This summer the relentless wave action that pounded the northwestern shore of the island from two hurricanes that were far out to sea—Paulette and Teddy—brought the undiscerning power of nature’s destruction to two billionaires, the real estate mogul Barry Sternlicht and the Boston–based hedge fund manager James Pallotta, and their charming but very exposed homes. Sternlicht (net worth $3 billion-plus) and Pallotta (net worth about $1 billion) are neighbors at the end of Hummock Pond Road, which culminates in a tiny spit of land on the very edge of the Nantucket coastline, hard between the Atlantic Ocean and Hummock Pond, a mile-long, very narrow pond akin to the Finger Lakes in New York State. The setting is dramatic and spectacular, the homes surrounded by 300 degrees of water. It’s not hard to fathom why the two billionaires would want to live there.
The combination of hurricanes Paulette and Teddy—despite being out to sea—wiped out around 60 feet of land on Sternlicht’s properties in about a week’s time. “That’s some of the more aggressive and timely erosion that at least I’ve seen in my time on Nantucket,” says Jeff Carlson, the director of Nantucket’s Natural Resources Department. A portion of the dirt road that leads to the homes also eroded to the ocean. “It’s crazy,” MacEachern says. “It’s like watching a sunset. It happens slow, but you know, you turn your head for a minute and you turn back, you could notice the difference.” That led to an emergency order from the town to demolish the home and the garage that Sternlicht bought a year ago. Meanwhile, as a result of the pounding surf, Sternlicht’s renovated home was sitting precariously close to the eroding bluff, right up to its edge.“It Just Takes One Storm”: On Nantucket, Mother Nature Plays Havoc With Billionaires’ Beach Dreams | Vanity Fair