Caitlin Keating’s depiction of the Village of Ocean Beach, Fire Island (“On Ocean Beach, Last Call Before the Ship Sails”, New York Times, Fashion & Style, September 3, 2015) missed the bigger story about the allure of Ocean Beach that goes far beyond the consumption of alcohol, 4:00 AM pizza, and speed dating.
Like other communities on Fire Island, Ocean Beach attracts a broad array of visitors with different objectives in mind when frequenting our shores. Beach goers come in search of surf, sun and sand; day trippers take a stroll along our car-less, tree lined streets, visit local shops, and dine in our restaurants. Those seeking a night out on the town, which is – correctly — depicted by your reporter as “carefree”, unpretentious and fun, find it here too.
Yet, labelling Ocean Beach almost uniquely as a venue for 20-something revelry seekers does an injustice to the Village: akin to describing a ship by detailing its stern at the expense of the wheelhouse, engine room, port and starboard bows.
What makes Ocean Beach special are the people who comprise the community, define its character and maintain its vitality, generation after generation. Ocean Beach’s 600 plus families, shopkeepers, artisans and business owners are at its core. The numerous activities organized by community associations, the local fire department, and historical society, reflect the Village’s civic character and the benevolence of its residents that call Ocean Beach their home. It is the day camp that serves hundreds of children and young adults during the summer months, and our local school, which not only provides quality education to the year-round population along the entirety of Fire Island but also a handful of South Shore communities on Long Island proper, that deserve mention. It is the community’s annual basketball tournament, which rivals any found in the five boroughs for athletic intensity and sportsmanship. It’s our police and lifeguards, who know residents by name and keep an eye out for our loved ones while maintaining order and safety.
It is remarkable to think that within fifty some odd miles of Manhattan’s densely packed, frenetically paced streets, one can find an oasis where children roam freely and safely, neighbours create lasting relationships, and life resumes a more even keel. Ocean Beach is small town America at its greatest at a stone’s throw from urbanity.
These are the unique characteristics that make Ocean Beach a special place to visit and reside.
Unfortunately, it is these important attributes that were entirely eschewed in the September 3rd article. A fact made even more difficult to reconcile considering how our community banded together in response to the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy. Like our neighbors in adjacent hamlets and townships, everyone in Ocean Beach, in one form or another, has participated in the rebuilding. As we inauspiciously approach the third anniversary of the storm, we remind ourselves of our inclement state three years past, and rejoice in the tremendous progress made since. More remains to be done to bring us back to perfect health, but our community’s resolve endures.
The readers of the New York Times should not make the mistake of associating life in Ocean Beach with depictions of partygoers alone. Rather, they should skip the last departing ferry for the right reasons, and come see for themselves what a community like ours truly has to offer.
Matthew M. Blake
Incorporated Village of Ocean Beach
Opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are not necessarily those of Fire Island News.