MASTIC BEACH AND SHIRLEY, twin communities 90 minutes east of New York City on Long Island’s South Shore, have the same superb, white-sand beach as Fire Island or the Hamptons, the same mighty ocean and glorious sunsets, but they can’t seem to catch a break. Right next to tony Bellport, with its golf course and yacht club, Mastic and Shirley have struggled for years with social issues. Housing prices, never very high, have taken a beating in the recent downtown.

On April 3, The New York Times Real Estate section ran a “Living in…” column that laid out the area’s pros and cons quite clearly. (In years past, Mastic Beach was a Suffolk County dumping ground for sex offenders, and lax regulations on absentee landlords sometimes resulted in three immigrant families sharing a house.) But many people say they live there happily and without a problem.

The classic 1945 beach cottage, below, is on a large lot with mature trees. It has been reduced to 180K from the low 200’s. It’s not winterized, but it’s a short walk to a fine bay beach.

For more info, go here and search on listing #2151013.



I looked in Mastic Beach and Shirley in December ’07, at the start of my beach-cottage quest. I was curious, and enthused enough by the proximity to the ocean and the availability of inexpensive WWII-era cottages that I talked to a couple of local residents — a teacher and an artist, both of whom love living there. I even tried to drum up interest among some of my Brooklyn buddies, hoping to create a movement (I failed).

Ultimately, I decided the area was too downscale, realized there’s not much of a summer rental market, and moved my search farther east, to Quogue, Hampton Bays, and the North Fork. But I believe that, 10 or 20 years from now, things will be much improved, and I suspect that the area’s reputation is more a problem than the reality.

For those with a pioneering spirit and the patience to wait for the turnaround, Mastic Beach and Shirley are worth a look.

If I were looking today, I might check out this creekfront property for 199K, with a cottage built in 1939. For more info, go to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island and search on listing #2137081.



This one, built in 1930, apparently needs a lot of work, but it’s got the look that I love. They’re asking 100K cash. For more info, go here and search on listing #2097229.



There are many other intriguing possibilities. You might have to look past a few rusting cars and major appliances on unmowed lawns here and there.

On the other hand, Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, owns an estate in Mastic Beach — 9 acres behind a gate, but still!