Ruth Bashinsky

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Laura Curran Shares Vision, Challenges as Long Island’s First Female County Executive

Laura Curran gave her first speech as Nassau County Executive to a crowd braving sub-freezing tempera- tures on New Year’s Day. (Photo by Irwin Mendlinger)

Last month, in a frigid outdoor ceremony, Democrat Laura Curran was sworn in as the first female Nassau County executive. During the ceremony, she vowed to “root out the corruption that has plagued our county and give Nassau the fresh start it so desperately needs.”

The former two-term county legislator from Baldwin lives by the mantra: Respect taxpayer dollars and make government work for those it serves. The Press spoke to Curran before her trip to Albany to talk about politics and some of her plans for the county, how she manages it all while raising three daughters, and how she feels about being the first woman in the post. At the end of our interview, she was still humble and even funny.

“It may sound corny, but I am truly honored to be serving as Nassau County Executive,” she says. “We all know we have serious challenges, but we also have incredible opportunities. And my team and I are off to a strong start.”

Long Island Press: How bad is the assessment problem?

Laura Curran: It’s bad. We have a serious financial problem and a serious assessment problem, and they are a bit intertwined. We cannot address one without fixing the other. The assessments were frozen in 2011, and since then we had an unfair shift in the property tax burden, and we’ve got to address that.

LIP: How bad are the county’s finances?

LC: For the first time in its 18 years in existence, [the Nassau Interim Finance Authority] has imposed cuts, cuts to the tune of $18 million, and the county must report back to NIFA on the cuts by mid-March.

LIP: Will you honor that order? How will you achieve those cuts?

LC: Well, we have to do it. NIFA has imposed a deadline by March 15th, so we have to honor that.

LIP: Why did you sign your executive order barring appointees from leadership roles in the party and donating to your campaign?

LC: It was a campaign promise, and I thought it was very important to deliver on that promise as soon as possible because I want there to be no question as to why I am appointing people in government. It is to serve the residents of Nassau County, right? It is the government of the people of Nassau. I want there to be no question as to why they are there.

LIP: What is your economic development vision?

LC: This is something I am very passionate about. I have appointed a deputy county executive for economic development specifically, which we haven’t had for a long time, because I believe we need to have that laser focus. I am committed to transit-oriented developments. I am committed to working with Supervisor [Laura] Gillen in the Town of Hempstead to develop the Hub in a way that makes it a live-work-play destination. The county owns it and the town zones it. It is very important that she and I work together and we are off to a very good start. That and Belmont is a great opportunity right there for real economic development, and we want to make the most of it. We’ve got to keep our young people. We’ve got to have a wide variety of housing options at different price points to keep our young people and attract young people, which will then bring the jobs.

LIP: How important is the third- track project to Nassau?

LC: I am super excited about the third track because it will help foster that kind of transit-oriented development along the main line that we need in places like Westbury. Mineola is off to a strong start, with transit-oriented development. Plus, people will be able to reverse commute. It would help people to get on and off and around the Island, which we need for economic development. Young people don’t want to drive as much, and the more people can get around, the more people are going to want to live here. The other thing I am very excited about is East Side access. We have a few years before it’s done, but this will allow people who live on Long Island to travel into the city and land at Grand Central, so they don’t have to do those three trains to schlep over to the East Side. This would be huge for our real estate market. It will be huge for attracting more people to live here since the commute will be so much easier to the East Side. [Suffolk] County Executive [Steve] Bellone and I did a tour of it my second week in office. We have a few years to go. They said five years. We are just keeping our fingers crossed.

LIP: Are you excited for the return of the Islanders?

LC: Oh yes! That is incredible. Not only does it mean jobs, support for local business, and growing the tax base, it also shows the world that Nassau is the place to be. I’m a huge Islanders fan.

LIP: How does it feel to be the first female Nassau County Executive?

LC: When I was running I did not make a big deal about gender because I did not want that to be the reason people were voting for me. That being said, I have to say I am very proud of that fact.

LIP: As a mother of three, how do you manage to juggle it all?

LC: It’s a juggling act. It’s kind of a problem that any working mother has. It is the same thing. You make it work. In some ways you can never totally solve it. You just do your best.

LIP: Does your day really ever end? It’s not 9 to 5. Do you even sleep?

LC: I just have to make sure in my schedule that I bank in family time because if my home team is not solid, I am not going to be effective at work. Sometimes I have to miss a concert but I try and book that far in advance. Even if it means spending a Saturday at home with the kids, doing nothing, I think that is really valuable when I can get away with it.

LIP: What is for dinner tonight?

LC: That is a great question. I think we are doing a Mexican casserole with chicken. It’s really good.

LIP: Are you making it?

LC: I have to say that I am not making it. It will be ready for me when I get home. I will be eating it … gratefully.

LIP: What do you like to do in your free time?

LC: My favorite thing to do is read a really good book. I like a wide range of books. I love nonfiction, fiction, literary fiction. The last book I read was Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. It was really good. I recommend it to anyone.

LIP: I know you enjoy yoga.

LC: I try and make a little time in the morning to exercise. I don’t always succeed in doing that, but I love it. It is just a good way to stay calm.

LIP: Who are some of your role models?

LC: Someone I admire is Margaret Thatcher, more on style than substance. She was a tough woman, and she made tough choices, and I don’t always agree with the choices she made, but I admire the way she handled herself and got things done.

Left to right: NY Islanders John Tavares, Andrew Ladd, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, and Islanders Johnny Boychuk and Cal Clutterbuck.

Remodeled Man Caves, She Spaces Offer ‘Me Time’

“A large velvet sectional placed on the platform offers comfortable seating. The dark color is perfect for hiding stains and the durable fabric can take lots of wear and tear.”

Sure, we love our friends and family, but there is nothing like having some “me” time in a place where you can get away from it all and do as you wish, from catching up on that juicy novel to building some furniture, painting a portrait, playing some video games or just enjoying some uninterrupted television time.

Take a look at this Man Cave and She Space we found that may inspire you to create one of your own. Whether you work with a designer or do it yourself, it does not have to cost a lot. Applying a fresh coat of paint, getting rid of the clutter and surrounding yourself with items that make you happy is all you may need to get started.

Fort Salonga-based designer Patricia Loria of Loria Design Group created a Man Cave in the basement of this Valley Stream home that offers a fun vibe.

“I built a platform that we covered in a geometric indoor/outdoor carpeting that gives you that theater-viewing feel,” she says.

“The air hockey game is part of the sports theme in the room and works great for entertaining,” she says. “A vintage New York Rangers jersey; a Patriots flag, a framed Patriots poster and two hockey sticks are showcased to show what a devoted sports fan the owner is.”
“Corona is the owner’s favorite drink, so I found a metal/acrylic pub table with bar stools that go perfectly with the theme and adds character,” she says.

Kerri Quigley, the owner of the Fashion Class, spends hours in her She Space being creative. It’s her quiet place where she goes to unwind and also come up with new swimwear and knit designs.

“My favorite item is my sewing machine,” she says. Located in the attic of her Wantagh home, Quigley describes her She Space as “eclectic.” Part of what makes the room so special to her is the items she surrounds herself with.

“I love seeing objects and photos that are associated with good memories, so I tend to keep a lot of stuff about,” she says. One of those items is a plate she brought back home from Bulgaria.

“I visited Varna, a beautiful town overlooking the Black Sea filled with ruins from Ancient Rome,” she says. “The Black Sea is calm with high salt content, so you can just float along all day. Later on at a restaurant, a traditional dance performance began. Before I knew it I was pulled on stage and got dressed in a quick costume and had to learn the dance in front of everyone. I’m a shy person but it was hilarious and a lot of fun!”

“I fell in love with the red rug when I was in Iceland on my honeymoon,” she says. “We lugged it all over Northern Europe. Although pricey, it’s lush and the perfect color red.”

“I painted the color of the walls a Sea Froth by Benjamin Moore,” she says. “I wanted something in a feminine grey tone to fit with the rest of the house. It’s almost a pink or lavender gray.”

“I bought this top hat at a tag sale for $4. I love it and I placed it on the dress form for fun,” she continues.

“Fabric inspires me,” she adds. “I picked up the fabric from a fabric store. I hung it on the wall until I use it for something I will sew.”

“One of my favorite items is the frozen scorpion. It was my younger brother’s. After he passed away, I kept it out to remind me of the fun-loving and wonderful person he was,” she says.

Meredith Gill: Long Island’s Newest Breakout Fashion Designer

Meredith Gill's award-winning wedding gown. Photo by Kieran Bammann.

At only 22 years old, budding fashion designer Meredith Gill of East Moriches is taking the industry by storm with her head-turning evening and bridal wear. Her designs have won numerous awards and will be appearing on the big screen later this year.

Next month, Gill’s designs will be shown on the runway at West New York Fashion Week alongside fellow emerging designers from around the world. Her new 2018 collection, which she named Stained, is a variety of stained-glass-window-inspired designs that feature a structured bodice and neutral palette with a pop of color. It’s a departure from last year’s collection that had more movement and was nature-inspired with Swarovski crystal embellishments.

“Right now, I am experimenting with different fabrics,” she says. “I am going to be using chiffons, organza, georgette, taffeta, silk, and satins.”

The Cinnia dress, a floor-length white lace gown with sheer bodice and four-foot train, won best wedding gown construction at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Fashion Art and Design Club. It was also the gown that got Gill noticed. It caught the eye of a movie director who wanted the dress to be part of his romantic comedy, New York Minute, slated to open later this year.

“I was honored that he wanted to use my gown from the thousands on the market,” says Gill.

The Butterfly dress, a chiffon-paneled dress with black trim and designed like a butterfly wing with hand-dyed edges and crystal accents, was another one of Gill’s designs drawing attention. The meticulously crafted garment that was worn by a contestant in the Miss Latina USA pageant was featured in a newspaper advertisement last summer.

Pretty impressive, particularly since Gill only graduated FIT in May. The sewing machine, she explains, always came second nature to her when she started taking lessons at age 12. Soon she was teaching other young people how to sew. It wasn’t until Gill was in college that she discovered how talented she truly was.

“I never thought of myself as a fashion designer. For a while I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” admits Gill, who works at a retail job during the day that helps her pay off her student loans. The rest of the time, she can be found in her sewing studio in the basement of her home. “I feel lucky and I am grateful that other people are seeing this in me which is giving me the push to move forward.”

What Sets You Apart: “I see whatever trend is current and focus on the little details and making that the big picture. Then I add a little more creative and artistic ideas that are subtle.”

What You Love Most: “Finding the inspiration for my next piece and being as creative as possible with the research that I gather for my next collection. I love getting ideas from Pinterest and Instagram and seeing what others are doing.”

Favorite Designer: Australian Designer Paolo Sebastian.

Secret Weapon: “I am very patient. A lot of work goes into making evening and bridal gowns. It is not just making a t-shirt; you have to be good with your hands. It takes a lot of hand sewing.”

Biggest Influence: “My mom. That is where I get my creativity. She constantly inspires me.”

Next Big Thing in Bridal: “Lots of sheer and lace. Showing a little more skin and seeing gowns that are not floor length, but layered. White is still popular but some are going toward the nontraditional, using eggshell, ivory, and light pink.”

Meredith Gill, center, with models donning her latest designs. Photo by Kieran Bammann.

Stately Lattingtown ‘Money Pit’ Mansion up for Grabs

Grand Federal Style Colonial on Estate Grounds

This sprawling Lattingtown estate on Feeks Lane is such a vision of beauty it caught Hollywood’s eye.

If it looks familiar, that’s because it was the set of The Money Pit, the 1986 Steven Spielberg comedy starring Tom Hanks and Shelley Long. A quarter-mile, evergreen-lined private road introduces the federal colonial sitting on 5.4 acres.

“You get that wow factor when you drive up to the house,” says Realtor Lois Kirschenbaum of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. “It is so spectacular.”

The stately home features eight bedrooms, eight full baths, two half baths, eight fireplaces (some with original mantels), and a six-car detached garage, and is on the market for $5.9 million. That’s down from $12.5 million after nearly four years in the market.

 

The house was given the name “Northway” by William McNair, a successful businessman who purchased the property in 1916. Through the decades, the house has changed hands many times.

Its first owner was financier Henry Wolcott Warner, who built the estate in 1898. In the late 1940s, it was sold to Eric Ridder of the Knight-Ridder publishing syndicate, the  second largest publisher in the nation at the time. Ridder was also an Olympic gold medalist in yachting.

In the ’80s, developer/builder Steven Thurman purchased and subdivided the 26-acre estate, selling off for development all but five and a half acres. A decade later, “Northway” was bought by Dr. James Badia, a radiologist who sold Feeks Lane in 2002 to its current owners.

“They did a complete renovation, spending millions of dollars to restore the home to its original beauty,” says Kirschenbaum. “It’s impeccable. It looks like it has history, but there is nothing a buyer has to do.”

The home that Kirschenbaum describes as “move-in ready” features a large kitchen, oversized banquet dining room, large living room and den. The lower level has a recreation area and gym. The homeowner — a well-known and well-regarded designer — added her design expertise to the property by using a white, gray and neutral palette throughout the house to create a clean, crisp look that is current with today’s style.

Maintaining the home’s integrity was vital, explains Kirschenbaum. During the renovation, they were able to restore original wood floors in the living room, as well as leaded glass pane windows and hardware. Some of the new construction included the installation of elaborate molding throughout the house, double sheetrock in place of the original plaster, and utilities upgrades including a generator, security camera, and audio sound system.

It also included rebuilding the driveway, removing the original clay facade with sand and the addition of gates for additional privacy.

Additional highlights are a new pool house with a recreation room, changing area, laundry room, bathroom, and a small kitchen that is near the in-ground saltwater pool. Kirschenbaum points out that the brick veranda overlooking the property that runs the length of the house is one of the charming details of the house.

“The French doors that run along the kitchen, dining room and foyer give full access to the veranda so when the homeowners are entertaining in the spring and summer the doors are open,” she says. “It is incredible to look out at the water views.”

The house’s three levels possess water views of the Long Island Sound.

“Even though it is a very large house, there is a lot of warmth and intimacy,” says Kirschenbaum. “The ideal buyer would be a family because it is a large home. It is also a perfect home for someone who loves to entertain.”

For additional information on this property at 199 Feeks Lane in Lattingtown, contact Lois Kirschenbaum, co-listing agent at the Wheatley Heights office, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty at 516-526-7425 or loiskirschenbaum@danielgale.com or Margaret Trautmann, co-listing agent at the Locust Valley office, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty at 516-361-4646 margarettrautmann@danielgale.com.

Culinary kitchen with top-line appliances, center island, fireplace and breakfast room.
Grand entry foyer with bridal staircase, gleaming wood floors and fireplace.
Baronial dining room with fireplace, French doors and oak wood floors.
Exquisite resort setting with pool, pool house, formal gardens and brick terrace.

Take 5: Products That Will Help Get You on The Right Track

Greenblender
A fresh smoothie subscription service that provides yummy plant-powered recipes and organic ingredients delivered right to your home or office for $49 per week. The menu is always changing with recipes such as Cinnamon Carrot Cake, Sweet Potato Pie, and Banana Kumquat. Each delivery yields 10 servings per box. greenblender.comSimply Better Bottles
This water bottle not only hydrates you, but also keeps you motivated. It was created by the company 50 Strong. The name is a reference to the 50 states with the mission of creating products in the USA and keeping manufacturing jobs at home. Each bottle features three different inspirational quotes: “Be Happy,” “Think Positive,” and “Never Stop,” and a double wall that keeps drinks cold and double-wall insulation to prevent condensation. All are BPA-free and dishwasher safe. Ten percent of every sale goes to their nonprofit to empower and educate their manufacturing workers. be50strong.com/shop

Dirty Bird Energy Bar
Lather up with the Dirty Bird Energy Bar, a body soap that is infused with natural ingredients to give you a natural boost that we can always use to start our day. The bar comes in four varieties that each serve a different purpose: Energy, Relax, Replenish, and Recover. Packaged in a reusable portable container all soaps are made in the USA and are available in singles, a two and six-pack variety, and even a customized monthly membership that is delivered right to your door. dirtybirdenergy.com

Care/of
This subscription-based service can help you figure out the right vitamins for your active (or non-active) lifestyle. The direct-to-consumer wellness brand specializes in personalized vitamins and supplements based on your diet and health goals. The service starts at $5. To get started just log on and take the quiz at takecareof.com.The Gym Bag
Helping you stay organized is The Gym Bag by Practically Packed. The lightweight tote features a fun list of everything you need to make your gym experience seamless, from having the right toiletries for the shower to “your” headphones (not your children’s). With each purchase a donation is made to Feeding America, which provides 10 meals to those in need. Since the bag line was launched earlier this year, more than 650 meals have been provided. etsy.com/shop/PracticallyPacked

Garden City: The Beating Heart of Nassau

There is no shortage of places to dine on Seventh Street in Garden City.

Garden City is buzzing with chic restaurants, casual pubs and eateries offering unique fare from around the globe, plus historic landmarks and some of the best shopping on Long Island.

It is no surprise that this tony village with stately homes, manicured lawns and picture perfect tree-lined streets has attracted movie stars, pro athletes, politicians, and famous writers through the decades. Its lure has drawn the likes of best-selling author Nelson DeMille, actress Susan Lucci and Good Morning America co-anchor Lara Spencer, who graces this month’s cover. It is also home to Roosevelt Field, the former airport where Charles Lindbergh departed on his historic 1927 solo transatlantic flight — a site that is now a LI shopping mecca.

“This quaint village not only offers beautiful and bustling downtown shopping districts but [also] acres of playing fields, parks and recreational areas,” says Garden City Mayor Brian Daughney.

Garden City was one of the first planned communities in the country. Successful Irish entrepreneur Alexander T. Stewart founded Garden City in 1869 on an empty plain. The village was incorporated in 1919 by its four property owners’ associations.

Garden City is also the location of Adelphi University’s main campus. The university is the oldest institution for higher education on LI. Alumni include American jazz drummer Steve Reid and American composer and playwright Jonathan Larson.

The village has also served as a backdrop for movies and TV shows, including Person of Interest. With all of that and a recent downtown revitalization, Garden City is waiting for your arrival.

Long Island Children’s Museum will be featuring traveling exhibit Dinosaurs: Land of Fire and Ice, opening Jan. 27.

LOTS TO LEARN

The unincorporated part of the village known as East Garden City is home to Museum Row, where there’s no shortage of things to do for visitors young and old. For the kids, check out the Long Island’s Children’s Museum (11 Davis Ave, 516-224-5800, licm.org), features interactive exhibits designed to make learning fun for the little ones. Next door, the Cradle of Aviation Museum (Charles Lindbergh Blvd., 516-572-4111, cradleofaviation.org) pays homage to the many aviation firsts made in the area, such as Lindbergh’s historic flight. The Planetarium Dome Theater inside the museum offers daily films that are all in a 70mm-film format, 10 times the size of a conventional film frame.

Tucked between those two museums is The Nassau County Firefighters Museum and Education Center (1 Davis Ave., 516-572-4177, ncfiremuseum.org), where visitors can learn about the proud history of local firefighters and enjoy hands-on displays. Museum Row is also home to the old Nunley’s Carousel, where riders can reach for the brass ring for old times’ sake.

Garden City is additionally home to Nassau Community College, the largest single campus community college in New York State, and the Adelphi University Performing Arts Center (1 South Ave., 516-877-4927, pac.adelphi.edu), a venue that features dance, music and theater productions. This month two events on deck include a film screening of Rossini’s classic opera, La Cenerentola and a performance by West African vocalist, Abdoulaye “Djoss” Diabaté and his group, Super Mande.

Back in Garden City proper is the Cathedral of the Incarnation (50 Cathedral Ave. 516-746-2955 incarnationgc.org), which opened in 1881 and is on the National Register of Historic Places as a designated landmark. It is an excellent example of Gothic Revival Architecture, says Dennis Donnelly, Executive Director of the Garden City Chamber of Commerce, the largest local Chamber on Long Island with more than 500 business members. Guided tours of the cathedral are available by appointment and visitors can go on self-guided tours 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tues.-Fri.

Cathedral of the Incarnation serves as the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island.

PLENTY TO EAT

It’s hard to go hungry at any hour when you are on Seventh Street in Garden City. Compared to the Southampton of Nassau County, Seventh Street and nearby Franklin Avenue offer fare for any discerning palate. Some of these fine dining restaurants to indulge in include the Polo Steakhouse and Polo Lounge (perfect for pre-and post-dinner cocktails, located in the Garden City Hotel), La Nonna Bella, Calogero’s, Revel, Waterzooi Belgian Bistro & Oyster Bar and Novita Wine Bar & Trattoria.

The more casual pubs that serve up some hearty American grub include Walk Street and B.K.Sweeney’s Uptown Grill, The Burger Spot, Prost Grill & Garten and Leo’s Midway, which stays open until 4 a.m. The ethnic eateries are plentiful. Some of these are Go Greek, Taku, Kinha Sushi, Plancha Tapas & Wine Bar, the Wild Fig, Sushi Ya, Kaji Sushi, Orchid, Asian Moon, Garden City Pizza and Grimaldi’s Pizza.

For the patron looking for a healthier option, Food for Thought, B. Good and Garden City Bistro aren’t too far. That isn’t all, according to Donnelly: Perennial, a farm-to-table restaurant, the Guac Shop casual Mexican Eatery, and the French Workshop Bakery are currently under construction.

SHOP AND GO

Seventh Street is lined with charming boutiques that can rival the likes of any East End store. For the trendiest fashions and accessories, there’s Envie and Coquette. For the kids, there’s Pink Island: A Lilly Pulitzer Signature store and Pear Tree and Madison’s Niche for unique gifts. On Franklin Avenue is Lord & Taylor, which has been a staple of the community since its opened its doors in 1956, and Sears.

The posh Garden City Hotel is in the heart of the village.

ADVENTURES ABOUND

MUSE Paintbar (837 Franklin Ave., 516-874-3500, musepaintbar.com) offers group painting classes all year long. A popular class taking place this month is Paint Your Pet. There’s also a brunch every Saturday and Sunday at the Seventh Street Café (126 Seventh St., 516-747-7575, seventhstreetcafe.com), which has been part of the community for more than two decades.

The perfect place to get away is The Garden City Hotel (45 Seventh St., 516-747-3000, gardencityhotel.com), which Stewart built for $150,000 in 1874. His goal was to make the hotel a destination to attract high-society figures. And, they did. The Astors, the Vanderbilts, and the Pierpont Morgans reveled there, among others. Despite the hardships – a devastating fire that burned it to the ground, several different owners and later bankruptcy – the hotel endured and is thriving. In 2012, the hotel underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation. Today, it is a AAA Four Diamond rated property. It offers High Tea on Saturday afternoons and a Sunday brunch. Or enjoy some “me” or couple time with a massage, facial, manicure and pedicure at The Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa located in the hotel.

WHERE TO STAY

La Quinta Inn & Suites
821 Stewart Ave., Garden City, 516-705-9000. laquintagardencity.com

Hyatt Place
5 North Ave., Garden City. 516- 222-6277. gardencity.place.hyatt.com

Hampton Inn
1 North Ave., Garden City, 516-227-2720, hamptoninn3.hilton.com

The Garden City Hotel 
45 Seventh St., 516-747-3000, gardencityhotel.com

WHERE TO DINE

The Capital Grille
630 Old Country Rd., Garden City, 516-746-1675, thecapitalgrille.com

Seasons 52
630 Old Country Rd., Garden City. 516-248-5252. seasons52.com

Grand Lux Café
630 Old Country Rd., Garden City, 516-741-0096. grandluxcafe.com

The Cuban
987 Stewart Ave., Garden City, 516-222-0295. thecubanny.com

Mac & Melts
684 Stewart Ave., Garden City, 516-246-9610, macnmelts.com

Akbar Restaurant
2 South St., Garden City, 516-357-8300, theakbar.com

Spuntino Wine Bar & Italian Tapas
1002 Old Country Rd., Garden City, 516-285-5400, spuntinowinebar.com

Tocolo Cantina
920 Old Country Rd., Garden City, 516-222-0060, tocolocantina.com

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse
600 Old Country Rd., Garden City, 516-222-0220, ruthschris.com

Polo Steakhouse 
45 Seventh St., 516-877-9385, polosteakhouseny.com 

Lara Spencer of Good Morning America Shares Flea Market Flip Tips

Good Morning America airing on the ABC Television Network. (ABC/Ida Mae Astute)

Lara Spencer is unstoppable. For the co-anchor of Good Morning America and creator, executive producer and host of Flea Market Flip, best selling author and devoted mother of two teenagers, life is good.

“I am really, really happy where I am,” says Spencer.

Today at 48, Spencer is feeling on top of the world and attributes much of her successes to growing up in Garden City.

We caught up with her as she was getting ready for the holidays, to talk work, her recent projects, motherhood, her love for Garden City, how she got the nickname “Bird” and the best strategy for hunting treasures at your next flea market stop.

Lara Spencer, host of Flea Market Flip. (Photo by Mae Astute)

Long Island Press: How would you describe yourself?

Lara Spencer: Well, I am definitely a product of Long Island. Growing up there really formed who I am. I am very proud to be a Strong Islander. I think we are real and we are honest. We work hard, and we love to laugh, and we are a little loud, and we are proud of it. When people say: “Oh, you are from Long Island with the hard “G,”
I correct them and say, “No, It is Long Island, and it is the most incredible place to grow up. Thirty-five minutes from New York and a world away if you want it to be with the greatest people who will keep you in check every step of the way. I went to Garden City High School, and I am known by high school nickname. They don’t care one iota what I do for a living. I am still the same old Lara from Garden City High School, and I love that.

LIP: Do you visit often? Do you have family there?

LS: I visit often. My best friend in the world is my friend from grade school and high school. I am a firm believer that old friends are the best friends. They know you the best. They keep you in check and my friends from Garden City certainly do that.
My brother is also still there. I was just there for Thanksgiving. I went to the Garden City Hotel for a drink, that is one of my favorite spots. They did a terrific job renovating. They have a little outdoor stop now in the front in the summer with fire pits, and the bar inside that is so chic. It is really fun. It is home base for our friends when we all get together and we eventually end up at Leo’s, a burger joint. It is the beacon in the night for all of us who all grew up in Garden City. It’s just a great casual family stop where you can go with your family for a burger, or when you get home, everyone gathers there on the holidays. When I go back we all meet at Leo’s then I am not Lara anymore, I am Bird. My nickname was bird. Long story. I am happy to tell it. I played basketball all through grade school and high school, and I was very tall at an early age. And, I happened to choose the number 33 because it was my favorite number. I had no idea that was the number Larry Bird wore. My name is Lara, so all the boys in a teasing way in seventh grade used to call me Lara Bird. Then it became a term of affection. And today at 48 years old I am still Bird. I love it. It warms my heart to walk into Leo’s and hear “Hey Bird.” 

LIP: Do they have a burger named after you? You know I had to ask that.

LS: They don’t, but for a long time they did have my picture on the wall. I believe they updated and that is just fine. Also one of my first jobs was being a bus girl there, and then I graduated to waitress and occasionally hostess.

 

LIP: Garden City is beautiful particularly this time of year during the holidays?

LS: People take pride in their homes and celebrating the holidays. It is really special to drive around especially if we ever get snow again. It is impossible not to be in the holiday spirit when you drive around the town.

LIP: Is it true that you were a professional diver?

LS: I wasn’t professional. I was a diver my whole life through college. I went to college on an athletic scholarship for springboard diving to Penn State University. In my senior year, I was captain of the team and very proud. Garden City is also a community that encourages sports, and there is no shortage of opportunity for kids at any level to get involved in pretty much any sport you can think of. I was lucky, as the youngest of five. My mom was constantly driving all the kids from one practice to another just because I was the youngest I was tagging along, so I got into soccer, lacrosse, swimming because that is what my siblings were all doing. I think it is a blessing to be in a big family and have brothers and sisters to pave the way for you and they continue to do that. I have two brothers and two sisters. My dad sadly passed away, but he was the President of the Garden City Men’s Association and was involved in local sports, and my mom coached soccer. They were incredibly passionate about their community and being part of it.

George Stephanopoulos and Lara Spencer on “Good Morning America,” airing on the ABC Television Network in 2016. (ABC/Ida Mae Astute)

LIP: Your mom sure took it to the next level of being a soccer mom?

LS: My mom coached softball and soccer. I think that is the way she could be in control of the situation. She was coaching and made sure she kept an eye on us that way.

LIP: What type of stories do you like covering the most? Entertainment? News?

LS: I really love celebrating the underdog. One of my favorite stories ever was meeting with the real-life Rosie the Riveters. These women are now in their golden years. They were so formidable and so influential in World War II. I will never forget meeting with a group of them and seeing the twinkle in their eyes talking about how they helped win the war and what they gave up for our country. My kids had no idea what the expression even meant — Rosie the Riveter — so that is a really good day when I learn something and can come home and start a conversation and my kids can learn something from my work. I am still thinking about those women and it has been two years since I met them. I will never forget their energy and their pride. I am so grateful to have given that opportunity to meet them

LIP: How old are your children?

LS: My son turns 16 in January, and my daughter is 13.  I am in the thick of it.

LIP: As a mother of two teenagers how do you do it all? What is the secret?

LS: The same way you do it and the same way every parent does it. There is no real secret to it. You just have to prioritize. Personally, my kids come first. That’s how I do it. When they are all set, then I go from there. I have my day job at GMA. Then I take off that hat, and I put on the hat of producer and do my meetings in the afternoon until the kids get home and then its back to wearing the mom hat and worrying about homework and pick up from sports and figuring out what the heck I am going to feed them for dinner. I especially think given the current climate, no one ever asks how men do it all. We just do it. It’s our job. We are so lucky to have our beautiful children, who are happy and healthy hopefully, and I think when you put them first everything kind of falls into place around it. Then I just peace meal whatever free time I have left over. Unfortunately, manicures get the last place. That is my once every other week total treat on a Saturday if I can fit it in, but it is absolutely not a priority.

ABC Good Morning America co-host Lara Spencer broadcasting live with her co-host, Michael Strahan. (Photo by Mae Astute)

LIP: What is next for you?

LS: Oh my goodness, I think more of the same and continuing to cultivate ideas that are inspired by being curious, observant and creative. I come up with a million ideas all the time whether it is for a segment for GMA or my production company for a new show. I love my life at Good Morning America. I love running a production company and continuing to create. I launched a production company two years ago called DuffKat Media named after my kids, Duff and Kate. We just sold two pilots to the Scripps Network one to the Travel Channel and one to HGTV. I have other shows in development right now at the other networks, so that is exciting for me. I am like a tale of two cities. I look fancy on GMA and throw on my jeans and ass-kicking boots and hit the flea.

LIP: Tell me more about you career.

LS: One thing I will say …I am more well known now honestly for Flea Market Flip. It’s this unbelievable thing that happened. This little idea that I had that thankfully HGTV and Great American Country bought into and fell in love with, and now 11 seasons later, we are the little engine that could. I get stopped more about that show than GMA It has such a cool following and so many young kids are into up cycling, and it all started on Long Island.

LIP: How did your passion for shopping inspire your projects?

LS: I grew up with a mom who had great taste, but not a big budget. Every Saturday morning we would read the Garden City newspaper and circle the tag sales. Because I was the youngest I was stuck with her and we would go around to the tag sales and then go to the flea market where Roosevelt Field is now or where the racetrack was back in the ’80s. My passion for the books and for Flea Market Flip is all because of my upbringing on Long Island. And, my incredible parents who worked really hard to make ends meet and showed us that you don’t need a lot of money to have great style.

LIP: I love finding treasures, so I was excited to talk flea markets with you.

LS: Long Island is a treasure trove. If it were easier for me to get there between the kids’ sports, I would be there every weekend. There is some fabulous estates and cool collectors out there. It is also so fun to go to a yard sale and talk to the owners of the home about their collections. I always feel like it is a bit of a history lesson in of itself. Looking at old records and old porcelain I find myself learning something about the world or about these people and I love that. It is a great way to create a home that tells a story.

LIP: What is one of your favorite finds?

LS: A painting I found at an estate sale. It is not very valuable per se, but it’s been in every home I have lived in since the kids were born. They love it now, and hopefully, they will hang it with pride in their home. It is a pop art rendering done by a guy who worked in advertising. He was auditioning for a Lipton Tea ad. It was his sort of take on whatever the copy was. It’s a little bit like that pop art Andy Warhol school, but not on that level. It just makes me smile when I look at it every day.

LIP: What do you like to collect?

LS: What I really love right now is fantastic black-and-white photography. There is no one theme. I created this beautiful gallery wall I collected over the years from flea markets and yard sales, and I frame them all the same. The framing costs more than the photograph, but I love the simplicity. I feel like the older I get the cleaner and simpler my taste becomes.

LIP: Do you have a favorite period of photography?

LS: I would say ’60s and ’70s is my jam. Also ’40s and ’50s could be chic too. You never now what you are going to find when you are out looking. You just need to have an open mind. I see what speaks to me.

LIP: What are some of your quotes that you often say on the show?

LS: I have a few mantras when I am talking to new flea marketers.
1. Getting there early definitely pays off.
2. The adage, early bird gets the worm is really true when you are a true flea marketer
3. If you see something and you love it snap it up because if you walk away it will be gone when you come back.
4. Cash is king when it comes to flea marketing. You will have a lot more bargaining power if you are paying in cash then with any other method.
5. Be nice to the dealers. Remember they have gotten up before the sun was up and they are working really hard unpacking their wares that they have collected.
6. I cringe when I hear contestants really low ball. I think it’s nice to say, “What is your best offer?” Please never offer less than half. It is their job. They are working really hard

LIP: Shopping can be work. What about footwear? Sneakers? Heels? Flats?

LS: This isn’t a fashion show. Wear comfortable shoes. Bring your best friend so they can tell you when you picked up a total mistake. You need a friend who is honest who is going to say, “Where the hell are you going to put that?” Otherwise, you will end up with a garage full of junk. I have a lot of mistakes, and thankfully I have a lot more treasures.

Architect-Interior Design Team Overhauls Sands Point Family Pad

The kitchen counter tops with custom banquette and island. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)

Laura Casale and Amy Urban are a double threat when it comes to design and architecture. Both women are accomplished and multi-talented.

Casale is a third-generation designer with a passion for historic architecture and decades of experience in interior design, interior decoration, architecture and landscape design. Twenty six years ago she started her own full service architectural studio, Manhasset based Laura Casale Architecture, specializing in residential architecture.

Urban has a degree in civil engineering and a master’s in architecture. She has worked on many notable large residential and commercial projects in Manhattan and the tri state area. In 2008, Urban opened Amy Urban Architecture located on the Gold Coast. Five years ago, both women joined forces to collaborate on new projects and enhance client services.

“For all of our projects, we design the architecture and the interiors,” says Casale. “We coordinate all purchasing and do all the project management. It is a project in its entirety. We coordinate it all. At the end of the day, that is how a project should be run.”

One standout project that went over seamlessly, explains the design duo, was a Sands Point property purchased by a young couple with five-year-old twin girls. The family moved from their two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan to the newly renovated house.

Casale and Urban transformed the existing ranch, built in 1971, that was dark and small
for a family of four into a light filled, spacious and inviting space. Using their expertise, both women demolished nearly 60 percent of the home in order to start the renovation process on close to 5,000 square feet.

“We were able to come in and reconfigure the first floor by relocating the kitchen and creating a nanny suite and guest suite and rearranging the living space,” says Urban.

On the second floor, what was once a porch became a spacious master bedroom suite with private bathroom. The library became an office and two bedrooms were created so each girl had their own room. A second story was added to the home, which brought the property to an entirely different level.

“Adding the second-floor addition allowed us to have water views of Long Island Sound,” says Casale.

“It was a unique challenge and opportunity taking a non-descript building, adding to it and really capturing what hadn’t been there for the 40 -year life of the house.”

Another unique aspect of the project was designing the project in two phases, explains Urban. At the time of construction, the couple, she says, was not sure if they were going to expand their family. A phase one was created and phase two was a larger extension of the home if they need it.

“We were able to design the home with future growth in mind, but we executed for phase one, which can be lived in forever if they decided not to move forward on phase two,” says Urban.

The home that sits on two acres was clearly a labor of love for both designers/architects.

“The fact that we are women architects and interior designers and mothers allows us to look very realistically at how you can keep your house kid friendly and beautiful at the same time,” says Casale.

The detail and workmanship throughout the home is timeless and the style is refined. Urban describes it as a “pared-down elegance.” Some of the design details include 10-foot French doors that Casale adds, “brings the outside inside.”

A ceiling to floor butler’s pantry that is all custom cabinetry, one of their specialities. A master bathroom that has a two-foot by three-foot marble tile gives the illusion of one monolithic slab and elegant thin white glass tile in the shower area. A honed limestone countertop that compliments the industrial style lanterns and subway tile in the kitchen and intersecting hallways located on the first floor adds architectural interest.

“We had to create an entrance into one room from three rooms,” says Casale. “This articulates the circulation and flow.”

The renovation from start to finish involved two months of working on the design and securing the permits. The remaining five and a half months was spent on construction. For both women, staying on budget and finishing on time has been one of the keys to their success. As well as keeping their clients happy.

“We really strive to stay on time and on budget,” says Casale. “It is in everyone’s best interest. Plus, when you are on time and on budget the client loves you and will
 want you to do more projects.”

She laughs, “We want to be invited back.”

The custom bulter’s pantry, with custom English metal grills. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)
The master closet, with custom island cabinetry and winter water views. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)
Full view of the kitchen with large sliding doors, sink has winter water view. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)
The master bath, with rain shower, water closet and custom vanity. (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)
The master bath with tub, 24×36 bardiglio flooring and mirrored vanity (Photo by Gretchen Murcott, Chickadee Photography)

Beauty Products That Make Perfect Stocking Stuffers for $50 and Under

Keep that smile looking sparkling with Flosstime, an automated floss dispenser that sticks directly onto your bathroom mirror, tile or wall. The dispenser lights up, making flossing easy any time of day or night, $36. Available at flosstime.com

Say goodbye to shine with the MAC Pro Longer Powder/ Pressed that gives a velvety matte finish and up to 12 hours of coverage in any climate. The powder comes in three shades – Light Plus, Medium Plus and Dark. The powder is packaged in a limited edition sculptural hammered gold compact specially designed by sculptor/jewelry designer, Robert Lee Morris, $45. Available at MACcosmetics.com and MAC retail locations.

Get your skin feeling baby-smooth soft with the CORE Razor, a single-blade wet shaving razor that eliminates razor burn or ingrown hairs and promises a close, smooth shave similar to the traditional single-blade barbershop experience, $49.95. Available at onebladeshave.com

Make a statement with Note Cosmetics Dark Smokey Holiday Eye Kit. Kit contains silk mono eyeshadow, perfect lash mascara, smokey eye pencil in black and eyeshadow pencil in blue grey. All products are vegan, paraben free and cruelty free, $25. Available at notecosmetics.com

Milk Soaps by FarmHouse Fresh look good enough to eat. Each wedge is hand-poured and looks like a block of artisanal fine cheese. Made with goat’s milk or cow’s milk, each soap includes gourmet ingredients such as pistachio, chia, lavender, blueberry, oatmeal and honey, $14 each. Available at farmhousefreshgoods.com

A touch of glow or shimmer will complete your holiday look with Onomie’s ACE Illuminating Eye Treatment Highlighter. Packed with Vitamins A, C and E, it fights free radicals and smooths fine lines over time so the more you use it, the better your skin will look, $40. Available at onomie.com.

Fiber Cream by American Crew is the answer for the man who takes his hair seriously. The cream that was just launched last month is the newest hair care product in the American Crew family that combines flexibility with control and gives your hair that refined texture with a natural shine finish, $11.95. Available at americancrew.com or ulta.com.

The perfect gift for the bearded male: The Beard Care Kit by Bulldog Skin Care. Each kit contains beard oil made with a blend of aloe vera, camelina oil and green tea that softens and conditions your beard, a 2-in-1 beard shampoo and conditioner and limited edition Bulldog beard comb, $20.62. Available at amazon.com

Get those gorgeous plump lips just like your favorite celebrity with Lancer Volume Enhancing Lip Serum. Created by Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer, the lip treatment smooths out the appearance of vertical lip lines, defines lip contours, and provides hydration for plumpness, $42. Available at lancerskincare.com

For the nail obsessed here’s Dermelect’s Peptide Infused Anti-Aging Color Treatment Lacquers that strengthen weak, brittle nails, help prevent chipping and splitting, restore flexibility and are UV protected and free of DBP, toulene, camphor, formaldehyde resin and formaldehyde. There are 65 fun hues to choose from, $14. Available at dermelect.com

Local Jewelry Designers’ Labors of Love Make Perfect Gifts

Hand-fabricated bracelet in sterling silver and 22K gold with diamonds, $360.

Elizabeth Taylor once said, “Jewelry has the power to be the one little thing that makes you feel unique.” Shall we say more?

In our pursuit of the most unique and personal gifts to give this holiday season, we found an assortment of bracelets, bangles, necklaces and rings, each handcrafted from a variety of local jewelry designers. For those obsessed with fine gold and precious metal to colorful beads, stones with healing properties or just bling, we’ve got you covered.

Each artist is passionate about their craft, which is translated into their designs.

Designer: Annie Fensterstock Fine Jewelry

Specialty: Annie is known for her intricate designs that utilize ancient goldsmithing techniques. She works in 18-karat gold, 22-karat gold, sterling silver and platinum. She uses precious gemstones including less traditional cuts of diamonds as well as rubies, sapphires, opals and Paraiba tourmalines. Many of her bracelets, earrings and necklaces feature open framework that lends itself to the Renaissance, Baroque, or Art Nouveau style.

“All of my jewelry is individually hand fabricated. I don’t use molds and I alloy my own gold. I combine traditional goldsmithing techniques with a modern aesthetic to make jewelry for the strong, independent woman,” she says.

Description: Edgy chic, timeless.
Inspiration: Art, architecture, music and family.
Prices: $200 and up.
Where to get it: anniefensterstock.com

Union Jack Guitar String Bracelet made from
nickel-wound “E” guitar string, silvertone and
glass beads with microphone charm detail on
pick with lobster clasp, $35.

Designer: Black Flamingo Designs 

Specialty: Owner/Designer Louise Iacono uses guitar picks and guitar strings that she upcycles to create one-of-a-kind bracelets and earrings. Some of her customized picks feature unique designs from an Australian-based artist she works with. Many of her clients are guitarists and music aficionados.

“Guitar string bracelets are my creation,” she says. “Some customers send me their own strings and picks. One customer found her late grandfather’s guitar after 35 years. I made a bracelet out of the guitar strings for the girl’s mother for Christmas. She was so choked up. I love doing stuff like that.”

(Side note: Louise made guitar string bracelets for Bret Michaels, the ex-lead singer of Poison, and each band member.)

Inspiration: Any type of music, especially classic rock.
Price: $20 earrings; men’s guitar bracelet $35; women’s guitar bracelet $25-$30.
Where to get it: Available at bkflamingo.etsy.com and the Tri-County Flea Market through Christmas.

Maude Graham Aquamarine Intention Necklace with druzy, clear quartz crystal and Buddha charm, $500. Available at shopsaylavieboutique.com

Designer: Maude Graham

Specialty: Jane Zuckerberg, owner of Say La Vie, a clothing/accessories boutique in Cold Spring Harbor, formerly the tie-dye lady, started creating jewelry under a pseudonym.

“I couldn’t find any jewelry that I wanted to wear so I figured I would create it myself,” she says. Zuckerberg uses freshwater pearls, a combination of beads that she says possess healing properties, and a buddha or druzy for glitter and she always adds quartz crystals to the mix for what she describes as The Master Protector.

“I only create jewelry when I feel calm, happy and centered,” she says. “Everything is made with love. There is an energy to the stones and crystals I use.

“For example, Amazonite has a peaceful, calming vibe and Labradorite offers protection from negativity,” she continues. “Citrine attracts abundance and Lepidolite is a mood booster. Buddha reminds me to live and treat others as I wish to be treated and Ganesha is the remover of obstacles in one’s path.”

Description: Jewelry with a spiritual edge.
Inspiration: Nature and the ocean and the beach.
Prices: $20-$35 baby jewelry; $45, $60, $75 bracelets; $295-$500 and up for beaded jewelry with diamonds and gold.
Where to get it: shopsaylavieboutique.com