YAPHANK, N.Y. — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $10.1 million task order contract to Environmental Chemical Company of Burlingame, Calif., Feb. 27 to remove debris on Fire Island created by Hurricane Sandy. Under the terms of the task order 82 percent of the work will be performed by local contractors. Under the task order, ECC is required to mobilize within 24 hours, and debris removal is expected to begin by the end of the week. The goal is to finish by the end of March.



Fire Island 2013



By. Shosanna McCollum

Storm Diary: Part II

Random Thoughts: I worry. Worry about the FEMA people. Was the 1- 800 number I was given legit, or was it a bunch of scam artists who drained my bank account? Of course they were the real FEMA people. A stack of papers arrived from them the following week. I am defensive. Some people’s concern is genuine and good, but for others it is a device used to exploit and our drain energy. The fine line between helpful to invasive can be crossed all too easily. I have my doubts. Radio commercials will carry on about so-called fund-raising concerts to aid the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Exactly how do these musical people intend to aid us? What support will reach Fire Islanders in a way that is tangible?

Wed. Nov. 7 – A nor’easter is predicted to come in. While there is talk of another evacuation taking place this is not true. The police know who is here and some of us have been asked if we are staying, advised there will be no boats for a couple of days should we decide to leave, but no one to my knowledge has been ordered to do so. By late afternoon it starts rolling in, a snowy, sleety wet mix. “Merry Christmas,” Joe Loeffler says as he passes me dressed in his foul weather gear. Water starts accumulating in front of the fire hall, but a core group of folks have mobilized in case it gets bad again, a well organized machine. Cliques and infighting has plagued the OBFD for the past couple of years, but in the aftermath of this storm it appears petty differences have finally been cast aside. As the storm comes one of our kittens is unaccounted for. His littermate disappears into the night in attempt to find him.

Thurs. Nov. 8 – We are relieved to find that kitten Goodie has found his brother Sapho by the next morning. The two brothers are safe sleeping side by side in a drawer lined with sweaters. However it appears last night’s nor’easter has flooded our house again. John and I are not all that bothered. The damage has already been done; it’s just a few steps backwards.

Fri. Nov. 9 – There is a bit of a cold snap and I am wearing three layers of sweaters. The smell of spoiled food is starting to permeate the air. With no refrigeration it can’t be helped. Dana Wallace comes to our house to ask John to help him catch an injured cat that has appeared on his back deck. “You were hit pretty bad?” he asks as I stand at the doorway with several waterlogged books in my hand. The cat is apprehended with a fishing-net and building contractor Pat Curran has agreed to take the animal off to the vet. Sadly the cat’s injuries were too extensive and it was euthanized upon arrival.

Sat. Nov. 10 – John has been given use of one of the municipal placards that day and can at last make a grocery store trip off-island. I am not allowed to go with him. I hardly know what to place on the list we prepare it has been so long. However I do request a package of panties for I have been washing the three pair I salvaged by hand repeatedly over two weeks and they are starting to get holes. I also requested some sanitary products because such supplies were lost to the flood some time ago. After so many years of marriage John struggled with these two these tasks. He has also bought impulse items that were not on the grocery list including raw meat which is impossible to keep right now, and chocolate… even I the great lover of chocolate will be the first to admit there is just too much of it on this island right now. So we begin to argue in the middle of the street. “These are the biggest maxi-pads I ever saw in my life! What’s the matter with you?” I shouted. “You sent to Target’s lingerie department,” John growled back. “Ladies were looking at me like I was some sort of pervert!” I saw his point, there are some things a wife should never ask her husband to do. But Marshall Law has left me marooned here. My options are limited.

Sun. Nov. 11 – Over the weekend we hear that attempts to electrify Kismet did not go so well. A transformer fire erupted, but was extinguished right away. The generator at the school goes out as well. The generator was designed to run for a few hours, even a couple days if necessary – but not prolonged use for weeks on end.

Mon. Nov. 12 – Veteran’s Day observed. I hang laundry out to dry on Betsy’s clothesline when a handsome man wearing a white hardhat appears in the yard strolling through the beach grass. I can’t help but smile. Folks from National Grid are starting to become present in Ocean Beach and this trend continues over the week. They ride big trucks, study maps with strange objects marked on them, and have come from all over the country: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and I hear quite a few southern drawls among them. There is a rumor that they are camping in tents at the Sunken Forrest, but that makes no sense, I can’t picture FINS allowing such a thing. We later learn that they are actually camped at Sunken Meadow State Park. It gives us hope.

Wed. Nov. 14 – I wake up with a migraine headache. It was bound to happen, as I get them often, but feared the day I would get one while dealing with this. There is no ice pack available for my head and the medicine does not make me good for much. However I improve as the day goes on. It is also the day I learn my incarceration is over. Civilians are now allowed to travel off and on Fire Island again. John suggests a shopping trip the next day: himself, Betsy and me. But I find myself reluctant to go. I have things to do at the house and the daylight hours are the only time I get to spend with the cats – are these not the reasons why I did not evacuate in the first place? But there is something else… my new look consists of dingy trousers worn days on end and a bad Christmas sweater knit from boiled wool which I’ve started to favor for working in the cold, damp house. This fashion has become acceptable on Fire Island these days, but I don’t want to be seen like this on the mainland.

Thurs, Nov. 15 – Today is our big trip. I wear a more subdued sweater paired off with a souvenir t-shirt from Holland that Betsy has loaned me decorated with a pink tulip print. John has warned us that things would look different, but I am not prepared for what I see on the beach during the ride off. Damaged houses? I am accustomed to that by now, but the majestic dues by the lighthouse are now all but flattened. I’m hit with a malaise in the big department store. So many choices, where do I start? I am listless as I walk through the isles. Why bother to get shampoo? The bottle of “Silver Sheen” left by Betsy’s mother who died last year at the age of 94 has been doing the job well enough and brightening the gray at my temples to boot. We stop a Subway for sandwiches to bring back as a treat before we head back. In the strip mall parking lot by a dark-skinned man with bulging eyes accuses me of dinging his car with the door to our SUV. A chubby young woman with bleach-blonde hair sits in the passenger seat and nods and head affirmatively that indeed I did this. The routine is convincing, except this pair pulled the same scam on us in few months ago at this very same strip mall parking lot. The man must have recognized us too, because suddenly he is no longer demanding money, just an apology “to show a little respect.” This has been a hideous trip. It is dark as we head back to Fire Island. The route back home is tricky because all the landmarks we once used a guides are now gone. The terrain has been transformed into something unrecognizable and ugly.

Fri. Nov. 16 – This is a day for celebration. National Grid turns the power back on at Betsy’s. This is a miracle because National Grid has been in possession of four different lists with year-round residences, and her name was nowhere to be seen on any of them. Our address and several other people we know where also not present on these lists, which makes one wonder about the compilers.John however made a point of speaking to the National Grid folks out in the field, they got to know us and made sure we did not fall through the cracks. Betsy is elated and begins talking of a big Thanksgiving dinner. But John and I have trouble getting in the spirit of things, for there is still a long road ahead before we can go home again.

Fire Island Hurricane Sandy

Fire Island, New York has seen its share of hurricanes and nor’easters many of these storms have done significant damage over the years and caused major beach erosion.  One thing is certain there will always been another storm and Fire Island will bounce back no matter how significant the damage.

The big storm of the 2012 season is what the media is calling a “Frankenstorm:, the combination of two major storm fronts.

“We’re not trying to hype it,” National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Kocin tells Bloomberg News. “What we’re seeing in some of our models is a storm at an intensity that we have not seen in this part of the country in the past century.”

As a life long Fire Islander I can tell you, these storms are always frightening. The wind will be so intense that the houses will sway, the waves in the ocean will pound so hard they will sound like thunder, and the flooding in town will be a few feet at minimum. Suffolk County called for a mandatory evacuation of Fire Island, and it always best to head for cover.

FireIsland.com does have one staff member on the Island, who opted to ride out the storm. The power on Fire Island has been shut down, and cell service is spotty but we will try to keep everyone updated as to the condition on the island as the storm passes through.

We have put together and will keep updated the photo album below.  Many of these pictures are courtesy of the brave members of law enforcement and rescue services at OBPD and OBFD.

Sandy Arrives. 

A few videos from Fire Island during Hurricane Sandy.
Steven Acierno a Verizon worker on Fire Island, posted a few amazing videos that capture the destruction. I asked him to describe what he saw, his response was:
“I can honestly say I have never seen anything like this. Huge waves coming ashore on the bay that were no less than 12 or 15 feet I swear to God this is going to be a very sad thing for a lot of people”

By Rachel Sunshine

Summer’s end became clear over the last few weeks. Every weekend a different restaurant closed their doors with anticipation of a peaceful off-season followed by an early spring. CJ’s also closed the last weekend in September, but with much more emotion then any other establishment on Fire Island has endured. On September 30th, 7pm the doors were closed with a definite sense of finality.

For over 30 years, CJ’s has often been the sole year-round bar and dining establishment on Fire Island, with very little change in atmosphere or clientele and been a treasured staple to the community of Ocean Beach. Known to many as “The Home of the Rocket Fuel,” an invention of frozen hard liquor concoction became synonymous with CJ’s and Fire Island in general. CJ’s was simple and that is why it was wonderful.  It was a menu on the wall, bottles of beer on the bar kind of place. Whether just to shoot the breeze after work, indulge in a lobster meal with the family, or throw some late night darts with friends, you could always count on CJ’s for the drinks flowing, people laughing, and the music rocking.

John “Giovanni” Palermo opened CJ’s in 1971, named after his son, Christopher John. CJ’s was one of two restaurants he operated, the other being Giovanni’s just down the block. By 1979 Giovanni’s closed, but CJ’s remained. In the late 90’s the aging Gio was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The bar’s namesake Christopher John now a grown man was not interested in taking over his father’s business, so Gio bequeathed his bar as well as the traditions and memories it held to his loyal, employee, caretaker, and friend, Joseph Theodore “J.T.” Prolo.

J.T., was in his mid 30’s became the new owner of CJ’s. Giovanni did not will CJ’s to J.T. without thought. This young man was the one Giovanni saw fit to take on not just a bar, but also the responsibilities of community and tradition that came with CJ’s, and that he did. The place kept its rustic beach charm for well over a decade. One change J.T. did see fitting was to enlarge CJ’s space. Soon after he took over the bar in 1997, the East wall of the pub was taken out expanding the bar to a full horseshoe and creating a second front entrance. No matter how much bigger CJ’s became it was constantly packed to the brim.

J.T. was that classic, generous, good guy with a witty sense of humor. He loved his friends and most importantly his family. Though J.T. had a busy and successful bar to run all year he made time to visit his sisters and nieces across the country, as well as his mother and late father.  J.T. was always to be caught with his younger cousins Phillip and Henry whom he was a role model too.  The abundant and infinite love for this one man was most prominently though grievingly shown on April 2, 2011 at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church for J.T. passed away on March 21st, shortly after undergoing treatments for pancreatic cancer and only in his early 50’s, leaving behind multitudes of mournful friends at CJ’s.

CJ’s remained open as always, kept up by his loyal friends and bartenders until J.T.’s mother, Lori Prolo set up shop in Ocean Beach, keeping the bar alive. Even in the shadow of loss and grief that lingered throughout Ocean Beach, the patrons of CJ’s carried on for Giovanni and J.T., and kept the good times going.

At summer’s end of 2011 Mother Lori planned to return to her winter residence and come back the following summer, which broached the question would CJ’s be open for the winter? Apart from two sets of brief winter months for minor renovations CJ’s had been open every winter since the 70’s. Jennifer Moritz, close life-long friend of J.T. and wife of Mathew Morano, owner of Mathew’s Seafood House, made the decision to stay in Ocean Beach for the winter and run the show. It proved a successful winter and with the following summer of 2012 being momentous for CJ’s and the community. Lori upheld her son’s legacy for two years, but with summer’s end made the decision to close the doors on her son’s behalf. The time for friends, family, and CJ’s to move on had come.

The space that was CJ’s has been leased to Rob Foggo and Ed Werblow, the bar will reopen again in the spring of 2013. Foggo has been a bartender of Bocce Beach for 23 years and Werblow a resident of Ocean Beach for over 20 years who met his wife over Rocket Fuels at CJ’s 12 years ago. These two friends and business partners appreciate the institution that CJ’s was and still can be. Both gentlemen have no other intentions other than to brighten the place up and keep that relaxed feeling it always had. This bar will forever be the “home of the Rocket Fuel” in Ocean Beach.

Note: Castaway Bar and Grill in Ocean Beach will be open for the 1012 / 2013 off-season. Hope to see you there!

Ocean Beach

The unofficial capital of Fire Island, Ocean Beach is a 600-home community with the greatest concentration of bars, restaurants and stores on the entire island. Overflowing with small-town charm reminiscent of a simpler time, main street walks are lined with ice cream shops, mom and pop markets, and “beach chic” boutiques. Local children sell painted shell souvenirs out of red radio-flyer wagons. Just outside of town, Ocean Beach walkways are lined with traditional summer cottages that are both home to longtime Fire Island families and home away from home for many share-house transients.

Ocean Beach started as two communities that joined together after the fact when becoming an incorporated village in 1921. A businessman named John Wilbur founded the community of Ocean Beach in 1908 and its eastern boundary only extended as far as Bungalow Walk. What is the last three western blocks of Ocean Beach today (Ocean, Wilmot, and Surf Roads) were know as Stay-a-While Estates, a real estate enterprise organized by the heirs of New York Supreme Court Justice Wilmot M. Smith in 1912. Ocean Beach was once home to a grand hotel named the New Surf Hotel, which was destroyed by fire around 1918. To this day many confuse the history of the New Surf Hotel with its neighbor and namesake near Kismet that had been known as the Surf Hotel, but they were in fact separate entities.

Ocean Beach also has been known as “The Land of No,” a moniker it gained by its labyrinth of local laws and ordinances to govern life within the Village in ways both large and small. These rules restrict activities like bicycle riding, playing ball or picnicking on the beach. This idiosyncrasy hit a climax in 1977 when the great “cookie case” made national headlines when two teenage boys went to court to defend their right to eat freshly baked cookies purchased at a local bakery on the Ocean Beach public walk and prevailed. The Land of No characterization has relaxed in Ocean Beach over time, but it has never completely gone away.