Ocean Beach: Precious Cargo

Louise Kushner and Sky Riggs with baby June.
Photo courtesy of Shoshanna McCollum

Nearly 500,000 round-trip ferry fares to Ocean Beach are paid annually, and with summer driving rules taking effect on June 15, nearly all of us will once again be ferrying to town. Whether we are residents of this unique and idyllic community or just passing through, most will agree that a beachbound trip across the bay is much less an inconvenience than a welcome respite – a half hour of anticipation, or planning, or catching up with neighbors and friends.

This summer season brings with it a sense of closure for many of us. The loss of our ferry terminal in the fall of 2012 was one of the more visible aftereffects of the damage inflicted by Hurricane Sandy, and the completion and reopening earlier this spring of a new terminal fills a void in our bayfront downtown area.

In addition to all the human cargo carried across the bay, some rather unique items are sometimes delivered to the beach – including a prefabricated 4,700-pound Morello Forni pizza oven, which arrived on May 8.

“It took 10 people a little over four hours to get it from the dock to the deli,” said Travis D’Arienzo, owner of the Mermaid Market, located across the street from the dock at Ocean Breeze and Bay walks. A Bobcat was used to transport the oven – which had already traveled across the Atlantic from Genoa, Italy – and lift it through the store’s front window.

D’Arienzo is entering his fourth year as owner of the year-round establishment. With the arrival of the pizza oven comes major changes for the Market, including a name change to Dockside Brick Oven Pizza and Deli. The staff now will be offering personal size pizzas with customizable dough and toppings, in addition to all the foods and services previously available. Ocean Beach artist Wendy Erdmann designed a new mosaic tile sign for the building’s exterior.

Several local business owners have come together to form the Ocean Beach Chamber of Commerce, a new non-profit organization formed to facilitate “both economic and social growth in support of our members and the Ocean Beach community.” The Chamber’s executive board consists of Jennifer Moritz, Jon Randazzo, Mary Ellen Kelly, and Scott Hirsch. The co-presidents are Moritz and our own Chris Mercogliano.

The former Michael’s Pizza restaurant on Bay Walk at Evergreen will operate this season as Beacheria Pizza-n-Pasta under the management of Jon Randazzo. Jim Betz, owner of Maguire’s Bayfront Restaurant on Bungalo Walk, passed along information about a new partnership between the Fire Island Water Taxi and several Ocean Beach restaurants. After paying a full lateral fare to Ocean Beach from another Fire Island community, customers will receive a voucher for a free ride home after presenting a receipt of entrée purchase from any Ocean Beach participating restaurant.

Ocean Beach Association (OBA) president Maria Silsdorf tells us the OBA is sponsoring a forum for village trustee candidates at the Community House on Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m., in addition to many other events and programs.

“This year we have purchased a Mobi-Mat, which is being installed on Bungalow Walk,” added Silsdorf. The mat will allow those who have difficulty walking on uneven ground to make their way across the sand more easily.

“Now that the village finished public spaces, we are looking for activities to fill them!” said Holly Etlin, president of the Ocean Beach Community Fund (OBCF). The OBCF has a full schedule of events planned for the summer, including movie nights and recreational programs.

A village election will be held Friday, June 7, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Community House. Three candidates – incumbents Matthew Blake and Christopher Norris, as well as challenger Steve Einig – will be vying for two trusteeships. Requests for absentee ballots may be sent to Steven W. Brautigam, Village Clerk, P.O. Box 457, Ocean Beach, NY 11770, by May 31. Completed ballots must be received by June 6.

On April 13, the Ocean Beach village board approved an agreement with Suffolk County to open a crisis center on a 900-square-foot plot of land adjacent to the county’s emergency operations center in Yaphank. In the event a natural disaster hinders travel to the beach, government and emergency operations will continue from this facility.

The village office tells us the wagon park is now open on the east tennis court adjacent to the ferry terminal, and that a golf cart is once again available for seniors. The freight house reopened at the terminal on April 1. Fire Island Ferries freight manager Christopher Forgét notes that the freight house is a temporary waypoint for smaller items and that perishable, landscaping, and building materials cannot be brought inside.

The village’s first bulk trash pickup day will be Wednesday, June 12. Two items per property may be collected, and village hall must be notified of the pickup by June 6.

The community has welcomed some new members since last season. Former village trustee Jason Bendicksen’s daughter, Alex, gave birth to baby Lela in December. Rick and Carol Kushner’s daughter, Louise, welcomed a baby, June Kushner Riggs, with father Sky Riggs. The Kushners reside in Corneille Estates.

“The infamous ‘Bench Gang’ lost one of its most beloved members,” said Anne Niland of Ocean Beach, on the passing of Howie Solomon, who would often be found with friends on the benches of Bay Walk. Also lost was Howard Solomon of B Street in Seaview (no relation); Anna LaViolette of Summer Club; Ann Marie Krepela, fire department EMT, trustee emeritus of the Free Union Church, and wife of former Ocean Beach mayor Ed Krepela; noted watercolor artist Christy Edwards; Renne Roth, beloved wife and mother who built Fire Island Real Estate alongside her husband, the late Ernest Roth; Debbie Smith; Tony Winick; Jim Heller; Lisa Stern; Barbara Burns; and Irwin “Buddy” Gilsten.

We will be highlighting high school and college graduates of the class of 2019 in the June 7 issue. Submissions with names and alma maters of residents of Ocean Beach and the surrounding communities must be received by May 31 for inclusion.

As our community begins to once again hum with activity, I hope to see you on the boats or docks around town. Until then, enjoy the sun.