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Why Long Islanders love their backyards in the fall

Lorraine Gonzalez entertains friends in her backyard in

Lorraine Gonzalez entertains friends in her backyard in Valley Stream. L-R: Sunita Singh, Lucha Cineas-Saint Fleury, Lorraine Gonzales, Lina Grammont, Regine Julson, Natalie Cange and Yadlynd Cherubin-Eide.  Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Cooling air and falling leaves do not stop some Long Islanders from hosting backyard gatherings the way they did summer barbecues. In spaces well-equipped for hosting, Island residents are still celebrating fall and each other.

During summer, Dan Weiner and his wife, Jennifer,  of Holtsville, host parties in a backyard complete with firepit, bar, in-ground pool, hammock and three gazebos (one for dinner, one for the bar, one for lounging by the pool). The lounging gazebo has its own fireplace.

But an artificial lawn installed this year helps the couple — and their teenage sons and three German shepherds — to use their space well into the fall season.

“It really enables us to use the yard a lot longer,” Dan Weiner says of the turf. “There’s no mud, there’s no dirt. The kids can lie on the turf while they play cornhole and things like that.”

In the fall, the Weiners use their backyard on weekends to make s’mores and barbecue. 

“We like to get at least nine months out of the year in our backyard,” Dan Weiner says.

Dan, 48, who works as a project director for Nokia, and Jennifer, 47, an account executive for AT&T, also happen to work from home.

“Even in the fall, we’ll sometimes bring our computers outside and just sit under the gazebo and work,” he says. And sometimes, they’ll use the yard as an escape from their children, he says.

Twenty-two miles away, in East Northport, Heidi and Tom Ryan host an annual summer party with 200 to 300 people, says Heidi Ryan, 53. The event is called “Bunker Fest,” after a nickname visitors gave the house while it was under construction. 

In the fall, Tom, 60, always wants to have a dozen or so guests over to watch football by the cabana, Heidi says. 

“We could watch it outdoors, on the outdoor TV, although it’s usually pretty chilly, so a lot of people just end up being inside the cabana,” Heidi says. There is a television in there, too.

The Ryans, who work in manufacturing in the aerospace industry, have a firepit on the back deck and a fireplace outside the cabana. There is a grill in a New Orleans-style courtyard — an ode to Heidi’s hometown. 

Meanwhile, in Valley Stream, Lorraine Gonzalez has a backyard fully equipped and operational in the fall, save for the Jacuzzi and swimming pool. There is a firepit — for roasting marshmallows with her daughter and son — as well as a three-level deck and a full outdoor kitchen with sink, stove and griddle. 

“I’m making it sound like it’s huge, but you’ll be surprised how we maximize the space in this tiny house with a small lot by incorporating circle-type decking instead of the traditional square or rectangular,” says Gonzalez, 49, whose 1,344-square-foot house is on a 0.13-acre lot.

On the top level of the deck, there is a full kitchen separated from the home’s indoor kitchen by a double door, she says. On the middle level of the deck is a dining room table, so that anyone sitting there can look out onto the entire backyard. On the bottom level is seating and a television set. 

Gonzalez, who owns a bath and body product company, hosted a gathering in October for a group of female business owners in the area. The group usually meets at restaurants but decided this time to use the backyard. 

“We try to get together during the year, to talk about ideas — you know, what’s working for one person, how they’re doing their networking, their branding,” she says.

Smiling women in light jackets held cranberry-colored wineglasses as they sat around a table, then gathered around a fire later that night. The space allows for easy entertaining, but is still missing something.

“Because we put so much stuff in here, I lost the one thing I loved so much, which is having green grass in my backyard,” she says. “I do have a patch of grass, which I love.”

Huntington interior designer Amal Kapen suggests taking measures to keep warm in a backyard space now that autumn has set in. She recommends adding a propane heater to keep guests comfortable or simply taking blankets outside with your morning coffee. 

And a firepit, in addition to providing warmth, Kapen says, is a fun backyard addition.

"There is something special that bonds people together sharing time around a fire," she says.

And the pit need not be fancy. A freestanding firepit, rather than one built in, can provide opportunity for families to toast marshmallows and just spend time together.

But some embrace the chilly air instead of trying to ward it off.

"Many of my clients keep their hot tubs on through the winter, finding it fun and refreshing to race through the cold back to their house after a hot dip," Kapen says.

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