It is difficult to escape the observation that Memorial Day weekend on the South Fork was sedate. Amid generally good compliance with the New York State Pause order, the holiday excesses were at a minimum. This was evident in reduced traffic on the roads, lack of noise, and room at most beaches to park a car — if you had a current permit to do so. Hotels and inns were only partially full, and the usually bursting-at-the-seams sublegal rental share houses and short-termers nearly nonexistent. Even the air was mellower, with next to no helicopters and only a handful of jets roaring into East Hampton Airport.
It was, it seems to us, the summer we had long wanted, busy, but not too much so, and quiet enough to hear the birdsong. For those of us old enough to remember, it was like decades ago, before East Hampton became synonymous with excess. It was not a weekend that retailers and restaurateurs who depend on thrumming resort tourism wanted, and the pain that owners and staff felt was real and cannot be made light of.
For the rest of us — a majority not dependent on tourism, including year-round residents, vacation-property owners, and snowbirds — the weekend was a rare treat to savor. Which raises the question: “Why can’t we have more like this?”
The answer is we can, if the community collectively decides that is where we want to go. East Hampton Town recently adopted a set of hamlet goals that, for all the work that went into them, failed to address what should have been the core issue of what residents want — more of the same or something better. We believe in the prospect of something better, as in a town we can proudly call home 12 months of the year. The sweetly dull Memorial Day weekend just ended might be a reminder to all that a better way of living here is possible, and worth fighting for.