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Long Island Yacht Club, once led by Captain Kangaroo’s Bob Keeshan, closes in Babylon

The Long Island Yacht Club, seen here on

The Long Island Yacht Club, seen here on Dec. 23, 2015, was a Babylon Village institution since 1958. It closed earlier this month due to falling membership and high upkeep costs, according to club officials. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

The Long Island Yacht Club — once led by Bob Keeshan, a Babylon Village resident who played television’s Captain Kangaroo — has closed.

The 57-year-old nonprofit — which offered swimming, boating and tennis at a Babylon Village estate with a Georgian mansion for a clubhouse — shut its doors Dec. 16 after running out of cash, club officers said.

“For the past two years, we’ve been aggressively pursuing new members, and all our attempts have not been successful,” said Steve Vid, an Amityville businessman who served as the club’s commodore. “We’ve done everything conceivable. The economy is not receptive to people spending this kind of discretionary money right now.”

The club, established on the grounds of a 7-acre Little East Neck Road estate in 1958, boasted tennis courts, restaurant fare, a swimming pool and slips for 74 vessels. Members came from across Long Island and paid about $10,000 a year.

In the 1960s, its 160 full members floated one of Long Island’s largest power boat fleets. But in recent years, fewer than half its slips were occupied, and after a handful of unexpected resignations this fall, only 14 full members remained.

Personal rebuilding expenses after Hurricane Irene and superstorm Sandy led some members to resign, Vid said. Remaining members faced higher costs, and funds declined while operating expenses remained high.

“We ran out of money,” Vid said. “I’m sick about it. It’s out of my control.”

About eight employees are out of work, Vid said. Also lost will be dozens of summer jobs.

With yearly taxes and maintenance fees reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, the club would need at least 40 full members to stay viable, he said.

While some members have discussed reopening the club, Vid said several developers interested in purchasing the property have approached club officers. The club is seeking legal and accounting advice before proceeding, and Vid said he expects answers to basic questions on unwinding club holdings in January.

Village Mayor Ralph Scordino described the club as a valued resource, despite occasional complaints from neighbors about noise and other quality-of-life issues over the years.

His administration supports continued operation at that location as a yacht club, Scordino said. He said prospective developers are likely “frothing at the mouth . . . [but] I would not be in favor of putting condominiums there.”

Lee Labiento, the club’s membership development chair and a professor of global health issues at Hofstra University, held out hope of a reorganization last week, even as she mourned the loss of a gathering place for area seniors and for her own family.

“It was another way we had summer life with our grandchildren,” she said, recalling summer swim teams and children’s enrichment classes she had taught since joining 12 years ago.

Bartender Gail Whittemore, 71, an employee since the late 1990s, said she had learned the club was closing only a few days before the doors shut. She cut in half the money she planned to spend on Christmas presents for her grandchildren and anticipated it would be hard or impossible to find another bartending job until after the holiday season.

“We had the fireplace going, and it was all decorated for Christmas,” she said. “I guess they didn’t have enough members to hold down the fort.”

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