Timothy Bolger

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Timothy Bolger is the Managing Editor for the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.

Inside a WWII-Era Plane’s Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach Practice Flight

Geico Sketypers
The Geico Sketypers fly over Fire Island (Long Island Press photo)

Playing follow the leader in sunny skies over Long Island, three World War II-era ex-military planes came daringly close to one another before breaking off, leaving white smoke trials in their wake.

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The daredevil pilots flying this trio of propeller-powered SNJs—the U.S. Navy version of the T-6 Texan, a trainer plane dubbed “the pilot maker” that tops out at 208 mph—were practicing their routine in advance of the 13th annual Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach, one of the biggest events on LI, this Memorial Day weekend.

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” said pilot Chris Orr, who took this reporter along for the ride Thursday. “These planes are 76 years old and they’re working all the time, hard. And they make almost every show.”

RELATED STORY: Inside the Blue Angels Bethpage Air Show at Jones Beach Practice

Orr, a member of a squadron known as the Geico Skytypers, gave some tips unlike any heard by commercial airline flight attendants before taking off. In the unlikely event that something goes wrong but somehow I didn’t hear the pilot yell “bailout” three times, another sign to jump out of the plane is that the pilot is no longer strapped into the seat directly in front of the passenger seat, THE only other seat in the plane. And when bailing out, jump directly at the wing—the wind speeds ensure jumpers won’t actually hit the wing.

Thankfully, we didn’t have to heed that advice. Aside from performing in air shows, clients also hire Orr’s team to write customized smoke messages in the sky. And since the company is based at Republic Airport in East Farmingdale—they’re some of the few local performers in the Jones Beach air show—it’s like their homecoming.

Leading the show this year is the Blue Angels, the elite squadron of F/A-18 Hornets that woo crowds with their signature diamond-formation trickery. Jets joining them include the F-35 Lightning II, a 5th Generation fighter, the Royal Canadian Air Force Snowbirds, and the Breitling Jet Team, a civilian aerobatics team. That’s in addition to demonstrations by civilian stunt pilots such as Sean Tucker, John Klatt and others, as well as flyovers by the American Air Power Museum’s warbirds and the U.S. Army Parachute Team.

RELATED STORY: Inside the Cockpit of a Jones Beach Air Show Stunt Pilot

As usual, crowds came early to the airport to watch the pilots practice. Such fandom is not uncommon on an island with a rich aviation history—including Charles Lindbergh’s record-breaking trans-Atlantic flight from Roosevelt Field, former local Grumman manufacturing plants building the Apollo Lunar Module that put men on the moon, and many other firsts.

Although he’s flying vintage aircraft these days, Orr is no stranger to the advanced fighter jets sharing the stage at Jones Beach. He flew F-14s for the U.S. Navy before joining the Air National Guard. He also flew C-130s on combat missions to rescue U.S. Special Forces units from hostile places, although he can’t discuss details.

Since retiring from the military, his new mission is showing off his skills in these 600-horsepower, 29-foot wingspan, flying relics of a bygone era. Catch the show Saturday and Sunday!

Brentwood Man Arrested in Huntington Slaying

Samuel White
Samuel White

A suspect was held on $ million bail after Suffolk County police arrested him for the death of a 39-year-old Bay Shore man who was killed in Huntington his week, authorities said.

Samuel White, 32, of Brentwood, was charged with first-degree manslaughter in the death of Edwin Rivera.

A 911 caller had reported that a man was unconscious and covered in blood on Clinton Avenue and when officers arrived, they found the victim lying on the ground next to his Mercedes at 3:17 a.m. Wednesday.

The victim was taken to Huntington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office performed an autopsy and ruled his death to be criminal.

Homicide Squad detectives arrested White on Thursday. Suffolk County Judge Jennifer Henry set his bail at $1 million bond or $500,000 cash. He is due back in court Tuesday.

Bay Shore Man Murdered in Huntington

A 39-year-old Bay Shore man was killed in Huntington early Wednesday morning, Suffolk County police said.

A 911 caller reported that a man was unconscious and covered in blood on Clinton Avenue and when officers arrived, they found Edwin Rivera lying on the ground next to his Mercedes at 3:17 a.m.

The victim was taken to Huntington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office performed an autopsy and ruled his death to be criminal.

Homicide Squad detectives are continuing the investigation and ask anyone with information on this case to call them at 631-852-6392 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

Islip Terrace Man Killed in Crash

A 37-year-old Islip Terrace man was killed when he crashed his car in West Babylon early Wednesday morning.

New York State police said Eugene Ellis was driving a Hyundai Sonata westbound on the Southern State Parkway when he veered off the roadway onto the north shoulder, hit a tree and a light pole and was ejected near exit 37 at 4:19 a.m.

The victim, who was driving alone at the time, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Authorities are continuing the investigation into t he cause of the crash.

2 Fatally Hit by SUV on LIE

Two people were fatally hit by an SUV while standing near the median of the Long Island Expressway after their BMW became disabled in Old Westbury on Monday night.

Nassau County police said the 20-year-old man driving the BMW and an 18-year-old woman who was his passenger had gotten out of the vehicle after it broke down in the HOV lane when they were struck by a westbound GMC Yukon between exits 40 and 39 at 11 p.m.

The BMW driver, Yousef Shaker of Ridgewood, was pronounced dead at the scene and the woman, Lauren Stephan of Salem, NY, died at Nassau University Medical Center.

Two other passengers who also got out of the BMW—an 18-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man—were taken to a local hospital for treatment of their injuries. The SUV driver was treated for minor injuries.

Homicide Squad detectives impounded both vehicles and are continuing the investigation. The SUV driver was not charged.

LIRR Hosting 6 Hearings on 3rd Track Proposal This Week

Long Island Rail Road riders hop off the train in Long Beach. (Photo by Joe Abate)

The Long Island Rail Road is hosting six public hearings this week to receive local feedback on the proposal to build a third set of train tracks between Floral Park and Hicksville.

commercial moving guideThe estimated $1-billion plan to lay nearly 10 miles of new rails would ease congestion on the busy Main Line during the rush hour commute, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Some residents who live near the tracks have expressed concerns—although New York State officials dropped previous controversial plans to condemn homes near the tracks.
“The LIRR Expansion Project will bring tremendous benefits to the region by accommodating a growing economy, and also to every single community along the project corridor by eliminating railroad crossings that create noise, traffic and safety problems for thousands of residents,” LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski said.
The LIRR is the nation’s busiest commute railroad, with ridership up two percent last year over 2014 and 15 percent over the past 30 years.
As a result of the current bottleneck, there is no eastbound service on the Main Line during the morning rush hour and no westbound service during the evening rush on that branch because trains only run in one direction between Floral Park and Hicksville during peak times.
The Public Scoping Meetings, as the hearings are known, will give residents a chance to learn about and comment on this month’s 82-page draft of the proposal outlining its environmental impacts. The public can read up on the project at aModernLI.com
The first four meetings will be held Tuesday followed by two more on Wednesday. The schedule is as follows:
-10 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday at the Mack Student Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead.

-11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday at The Inn at New Hyde Park, 214 Jericho Tpke. in New Hyde Park.
-5-9 p.m. Tuesday at The Inn at New Hyde Park, 214 Jericho Tpke in New Hyde Park.
-6-9 p.m. Tuesday at the Mack Student Center at Hofstra University in Hempstead.
-11 a.m.-2 p.m. Wednesday at the Yes We Can Community Center, 141 Garden St. in Westbury.
-6-9 p.m. Wednesday at Antun’s by Minar, 244 West Old Country Rd. in Hicksville.

Shuttle buses to the hearing sites are being offered from Mineola LIRR station on Tuesday and from Hicksville station on Wednesday. More information can be learned about the project at the Mineola station.

Written comments can also be emailed through 5 p.m. June 13 to info@amodernli.com or mailed to Edward M. Dumas, Vice President, Market Development & Public Affairs, Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project, MTA Long Island Rail Road, MC 1131, Jamaica Station Building, Jamaica, NY 11435.

Additional public meetings will also be held later this year.

Huntington Station Man Found Dead

Suffolk County police are investigating whether a 33-year-old man who was found dead in his hometown of Huntington Station was a victim of foul play over the weekend, authorities said.

Officers responded to West Hills Road, where William Sarcenolima was found partially in the roadway between 7th and 8th avenues after 4 a.m. Sunday, police said.

The victim was taken to Huntington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His body was then taken to the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office, where an autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

Homicide Squad detectives are investigating the possibility that Sarcenolima was a victim of violence and ask anyone with information on this case to call them at 631-852-6392 or call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

Copiague Man Fatally Hit by Vehicle

A 32-year-old man was fatally struck by a vehicle in his hometown of Copiague over the weekend.

Suffolk County police said Benjamin Zuniga was hit by a vehicle on Oak Street near the corner of Great Neck Road at 1:25 a.m. Sunday.

The victim was taken to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, where he was pronounced dead.

The driver, who stayed at the scene, was not charged.

A Beginner’s Guide to Summer on Fire Island

With the return of beach season, so too flock the crowds to Fire Island, the barrier island simultaneously known as a popular tourist destination and a hidden gem full of natural wonders.

But Fire Island is much more than that dichotomy allows. It’s home to Robert Moses State Park on the west end, Smith Point County Park on the east end and a national park featuring an eight-mile wilderness preserve. And in the middle, accessible by ferry only, are 17 car-free communities—most of which are strictly residential with a few having downtowns offering shops and nightlife.

How to become a travel agent

“It’s a special place unlike any other place certainly within an hour and a half of New York [City],” Suzy Goldhirsch, president of the Fire Island Association (FIA), previously told the Press. “It’s a place where time has stood still to a certain extent because there are no cars and because you still have a small town ambiance where you walk or ride a bicycle and you see people and you stop on the corner and you talk to each other. You are not whizzing by your neighbors at 50 mph in a car on your way to the mall. That quality of life itself is worth preserving not only for residents, but for people who come to visit our Island—for a day trip, or a stay at the Fire Island Hotel or perhaps to rent a house.”

The 32-mile-long, ¼-mile wide  strip of sand—the longest of four barrier islands that protect the South Shore of Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean—has a history rich with tales of colonial-era pirates, myriad shipwrecks and Prohibition-era rumrunning. It has about 4,000 homes and its year-round population of about 400 residents swells to an estimated 20,000 during summer months—plus daytrippers. Without cars, the primary modes of transportation include bicycles, private boats, water taxi, golf carts and wagons.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A DETAILED MAP OF FIRE ISLAND

With Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer, what follows is a 13-point guide to Fire Island for first-time visitors and novices that want to get to know the place better, listed in order of popularity.

The view looking west in downtown Ocean Beach (Long Island Press phono)
The view looking west in downtown Ocean Beach (Long Island Press photo)

OCEAN BEACH

Ocean Beach is the island’s most populous village and is home to its biggest downtown, making it the unofficial capital of Fire Island that’s also among the area’s most popular destinations for visitors.

Aside from its lifeguarded oceanfront, bayside marina and family friendly small town charm, the village is additionally home to about a dozen restaurants and bars with at least as many boutiques and gift shops—all of which welcome bare sandy feet.

“Fun in the sun” is scrawled across the village’s antique street lamp banners, although Ocean Beach’s many rules also made it known as “The Land of No.”

Among the strict ordinances earning visitors summonses from village police are rules against eating on the beach, bicycling at restricted times and eating on streets outside of the downtown strip.

Like its conflicting descriptions, the village has different vibes depending upon the time. On summer days, children hawk painted seashells from red Radio Flyer wagons on street corners and bands play free concerts on the dock. Come sundown on summer weekends, the nightlife crowd packs the streets thirsty for dancing and Rocket Fuels—Bacardi 151-infused piña coladas invented in Ocean Beach.

RELATED STORY: A Pirate’s Guide To Fire Island

There are no statistics for just how many visitors this village gets, but the largest ferry company serving the island has said that the majority of its riders go to and from Ocean Beach. Yet just like everywhere else on Fire Island, this ¼-mile-long village turns into a virtual ghost town on what the locals call Tumbleweed Tuesday, a.k.a. the day after Labor Day.

The dock at Cherry Grove on Fire Island.
The dock at Cherry Grove on Fire Island.

CHERRY GROVE & FIRE ISLAND PINES

About four miles east of Ocean Beach are these two LGBT-centric communities neighboring one another, locally known as The Pines and The Grove, which together form a gay mecca of sorts.

Arguably the oldest community on Fire Island, Cherry Grove is credited as being the first community in America where gays and lesbians could be open about their sexuality, long before the modern gay rights movement helped make it more socially acceptable. Fire Island Pines came later but shares in the history.

“Because Cherry Grove was the first, and for years the only gay-controlled geography, the resort was a key venue in the historic movement of gay identity from furtive and fearful friendship networks to a universalizing gay nationalism,” author Esther Newton wrote in Cherry Grove, Fire Island: Sixty Years in America’s First Gay and Lesbian Town.

Solidifying its place in history, the Cherry Grove Community House & Theater was recognized in 2013 as a National Historic Landmark. But much like the rest of Fire Island, life in The Pines and The Grove is more focused on relaxation than the past.

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Sometimes the history and party atmosphere intertwine, like in the annual Invasion of The Pines, when scores of men in drag flock to Fire Island Pines, emulating the protest that ensued after a bar in the area refused to serve a Grove resident in drag in the 1970s, when The Pines was more conservative.

Local lore has it that the first resident of Fire Island was Jeremiah Smith, who built a house in Cherry Grove in 1795. The infamous “land pirate,” or “wrecker,” would build fires on the beach that ship captains would mistake for a lighthouse. Once he lured wayward ships to shore, they would run aground on Fire Island’s perilous sand bars and Smith would then pillage them.

While both communities only have boardwalks as sidewalks, The Grove is only about a ½-mile-long while The Pines stretches nearly a full mile. The Pines is also home to the majority of the private pools on the island.

Besides its hopping nightlife at Cherry’s, The Ice Palace and elsewhere, The Grove is home to one of only two oceanfront restaurants on Fire Island—The Sandcastle at The Ocean. Revelers in The Pines bounce between Sip ‘N Twirl, the Blue Whale and the Pavilion.

A nature trail winds through Watch Hill on Fire Island.
A nature trail winds through Watch Hill on Fire Island.

FIRE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE

The Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) features park facilities spanning most of the island, from the Fire Island Lighthouse to the federal wilderness preserve and all 17 communities in between.

FINS, which tallied 441,999 visitors last year, oversees four main park assets on the island. The crown jewel is the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, an eight-mile stretch of natural untouched beach that’s the only federally designated wilderness area in New York State. FINS also maintains Sunken Forrest—an extremely rare 300-year-old maritime holly forest—plus marinas and lifeguarded beaches at Sailor’s Haven and Watch Hill.

“Fire Island National Seashore welcomes visitors from across the country and around the world,” said FINS Superintendent Chris Soller. “We are delighted to share the story of this place and the experiences it provides.”

RELATED STORY: Fire Island National Seashore at 50: The View from Watch Hill

Congress established FINS, a unit of the National Park Service (NPS), a half century ago after preservationists lobbied lawmakers for help saving the island from Robert Moses, the late master planner, who proposed extending Ocean Parkway down the middle of Fire Island to make it a route to the Hamptons.

These days, aside from enforcing the law and protecting the park and its visitors from one another, FINS rangers also offer guided tours. Rangers lead hikes from the Wilderness Visitor Center at the entrance of Smith Point County Park, through the preserve to Old Inlet, which was formed anew during Sandy. Hikes are also offered from Watch Hill at the preserve’s west end.

In addition, Watch Hill has a campground where campers can pitch a tent for the night. Brave backpackers can also camp oceanfront in the preserve. And Watch Hill has a camp store, full restaurant, snack bar and tiki bar where campers, boaters and daytrippers alike mingle.

Although it falls within FINS boundaries, the Fire Island Lighthouse is actually operated and maintained by a nonprofit preservation society in cooperation with NPS.

Fire Island Lighthouse
Fire Island Lighthouse just east of Robert Moses State Park Field 5.

ROBERT MOSES STATE PARK

This five-mile-long park on the westernmost tip of Fire Island has many of the same amenities as Jones Beach, except it’s cleaner and instead of an amphitheater, Robert Moses has a historic lighthouse.

Both parks have their own iconic “needle” centering their respective traffic circles, but Robert Moses’ needle is circular, not square like the one at Jones Beach. Beachgoers similarly enjoy swimming, fishing, pitch-and-put golfing, concession stands, marinas, picnicking, surfing and boogie boarding at both parks. But since Robert Moses has fewer fields and nearly 4 million annual visitors—about half as many as Jones Beach gets—there’s less competition for space to lay a blanket in the sand.

“Robert Moses State Park is a significant tourism destination and crucial to Long Islands quality of life,” said Rose Harvey, commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Robert Moses is also the first state park on Long Island. It was originally called Fire Island State Park when it opened more than a century ago in 1908. It was only accessible by ferry until the bridge connecting it to mainland Long Island opened in 1964.

Drivers destined for Robert Moses State Park can take the Robert Moses Causeway south to the end. To the west is field two, which leads to Democrat Point—an off-roading hotspot overlooking the Fire Island Inlet—fields three or four are in the middle and, on the east end is field five, the park’s most popular since it’s the gateway to the rest of Fire Island. Field five also used to be known as the gateway to the nearby clothing-optional Lighthouse Beach, but FINS banned that nude beach in 2013.

Parking is $10 per car 8 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays and 7a.m.-6 p.m. weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. There is no charge for Empire Pass holders. The Suffolk County Transit S47 Bus makes stops at the beach with connections at the Babylon Long Island Rail Road station from June 20 to Sept. 5 with a fare of $2.25 each way.

Long Islanders will be headed to Robert Moses State Park, among other LI beaches, now that summer has arrived.
Robert Moses State Park on the western end of Fire Island (Long Island Press photo)

SMITH POINT COUNTY PARK

This six-mile-long oasis on the eastern tip of Fire Island is the largest oceanfront park operated by Suffolk County, running from the wilderness preserve to a half mile short of Moriches Inlet.

Aside from the usual beach fun—swimming, surfing, fishing and picnicking—Smith Point park also has a campground, 4×4 outer-beach access for permitted off-roaders and a Beach Hut restaurant and bar that regularly hosts live music.

“Smith Point is enjoyed by approximately 750,000 beachgoers each year, and is one of the focal points for our recreational and tourist economy,” former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy said in 2007.

It’s also the site of the TWA Flight 800 International Memorial and Garden commemorating the 230 passengers and crew that died when the Boeing 747 exploded near the Moriches Inlet on July 17, 1996.

The park is also home to the Fire Island Wilderness Center that serves as the interpretation center and gateway to the east end of the federal preserve.

Those driving to Smith Point County Park take William Floyd Parkway south to the end and park in the main lot. Parking fees are $8 for Green Key holders and $15 for non-card holders 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. The Suffolk County Transit 7E Bus makes stops at the beach with connections at the Mastic/Shirley Long Island Rail Road station during summer with a fare of $2.25 each way.

Fire Island wagon
Without cars, Fire Island visitors and residents use wagons to transport heavy items (U.S. Army Corp. photo).

OCEAN BAY PARK

Tucked between two residential communities about ½-mile east of Ocean Beach is this lively hamlet where singles and families alike have some of the most popular establishments on Fire Island to choose from.

Flynn’s restaurant and marina is one of the most well-known bars on the island. A short walk away is the Schooner Inn, another bayside restaurant—possibly the only one on Fire Island with a sandy beach instead of a bulkhead. Also nearby is the popular Fire Island Hotel, which has a poolside bar that’s open to guests and daytrippers alike.

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“Ocean Bay Park’s laid-back, non-restrictive lifestyle is especially appreciated by young homeowners and renters who seek a carefree, fun environment as the ideal Fire Island beach experience,” the Ocean Bay Park Association said on its website.

Both the hotel and Flynn’s were both constructed from old U.S. Coast Guard stations, a history that is not uncommon in other large, old structures across the island.

Although this ½-mile long community doesn’t have a centralized downtown, Ocean Bay Park does have two pizzerias—oddly right next to one another—a market, liquor store, deli and bicycle shop a short walk from one another. Like many communities on Fire Island, the only government building in the hamlet is the local fire house.

Visitors should use caution swimming in the ocean here, however, since it is one of the few communities where there are no lifeguards on duty and the riptides are historically bad in this section of the island.

Sunset at the marina in downtown Kismet.
Sunset at the marina in downtown Kismet.

KISMET

The westernmost community on Fire Island is this fateful spot about a mile east of the Fire Island Lighthouse, making it a popular destination for those who walk there from neighboring Robert Moses.

Kismet has two restaurants, including the quaint Kismet Inn—don’t let the name confuse you, they operate a marina, not a hotel—and the upscale casual Surf’s Out next door. The tiny bayside downtown area also packs a market, liquor store, cafe, ice creamery, snack stand and gift shop, most of which is feet from the ferry dock. The entire community is just five blocks long but isn’t one to turn anyone away like other exclusive enclaves on Fire Island.

“Outcasts from other Fire Island communities have found a home in Kismet,” Newsday reported in a still-true 1986 profile of the community known for its group share houses, or groupers. “And why not? The welcome mat and groupers fit nicely into Kismet’s tolerant doctrine: ‘Don’t bother us and we don’t care.’”

The area was home to one of Fire Island’s earliest resorts. The Surf Hotel became a popular destination in the mid-1800s well before the establishment of modern-day Kismet. But in the 1890s, the state bought the hotel and used it to quarantine cholera patients during an outbreak—a move that historians say nearly caused a riot and later led to a drop in guests before it burned down.

These days, Kismet is better known for hosting its annual clam shucking contest—among the most popular summer events on Fire Island—and for having the best view of the Fire Island Lighthouse. Seabay Beach, a one-block-long residential neighborhood just east of Kismet, is widely considered as part of the Kismet community.

Beach cruiser-style bicycles are the main form of transportation on Fire Island.
Beach cruiser-style bicycles are the main form of transportation on Fire Island.

ONE-BAR TOWNS

The barhopping crowd may want to skip Davis Park, Fair Harbor and Atlantique—the only three of the 17 communities on Fire Island that have just one restaurant each to call their own.

On one end of the spectrum is The Shack in Atlantique, a beachy snack stand with an indoor/outdoor bar and restaurant. On the other end is the Le Dock in Fair Harbor, a seafood restaurant that celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten is opening on Memorial Day weekend. And serving up the middle ground is Casino Café in Davis Park—one of only two restaurants on Fire Island with oceanfront views.

“Every community has its own character,” John Stewart, the head FINS ranger, previously told this reporter. “That’s what’s so fascinating about this place.”

Fair Harbor—a ¾-mile-wide community with a market, ice creamery, general store and pizzeria—is nestled between the Village of Saltaire and Dunewood. It’s among the more low key areas on the island, where residents gather at the dock in front of the restaurant to applaud the sunset each evening. The newly renovated Le Dock is replacing its longtime, recently sold predecessor of the same name that was known for its annual “white party,” one of the few Hamptons-esque things on Fire Island.

A half mile east of Fair Harbor and about a mile west from the Village of Ocean Beach is Atlantique, a six-block-long neighborhood adjoining a town-run park of the same name, where The Shack is the only commercial establishment. The residential community is home to an Appalachian Mountain Club’s Fire Island Cabin, which offers hostel-style accommodations and group outdoors activities for the club’s members. For those who like music with their fun in the sun, The Shack has live bands play every weekend during summer.

Davis Park, the easternmost community on Fire Island, is actually three neighborhoods, including Ocean Ridge to the east and Leja Beach to the west, but all three fall under the central ¾-mile-long Davis Park umbrella. The Casino, as locals call it—don’t expect any gambling—features fine dining by day and, after sundown, its adjoining bar turns into a nightclub. This remote hotspot also regularly hosts live music.

This map shows where Fire Island is compared to greater Long Island.
This map shows Fire Island highlighted in green.

HO HUM, GREAT GUN & BARRETT BEACHES

Two of the smallest park facilities on Fire Island also rank as some of the most remote, hardest to get to locations on the island—Ho Hum Beach and Great Gun Beach.

Ho Hum Beach, conveniently located in the middle of the federal wilderness preserve, is about four miles east of Watch Hill, but the ferry there is only open to Village of Bellport residents and their guests. Great Gun Beach, run by the Town of Brookhaven, is about six miles east of Smith Point park and is only accessible by private boat, permitted 4×4 or by walking. And the FINS-run Barrett Beach can only be reached by private boat or by walking about a mile east from Fire Island Pines.

“Ho-Hum Beach is a quaint, pristine stretch of beach,” Bellport village said on its website.

Ho Hum Beach has a lifeguarded beach, picnic area, concession stand and marina that’s also only accessible to village residents. The ferry there, Whalehouse Point, is named for an area just west of the park that was one of three former communities that were condemned and returned to their natural state when FINS was established. Whalehouse Point, established as a whaling station in the 1600s, was the first settlement on FI, according to FIA.

Great Gun Beach, just west of Moriches Inlet, is even more basic. There’s a marina, lifeguards and restrooms, but no concession stand. But unlike Ho Hum, Great Gun is open to the general public.

Barrett Beach is similarly bare bones, except it only has a dock for dropping off boaters, no marina. It’s near a section of beach known as Talisman, which ha housing for FINS staffers and researchers.

The deer on Fire Island are not afraid to come right up to people.
The deer on Fire Island are often not afraid to come right up to people.

SALTAIRE

The Village of Saltaire is older and geographically larger than Ocean Beach, the only other incorporated village on Fire Island, but it’s less populous and despite being publicly accessible, it’s not very hospitable.

Saltaire is about ¾-mile long and just east of Kismet, but there is little to do for outsiders but lie on the sand, visit its library or shop at its newly renovated market. That’s because there are no hotels here and the only restaurant and bar in the village is at the Saltaire Yacht Club, which only admits residents who are members—no guests.

“Saltaire is known as a family town, where residents need only respect the written and unwritten rules of decorum to be accepted, and where transients are discouraged without regard to race, creed or color,” The New York Times wrote in a 1986 village profile. The newspaper termed it “among New York’s firmest bastions of exclusivity.”

Elite residents have included the late fashion icon Liz Claiborne, director George Roy Hill and former congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, who made history as the first female vice presidential candidate—and whose son is a Saltaire village trustee. The former Claiborne estate, which is currently in contract, is one of only six on Fire Island to stretch from bay to ocean and is the only one with that distinction on the western half of the island.

The village is also the only community on the western half of the island in which the majority of the sidewalks are boardwalks—as opposed to the concrete sidewalks that form grids in neighboring areas—since much of Saltaire is built on wetlands.

Fire Island alcohol ban
Private security guards patrol Fire Island along with FINS rangers and local police. (Long Island Press photo)

RESIDENTIAL FIRE ISLAND

About half of the communities on Fire Island are strictly residential and have no bars, restaurants or other businesses, except for Seaview, which has just a market, liquor store and nursery.

Besides Seaview, these sleepy, off-the-grid enclaves include Dunewood, Lonelyville, Robins Rest, Fire Island Summer Club, Corneille Estates, Seaview, Oakleyville, Blue Point Beach, Spatengaville and the confusingly named Water Island, which isn’t really a separate island from Fire Island.

“Fire Island is one of the chicest places to have a beach house,” the FIA, the island’s homeowner association umbrella group, said on its website. “It remains popular among artists, actors and musicians. The car-free, pastoral, beach getaway is a truly unique summer destination.”

Lonelyville, a five-block-long community just west of Atlantique, was once home to actor/filmmaker Mel Brooks. Fashion designer Michael Kors reportedly has a home in Water Island, situated two miles between both Davis Park and Fire Island Pines. And the likes of Madonna and John Lennon are said to have stayed in Oakleyville, a private community of just 11 homes bordering the Sunken Forest.

Tina Fey, Uma Thurman and the Kardashians have all been spotted at various Fire Island locales in recent years.

Life in Dunewood, just west of Lonelyville, largely revolves around the Dunewood Yacht Club that hosts an annual sunfish regatta. Robins Rest, to the east of Atlantique, is just one block long with woodlands bordering it on either side. Fire Island Summer Club and Corneille Estates, which is home to the Woodhull School—the only elementary school on Fire Island—lay just west of Ocean Beach and are three-blocks-wide combined.

Perhaps the least-known and smallest community on Fire Island is called Spatengaville. It’s made up of just four homes near Water Island. On the other side of Water Island is Blue Point Beach, another tiny FI community with just nine homes.

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As for Seaview, which is nestled between Ocean Beach and Ocean Bay Park, it has the distinction of being home to the dividing line between the Brookhaven and Islip town portions of Fire Island.

fireislandPOINT O’ WOODS

Point O’ Woods, which also claims to be the oldest community on Fire Island, easily ranks as the most enigmatic place on the beach since it’s basically a village-sized private club.

Many outsiders are first introduced to Point ‘O Woods when they see the massive chain-link fence on its western border with Ocean Bay Park near Flynn’s. Uninvited outsiders that sidestep the fence and enter Point ‘O Woods from the beach, which is public, are escorted out by security. Residents and their guests are the only ones allowed here.

“There’s nothing like Point O’ Woods in the area,” Harry Havemeyer, a Fire Island historian, told The New York Sun. “I don’t know of anything else quite like it.”

Established in the late 1800s by the local arm of what was known as the Chautauqua—a national movement of educational retreats—the Point O’ Woods Association later became the strongest homeowners group on Fire Island. The association owns the land and residents lease their homes from the group. Newcomers need referrals of current Woodsies to be allowed to lease.

As a result of the strict rules, Point O’ Woods is an architectural time capsule, where all the homes maintain their matching classic weathered cedar shingle exterior. The community also has the island’s only railroad—a small-gauge train used to ship cargo from the private ferry dock into town.

Fire Island ferry
Visitors to central Fire Island get there via ferries from Bay Shore, Sayville or Patchogue.

HOW TO GET THERE BY FERRY

Beachgoers heading to any of the 17 car-free communities in the middle of Fire Island can do so from one of three ferry terminals in either Bay Shore, Sayville or Patchogue.

Fire Island Ferries, the largest of the three companies serving the island, is based on the south end of Maple Avenue in Bay Shore. It serves the communities of Kismet, Saltaire, Fair Harbor, Dunewood, Atlantique, Ocean Beach, Seaview and Ocean Bay Park. Those taking the ferry can either drive and park in one of the pay parking lots south of Main Street or take the Long Island Rail Road to the Bay Shore station and either take a cab or walk south to the terminal. Roundtrip Bay Shore ferry fares are $19 for adults and $9 for kids. One-way tickets for seniors are $9. fireislandferries.com

Those going to Cherry Grove, Fire Island Pines or Water Island take the Sayville Ferry Service based on River Road in Sayville. The same terminal is also used for daytrippers to and from Sailor’s Haven. Sayville ferry riders similarly can drive to nearby pay parking lots or take the LIRR to a cab to the terminal. Roundtrip Sayville ferry fares are $16 for adults, $7.50 for kids and $4.50 for dogs. sayvilleferry.com

Lastly, those destined for Davis Park take the Davis Park Ferry on Brightwood Street in Patchogue, where they can also drive to a pay parking lot or take a train to a cab to the terminal. The company also operates a ferry for daytrippers to Watch Hill on West Avenue, one block south of the LIRR. Roundtrip Patchogue ferry fares are $17 for adults, $16 for seniors, $11 for kids and $6 for dogs. davisparkferry.com

All three ferries accept cash only.

As they say on Fire Island: “See you on the beach!”

East Meadow Suspect Burned Man in Tent, Cops Say

An East Meadow man was arrested for allegedly setting fire to a tent in which a man was sleeping in the Hempstead Plains Preserve in Uniondale this week, police said.

Bradley Storey, 50, of East Meadow, was charged with arson, assault and reckless endangerment.

New York State police said Storey and the 37-year-old victim got into a fight and when the victim later woke up from his sleep, his tent was on fire and he suffered burns to his legs and feet while trying to escape at 9:15 p.m. Monday.

The fire spread, reportedly burning about 1,000 feet of the preserve on the south side of Charles Lindbergh Boulevard between the Long Island Marriott and Meadowbrook State Parkway. Uniondale firefighters reportedly extinguished the flames.

The victim was taken to Nassau University Medical Center, where he was treated for his injuries.

Storey is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at First District Court in Hempstead.