Fire Island Pines, New York
|Fire Island Pines, New York|
|Lots first sold||1952|
|• Total||12 (fulltime)/2,500 to 3,000(seasonal)|
|Time zone||Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|Area code(s)||631 Exchange: 597|
|Website||Fire Island Property Owners Association|
Fire Island Pines (often referred to as The Pines, simply Pines, or FIP) is a hamlet in the Town of Brookhaven, Suffolk County, New York, United States. It is located on Fire Island, a barrier island on the southern side of Long Island.
The Pines, which has the most expensive real estate on Fire Island, has approximately 700 houses on its square mile of location. It has two-thirds of the swimming pools on Fire Island. Its summer seasonal population is between 2,500 and 3,000 and in 2004 12 people listed it as their full-time residence.
Fire Island Pines derives its name from the scrub pine trees in the area, which, according to legend, started growing after a ship with Christmas trees and holly foundered off its coast in the late 19th century.
The Pines was originally the site of a Coast Guard station built in 1876 and known as Lone Hill Saving Station. The area was purchased by the Home Guardian Company in 1924. As no development occurred the area became a popular nude beach. Squatters erected temporary buildings.
Plans for development first began in 1952 when Warren and Arthur Smadbeck, doing business as the Home Guardian Company, announced plans to sell 122 lots in the new subdivision while building a private harbor for yachts, a large landing dock, and a private park facing the harbor. The Smadbecks, who sold more than 700,000 lots around the country, had purchased the property from the Sammis family, which had owned it since buying most of Fire Island in 1855 when they built the Surf Hotel near the Fire Island Light, in what is now the community of Kismet.
The basic Smadbeck layout of the Pines remains to this day, including the Botel which was designed to be a simple, no-frills, dormitory style accommodation for those who docked their yachts in the harbor.
The Botel and associated yacht club buildings burned on May 31, 1959.
John B. Whyte
Former model John B. Whyte encouraged its reputation as a gay destination after buying the rebuilt Botel Pines and Dunes Yacht Club in the 1960s (Cherry Grove was already a gay destination when Whyte developed the Pines). Whyte bought the property after a May 31, 1959 fire destroyed the entire complex. The Botel, which was known as The Hotel Ciel from 2004 - 2012, is still the central landmark and only hotel in the Pines.
The conversion to a gay destination proved divisive among the initial owners. A large sign near the dock headlined, "Welcome to Fire Island Pines A Family Community." It also proclaimed "We believe in a community that is clean both morally and physically." 
Whyte bent rules to accommodate the gay crowd. "We had a hully-gully line right here in the restaurant. I would put a girl at each end -- men weren't allowed to dance with men back then -- and everyone would have a good time."
Whyte, who owned 80 percent of the commercial property in the Pines, instituted the community’s central social activity schedule of “Low Tea” (drinks—particularly the "Blue Whale" cocktail of Curaçao liqueur and vodka that turned patrons' tongues blue—at the Blue Whale from 5 PM to 8 PM) followed by “High Tea (drinks at the Pavilion from 8 to 10 PM) followed by an evening of dancing at the Pavilion (all of which were Whyte establishments).
All of the commercial buildings are located in the "harbor" area which is where the ferry from Sayville docks. The harbor also includes docks for yachts. Regularly scheduled seaplanes during the season from New York City once disembarked their passengers at the Harbor but that service ended around 2000.
The central dance club was the Sandpiper which in 1979 became the Pavilion. Whyte sold the complex in 2004 shortly before his death to Anthony Roncalli and Eric von Kuersteiner who tore down the Pavilion at the end of the 2006 season and rebuilt it as the New Pavilion in time for the 2007 season. In 2010 a team of investors led by Andrew Kirtzman bought the Pavilion giving them control of 80 percent of the commercial structures in the business district for a reported $17 million. On November 14, 2011 the Pavilion was destroyed by fire that also destroyed the adjacent LaFountaine building, which contained the Sip n’ Twirl disco, a pizza parlor, a clothing shop and two real estate offices. That building was built in 1980 and was owned by Nicole LaFountaine.
The Pines Scene
While all of Fire Island may have an official year-round population of 310, the summer population swells to much higher levels, especially on weekends. In the Pines, the large houses are filled with summer shares and a four-bedroom house can easily contain eight people at a time. The population is primarily gay men 20–50 years old. It is affectionately referred to as "Chelsea with sand." (Chelsea is one of Manhattan's gay neighborhoods.)
There are a number of high-profile events and fundraisers that occur during the summer season. Some of the bigger events include Fire Island Dance Festival, Invasion, Pines Party, and Ascension.
The Fire Island Dance Festival is produced by Dancers Responding to AIDS, a programs of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
The Invasion of the Pines is a drag-queen parade held each year on July 4, commemorating the time when Whyte refused service to drag queen Terry Warren. After promenading through the Pines, the drag queens from Cherry Grove proclaim victory and return to Cherry Grove.
Pines Party, an all-night dance party held each July on the beach, is the reincarnation of GMHC's former Morning Party fundraiser held on the beach. Morning Party had evolved into a major circuit party and was GMHC's biggest fundraising event. However, the party itself developed a reputation for being connected with unsafe sex and recreational drug use. GMHC pulled the plug after the 1998 fundraiser after one man died of an overdose of the drug gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) the evening before the party and a few revelers were arrested for drug possession.
Despite the loss of the high profile sponsor the party continued under the name of the Pines Party which is held on the last weekend of July. Proceeds go to lower profile organizations of the Stonewall Community Foundation (which uses the money to help those with HIV) and the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association Charitable Foundation (which uses the funds to make improvements to the common areas).
Drug use connected with the parties has remained high with the resident doctor Ed Schulhafer sending out a memo to residents following another GHB fatality in 2007 stating: "This tragic incident follows an unprecedented number of GHB overdoses at the Pines Party, July 29."
Ascension is a relatively new party that benefits the Fund in the Sun Foundation. Its mission is to provide funding for projects and initiatives designed to protect, enhance and maintain the environment, cultural life, health and infrastructure of the Fire Island Pines community.
People associated with Fire Island Pines
- Calvin Klein, former resident
- David Geffen, former resident
- Robin Byrd, resident
- Michael Lucas, resident; director who has shot several adult films on the island
- Tommy Tune
In 2010 about three quarters of the businesses in the resort were sold to a group of investors. Eric von Kuersteiner and Anthony Roncalli, the former owners, sold the businesses for about $20 million. The new owners, Andrew Kirtzman, a journalist turned hotelier; Matt Blesso, a real estate investor; and Seth Weissman, an investment banker, plan to renovate the properties for the 2010 season.
The other major group of businesses in the Pines include Sip n Twirl, Pines Pizza & Ice Cream, and Pines Bistro & Martini Bar. Sip & Twirl is a very popular gay disco and has DJ's and dancing every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night during the peak season.
- Fire Island Pines Chamber of Commerce - Retrieved October 31, 2007
- Havens: Fire Island Pines, N.Y. – New York Times – May 14, 2004
- Sites for Houses Are Being Offered In Division of Estate on Fire Island
- When Ocean Meets Sky - Variety - July 12, 2004
- At the Pines, Sadness Amid The Splendor - New York Times - August 1, 1993
- SAGE Nets $35K at Annual Pines Fête - fireislandnews.net - June 25, 2008
- Blaze on Fire Island - New York Times - June 1, 1959
- When Ocean Meets Sky: Photos from Documentary - logoonline.com
- At the Pines, Sadness Amid The Splendor - New York Times - August 1, 1993
- The Dearly Departed, Class of '04; John B. Whyte -- Mr. Fire Island Pines – New York Times – December 26, 2004
- - The Advocate - February 2, 1999
- Pines Party - pinesparty.com - Retrieved November 3, 2007
- Gays Break Records For Deadly Drug Overdoses This Summer - Gawker.Com - August 23, 2007
- Renovation in Store on Fire Island Pines - New York Times - Retrieved April 2020
- - Edge Magazine - March 2010
- Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines News and Travel Guide
- Fire Island Men: Gay Men of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines
- Fire Island Q News - Fire Island Pines & Cherry Grove Monthly Gay Webzine
- Fire Island News and Online Travel Guide
- Grove Pines Connect - 24/7 Gay Social Networking Haven
- Fire Island iPhone App (free) Ferry schedules for all Fire Island, including Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines.
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