Fire Island Pines, town hope for holiday business
Brookhaven Town officials and Fire Island Pines business owners are banking on the Fourth of July holiday weekend to jump-start their seasonal summer traffic after nearly a year of rebuilding.
"We expect to have an amazing July Fourth. We're hoping people are going to come out," said P.J. McAteer, owner of three island establishments, including Pines Bistro restaurant.
But they said a misconception that most of the roughly 25 island businesses are closed due to superstorm Sandy damage threatens to scare visitors away and slow summer sales for establishments relying on tourists and day trippers.
"A lot of people don't know we've reopened," Brookhaven Republican Councilman Timothy Mazzei said at a news conference Monday on Fire Island. "Come over here and have lunch, swim at the beach."
The Pines employs about 1,000 people and is a seasonal destination.
Most of the businesses make 90 percent of their revenue in the summer, and without that they "wouldn't be here," said Jay Pagano, president of the Fire Island Pines Property Owners' Association.
Many island businesses have seen slow sales, but he said he hopes business will increase with the holiday.
McAteer said his businesses have been steady, but more people coming out would be a boost.
"Business is fine," he said, but with fewer people visiting Fire Island due to the storm, "we would love to generate more people coming over here."
Fire Island Pines Property manager and business owner Nicole LaFountaine said she's looking forward to the holiday weekend and an increase in consumers.
Superstorm Sandy damaged one-third of the homes, five businesses and all access walks to the beach on Fire Island, Pagano and town officials said.
In addition, 2 million cubic yards of sand were washed away, and the harbor was under water after the storm, Pagano said.
On the island alone, officials have said, Sandy's winds and high tides destroyed natural dunes and beaches, as well as man-made structures such as boardwalks, the lighthouse dock and visitor facilities, causing $10 million in damage.
Everything on Fire Island has been repaired, and town officials said now is the time to support business owners.
"This is a wonderful place for a weekend," said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine. "All businesses are back up."