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South Fork splendor

I HAVEN’T ALLOWED MYSELF A PROPER TIRADE in a long while, but last Sunday’s New York Times Real Estate section drives me to it. Did you see the top story, “The Fork Less Taken”? I read it six days late, yesterday afternoon, while lolling on the nothing-short-of-spectacular, nearly-deserted Gardiner’s Bay beach a seashell’s throw from the house I bought in March on Long Island’s “more taken” fork. While extolling the virtues of the North Fork, the article manages to bash the South Fork in every paragraph, either in reporter Robin Finn’s own words or the hackneyed quotes (“we’re the un-Hamptons,” “…the anti-Hamptons”) she has chosen.

I love the North Fork myself for its farmland and vineyards, which are in short supply here on the more developed South Fork, where I’ve lived part-time for 4+ years and now own two properties. Hey, the photo of the farmhouse in my blog header, top, that I’ve been using for ages now is quintessential North Fork. And I admit to choking on the words “the Hamptons” when I first moved out here, aware of the pretentious privilege they implied.

But really. Let’s not overstate the case, as this piece does. It starts out mildly enough, saying that the South Fork is “starting to flirt with being overbuilt, overhyped and overcrowded” — to which my immediate reaction was, “starting to flirt with”?! It’s been overbuilt since the 1980s; the region is littered with bad houses from that era. But then the cliches and misinformation begin.

“…from the perspective of the average homeowner’s portfolio, owning a home there is an inarguably lovely wish-list item.” Has Robin Finn checked sales prices for the whole South Fork lately, or just the tonier precincts? Here in Springs, where real people live, there are listings galore under 400K, and certainly under 500K.

“..the star wattage of its denizens” “a celebrity magnet” “a mash-up of movers and shakers..”

I move in different circles. I did see Alec Baldwin once at the Amagansett Farmer’s Market, wearing white socks under orthopedic sandals, and I know where Steven Spielberg lives (he probably comes once every two years), and I heard Paul McCartney has a place in Amagansett. But what about the rest of us? The piece makes it sound like every last person on the South Fork “bask(s) in conspicuous consumption.” All the artists and teachers and landscapers and builders and plumbers who send their kids to local schools and shop at the IGA go unmentioned in the piece, which seems to regard “multi-million dollar ocean frontage” as the sum and substance of the South Fork.

The North Fork is a place where “the locals are concerned and sensitive that it not turn into the next Hamptons,” says one recent home buyer. This follows the same woman’s saying that “it makes you feel good that when you buy property, there’s a 2 percent tax that goes to land preservation.” That’s the same Peconic Land Trust tax we pay on the South Fork, for the same purpose, but neither the home buyer nor the reporter seem to know that.

You can get a bay view on the North Fork for less money than here on the South Fork, which is a good thing, but the bay beaches themselves — at least the ones I’ve been to on the North Fork — don’t compare. The Town beaches in Jamesport and Greenport are lousy; the ones around Laurel/Mattituck, on the Peconic Bay, are nicer, but not nearly as nice as Maidstone, Gerard Drive, and Louse Point here in Springs. The Sound is gorgeous but rocky and not swimmer-friendly. The ocean at Orient State Park is a long drive from anywhere but Orient. (Someone please enlighten me about good North Fork beaches — I’d like to know.)

Who are the new “low-profile” citizens of the bucolic North Fork? Those interviewed for the article include a couple from Tribeca, another from DUMBO, and a Wall Street retiree. Where they go, artisanal microgreens and Icelandic sheep are sure to follow — no, they’re already there.

Of course, some of the commenters set things straight. GC of Brooklyn said it best, IMO:

I think this story came out of the archives… Back in the early 1980s, we used to rent several vacation houses for a few days each summer in the Jamesport/Laurel area so all of our cousins and extended family could get out of our sweaty Brooklyn neighborhood. At that time, I recall the area was simple, inexpensive, and as “unspoiled” as something could be on Long Island. Going out to that same spot a few years ago, I saw the exact opposite: what in 1982 were open fields and farms were now housing developments, what were gravel roads were now paved, and what were simple vacation bungalows and cottages were now outfitted as year-round homes. It was completely cluttered, expensive, and ultimately rather depressing. And, calling it the “un-Hamptons” speaks volumes to the Real Estate/NY Times need to place everything in a little box loaded up with definitions. If it’s not thoroughly ruined (read: overpriced and exclusive) by now, it will be soon.

The whole thing is just so annoying Times-ish, but even more specious than usual, like comparing the Upper East Side to the Upper West Side and finding it wanting. OK. Tirade over. What do you think? North vs. South? Game on!

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HERE’S A NEW YEAR’S GOODIE. Yep, with the turn of the calendar, it’s time to start thinking about…summer houses! The listing says this sweet and unpretentious 3BR, 2 bath  (bigger than it looks at from the outside) dates from 1847, and that seems about right. The symmetry, porch columns, pilasters on either side of the front door and six-over-six windows, all say Greek Revival to me. At the same time, the front porch and picket fence say farmhouse (they’re not mutually exclusive). It’s in the village of Greenport,on Long Island’s North Fork, where nearly all the houses are of similar vintage (see more of Greenport’s architectural charms here).

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The price has just been reduced by 30K. The still-upwards-of-400K ask reflects the tip-top condition of the house, the optimism of the sellers, and the market being pretty strong.

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Except for the dated kitchen, the house appears immaculate — renovated perhaps to a fault (recessed lights in old houses are a particular peeve of mine).

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Check out the listing, with lots more photos, here.

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Anyone local have insight to share about the Main Street location?

SO OFTEN ONE SEES listings that date houses inaccurately. Sometimes the listings claim the houses are much more recent than they are, sometimes older. In the case of this former tavern in Southold, N.Y.’s historic district, I wholeheartedly believe the listing date. Based on its boxy shape, steep-pitched roof (the better to shed snow), and most of all, interior photos, the circa 1800 date seems correct.

The map shows it located at an intersection, which would make sense for a former tavern. I don’t know how busy an intersection; that would be key. It’s on 1/2 acre with several outbuildings, including a 19th century barn. The floors are wide-plank, the windows ‘correct,’ and there seem to be original doors and other woodwork. The attic photo clinches it for me; it totally looks 200+ years old.

I say this looks very intriguing, and the asking price reasonable. What say you? Does anyone know the location? The realtor’s listing is here.

I ONCE HAD A SNOBBY FRIEND who called the North Fork of Long Island “the wrong fork.” By which she meant that the South Fork, where the Hamptons are located, was the only place to be.

Well, now I’m a resident of the South Fork and if I had even a trace of a superiority complex, it’s all gone now. Yesterday I had the perfect North Fork afternoon. I envy its farmland, its vineyards, its nurseries. It’s more beautiful and more full of surprises (below) than I realized.

I met a friend who lives on Shelter Island and we took the 10-minute car ferry over to Greenport. We drove through what seemed, by South Fork standards, vast tracts of farmland, to Long Island Perennial Farm in Riverhead. The nursery, down a lane behind an old farmhouse, made me wish I had some small children in tow. There are goats and ducks in a barnyard, and roosters, guinea hens, and peacocks strutting around.

The nursery is open weekends only, and just three months a year (April 20-July 15). It has an interesting and well-priced selection of perennials, including some deer-resistant ones that aren’t easy to find. Naturally I filled a cart.

<-Photo: Debré DeMers

We stopped at a second nursery in Cutchogue, but our focus was shot; it was getting on for cocktail hour. We met up with another friend for a classic North Fork experience: a wine tasting in one of the 40+ vineyards on the North Fork. We chose Croteaux in Southold, which makes only rosé in several varieties, and sat sipping in a gravel-paved garden overlooking rows of grapes. Unlike some of the vineyards, whose parking lots can be filled with tour buses on a Saturday afternoon, Croteaux bans them in a bid to stay low-key. OK with me.

Photo: Debré DeMers

The vineyards all seem to close at 5 or 6PM, so we couldn’t linger as long as we would have liked. Nevertheless, an afternoon to remember, and to do again ASAP.

Photo: Debré DeMers

FRESH NORTH FORK PICKIN’S for someone in search of a 1910 house with nice proportions (from the front at least — the rear has additions upon additions) on a long, skinny 1.24 acres in Greenport’s “limited business” zone.

Greenport, way out on the East End of Long Island, is a bayfront village with much to recommend it (restaurants, shops, cool people). It’s made up almost exclusively of older homes, and they’re very well-priced. My guess is that Greenport has only just begun.

This brand-new-to-market 3BR, 1 Bath lacks for landscaping, to say the least. What could this property be used for? A nursery? Antiques business? Furniture making or refinishing? Bike shop?

In real estate jargon, “The possibilities are endless!” I’ve run out of ideas, though. What would you do with it, if anything?

For more info and photos (though none of the interior, I’m afraid), go here.

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