The Mast-Head: 100 Years From Now

East Hampton will be reduced to a fraction of its landmass

Over drinks with a couple of friends at the American Hotel the other night, Maziar Behrooz posed the question of what this place would look like in 100 years. 

Would eastern Long Island be part of a city that stretched from New York to Montauk? Would it be abandoned as sea levels rose, or parkland perhaps? Would there be sea walls around the entire area?

Transportation would have to be vastly better, Maziar said, if the Island were to go the city route. Fast and frequent trains would serve the sprawling metropolis. Bridges across Long Island Sound might tie us to the Connecticut mainland. Things would not be the way they are today, he said.

“Montauk will be an island, itself,” I said. “Sea level rise is going to cut it off east of Amagansett, and there is going to be open ocean all the way to Hither Hills.”

Based on lowland inundation models alone, if worldwide air pollution levels remain as they are today, East Hampton will be reduced to a fraction of its landmass. Half of Springs will be underwater. What was once Hook Pond will be a bay reaching nearly to Three Mile Harbor. 

High spots will remain, the old Devon estate houses, for example, Jerry Seinfeld’s place on Further Lane, my in-laws’ house halfway between the village and Sag Harbor. The Star office and the East Hampton Library will be waterfront; Guild Hall will be gone.

“Politicians are simply not equipped to deal with it,” I said.

I can’t say that Representative Lee Zeldin walked into the hotel lobby at that precise moment, but I looked up and there he was, giving the conversation, at least for me, an even more surreal edge. I smiled and nodded; he nodded back.

According to prediction maps, the American Hotel’s first floor will be underwater by 2100, as would the rest of downtown Sag Harbor, Bay Point, and most of North Haven. Barcelona Neck will be its own small island. Northwest Creek will have grown as large as present-day Three Mile Harbor.

Even the best-case scenarios are not all that good. With extreme carbon cuts, Montauk is still an island 100 years from now. On the bright side, surfers of the future will enjoy really great waves where Gerard Drive once was.

Speaking about land-use policy at a forum in Amagansett the other day, Bill Chaleff, like Maziar, an architect and big thinker, said we were headed 100 miles per hour in the wrong direction.

“Just stopping the car, forget about turning it around, is almost impossible,” I told Maziar Bill had said. He agreed, and conversation moved on to other things, as it does, and the questions remained for another day.