Bellport, N.Y.: A Village With Extraordinary Privileges

Bellport, N.Y.: A Village With Extraordinary Privileges

Melissa Feldman had one of the worst jobs imaginable in a pandemic for years: organizing social events for the art world. After the parties stopped, Ms. Feldman, 57, started a new life. She sold her apartment in Chelsea and moved into her weekend home in Bellport, New York, a village of about 2,100 people on the south coast of Long Island. In August, Ms. Feldman opened the storefront, gallery, fashion boutique and bookstore on South Country Road, Bellport's main drag.

Bellport hasn't had a bookstore in years and it's hard to imagine how it survived without one. For decades, the village on Great South Bay, 60 miles east of Manhattan, has been a stronghold of writers, editors, publishers, artists, gallery owners, photographers, broadcasters, architects and other professionally glamorous and educated people.

Ms. Feldman, who New York Magazine once dubbed "the princess of the art party," described the community as "very accomplished, but at the same time rather reserved, without the attitude you find in the Hamptons." She has settled happily in the two-bedroom ranch house she bought for $ 300,000 in 2017. (She did gut cleanup, landscaping and added a swimming pool.)

A sizable chunk of Bellport is populated by part-time workers, many of whom moved to their weekend homes during the pandemic, and some, like Ms. Feldman, who have repotted themselves tightly. However, long before Covid-19, the natural beauty and convenience of the village turned city dwellers into committed villagers.

"I came here to kick and scream," said Elettra Wiedemann, 37, who settled in Bellport full time three years ago. Her partner, actor Caleb Lane, is originally from Texas and can't imagine raising her young son in Brooklyn, she said. “I was born and raised in Manhattan, but after three months out here it was so comfortable and easy and the community is so nice. Whenever I want to go into town, I'll get on a train and I'll be in New York in 90 minutes. Back then I was stuck in a tunnel on an F train. "

Ms. Wiedemann found another advantage in being close to her mother, the actress, director and model Isabella Rossellini, who not only offered grandmother support but also work on her farm in Brookhaven Hamlet, called Mama Farm. The benefits cut both ways. Ms. Wiedemann, who is expecting her second child with Mr. Lane, holds a degree in biomedicine from the London School of Economics and is a food expert. She is now the manager of the farm with a community-sponsored agricultural subscription program that has doubled during the pandemic.

Bellport Village is located in the town of Brookhaven in Suffolk County, about halfway between Manhattan and Montauk. It is bordered to the north by Head of the Neck Road, to the west by Bieselin Road and Bellport Country Club, to the east by a creek called Motts Brook (some claim Brookside Avenue is the border), and to the south by Bellport Bay .

Although other areas are named Bellport (or North Bellport) in ZIP Code 11713, the village is a separate entity. It has a mayor, deputy mayor and three trustees, a freeway section plowing the streets and a plumbing section. Its character – a pleasant combination of a weathered coastal town and a well-tended mid-century suburb – is controlled by an architecture review committee, a monument protection commission, a planning board and a board of appeal for zoning.

Owning real estate in Bellport Village confers exceptional privileges. In the summer, residents and their guests can take the Whalehouse Point ferry to an exclusive beach on Fire Island called Ho-Hum. Receive subsidized membership in Bellport Country Club, which has a venerable golf course and five tennis courts. You can park at the marina with its newly converted dock. The village also has a freshwater bay called Peat Hole, which is reached by a path through the forest and is used by ice skaters in winter.

Indoor recreational facilities include the 92-year-old bowling alley in the community center on Bell Street, approved by Architectural Digest in 2019. The South Country Library was a steadfast helper during the pandemic, distributing a pantry and handing out mandala painting kits and holding virtual bingo games, qigong classes, and finance workshops.

The public has access (as social distance allows) to Mothers & # 39; Beach at the end of South Howells Point Road (although non-residents cannot park there). the Gateway Playhouse (now the Suffolk County's Performing Arts Center), which begins its 72nd season; and to the boutiques, galleries and restaurants in the compact business district of the village.

Copper Beech is a four year old store, co-founded by interior and product designer Thomas O’Brien, that combines home furnishings and gourmet foods. Bellport General, founded by Stefan Beckman, a production designer, recently showed up with fashion and coffee. Since there is no sewerage district in Bellport, the sewerage restaurants are limited to a handful, including Papa Nicks Pizza, Bellport (continental), Café Castello (Italian), and Porters on the Lane (nautical).

"I always told my wife that our daughter lived in a make-believe world," said Ray Fell, who has been the mayor of Bellport Village since 2013 and has lived in the same house on Brewster Lane since 1972. “Golf lessons twice a week Tennis lessons once a week, and in the summer she went to the sea every afternoon. "

Mr. Fell's daughter is now a pediatric surgeon in Los Angeles, but that didn't stop her buying a second home next to him in Bellport.

Bellport's historic homes are concentrated between South Country Road and the Bay, particularly on streets that face the water, including Livingston Road, Academy Lane, Browns Lane, and Bellport Lane. The last one, which passes Osborn Park and the Bellport Bandshell, leads directly to the marina.

North of South Country Road are some 19th and early 20th century properties on North Howells Point Road and on and off New Jersey Avenue. Most of the housing stock, however, dates from the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

Prior to 2020, the starting price for older homes was anywhere from $ 1 million to $ 1.2 million, said Howie Guja, a seller at Old Purchase Properties in Bellport Village. Now it's nearly $ 1.5 million if the house even hits the market. The pandemic has shrunk inventory, which has never been expansive here even in recessionary times.

Before the pandemic, mid-century homes north of South Country Road started at around $ 350,000. Now it's at least $ 450,000. The sellers are usually long-term residents who retreat to other communities, Guja said, adding that the homes usually need updating.

According to Redfin, the median sales price of a Bellport home in January was $ 462,000, a 31.4 percent year-over-year increase based on eight properties sold. On February 23, 10 entries were displayed on the Redfin website. The cheapest was a three-bedroom, 1950s ranch home on a third of an acre on Country Club Road, which was listed for $ 459,000 with taxes of $ 10,166. (It sold for $ 220,000 six years ago.) The most expensive was a seven-bedroom, guest house, and boathouse Cape Cod built in 1927 on two acres on the beach near Howells Point. It was listed for $ 5 million with taxes of $ 44,215.

Ease and informality are the qualities that villagers point out when explaining why Bellport is the opposite of the Hamptons. "It's not the kind of place you brag about," said Mr. Guja, adding that the houses "aren't a flashy consumer purchase."

Tricia Foley, a designer and writer who directs the Bellport-Brookhaven Historical Society, described locals who bike to cocktail parties, the men "in bow ties, the women in summer dresses." Her new book "A Summer Place: Living by the Sea", which is due to appear in Rizzoli in April, opens some houses and gardens in Bellport for "inspiring design ideas for a casual summer life".

A lack of developable space and the watchful eyes of preservationists help the village to retain its character. But aesthetic conservatism doesn't quite dominate Bellport, noted Katia Read, a ceramicist and environmentalist who has spent summers in the village with her husband, art dealer Howard Read, since the 1980s. "Bellport has become a hub for modern architecture in the 19th century alongside a growing movement to preserve the village's history," she said.

Bellport is part of the South Country Central School District, which also serves North Bellport, Brookhaven Hamlet, East Patchogue, and parts of Yaphank and Medford. The district includes an early childhood center in Brookhaven; Elementary schools in different communities; a middle school in North Bellport; a middle school in Bellport Village; and Bellport High School in Brookhaven Hamlet.

In the 2018/19 school year, 361 students were enrolled at Kreamer Street Elementary School (kindergarten through third grade) in Bellport Village – 39 percent were white, 37 percent Spanish, 17 percent black, 5 percent multiracial, and 2 percent Asian.

There were 609 people enrolled at Frank P. Long Intermediate School (fourth and fifth grades). In the 2019 state ratings, 29 percent of students met the standards in English, compared with 45 percent across the state. 30 percent met the math standards, up from 47 percent across the state.

Bellport Middle School enrolled 1,007 students in 2019. On state tests this year, 22 percent of students passed the standards in English, up from 45 percent across the state. 27 percent met the math standards, up from 47 percent across the state.

Bellport High School, which has approximately 1,300 students enrolled, had an 87 percent graduation rate in 2020 versus 85 percent for the state as a whole. For the 2019 Regents exams, 74 percent of students passed the standards in English, up from 80 percent across the state. 58 percent met the math standards, up from 70 percent across the state.

The Long Island Rail Road provides a train service from Bellport Station to Brooklyn and Manhattan. A direct train that leaves Bellport at 6:44 a.m. on weekdays arrives at Penn Station at 8:23 a.m. and costs $ 17. (The maximum price is $ 23.50.)

Travel time to Midtown Manhattan on the Long Island Expressway is approximately 90 minutes with adequate traffic.

In 1815, Thomas Bell, a sea captain who worked for the American Coast Wrecking Company and collected salvage from ships that ran aground on Fire Island, sailed through a gap in the long, sandy stretch and encountered what would become Bellport should. With his brother John Bell he developed the area as a seaport and shipyard. Eventually the void closed and cut off the path to the open ocean, and Bellport became a popular 19th century summer resort.

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy reopened what is now Bellport Inlet. It had the unexpected benefit of being able to wash contaminants out of the bay, improving the clarity of the water. Additional support came from oysters and shellfish deposited in the water by a group called Friends of Bellport Bay – 1 million of the creatures – starting October.

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