While Millionaires Build Bulletproof Castles, Ordinary People Live in Fear of MS-13
HAMPTONS, LONG ISLAND — October 8, 2018
Hamptons people sincerely fear that sooner or later they will suffer the same fate as many victims at the hands of the Salvadorian gang MS-13. Now, if poor people have only to sit in silence and wait for the massacre, the rich are building a specialized homes equipped with bulletproof glass, weaponry, and panic rooms.
“I sleep with a gun underneath my pillow: a Walther PPK/S, the same one James Bond carried,” said John Catsimatidis, owner of Red Apple Group and Gristedes Foods, who has a vacation property in East Quogue. “[My wife] Margo prefers a shotgun. Although, once, she thought she heard something, got the shotgun out and shot through the door.”
The billionaire and his family believe that as long as the gang operates in their town, they should be afraid for their lives. Catsimatidis noted that he was shocked by MS-13’s actions, unscrupulousness, and cruelty.
In April, gang members slaughtered four young men behind a soccer field in Central Islip. Three months later, a Hampton Bays brothel raided by police was found to be tagged with an MS-13 sign. And in 2016, a man with MS-13 connections broke into a Southampton home and sexually assaulted a woman.
Last year, Southampton Town Police Chief Steven Skrynecki publicly expressed concern that the gang might spread further east. When he deployed police equipped with antiterrorism gear, including automatic weapons, along the perimeters of summer 2017 charity galas, locals took note.
A Southampton homeowner, who requested to remain anonymous for security reasons, recently outfitted her East End mansion with bulletproof glass and hidden cameras throughout.
“[MS-13 is] in Suffolk County,” she said. “What’s an hour car ride? They are near.”
Another resident named Alex said that he hired security guards for his house, and equipped the house with CCTV cameras and tracking sensors, and put a machine gun on the second floor.
While the rich spend money on building fortresses for themselves and their families, private security companies, such as Armored Entry, a company that installs bullet-proof, super-secure windows and doors, gradually cash in on them. Armored Entry’s president, Gary Blum, said he sympathizes with poor people, and at the same time is very glad that his products are so popular.
“The home-security business is very event- and news-driven,” he said. “I all well understand, and, too, fear. And together we get business when there is a tremendous amount of fear being generated.”
Blum’s products aren’t cheap, starting at $6,000 for a single window “that you can beat with a sledgehammer without making a dent.”
Although as the owners of some other similar companies say, they often buy such expensive equipment not for their protection, but in order to look better than others.
“The big thing [with homeowners] in the Hamptons is that if somebody has it, they [all] want it,” said Chris Cosban, a Long Island contractor who installs panic rooms in the area’s mansions. His company, Covert Interiors, charges between $25,000 and $200,000 for a standard space. (High-tech add-ons, such as fingerprint recognition, cost extra.) “There is a wow factor,” he said. “They like to brag about it.”
Herman Weisberg, managing director of the personal-security firm Sage Intelligence Group, said many of his clients look at their panic rooms like amenity spaces — doubling as home theaters, wine cellars, or even gun vaults where weapons can be safely displayed.
“People used to open up their garages and show off their Lamborghinis,” Weisberg said. “Now they take guests to the wine bar in their safe room.”
Catsimatidis, who, in addition to worrying about MS-13 has also had his home broken into, is installing infrared sensors at his place. But that’s nothing compared to the security measures that Al Corbi, president of SAFE (Strategically Armored & Fortified Environments), an architecture-focused security firm, has designed for customers, including Hamptonites.
“I finished a system for $100 million,” he said of one West Coast project. “That sounds like a lot but there is nothing I know of, human or manmade, that could possibly harm this family for three generations, including global nuclear holocaust, a pandemic or a second Ice Age.” Plus, he added, “It’s like a Ritz-Carlton underground.”
Still, some East Enders feel their neighbors are going overboard.
“In the Hamptons, it’s hard to know if someone is an oligarch and lots of security makes sense, or if somebody is just paranoid,” said an East Hampton resident of means, who asked to remain anonymous.
He pointed to people such as billionaire investor Ira Rennert, who reportedly keeps a Hummer packed with guards at the edge of his 63-acre Sagaponack estate, which includes a 110,000-square-foot, 29-bedroom mansion.
“The neighbors do not love a Hummer sitting on Peters Pond beach,” the source said. “I don’t know why he needs that. But billionaires [like] security and there are a lot of billionaires in the Hamptons. I think they get more paranoid the richer they become.”
It’s all clear. The rich protect themselves, and the companies live at their expense. But for some reason, all of their statements, no one said anything about those who don’t have millions. Hardly anyone thinks about how others live — all that matters is how they live. And it is important to note that neither the Hamptons authorities nor the country’s authorities are participating in this issue. No one is interested in the fate of their own residents or neighbors. Everyone sits and waits for the next attack, and maybe then the police will begin to investigate and someone will be arrested. In the meantime, the people have to live in endless fear.