Parents, think about the prom parties

Lee Hnetinka arrives at Southampton Justice Court. Hnetinka Lee Hnetinka arrives at Southampton Justice Court. Hnetinka is accused of illegally subletting prom houses to teens. (July 13, 2012) Photo Credit: John Roca

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The flirty gowns have been buried in closets, the corsages discarded, and the tuxedos returned. School is out for the summer and the major end-of-year gatherings are memories.

For those who graduated. But not for the parents, students, elected officials and homeowners who will confront the party process anew this fall.

The planning of prom and graduation parties begins nine months in advance, because these are no typical teenage parties.

The Hamptons are known for their massive mansions and famous faces, but for a few early summer weeks, they turn into the not-so-secret party spot of teenagers praying for a party worthy of becoming the "Project X" sequel.

It's not a foreign concept for high school students to go out after prom or graduation with fellow classmates and celebrate. And, more often than not, the night involves a bottle swiped from the liquor cabinet and a few six-packs thanks to the kid with a fake ID.

Now promoters try to do the after party work for a high fee, turning a big gathering into a simple business transaction.

Southampton Town has charged Jericho-based company HamptonsandSons, a now- disbanded promoter for Hampton house parties, and its owner Lee Hnetinka, with multiple housing code violations. Hnetinka, 25, is accused of renting at least seven Hampton homes to host teenage blowouts while homeowners believed he was hosting an "extended family reunion."

Hnetinka rented one luxurious mansion for about a month at a fee of $30,000. He hosted a party for 98 underage guests from Thursday night to Sunday afternoon at the ridiculous price of $355 per child, collecting a full month's rent and then some.

A neighbor called the homeowner around 5 a.m. Friday because of the party buses in the driveway and the raging gathering. The neighbor had already called the police.

A manual by Hnetinka covered a number of rules for party attendees, such as how to sneak in quietly without waking neighbors, not to answer the door if police appear, or how to "earn back" liquor confiscated by security guards at the beginning of the party.

No teenager has earned liquor. That's what happens when you turn 21. Governments enforce that age limit mostly for safety reasons, not to ruin the high school experience.

Town zoning enforcement and police enforcement are critical to minimizing the harm of these parties, but those usually happen after events are under way. Government officials need to make bolder statements that these parties are not permitted, if for no other reason than catching the attention of parents.

And that goes to the essential question at the core of this problem. Do parents know what takes place? Do they recognize the danger? Or are they just resignedly turning over the payment?

Teenagers are going to party -- it's in their DNA -- but not many can afford such a lavish gathering without assistance.

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