October 30, 2012 | by Michael K. Lavers
Sandy inundates gay N.Y. beaches
Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Fire Island, Sandy

The Great South Bay inundates the harbor in Fire Island Pines, N.Y., on Oct. 29 (Photo courtesy of Karen Boss)

Superstorm Sandy caused widespread damage to New York’s Fire Island on Monday as it approached the  Eastern Seaboard.

The National Weather Service reported seven homes in Davis Park, which is Fire Island’s easternmost community, washed out to sea during high tide on Monday night. A firefighter in Ocean Beach, a village with roughly 150 year-round residents to the west of the gay resorts of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines, told the Washington Blade the storm damaged or destroyed up to 40 oceanfront homes.

“There are confirmed reports of houses lost to the ocean elsewhere on Fire Island, but none in the Pines,” said the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association in an e-mail it sent to local property owners on Tuesday.

FIPPOA further noted it has “confirmed reports” of “extensive washovers from the ocean” in the eastern part of the hamlet and a “very severe breach from the ocean to the bay just east of the Pines.” The group also noted oceanfront homes experienced “extensive damage” to pools and decks.

“We know that there is extensive flooding from the bay and the ocean and the bay is experiencing very high tides at this time,” said FIPPOA. “Our dunes are destroyed along the length of the community.”

The gay-owned Belvedere Guest House in Cherry Grove posted a message from a year-round resident Bobby Lerch on its Facebook page that the hamlet did not lose any homes during the storm. It said running water, electricity and phone service will be out for “several weeks to a month.”

“We are the only community on fire island without catastrophic damage,” reads the message.

Suffolk County officials on Saturday ordered a mandatory evacuation of Fire Island, which is only accessible by ferries and private boats, on Saturday.

The year-round population of the 34-mile long barrier island east of New York City is less than 500, but can swell to as many as 30,000 during the summer.

Cherry Grove resident Ken Woodhouse told the Blade from his Peekskill, N.Y., home at least 75 people took a Sunday morning ferry from the beach to Sayville across the Great South Bay on Long Island. Local media reports indicate police rescued 14 people on western Fire Island who defied the evacuation order.

Karen Boss, who lives in the Pines year-round with her husband, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Monday afternoon the bay had completely submerged the hamlet’s harbor during high tide. A video she posted to her Facebook page showed waves crashing over bay front bulkheads.

Boss told the Blade in an e-mail earlier on Tuesday the storm surge flooded her bay front home last night. She also reported high winds also toppled trees and power lines.

“I have never experienced it this bad,” said Boss.

The Fire Island News reported on its Facebook page that the U.S. Coast Guard, officials with the Fire Island National Seashore and other local agencies on Tuesday rescued 17 people who remained in Cherry Grove during the storm.

It is not immediately clear whether the Sip n’ Twirl nightclub and other local businesses rebuilt after a fire destroyed them nearly a year ago suffered any damage. Construction crews recently began rebuilding the adjacent Pavilion nightclub destroyed during the same Nov. 2011 blaze. Co-owner Andrew Kirtzman could not immediately confirm to the Blade whether Sandy caused any damage to the site.

Woodhouse reported the storm surge lifted Bay View Walk in Cherry Grove nearly a foot. He said the water did not enter his bay front house.

“We’re right on the bay, and she’s dry as a bone,” said Woodhouse.

Gay News, Washington Blade, Fire Island, Sandy

Damaged oceanfront homes in Fire Island Pines, N.Y., (Photo courtesy of Karen Boss)

 

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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