Gustavson Column: Is East Marion becoming East Brooklyn?

The Brooklyn Bridge. (Credit:
The Brooklyn Bridge. (Credit:

Yes, it’s true, I am a full-fledged curmudgeon. (Merriam-Webster definition: “A person [especially an old man] who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains.”)

Let’s see: A person? Check. An old man? Check. Easily annoyed or angered? Check. Often complains? Check.

The list of my complaints is long and getting longer, but I will limit them to three for the purposes of this column. 

Complaint No. 1: When did traffic on the North Fork start to look a lot like traffic on the South Fork? We were down there (the South Fork) last week, and once again there was gridlock on Route 27 between Bridgehampton and Southampton. Heading west! On a Tuesday! In September! Oh well, I suppose we have come to expect that by now.

But gridlock on Route 25? That’s sure what it looked like at 5 p.m. Sunday as we were driving east from Riverhead to Cutchogue. Only this time the bumper-to-bumper traffic was all headed west, in the opposite direction, in a continuous line from the entrance to Paumanok Vineyards in Aquebogue to the traffic light at Route 105 in Riverhead, and again from the entrance to Laurel Lake Vineyards in Laurel to the light in Jamesport. That amounts to nearly five miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic. And we didn’t see what awaited these woebegone travelers on westbound Route 58!

By citing the two vineyards, I am not suggesting for a moment that they contributed significantly to the traffic jam. I think it was a combination of the normal Sunday afternoon exodus of vineyard and agritourism visitors, miscellaneous day-trippers, second-home owners and Cross Sound Ferry patrons, not to mention the savvy travelers who know to avoid Sound Avenue during the fall harvest season, especially when there’s a special event like the Hallockville Museum Farm Annual Fall Festival, as there was Saturday and Sunday.

I asked Southold Town Police Chief Marty Flatley to explain the bumper-to-bumper inaction on Route 25 on Sunday, and he said it’s come to be expected on weekends in September and October, when traffic on our two east-west arteries runs thicker than on the July 4 holiday.

Speaking for those stuck in traffic here Sunday afternoon: Aggggggggggggggrrrrrrrrrr!

Complaint No. 2: When did tradespeople on the North Fork become so busy/dismissive as to routinely and cavalierly ignore inquiries from customers seeking to do business with them?

Back in the ancient times, when I was co-publisher of this newspaper, we had a company policy that required salespersons to respond the same day an existing customer or potential customer contacted us about advertising. And that makes me wonder why I recently had to leave four or five phone messages for one particular local tradesman before he returned my calls … a month later, by which time we had engaged the services of one of his competitors. Is business hereabout really so good that inquiries from customers who want to spend money can be ignored for a month?

I wish this had been a unique occurrence, but it seems to be happening more and more these days as the small town ethic that initially drew us to the North Fork fades from memory.

Speaking for those of you who have shared this experience: Aggggggggggggggrrrrrrrrrr!

Complaint No. 3: OK, so this isn’t so much a complaint as it is an observation relating to the above reference to “small town flavor.” To wit: When did East Marion become East Brooklyn? (Well, not East Marion in particular, but the North Fork in general.)

A longtime friend and I were at a local gallery opening recently when we looked around the crowded room and could count only two or three familiar faces. Everyone else looked as if they’d just gotten off the bus from Cobble Hill or Park Slope. Which they probably had.

There were the obligatory tattoos, porkpie hats and even a lapdog nestled in the crook of a presumed Brooklynite’s arm. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a Brooklynite. It’s just then that we, the two grumpy old men, realized we were experiencing the same sort of moment that longtime Greenport natives must have experienced when he and I moved here in the 1970s. Only now we’re the “natives” and the Brooklynites are the newcomers.

Speaking for all “natives” to all Brooklynites: Welcome to town! It’s about time.

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