine beaches and some estates costing tens of millions, also is where 40 percent of children get free or reduced school lunches, where a food pantry serves up to 400 clients a month and where some doctors and nurses share homes owned by the local hospital because they can’t afford to buy or rent.
Studies show the wealth gap separating the rich from everyone else is widening, and few places in the country illustrate that as starkly as Long Island’s Hamptons — America’s summer playground for the haves and have-mores, where even middle-class workers struggle with the high cost of living.
“We have a tremendous amount of millionaires who live 3 miles from the food pantry, and they really have no idea that there’s a need in this community,” said Mary Ann Tupper, who retired last month after 21 years as the executive director of Human Resources of the Hamptons, a charity that assists 6,000 people annually through its food pantry and other services for the working poor.
“In the summer they’re working and everything is pretty good, but come the winter, all the nannies, the gardeners, the pool people, all those people are out of work, and then there’s no money,” Tupper said. “The income disparity is tremendous.”