THE HEAT IS ON, Hamptons Scandals Part 3: Martha Stewart

Thursday, July 14, 2011

From the pages of AVENUE’s July issue…

Christopher Mason, host of the new Investigation Discovery series “Behind Mansion Walls”— about murder in fabulous homes—and author of The Art of the Steal: Inside the Sotheby’s-Christie’s Auction House Scandal, revisits a selection of the biggest scandals to ever hit the Hamptons.


The adage that good fences make good neighbors does not seem to have applied in the case of the 8-foot fence erected by Manhattan real estate mogul Harry Macklowe to divide his property from the gal next door, Martha Stewart. After paying $3.2 million to acquire a house designed by modernist architect Gordon Bunshaft and overlooking Georgica Pond in East Hampton, Stewart accused Macklowe of planting trees and bushes on her property, decrying his efforts to “suburbanize the area with inappropriate dark greenery.” Responding to her formal complaint, East Hampton’s Village Zoning Board permitted Stewart to clear 14 trees and shrubs, but Macklowe sued in State Supreme Court to reverse the decision. The neighborly dispute escalated on May 21, 1997, when Stewart drove up Macklowe’s driveway and demanded to know who had erected the offending fence. Matthew Munnich, 23, an employee of a landscape firm working on the Macklowe property, alleged that Stewart spewed foul language then backed out of the driveway, pinning him against a pole with her car. Munnich recalled that he screamed, “You’re . . . crushing me,” but Stewart refused to stop. The goddess of gracious living appears to have scored a minor victory, however. Following another complaint, Macklowe received a summons to dismantle the fence. In East Hampton, it turns out, they cannot be more than six feet high. After gutting the house, Stewart sold the property for $9 million.


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