Rich island retreat = good; Obscenely rich = ?

Just back from Martha’s Vineyard.  If you’ve flown and driven the entire East Coast you realize how unspoiled the Cape and Nantucket/MV are.  No concrete high-rises, lots of woods, cheesy tourist strip malls mostly confined to the main roads and the occasional town.  Maybe it is the coldness of the water that has kept development from ruining this area.  That doesn’t mean that Martha’s Vineyard isn’t changing, however, and those who knew it when aren’t entirely happy.

1970s:  the Vineyard was a year-round working-class town of fishermen and boatyard workers supplemented by a summer season where rich New England WASPs spent weeks or months in small simple cottages near the shore.  The place was isolated, the only access being by ferry boat from Woods Hole on the Cape Cod mainland or in little propeller airplanes from various points.  It wasn’t practical to remain in the fast lane in New York or Washington, DC and also spend weekends on the Vineyard.  Crime was non-existent.

2000s:  The corporate jet has changed everything.  KMVY has a 5500′ runway and an instrument landing system.  That plus a Gulfstream puts most of the population of the East Coast within about a one-hour flight from Martha’s Vineyard.  And all on the shareholders’ dime!

Ease of access has made the Vineyard both more and less democratic.  It is less democratic in that you better show up with $2-5 million if you want to buy a house.  It is more democratic in that anyone can buy a house now if they have enough money; you don’t have to be a WASP.  For example, Harvey Weinstein, a Jewish movie producer, was able to purchase a house in a formerly exclusive area (people did not want to sell to a Jew but eventually the siren song of a suitcase full of 100-dollar bills was irresistable).

It is also become more democratic in that poor people have arrived in large numbers.  Why?  Rich people attract poor people.  A middle class person with a vacation house will tend to keep it up by himself.  He comes out for a couple of weekends in May to turn on the water, patch up any broken screens, and cut the lawn.  Then he tinkers a bit for the rest of the summer.  This isn’t practical if your vacation house is a 10,000 square foot mansion set in 4 acres of formal gardens.  You could hire the local working class folks to maintain your garden and clean and repair your house but that would get expensive, even for a rich person.  The solution is to import serfs from the Third World.  Martha’s Vineyard is filling up with foreign workers, mostly Brazilian, sleeping 5 to a room at night and preparing the estates of the rich for July and August.

The old-timers are worried.  Violent crime is on the rise.  The children of the serfs seem to be forming gangs.  It looks as though Martha’s Vineyard is on its way to becoming more like Rio de Janeiro:  fantastically rich in spots but also not very safe when you step out of your enclave.

More: (M.V. section is about halfway down)

10 thoughts on “Rich island retreat = good; Obscenely rich = ?

  1. Well that’s just depressing and funny at the same time. I’d like to see a MV gang. What do they do? Fling starfish at each other? Brake into cheesy tourist shops and steal fridge magnets and nantucket baskets? If MV is not safe than where else in America is? I just came back from Halifax, Nova Scotia where at night, I had no problem walking up to a bunch (15+) of leather clad biker dudes who were parked on their Harley’s, and asked if I could take some photos of them and their bikes. They were thrilled. Think I would do that in the states? Not a chance.
    Anyways, it serves you Islanders right for taking advantage of 3rd world people by paying them less and not hiring locally to help your own community even if it costs more.

  2. Actually they’ve been having some murders on the Vineyard this year (perhaps related to the drug supply business).

  3. Well, I don’t want anyone to DIE….I just think they should hire the kid next door to cut their lawns and stuff instead of getting aliens.
    Why are these Brazilians (?) acting this way in the first place? When us jews came from Europe (and we didn’t know the language or way of life) to make a living in the USA and Canada did the murder and crime rate go up too? -Alisa

  4. Given the prices that Philip mentioned, it’s unlikely the kid next door is willing to work for minimum wage, or anything close.

    All my family comes from Eastern Europe (although Catholic), arriving before 1920, and I can’t recall any of my relatives being in trouble or even any family stories about crimes in their Brooklyn neighborhood. Which, of course, is not to say there weren’t any, but it was nothing like things today. Was the difficulty of escaping Europe such that only certain personality types made it to North America?

  5. TS, Sure I have…weren’t all these famous jewish gangsters from along time ago? I was talking more about now, 2003. You would think that us humans would have become a bit more civilized but I guess not. If a whole bunch of Jews moved from “somewhere Europe” to Nantucket, would the crime rate go up just like it has on Martha’s Vineyard because of the Brazilians (or whoever they are)? If it did we would probably get blamed for it, just like we get blamed for everything else….

  6. Martha’s Vineyard has tons of Jewish families and has for decades (well, a century) – I know, I’ve been visiting since the ’60’s lived there in the ’80’s and have family that are now year-round residents. As well my great-grandmother summered there and references Jewish imigrants settling there in the early 1900’s in her archives. But don’t take it from me here is a quick history link…

  7. Us Brazillians dont start stuff on the island its the americans that think they run everything! So us Brazillians started a gang called ZOYA.The kids at school think were playing around, but wait till they fuck up with us. I YOU MESS WITH ONE YOU MESS WITH ALL OF THEM!!!!!!!

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