People come to the Pines for five reasons---sun, sand, surf, sex and status---say the elders of this community. We survived the AIDS pandemic in the eighties, multiple recessions hence and even the forces of nature known as Irene and Sandy. We are more than just an old Gloria Gaynor song and we definitely will survive.
On January 22 at 1:00 PM in West Islip, Long Island, Maltz Auction House will auction off most of the "downtown" strip of the Pines, possibly for a song. With an opening suggested bid of only 8.5 million dollars for 80 percent of the commercial district this is a golden opportunity, to say the least.
The offering includes the Pavilion, one of the most famous night clubs in the world. Over 800,000 annual visitors arrive at the harbor that these nightclubs, restaurant, hotel, gym and retail stores abut.
Some may call it a pipe dream but what is to stop a billionaire closeted Middle Eastern sheik who needs a playground to enjoy his suppressed bacchanalian desires by adding this jewel to his crown? Most may call it pure heresy, but what is to stop a straight or mixed group of investors who see this, not as a vanity acquisition, but a chance to make money by featuring this resort as a place for all kinds of people---not only gays---who want to summer in paradise?
Rumors are swirling like the stormy sea at which we are looking while we contemplate this impending sea change in our beloved community. One allegedly well placed source says that there are four separate groups of investors who have a keen interest in acquiring the property. The chief of the Fire Island Pines Fire Department, Bo Friedberg, told me as that one group went so far as to send a letter of intent to buy at a specific number.
Will its previous owners of five years ago, Eric Von Kursteiner and partner Anthony Roncalli snap it up once more? They bought the place from Jon Whyte for approximately 6 million and sold it five years later to its present owner, Fire Island Pines Ventures for almost 18 million. The principals of FIPV are Andrew Kirtzman (a former political reporter and anchor at WCBS-TV, Seth Weissman and Matt Blesso. Von Kursteiner told us that the "the reserve price...is high and nobody seems to know about [the auction]."
Never mind that there is no reserve price; just a "suggested opening bid" of only 8.5 million. In any event, the vast majority of Pines denizens agrees that Eric Von Kursteiner and his team ran this place with style and élan five years back and presumably did well while doing good. But Von Kursteiner "doubts that it will sell at auction". Of course, good businessman that he is, he may be purposefully low balling this place's true value with an eye on snapping it up again.
Vinnie Petrarca---associated with Douglas Elliman--- indicated that the "previous owners paid too much and borrowed too much. The onus of servicing the loan coupled with their inexperience resulted in a business where it was impossible to operate profitably."
Could it be that PJ Mcateer, impresario and owner of Sip N Twirl, the Pavilion's neighbor and competitor acquire this gem and raise the property to his gold standard and thereby succeed as he has done with his dance club, pizza place and restaurant?
Annie Candreva whose family has purveyed meat and catered parties here for generations opines that the "bottom line is that [the Pines] requires hands-on manual labor 24/7 from March to November, not absentee owners." She hopes to see the new owner "checking on their own freight, breaking a sweat, and truly taking pride in this place as they would their new home," She added that Von Kursteiner and his team did just that.
The auction will take place later this month on January 22, fittingly the first full day of winter. Only ten weeks will remain from when the deal is closed until season opens. No matter what happens, one thing is guaranteed if the auction does go forward and there is a successful bidder; the auction drama that will last for a few short minutes will affect the long term future of the sun, sand, surf and yes, status of the premiere gay resort in the world.