Editor’s note: All week long, Erin Geismar is interviewing people around Orient, from community leaders to residents she bumps into around town. Andy Binkowski, 45, of Orient, is Cross Sound Ferry manager and president of the North Fork Chamber of Commerce.
How long have you lived in Orient?
A year, but we’ve been on the North Fork since January ’03. Before that we lived in Stonington, Conn.
What brought you to Long Island initially, and then why move to Orient?
The Cross Sound Ferry offered me this position so we relocated. We lived in the Cutchogue/New Suffolk area. We came to Orient because it’s closer to work. Our daughter was in the school district in Cutchogue and we didn’t want to move her again because we had already moved her from Connecticut. So we waited and as soon as she finished high school, we moved.
How was your first year?
Excellent. We love it out here. It’s peaceful, it’s close to work for me and my wife -- she works at Eastern Long Island Hospital. She’s a secretary there.
What did you do before coming to work for the ferry?
I worked for them in Connecticut for a little over a year. Before that I was a part-owner of a taxi business, but I wanted a more stable lifestyle, so that’s when I got the job with Cross Sound Ferry. I was assistant manager in Connecticut for a year and three months, and then the offered for me to come here.
Tell me about your job.
When they offered this to me, they wanted me not just to come and be the manager of Cross Sound Ferry, but to get involved in the community and be the face of Cross Sound Ferry. I was a member of the Chamber of Commerce anyway, but I got more involved. I’m also involved with the fire department and the police department -- not a member but involved. And slowly I somehow ended up as president of the chamber this past January.
What is a day like on the dock?
That depends -- winter or summer?
In the winter, cold and very quiet.
In the summer, it’s controlled chaos. A lot of people more through here, thousands every day. We have a lot of first users and a lot of steady customers that we’ve gotten to know.
So what is life like in Orient? What do people do, what do you and your wife like to do?
We go out a lot. We go to the restaurant next door with all the locals and hang out. We take the ferry and go back and forth to Connecticut to visit our family there.
We just kind of enjoy Orient. We like sitting out on the back porch, we enjoy the quiet. We go to the wineries sometimes, but we did that more when we first moved here; now we leave it to the tourists.
It’s an enjoyable place, it really is. And we attend a lot of functions. The hospital functions and other organizations, the fire department, the police department. There’s always something going on.
So it’s not exactly an isolated life out here?
In the winter more so, but not really. There’s rarely a week that goes by that we don’t have something to attend.
What’s the biggest difference between your old stamping grounds and this side of the ferry?
For us, it’s the isolation from everything. And by everything, I mean the Dunkin’ Donuts, the Target, the Wal-Mart, the Stop & Shop. We had all that at our fingertips and out here we have a lot of mom and pop stores that don’t necessarily have what you’re used to but they have what you need.
What’s the makeup of the community?
There are a good amount of year-rounders, but a lot of summer people. The locals are the locals, it’s their town, their community and they don’t like a lot of change.
They are all good people. Of all the people we’ve met and gotten to know, I could pick up the phone and call anyone of them and they would come and give me a hand if I needed it.
It doesn’t seem like there’s a variety of industry out here. How do people make a living?
Fishing is huge out here. A lot of people are self-employed. There are a couple of bed-and-breakfasts, small stores. But other than that, there’s not a lot in Orient. There’s the ferry also, and Plum Island, which employs a lot of people, but not necessarily all from Orient.
Describe the character of Orient.
Friendly. A very friendly community.