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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!

HERE’S A BRAND NEW-TO-MARKET foreclosure, looking mighty cute — a classic Victorian farmhouse with a front porch and gabled attic. Makes me want to run right out to the East End of Long Island and take a look. It’s at the very end of a road, heavily wooded, a block from Long Island Sound.

Would somebody who knows the area well please let us know what’s wrong with it;-)?

There’s a coffered ceiling in the living room, right, a mantel if not a working fireplace, wood floors, French doors. Nothing wrong with any of that. In another photo, however (the room with red walls, below), there are recessed lights in the ceiling, a symptom of misguided reno somewhere along the line. Making me wonder why there’s no kitchen shot. With luck, the kitchen is “unimproved” since at least the 1930s!

The dining room, below, shows nice high ceilings and more of the dreaded recessed lights.

An overhead of the property on the listing sites reveals a bunch of random outbuildings that might be demolished for more vegetable-gardening space.

See how fantasies begin? Doesn’t take much for this old-house addict in springtime.

For the full listing, go here, or here. You might have to register for all the details. Or do your own Google search: the address is 975 Anderson Road, Southold, NY 11971.

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THAT CUTE HOUSE, above, is an 1810 Greek Revival jewel built by a sea captain in Greenport, Long Island. It now belongs to Adrienne Grande, who bought it recently and has been fixing it up for the past year. It looks mighty spiffy with the wreath on its freshly painted picket fence.

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At Christmastime, Adrienne brings out her mom’s collection of vintage tree ornaments from the 1940s and ’50s. The peach, above, brought back a sudden memory of being invited to help decorate our next-door neighbors’ tree in Queens. I could swear they had that same peach, as well as a plum, a banana, and other fruit. I was about 5 at the time, but the delight I took in those ornaments persists to this day.

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So bring on the family heirlooms, the nostalgic music (I just heard Aaron Neville’s exquisite Holy Night on WBGO), and have yourselves a joyful and very vintage Christmas.

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EVERY DAY’S A FLEA MARKET AT MARIKA’S, a mad jumble of used furniture on Rt. 114, the main artery through serene and pretty Shelter Island, tucked between Long Island’s North and South Forks.

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Truth to tell, I have never bought anything at Marika’s, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. I check it out every time I pass through the island — most recently yesterday, when my quest was for a set of six matching dining chairs to go around my new 1940s X-legged table. I didn’t find what I wanted, but I totally enjoyed the browse.

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There are a couple of outbuildings and several tents next to an ordinary split-level, spilling over with used furniture, kitchenware, framed pictures, and kitschy lamps, much of it in rough condition. Outdoor furniture is a specialty.

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Marika’s is one of those places where you can’t help but think, there’s so much, surely there must be something…I may not yet have found anything at Marika’s, but that doesn’t dim my hopes for next time.

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NOW THERE’S YOUR PROPER JUNE BORDER, above. A little ahead of time, as is everything in this accelerated spring. Peonies; irises; columbine; foxgloves and phlox on their way. In front of a very proper old house, below, on Long Island’s North Fork, where I was on Saturday.

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It’s all happening now: the farmstands, the wineries, the traffic. There are lots of greenhouses, large and small, selling vegetable starters and annuals and overflowing, ready-made hanging baskets.

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I was there to visit my cousin Susan and check the progress of her garden beds, which we planted, I think, three years ago. Two years ago this month, the full-sun beds at the end of her driveway looked like this:

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The evergreen shrubs and day lilies were already there. We put in dianthus, lamb’s ear, ladies mantel, catmint, and yarrow.

This past weekend, the same bed, from a different angle (pre-weeding), looked like this:

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And the one on the other side of the driveway like this:

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Catmint is the best. So is June.

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