Lonelyville Charmer 649K


OF ALL FIRE ISLAND COMMUNITIES, each with its own beachy character, my favorite has to be Lonelyville. First of all, there’s that great name, which it seems is also the title of a bluesy number sung by Della Reese in 1958 (as well as an episode of Law & Order, seventh season).


Lonelyville is bohemian, a little off the beaten boardwalk. It doesn’t have its own ferry landing; Dunewood is the closest. There’s no grocery store or lifeguard stand.


I  have fond memories of spending a month in Lonelyville in the early ’80s, when my parents rented a cottage there. Vegetation was much sparser then. There were long stretches of sand between houses, some of which are old cedar-shingled cottages floated over on barges from the mainland.


Today, Kitty King, a real estate agent, showed my sister and me this hidden, 3BR oldie a short way from the ocean, with a spectacular pergola-covered roof deck. It’s just the kind of place I like — quirky, comfortable, oozing with charm.


The sellers have owned the house for 40 years. It’s been on the market for quite a while, apparently, and has already been reduced once. While 649K may seem a lot to ask for a house that can only be used part of the year, it is reasonable for Fire Island, where quite ordinary houses are priced in the 700’s and 800’s.


No house with birds and vines painted on the porch ceiling could possibly be ordinary.

For more info, go here.

Fire Island Forever

Just to clarify, in response to a confused e-mail: I refer to several different Fire Island communities in the post below, but all photos were taken this week in Ocean Beach.


IN THE ANNALS of my personal real estate regrets, Fire Island is a biggie. Coulda shoulda woulda.

For non-New Yorkers, Fire Island is a 40-mile-long, quarter-mile-wide sandbar off the south shore of Long Island, reachable only by ferry and banned to cars; the only wheeled vehicles are bicycles, golf carts, and little red wagons.


We rented the Ocean Beach charmer, above, for a month in 1985.

In the early 1980s, my parents rented a 1920s cottage on a huge lot in Lonelyville, reached via a long wooden boardwalk through stands of tall grass, invisible to all comers until the last instant. It could have been had for $100,000. They didn’t buy it, nor did we. I was worried about mosquitoes, and money.


In 1998, having rented in Fire Island many more summers, we bid in earnest on a property in Fair Harbor, very near the ocean — one of those quirky places you know by now I like. It was known as ‘Half House,’ because half of it (the bottom half) had been washed away in the great hurricane  of 1938. So the original 2nd floor sat atop a wood deck — just a cedar-shingled triangle, with a separate guest shack, on two lots, a rarity. We negotiated all winter to get the price down to $245,000, then backed out at the last minute. I was worried about beach erosion, flood insurance, and money.


Somebody slap me upside the head, willya?


Of course, now there’s not a thing under half a mil anywhere on Fire Island, and in that price range it’s going to be the size of a trailer.


Earlier this week, I spent two days in Ocean Beach, visiting a friend who reminded me I passed on the house next door for 180K, now on the market for 850K.


Ocean Beach is the metropolis of Fire Island, the only community with an actual main drag, below, of stores and restaurants. It’s also the only year-round community, with water and an elementary school, but that is not a lifestyle for the faint-hearted (or sociable). The Ocean Beach ferry runs all year long, weather permitting, though in January and February it’s more like an ice-breaker.


I walked around Ocean Beach taking pictures, noting how few and far between the remaining old houses are. Most have been torn down and replaced, or expanded beyond recognition, but it’s those funky vintage cottages that are dearest to my heart.


Of course I looked in the windows of real estate offices. There’s a geodesic dome (!) for 595K in nearby Corneille Estates, and a number of other properties in the 5’s and 6’s, which is probably a comedown from years past.


I’m in no position to take advantage at the moment, but the beach is nice and wide, and I didn’t get a single mosquito bite.

By the Sea Under 200K

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!