Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Fishers Island's Real World

The 250 year-round residents of Fishers Island are looking for new neighbors. They want people who might join the volunteer fire department, people who will be active in community organizations, and people with kids who will go to school there. They are so determined to build the population that they have brought in the Island Institute to help them figure out how to do it.

Fishers Island, of course, is part of New York’s Suffolk County, although the only way to get there is via a 45-minute ferry ride from New London. It is small and isolated, the grocery store opens for just two hours a day in winter, and you would imagine the March can be a bleak as it gets. That’s one reality of Fishers Island. The other is that if you live there and you’re of normal economic means, roughly half the island – the eastern half – is off-limits, gated, and open only to the Duponts and the Roosevelts and other wealthy people who can afford houses there and membership in the Fishers Island Club.

I don’t point this out as a criticism. Last August, the east-enders invited me out to give a talk about the Sound (it was open to everyone, and a diverse crowd attended, but it was a couple of east enders who organized it), paid me a nice, appropriate honorarium, put me and my wife up for the night as the guest of a very nice and hospitable fellow, and took us to dinner at the club, which I enjoyed even though I had to wear a tie. One of the people we had dinner with had played golf a couple of days earlier at the club with Porter Goss, who had just been nominated to head the CIA. One of our hosts at the club was a Dupont, and when I got back home I ran into Christopher Dupont Roosevelt, FDR’s grandson, who told me how sorry he was that he hadn’t been on the island that week and therefore couldn’t come to hear me talk.

In other words, Fishers Island is two different worlds. But I hope they succeed in attracting new families. Here’s a terrific story from the New London Day that explains what’s going on and why they need people to move there (the story is from yesterday so you’ll need to register, but it’s worth it).


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