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Real Estate Center

Dec 20, 2008 8:10 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Lunch With ... Frank Dalene of Telemark

Dec 20, 2008 8:10 AM

Q: Who’s that unaffected?

A: During economic cycles, wealth changes hands. The new hands it goes into, the people have to come out to the Hamptons to establish a status. Now that the Hamptons is a global arrival place that is even more apparent because there is a factor when it comes to the value of the dollar, let’s say. The one thing that we noticed too is that during an economic downturn, attorneys make money. People are losing money and they want to blame somebody, they want to sue somebody. There’s bankruptcy’s happening. There is a lot of legal work out there.

Then we see people out here that are just not affected. The wealth is so great and their portfolio is so diversified that no matter what catastrophic thing may happen it doesn’t affect their lifestyle. It may affect their overall wealth, but not to the extent that they need to cut back their lifestyle. There are people here who are multi-billionaires. There are people who made fortunes shorting the financials. There are a lot of people who still have a lot of money.

Q: How do you see things overall developing? What has to happen for things to turn around?

A: I’ve been thinking about that a lot and I have to say, at this point, that is uncertain because the economy is uncertain. I don’t think there’s too many people who really understand what is going on. So how long is it going to take us to rebuild? I think what the government is doing now are short-term fixes. What needs to happen is trust needs to return into the system. The reason a lot of what they’ve done already hasn’t worked is because it hasn’t created trust. Once people start believing in the system again, I believe, at that point, will be the turnaround. And I believe the people out here are going to be some of the first to know and the indicator to us will be when they turn their projects back on.

Q: So, assuming we’re not on the verge of a great depression, how is the building business going to weather this?

A: There is a shakeout of the market right now. It’s a cleansing. There was a lot of builders who came out here during the good times that had no business being builders. They didn’t have their basis in the trades and building science and they were producing houses that were shoddily built. It’s a good cycle to go through from time to time. There is this correction that needs to be done. People need to be brought back to reality. They need to be sober about it.

Q: I hear the building industry is asking for a bailout now too (the owners of the “Big Three” automakers are giving testimony to Congress on the television over the bar).

A: Can you believe those idiots? Do they think they’re fooling anyone driving hybrids there?

Now, the builders are asking for some help, but they’re not asking for a bailout, per say, They’re not coming to the feds hat in hands. They’re not asking for money. What they’ve asked the feds to do is stimulate mortgages so that mortgage rates, through the competitive market, will come down and open up buying and refinancing and stimulate construction through a natural process, which I think is a lot more wholesome than handing over billions of dollars or nationalizing banks. They want to see rates come down to 4.5 percent. They believe that is the benchmark that will stimulate people to now buy a house. I thought that was a reasonable request and I think it is something that needs to be done. Will that affect it here in the hamptons? Absolutely not.

Q: Tell us about the Hamptons Green Alliance.

A: That is something that came up from [Telemark employee] Bob Morsch and I talking. Our clients want to go green, they want to do something that is positive. But the information is complicated and is very fragmented. There is a lot of things out there that have a green label on them that are not green. Building science has been left out of the discussion. We believed there needed to be an education of the public.

In April of this year we formed the Hamptons Green Alliance with six founding members who agreed to volunteer their time. It’s Treewise—here’s a local company that’s being sought after by Princeton and they’re leaders in their field nationwide; Flanders Heating and Air Conditioning—Doug Matz is someone who is very innovative in developing some of the geothermal systems we’ve been using; Delfino Insulation—they have been very progressive in bringing forward new products but backing it up with science; Connected Hearth, he’s an innovator also; and Sun Stream, a photovoltaic energy company started by John Tortorella that’s been very progressive also.

We want to determine which information is correct and which is not, so those things will be adopted in the industry. We want to bring building science into it. The green movement is something that’s coming ... it’s coming like a freight train and that freight train is out of control. What we want to do is take control of that freight train—we can’t let it crash because it will do too much damage to the movement if something horrible were to happen. So we want to use the expertise that we have through the trades to help put forward the correct information so it will be adopted in the construction industry.

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