The Hamptons hot spot you have to be dead to get into

August 31, 2015
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Article originally appeared on NY Post

Whenever Jennifer Oz LeRoy, daughter of famed restaurateur Warner LeRoy, spends time with her father, she never forgets to bring his favorite doughnuts from Dreesen’sin East Hampton.

At the Shaarey Pardes Accabonac Grove Cemetery in the East Hampton hamlet of Springs, visitors bring buried loved ones some nosh — one widow also brought her new wheels to show her deceased husband.

“I’m so happy that’s where he is,” says LeRoy, whose dad passed away in 2001. “I have extremely strong affection for it. My father and brother are both at the cemetery, and it means a great deal to us. It’s the only cemetery I’ve ever been to that doesn’t feel like a cemetery.”

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But with less than 20 percent inventory left, the meditative, park-like, 8-acre cemetery on a lush hill — complete with streams, beech trees and water lilies — is in high demand. So much so that East Enders have found themselves competing for a rapidly shrinking number of plots — with some snapping up 15 at a time.

“It’s a finite resource, and when people start to hear that it’s selling out, you don’t want to be left out in the cold — literally,” says Charlotte Klein Sasso, 54, who secured two plots this year at $6,500 apiece. “It’s the best real estate deal in the Hamptons.”

The situation has gotten so dire that the Jewish Center of the Hamptons — the East Hampton reform synagogue that owns the private cemetery — has been forced to cap the number allotted to members, many of whom only join to buy a plot. (Members of three years are eligible to buy two plots, with an additional two plots made available for each additional year of membership.)

“In the five years I’m here, I’ve seen the inventory shrink substantially,” says the temple’s executive director, Diane Wiener, of the scramble to secure a spot in the afterlife. “Now that the economy has improved and new people are moving to the area, we’ve seen a real resurgence — especially in the past two years.”

Now Hamptonites are anxiously awaiting town board approval to expand the cemetery, allowing for another 180 plots on an additional acre that has already been purchased.

“A lot of people want to be buried out here in the Hamptons and are concerned about the plot shortage,” says Andy Sabin, a 69-year-old precious-metals magnate who built the cemetery in 1991 with 1,000 plots, which he thought would last a century.

“I’m getting this huge rush. You know how many non-Jewish people beg me to let them in? When they see the cemetery, they go crazy.

“You’ve never seen a place more beautiful,” says Sabin.

The Jewish cemetery, heralded as a masterpiece, is designed by famed architect Norman Jaffe, who is also buried there. In true Hamptons style, the setting is minimalist chic. No tombstones are allowed — only 12-by-18-inch stones protruding 1 inch high.

And like any hot spot out east, there’s social jockeying to skip the line.

“You have to be friends with Andy — and he’s not letting just anybody in,” says “Real Housewife” and Hamptons fixture Jill Zarin. “He only wants to be [buried] with good karma. If you want to talk about exclusivity in the Hamptons, this is it.”

Zarin adds that she’s trying to convince her parents, whom she took on a tour of the cemetery this summer, to get plots together: “I absolutely want it.”

Among the local notables buried there are Nick & Toni’s owner Jeff Salaway, businessman and philanthropist David Silver and fashion honcho Raymond Bigar.

“Everybody has their favorite area — and people love that area,” says Corcoran broker Susan Kouffman, whose husband, Maurice, is part of the family that founded the JCOH.

“It’s purposely difficult to find and out of the way — it’s exclusive. For most people, even if they live in the city, this is their home of choice — this is where people put their money.”

Kouffman understands the value of precious cemetery real estate — one friend snapped up 30 plots.

Sure, there’s one Jewish cemetery in Sag Harbor on Route 114, Kouffman explains, but she sniffs at the unspectacular stretch: “It doesn’t have the same beauty.

“There’s a zillion cemeteries, but they have no meaning — this has meaning. Where are people going to go, mid-island?”

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