It was supposed to mark the return to a somewhat normal summer for the Hamptons set. But now a charity concert featuring Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief and the Chainsmokers has sparked a state probe and drawn criticism from its own participants.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was appalled by “egregious social distancing violations” seen in footage of partying crowds at the Saturday night event in Southampton. “We have no tolerance for the illegal & reckless endangerment of public health,” Cuomo tweeted, adding that the state’s Department of Health will conduct the investigation.
The event was held in a field Saturday night and billed as the “Safe & Sound drive-in concert,” with attendees expected to enjoy the music by their cars and in designated spots. About 2,000 people turned up for the performance with an opening set by Goldman Chief Executive Officer David Solomon, who moonlights as DJ D-Sol, and the Chainsmokers as the main act.
“David agreed to participate in an event for charity in which the organizers worked closely with the local government and put strict health protocols in place,” Goldman said in a statement. “He performed early and left before the show ended. The vast majority of the audience appeared to follow the rules, but he’s troubled that some violated them and put themselves and others at risk.”
Videos shared by revelers appeared to show groups gathering near the stage. Some concert-goers without masks congregated outside cars to party with friends. Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman was also one of the performers at the event, and Southampton Village Mayor Jesse Warren was emcee.
New York was once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. before it eased in the area and worsened in other regions. Officials have been cautiously reopening the state.
“The criticism based on a two-second video does not accurately depict the entire event,” a representative for the organizers said in a statement. “The Safe & Sound drive-in concert fundraiser followed the guidelines created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and made best efforts to ensure New York’s social-distancing guidelines were properly maintained throughout the event.”
But Schneiderman, the town supervisor, said it seemed to him the organizers deviated from the permit by letting people congregate in some areas, and that shouldn’t have been allowed.
“I am upset,” he said. “It puts me in an awkward situation.”
The Southampton event’s organizers, In the Know Experiences and Invisible Noise, had pledged to abide by local and state health standards. They set up temperature checks, arranged for crews to clean portable toilets every 10 minutes and made frequent announcements about wearing masks when moving around the venue.
About 500 cars were parked in spots that cost as much as $25,000, with the top tier including an air-conditioned RV and private bathroom. Masks were encouraged, but not required, next to vehicles, according to an email sent to ticket-holders.
The rare chance to party drew socialites, financial professionals and other notables, including the Winklevoss twins. Some danced on the grass and the tops of vehicles.
“Standing up there and watching the sunset, looking out over this huge field of cars and people on their cars, it was absolutely beautiful,” Solomon said in an interview Monday before Cuomo’s announcement. “The group that put this together did an incredible job in a difficult environment. If we work together and are thoughtful, we can do things that feel more normal and allow us to live with this virus safely.”
Seth Kaplan, co-founder of In the Know Experiences, had said Saturday’s event would be a trial run for concerts his firm will produce in Miami and other locales. Any profits from the Hamptons get-together will be donated to No Kid Hungry, Southampton Fresh Air Home and Children’s Medical Fund of New York, Kaplan said.
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