By Joey Macellaro
“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place,” wrote Pascal Mercier. “We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
A slow migration began a few weeks ago for those of us who annually leave a part of ourselves behind on this thin strip of sand. Memories of past years are recalled as we walk familiar docks and welcome friends into homes dormant for only a few months since we last laughed and dined and relaxed to the sound of waves on the shore. We rejoin those hearty souls fortunate enough to never have to leave for very long. Even if this is “home” for only a few months of the year, each return trip to the beach feels like a homecoming.
The process of coming home changed somewhat in Ocean Beach after Hurricane Sandy, as our aging ferry terminal was flooded and razed. Work began last fall to construct a new terminal and a new police department, designed by architect and local resident Joel Silverberg, on the rough footprint of the original structure. After docking at Dehnhoff for most of the off-season, the ferry began unloading passengers on the south side of the ferry basin on May 11. Although the village hopes to begin docking the ferry on the west side of the ferry basin at some point mid-season, passengers will continue to unload at the south dock and freight at the north dock until further notice. The police department will operate on the location of the former basketball court until 2019.
Those returning after the off-season will notice the new pumping station nearing completion on Bayberry, as well as refurbished decking and a new gazebo on the north side of the community house. At the request of the mayor and trustees, a downtown revitalization committee was established to address the redevelopment of the bayfront recreation district, and drainage and environmental concerns. The group held its first meeting on Feb. 12. The committee initially consisted of Chairperson Joe Speranza, Village Trustees Chris Norris and Brian Power, Maria Silsdorf, Scott Hirsch, Craig Sherman, Patty Brahe, Ken Klein, Harvey Levine, and myself. Constantine Karalis and Bob Stack joined in May.
General elections for mayor, two trustees, and village justice will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., on Friday, June 1, at the Community House. Residents will begin to notice activity in the coming weeks on the vacant lot at Ocean Road and Bay Walk. Scott Hirsch, owner of The Pantry on Bay Walk and Island Mermaid on Ocean Breeze, tells us he was inspired to find a use for the land after watching Windswept, the bayfront home of the Ocean Beach Youth Group (OBYG), come back to life.
“I approached Chris and Laura Mercogliano one day about how nice it would be to find a way to do a food garden with the youth group,” Hirsch said. It turned out the couple, who own the vacant lot on Bay Walk, had a similar vision for the property.
Hirsch contacted Patty Brahe of the OBYG, as well as Ian Levine of the Community Garden Center, who agreed to donate plantings and to provide free labor to construct the garden. The youth group board agreed to split the cost of materials with Hirsch and his family, and later, through the efforts of Co-Presidents Holly Etlin and Cami Meyer, the Ocean Beach Community Fund agreed to match those donations.
“The idea is to create a hands-on, farm-to-table experience for the campers with their ecology teacher,” added Hirsch. The staff of Island Mermaid and CJ’s Restaurant and Bar have committed to helping the OBYG campers prepare a big meal at the end of the season.
Patty Brahe of the OBYG was among the community members who wrote to welcome readers back for the season. “We are beyond excited to return to Windswept,” she said. “Our enrollment is open and all details are available at www.obyg.org.”
Msgr. Richard Henning of Our Lady of the Magnificat church tells us his congregation is in the third year of a process to remodel the exterior of its building in preparation for the centennial of the parish in 2020. Mass will be held Saturday, May 26, at 5:30 p.m.; and Sunday, May 27, at 8 and 10 a.m. The interdenominational Free Union Church begins its 103rd season on June 17, at 10:45 a.m.
“I’ll still have my position on the Ocean Beach bench,” Kenny Goodman tells us. The longtime Fair Harbor and Ocean Beach resident added that his jewelry pieces will be featured at Flair House this season.
Don and Susan Cafuoco are pleased to announce the birth of grandson Lucas Parker. His happy parents are Lelah Cafuoco and Paul Vouzakis. Doug and Nancy Meyer welcomed granddaughter Penelope, first child of D.J. and Lea Meyer.
The Ocean Beach community recently suffered the loss of Arlene Jaffe, a longtime member of the Ocean Beach Community Fund. “She was an original, a fabulous lady, a mentor, and a major part of Ocean Beach in so many ways,” said Community Fund Co-Chairperson Susan Cafuoco. “She was a wonderful friend. If she loved you, she loved you to pieces. We miss her dearly.”
Over the break, the community also lost Bill Powers, Charles Rumpelt, Harlan Pruger, Liz Kirchner, and Tom Sigelakis, a longtime fixture and friend of many in town. Robbins Rest year-rounder Richard Wisson and Mary Violet Dunworth Frayne of Summer Club also recently passed away.
With everything that changes, so much seems the same. “Every traveler has a home of his own,” wrote Dickens in 1854, “and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.” As you wander “home” now, I hope to see you, once again, on the beach.
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