Column: A discovery made over & over & over

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | More and more tourists are flocking to the North Fork each summer.

So, the North Fork has been discovered … again! Every three or four years, it seems The Other Times (TOT) does a piece on the “Un-Hampton,” noting how quaint and quiet and unlike the glitzy Hamptons it is up here on the pastoral north side. They (TOT) did it again recently in an article written by Robin Finn, who describes the North Fork as “a wallflower and an underdog by comparison” to Long Island’s other fork.

I used to have a friendly debate with my Orient neighbor, Joel Lauber, over how much like Sag Harbor Greenport ought to be. I took the position that a little Sag Harbor glitz — you know, a few more luxury cars, a few more good restaurants, a few more beautiful people — would be welcomed, but Joel wanted none of it, and as time goes by I’m starting to identify with his point of view.

And that’s because we just may have reached the so-called tipping point. In the intervening years since this debate first surfaced, I think Greenport and the entire North Fork have developed just the right proportion of that aforementioned “glitz.” Now, in the year of our Lord 2013, we have just enough of those cars, those restaurants and those beautiful people.

(In fact, in one of the categories, good restaurants, I think we’re kicking The Other Fork’s (TOF) butt. But that, in itself, is fodder for a future column.)

Today, if you were to walk into any trendy bar in any trendy neighborhood of Brooklyn and randomly ask customers where they’d most like to spend the summer on Long Island, seven out of 10 would choose us. Quietly, and ever so surely, the North Fork has become the Long Island destination of choice for an increasing number of young families, established artists, influential journalists and published writers.

And the great thing about it is that nobody here — including the “newcomers” — has made a big deal about this latest “discovery.” Nor are there any plans, I’m relieved to report, to organize an annual writers and artists softball game like they do down on TOF.

This ho-hum attitude toward celebrity is best represented by the grief I personally took a while back for writing a column about the time Sonia Sotomayor spent on the North Fork in the days prior to her confirmation as a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. It (the column) was slammed as an invasion of privacy even though neither I, nor this newspaper, attempted to contact her during her visit.

Another example: Two of this nation’s most celebrated (and highly compensated) artists — sculptor Richard Serra and painter Elizabeth Peyton — have homes in Orient, and yet I defy you to pick them out of a lineup of neighbors at the post office or the Orient Country Store. One of the primary reasons they chose to settle here, I would argue, is because they will not end up on the cover of Hamptons Magazine.

Of course, the corresponding downside of this “discovery” includes escalating real estate prices, declining school enrollments and added volume on our sometimes overburdened road system. But, I would argue, a workable and acceptable equilibrium has been struck, and thus must be vigorously defended from this point forth.

As long as there’s a place in Orient village for the likes of art world superstars like Serra and Peyton amid old-timers like Eddie Wysocki, whose overflowing mechanical repair shop on Platt Road is a work of art in itself, the North Fork will remain a unique and highly desirable place to live, work and play.

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