08/04/13 8:00am
08/04/2013 8:00 AM
CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A reality television show led a Times/Review intern to ask around this week about the silly things tourists say.

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | A reality television show led a Times/Review intern to ask around this week about the silly things tourists say.

“We’re gonna go to the wine vineyards,” the young woman said.

“Where?” her friend asked.

“In, like, North Fork,” she responded.

This was an exchange between two stars on the last episode of the reality TV show “Princesses: Long Island,” the latest offering from Bravo. Though the girls on the show hail from Nassau County, they ventured out to the Sparkling Pointe vineyard in Southold for the July 28 episode.

Reactions to our homeland were varied: One girl compared the vineyard to the Garden of Eden, while another actually relieved herself in between the rows of grapes.

As drama ensued, one character cried to her parents on the phone, asking if there were an airport nearby so she could take a private jet back to her hometown. As she started walking to Route 48, her friend screamed, “Don’t walk toward the freeway!”

Finally, as the crying girl explained to the camera that she just wanted to leave, she lamented, “But we’re in the middle of nowhere.”

The princesses’ take on the North Fork can’t help but evoke memories of the different ways tourists react to our communities on Long Island’s East End.

It inspired me to ask around this week uncover some of the funny, absurd and borderline insulting things folks in the local tourist industry have heard out-of-towners say.

I left out their names and kept their businesses out of the piece in an effort to encourage them to share the really good stuff.

ON THE FARM

“This one guy asked us, ‘How many seeds are in your tomatoes?’ We said we really didn’t know, so he had us cut them open and look. He said he liked to eat his tomatoes like apples and didn’t like a lot of seeds.”

farm stand employee, Mattituck

“My friend works as a waitress out here and one time a little kid ordered a glass of milk to drink and his dad said to him, ‘It’s gonna take a little while because they have to go out back and milk the cow. We’re in the country and that’s how they do it out here.’”

restaurant worker, Riverhead

“One time, this lady came in and she looks outside and then at me and goes, ‘Are the animals out there real?’ I just stared at her for a minute because I was thinking, ‘Is this lady for real?’ Then I just said, ‘Yes.’ ”

farmer, Cutchogue

Out to eat

“Once this guy came in at like 11:55 p.m., we close at midnight, and he was sitting at the bar. He looked at me and said, ‘Hey, you, call a cab would ya?’ The bartender was like, ‘This is the North Fork; we don’t have cabs.’ ”

restaurant worker, Southold

“While I was working, tourists came in and sat at one of the tables up against the wall that used to be a booth. After I cleared their dishes and was at the counter, just like seven feet away, one woman very loudly said, ‘Service these days. Whatever happened to serve from the left, take from the right?’ which was physically impossible without taking their plates through the window outside. Then the other woman said, ‘I guess they don’t do that out here.’ ”

restaurant worker, Southold Town

“We get lavish requests for sandwiches sometimes. When we ring them up, people are always surprised and comment how the Hamptons is so much more expensive. They are also always asking where the wineries are and where ‘Herbie’s Farm’ is.”

deli worker, Mattituck

OUT AND ABOUT

“One time my friend and I were at Scoops eating ice cream and a group of tourists came up to us and were whispering really loudly, like ‘Oh my gosh, they must be locals’ and gawking at us like we were animals at the zoo.”

Cutchogue resident

“I was on the Cross Sound Ferry in June and a lady was telling her son to wave goodbye to the Hamptons.”

store clerk, Mattituck

Of course this column is meant to be funny. I recognize the tourism economy is a great thing for my hometown and most of the folks who come out here get what we’re all about.

Just do me a favor, though, next time you come visit: Try not to pee in the vineyard.

Ms. Leaden is a student at Manhattan College. She lives in Cutchogue and worked at Times/Review Newsgroup this summer as an intern on a New York Press Association scholarship. She can be reached at [email protected].

04/19/13 8:00am
04/19/2013 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Summertime at Iron Pier Beach in Northville. The calm bay and Sound beaches are a big attraction for vacationing families with small children, says Islip resident David Cogliano.

Longtime Islip resident Dave Cogliano and his family, who have summered on Fire Island for the past seven years, now have their sights set on the North Fork for a season of beach bathing and barbecues.

As of now, the family is looking for houses in Mattituck or Jamesport.

“Rather than figuring out which homes [on Fire Island] have mold or damage, we decided to rent on the North Fork,” Mr. Cogliano said. “It’s beautiful. It’s different. I want to check it out.”

The Coglianos are not alone.

With Hurricane Sandy having devastated popular summer spots in the tri-state area, like Fire Island and several Jersey Shore communities, those in the local tourism and hospitality industries are preparing for what could be one of the busiest summer seasons on record. The North Fork’s infrastructure was largely unaffected by Sandy, in comparison to other locations, and the pricier Hamptons aren’t an option for most middle-income families eager to spend a week, a month or longer away from home.

By April, most Jersey Shore and Fire Island rentals have been leased, but ongoing reconstruction and a sharp drop in the number of available rentals has taken its toll.

Bob Hilton, executive director of the Jersey Shore Convention and Visitors Bureau, estimates that more than 50 percent of rentals were lost during Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeast Oct. 29. Mr. Hilton said some businesses have since been trying to make the best of a bad situation, but he freely admits certain pockets of the Jersey Shore cannot reopen as they had before the storm.

The situation is similar on Fire Island, where the Army Corps of Engineers just began removing the first piles of debris last month. Many homes on the barrier island will need to be demolished. In those that withstood the storm, concerns about mold or other structural damage are preventing some homeowners from renting out their properties at all this season, said Grace Corradino, a broker with Fire Island Living Real Estate.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Baiting Hollow farmer Jeff Rottkamp turning over a field for early sweet corn. North Fork tourism officials frequently highlight the region’s farms, shops and waterways.

Other issues, like spotty Internet and cellphone service and the decimation of dunes and beaches, are also deterring visitors, she said.

Meanwhile, at Colony Real Estate in Jamesport, the phones have been “ringing off the hook” with potential seasonal renters, said agent Dolores Peterson.

The company has already rented 10 summer homes this year, Ms. Peterson said, and business is not slowing down.

“It’s picked up quite a bit since last year,” she said. “People always ask how we made out during the hurricane. I tell them to come check it out. We were very lucky.”

Greenport Village Business Improvement District director Peter Clarke expects a tourism surge in his waterfront village this year.

“One of the things we tried to do before Christmas was let people know we are open for business, we have power and all of our stores aren’t destroyed,” Mr. Clarke said.

The village has a host of plans to prepare for the summer months. The BID is developing maps and signage to outline the business district for visitors, he said.

Village officials are currently working with the BID to develop a way to manage summer parking, according Mayor David Nyce. In March 2012, the board voted against installing parking meters downtown. Mr. Clarke said the BID plans to use additional signage to point visitors to the village’s ample municipal parking lots behind Front Street stores and on Adams Street.

It seems they’re right to be preparing ahead of time for more visitors than in years past.

“Most summer weekends at this point are already sold out,” Greenporter Inn owner Deborah River Pittorino said. “Greenport is busier than ever.”

Other area hotels like the Hilton Garden Inn in Riverhead are also reporting a record number of bookings. Sales director Meghan Mathesen said the hotel is almost sold out seven days a week from May through October. “Summer has always been busy, but there is a high demand for hotel rooms this year,” she said.

Last year, direct tourist spending generated $9.2 million, according to the North Fork Promotion Council.

Tourism is critical to the viability of the North Fork’s small business community and agricultural operations, according to council president Joan Bischoff.

With a substantial number of tourism-dependent seasonal jobs, visitor traffic is crucial for local employment and area economy, Mr. Bischoff said.

To support the small businesses and the tourism industry in general, the North Fork Promotion Council — whose members include the North Fork and Mattituck chambers of commerce — has recently partnered with East End Tourism Alliance to undertake collaborative marketing projects, he said. To help manage vehicle traffic in the coming months and beyond, for example, the groups plan to test the viability of a shuttle network, which could increase tourism without burdening local roadways, infrastructure and natural assets.

Mr. Cogliano said it’s the North Fork’s natural beauty that attracted him to the area, but its family-friendly atmosphere makes it ideal for his two young children. He said the waterways provide a lot of options for fun, and that boating, fishing and lazy beach days will all be on the agenda.

After a fall season slowed by Sandy and other storms, local business owners are welcoming the expected increase in tourism this summer.

“We need a really great summer for businesses to recover what they lost due to Sandy,” said North Fork realtor Donielle Cardinale, a member of the Mattituck Chamber of Commerce. Storm damage caused some Mattituck businesses to close for extended periods for reconstruction, she said, and in some cases, inventory was destroyed due to wind and prolonged power outages.

Some business owners incorporated Sandy-related repairs with re-branding efforts as well as construction upgrades.

Ms. Cardinale called the North Fork a “warm” and welcoming place for visitors, and expressed confidence that any newcomers will enjoy their stays here.

“The entire community is like ‘Cheers’! Everyone is friendly,” she said. “It’s going to be an exciting summer.”

[email protected]

10/06/10 4:44pm
10/06/2010 4:44 PM

The economy may not have recovered fully, but North Fork hotel operators reported a decent summer and most remain optimistic that their businesses will prosper in the year ahead.
The local experience corresponds with data recently released by the New York State Hospitality & Tourism Association in Albany indicating that 71 percent of hotel owners reported the summer of 2010 was as good or better than the previous summer. Figures for hotel occupancy from January to the end of July were up statewide by 8.4 percent, according to Smith Travel, a nationally recognized source of historical hotel performance data.
What’s critical on Long Island, according to Cindy Morrison, director of sales at Riverhead’s Holiday Inn Express and Hotel Indigo East End, is that more activities and events have been scheduled to keep visitors coming in during the off season.
To expand off-season business, her managers are working with the Long Island Wine Council and other tourist groups to find new ways to encourage people to visit the East End, she said.
“It’s exciting to see the growth potential,” Ms. Morrison said.
The East End is easily accessible for visitors from New York City, New Jersey and New England, and it’s an ideal “staycation” venue for people whose pocketbooks don’t allow them to take more exotic vacations, she said.
“We are still in a recession,” but occupancy rates were good this summer, Ms. Morrison said. She couldn’t release any specific data that management considers proprietary, she said.
Ed Carroll, general manager of Riverhead’s Hilton Garden Inn, said occupancy was up more than 11 percent over the summer of 2009 and the average daily rate for rooms was about 15 percent higher, he said. Rates averaged $139 per night.
“People are starting to loosen up a little” with spending, he said.
Ellen Wiederlight at Greenport’s Soundview Inn, said her July and August bookings improved over last year, but visitors booked shorter stays. In past years, visitors often booked for a week or more. This  summer, they were booking rooms for a few nights.
“I think people are still price resistant,” she said.
June was quirky for her. She had better June numbers in 2009 than she did this year even though June 2009 was marked by persistent rain.
“I’ve seen other down seasons,” Ms. Wiederlight said, noting that she’s been in the business for 40 years. “I’m neither optimistic nor pessimistic,” she said. “I’m just rolling with it.
Weddings and other group reservations helped to sustain business at the Soundview this summer, she said.
During the just-ended high summer season, visitors got hit with a higher Suffolk County hotel tax, which rose from .75 percent to 3 percent and brought overall taxes on a room to 11.62 percent, Ms. Wiederlight said. Although the county Legislature promised that the anticipated $5.1 million in revenues from that increase would be used to promote tourism, East End hotel operators weren’t optimistic they would see much of that money spent on promoting their businesses.
That concern was voiced this week by Deborah Rivera, who operates the Greenporter with her husband, Bill Pittorino. All the “I Love New York” commercials and advertisements focus on upstate locations, she complained, not eastern Long Island.
“There’s tons to offer here and we’ve just got to get the focus,” Ms. Rivera said.
She joined Ms. Morrison in seeing off-season activities as a way to keep tourists coming to the East End. It’s important to retain momentum throughout the harvest season, she said.
Numbers were definitely up at the Greenporter from last year, Ms. Rivera said.
“But that’s not saying a lot,” she added, referring to the difficult summer of 2009.
Ms. Rivera held steady on room pricing, saying there was no way her upscale hotel could or should try to compete with the low rates offered by some hotels and cruise lines. Her rates ranged from $169 a night for a superior queen room Sundays through Thursdays to $339 for a deluxe king room on weekends.
The advantage of an East End vacation is that visitors don’t have to spend hours getting to airports and have the convenience of being able to drive here, Ms. Rivera said.
[email protected]