by Tim Kelly

Once upon a time, people discovered the events of the world around them through newspapers. And to sell newspapers, you needed a really catchy, if not shocking, headline. Such as:

Earthquake and fire:
San Francisco in ruins


Titanic sinks four hours after hitting iceberg


Jack the Ripper claims 4th victim


Yankees Moving to Halifax
Owners: ‘Screw the Bronx!’

Obviously, one of those headlines isn’t real. Can you guess which one? Right, at that point in time Jack the Ripper claimed his fifth victim, not his fourth.

But for lingering nightmares, a prickling sense of foreboding and absolute terror, the missus and me need look no further than a few recent headlines appearing in two Pulitzer Prize-winning, world-renown New York newspapers.

Greenport is the New Brooklyn

So declared The New York Times. At least that what I remember it saying. In the food section, maybe? Think it was. Talking about all the upscale restaurants opening there? Can’t be sure, since after leaving that issue in my garage to the point where the statement’s long-term implications gave me a paper & ink-induced case of The Heebie Jeebies, I balled up the front page and with a big bottle of blue Windex did one heck of a job unsmudging the bathroom mirrors.

The “New Brooklyn?” Um, what? Wait, of course! Gang violence! Overpriced real estate! Roving bands of black-bedecked, free-range hipsters! And Manhattanites looking down their noses, like that stiff-collared, high-hatted fop from The New Yorker, at anyone residing east of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, excluding the chic and chichi Hamptons, of course.

Here’s another from The Times Sunday real estate section:

The Pull of the North Fork

Some second-home owners on a stretch of Long Island seek a full-time life there.

Noooooooooooooo! It ain’t true! As they say in Brooklyn, not a woid!

We’ve got sky-darkening flocks of killer seagulls! Ticks the size of a Galapagos tortoise! Boat-gobbling jellyfish and rabbits and squirrels with a taste for human flesh!

Did I mention the hipsters?

Ah, but the most vexing example appeared in July in the pages of The Wall Street Journal’s weekend “Adventure & Travel” section.

This is Not the Hamptons – Yet

Hotel and restaurant openings are luring more weekenders to New York’s North Fork.

But this coastal strip still prides itself on its low-key, shuck-your-own-oyster diffidence.

In the accompanying story, the author tells us,

“Don’t listen to the old-timers who live on the North Fork when they grouch about their humble turf becoming the New Hamptons.”

He declares that it was those selfsame hipsters – You know, I don’t think I ever met one. Do they know of our language and culture? –  who provided the catalyst for creating “the Greenport phenomenon.” 

Yeah. Ok. Probably.

But methinks he misses the point when deciding that Greenport’s renaissance “has more to do with migrating Hipsters (I added the uppercase H. I think they earned it) from Brooklyn than any imagined decades-old invasion from across the water.”

It ain’t imaginary, dude. No, we absolutely don’t worry about people from The Lower Fork (the Hamptons) infesting The Upper Fork (Previously known as The North Fork). The Hamptons are full-up, Brother, so affluent wanderers from the tri-state area are indeed motoring east in growing numbers on Route 25, not just clogging up Route 27.

Since me and the missus have only lived here 31 years, by local standards we’re not “old-timers.” But listen to me, I beseech thee, when I say our once quiet neck-o-the-woods is Hamptonizing at an alarmingly rapid pace, Wall Street Journal be damned!

Don’t get me wrong, as discussed in this space last month, I’ve nothing against the well-to-do, except that I ain’t one of ‘em. But if you think the Upper Fork ain’t a-changin’, you ain’t payin’ attention.

Was a time when traffic woes only arose hereabouts between Labor Day and Columbus Day during the seasonal eastward migration of The Pumpkin People. Good thing those long ago proposed twin Jamesport nuclear power plants never came to pass. Imagine if one of those friggin’ things pulled a Three Mile Island or a Chernobyl while traffic on the Main and North Roads was stop-and-go with SUVs full of kale, kids and corn. We all could have all kissed our gourds guh-bye.

Now the traffic light where my street meets the Main Road is timed to go through, I don’t know how many cycles before giving us a green light. 

Summer-time and the livin’ is easy.

Fish are jumpin’ and me blood pressure’s hiiiiiiiiiiigh.

Yeah, us Upper Forkers now know the bitter taste – Hell, you know what I mean – of what our Lower Fork compatriots have been puttin’ up with for decades, poor sods.

No, the roads aren’t crammed full of potato trucks, tractors, pickups or any other vehicles indigenous to Petticoat Junction, Mayberry or even Mount Pilot. I know because it’s become a habit of mine –– granted, an annoying one – of chronicling the many, many Hamptonesque vehicles heading west while we motor back east from Riverhead shopping.

The missus doesn’t quite appreciate it, so softly speaking like a golf broadcaster, my commentary goes like this:

Lexus. Beemer. Beemer. Benz. Rover. Beemer. Audi.

Um, did you say something?

Tesla. Lexus. Benz. Porsche. What in the hell is that? Tesla. Benz. Benz…

Went to pick up dinner the other day and there parked in the fire lane – there’s a surprise – was a gleaming black vehicle with open gull wing doors. Damn! Heading to the Toyota, pizza box in hand, passed a Porsche Boxster and a four-door Porsche, a, uh, Panamera, I think the model’s called. Now I’ve got nothing against Porsches and should one materialize in me garage I would not say nay. But a four-door model just seems…wrong, like having a “Baby on Board” sign in the back of Ferrari.

Oh, yeah, I’ve spotted several of those too, sans signs.

Turns out that gleaming back vehicle wasn’t a Maserati like I imagined, but a Tesla. An illegally parked Tesla. The doors are falcon wing, not gull wing. The difference? Falcon wing doors need very little space to open and close. Who knew? Um, Tesla owners, I guess.

Getting back to the Journal article, the writer declared that outside of Greenport,

The rest of the area, mostly farmlands, vineyards and unostentatious country homes, hums along as usual.

Unostentatious? My Aunt Mildred! When visitors come, I take ‘em down to New Suffolk, a beautiful little community with a beautiful beach right across The North Race from Robins Island, a 435-acre private hunting preserve owned by a billionaire hedge fund manager. I always bring binoculars to show ‘em the island’s manor house and the humongous, most assuredly non-unostentatious seasonal homes across Cutchogue Harbor along Nassau Point’s western shore.

Yeah, I know, non-unostentatious seasonal homes have sprouted up like phragmites all along the Upper Fork’s coastline for decades. Ah, but now the money’s flowing inland. Affluent outsiders are buying ranch and other one-story formerly unostentatious homes, taking them down to the studs and building up and out. 

Perhaps it was inevitable. The population of geographic Long Island, from Brooklyn Heights to Montauk and Orient Points, is closing in on eight million and the last vestige of rural life is found only on the Upper Fork.

Perhaps it’s a case of adapt or die for us grouching old-timers. Perhaps not.

Perhaps I’ll shop around for a pair of stiff denim bib overalls. Perhaps they’d go nicely with a pink paisley silk ascot. What do you think, Muffy? Algernon?

Tim Kelly is a former congressional press secretary and award-winning reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. He has lived on the North Fork for 30 years. For his mid-life crisis, he became a bagpiper.

Editor’s Note: The author of the Wall Street Journal article “This is Not the Hamptons – Yet” is The Beacon’s Culture Editor, William Sertl of Cutchogue, formerly the travel editor of Gourmet magazine. Mr. Sertl has asked for an opportunity to respond:

“Tim, I have decades of experience editing and writing for travel and food magazines. I did not become crass and superficial overnight. It isn’t just the North Fork my colleagues and I have ruined. Like tanks rolling across Europe, our scorched-earth editorial approach has destroyed many fine places across the globe.

So you know, I would sponsor a bill to set up a Communist Day Care Center on Robins Island if I were ever elected to public office.

I’m not the one who invented the pumpkin. Maybe your beloved farmers and Henry Ford did more to destroy autumn on the North Fork than I could in a lifetime of travel writing.”

Tim Kelly
Tim Kelly is a former congressional press secretary and award-winning reporter, editor, columnist and photographer. He has lived on the North Fork for 30 years. For his mid-life crisis, he became a bagpiper.

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