Orient, the hamlet at the end of the country on Long Island's North Fork, is usually quiet from November to April. Not this year. The lights were on all winter in his centuries-old waterfront village and in the farmhouses and more suburban structures on Main Road.
Peter Marren, a Manhattan-based architect, began vacationing in the Orient with his family more than 20 years ago after accidentally riding a bike through farmland and along beaches that reminded him of Marin County, California. Mr. Marren became, as he put it, an "accidental resident" when the coronavirus swept New York. He also worked on some renovations on site.
“I stumble upon the shingle style in A Field Guide to American Houses,” he said. "People who were happy with their weekend homes are now changing them to be more permanent and complete."
Marcia Sheldon and her partner Lawrence Bernstein had been looking for a home on the North Fork for some time when they heard that the owner of a 19th century farmhouse was in the village of Orient – the area just above the dam that separates the hamlet from mainland Long island – had decided to sell it. As is so often the case in the small community, the property changed hands without ever being listed. The couple paid $ 1.35 million for the four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom home on a quarter acre and closed in December 2019.
Ms. Sheldon, 59, a former physical therapist who is now a real estate agent, and Mr. Bernstein, who works in the nonprofit sector and had kept his place in Port Washington, soon began living in the Orient full time.
The village of Orient is a National Historic District that was built on Algoncan-inhabited land when English settlers arrived in the 17th century. Local landmark regulations restrict changes to 18th and 19th century exterior buildings, but interiors are subject to change. The previous owner of the former blacksmith's house that Ms. Sheldon had bought had renovated it and opened the first floor into a large room.
"I didn't think I'd be in the village," said Ms. Sheldon. “But when we realized we would live here all day, we wanted to be in a community. We like the combination of neighborhood and privacy and the historical aspect was a plus. I'm good with draughty corners and uneven floorboards. "
The often-cited drawing of the North Fork as a low-key, less populous and more affordable alternative to the South Fork had improved significantly long before the pandemic. "What people kept saying out here only happened in Covid," said Lori M. Feilen, an urban and rural real estate agent who has lived and worked on the North Fork for more than 30 years. "When everyone started leaving New York, people wanted all kinds of things that we don't have a lot of on North Fork – 4,000 square feet houses, pools. But when they came they bought."
Another longtime local agent, Nora Conant, said there would be 300 to 400 entries on the North Fork in the spring of a normal year. That year, Ms. Conant, who works for Douglas Elliman, said, “There are 130 and many of them are not great deals. The pool has shrunk and the number of swimmers has increased, leading to disappointment, inconvenience and bidding wars. "
She advises her buyers to be patient, expand their searches, and be ready to act quickly. "Real estate comes in dribs and drabs, one or two at a time, and is snapped up instantly," she said.
What you will find
To get to Orient you have to cross the mile-long dam – Gardiners Bay to the south, Long Island Sound to the north – with breathtaking panoramas of the sea and sky. Traffic grows and dwindles according to the schedule of the Cross Sound Ferry, which runs several times a day between Orient Point and New London, Conn.
The 6.1 square mile hamlet, part of the town of Southold in Suffolk County, is home to fewer than 1,000 residents and just a handful of businesses, including a general store, gas station, a couple of marinas, and a candy store. The nearest grocery store, bank, and pharmacy are in Greenport town, five miles west.
Orient Beach State Park, an area of 363 acres that extends into Gardiners Bay and retreats towards Shelter Island, is a destination for kayakers, cyclists, fishermen, picnickers, and waterfowl including ospreys, herons, and herons. Parking on smaller beaches is limited to those with Southold parking stickers.
Artists, architects, literary agents, publishers and writers are among the relative newcomers to the Orient, living alongside farming families who have been there for generations, retirees and second home owners from Nassau and the western counties of Suffolk.
During the summer, many residents search the local Suffolk Times newspaper for yard sales. Farm stalls thrive along the main road. Latham & # 39; s, the largest and busiest, opens in April with asparagus and closes in late autumn after the final harvests of corn and pumpkin. Oysters from the nearby beds are also sold. Another farm stall offers berries in season that are picked from the fields directly behind. A flower farm offers CSA bouquets in mason jars.
As you meander down Village Lane, you'll come across the Oysterponds Historical Society, a museum with replicas of rooms depicting life in the earliest years of the Orient, as well as a rotating list of exhibits. Other buildings and houses along the street have plaques telling historical anecdotes.
What you will pay for
There are currently fewer than a dozen entries in Orient and not many in East Marion, the small hamlet west of the dam.
The most expensive, according to Zillow, is a restored four-bedroom home in the village of Orient with a cookery kitchen, heated saltwater pool, and exercise studio for $ 2.496 million. The cheapest is a 1,560-square-foot, four-bedroom home on Main Road next to the fire station priced at $ 749,000. In 2019, the cheapest home sold for $ 450,000.
From March 1, 2020 to mid-March 2021, 30 Orient houses were sold at an average price of USD 1.09 million. In the past 12 months, 20 homes have been sold at an average price of $ 952,799, Ms. Feilen said.
Janet Markarian of Daniel Gale Sotheby & # 39; s International Realty said that due to the uncertainty surrounding Covid, summer rents for the coming season are tight. "There's a lot of waiting," she said. “Owners who typically rent their homes during the summer aren't sure what they're going to do, whether they're back in town or can travel, or if they're still here. ”
For July and August, Ms. Feilen said, the price of an updated rental home with three to five bedrooms, decks and gardens, and either a pool or a waterfront rose to $ 25,000 to $ 50,000 per month, from $ 18,000 to $ 35,000 each Month in previous years. Rentals without a pool or central air conditioning cost $ 9,000 to $ 15,000 per month.
You're likely to run into neighbors sitting on the porch at the Orient Country Store on Village Lane, a few doors down from the tiny post office. Miriam Foster and her husband Grayson Murphy took over the business 10 years ago and they still fill their shelves with an eclectic mix of trifles, including Ms. Foster's selection of baked goods. The couple, both 34, have also expanded their breakfast and lunch menus.
The joke she was told upon arrival was, "Orient was the place old people go to visit their parents." Since then, she said, it has started to get younger with a new generation of artisans, brewers, boat builders, winemakers and designers living and working in the East End. Since Covid, where people work and study remotely, more young families seem to be staying. "But it's not for everyone," she added. "There aren't that many people who like rocky beaches and don't have a lot to do."
The weekend of July 4th is an exception. The hamlet has a reading of the Declaration of Independence from the porch of the Old Point Schoolhouse from 1873 after a parade led by the Orient Fire Brigade with decorated tractors and children on bicycles decked out in red, white and blue. In 2016 Justice Sonia Sotomayor was a guest participant.
The inhabitants of the Orient can protect their natural environment as well as the history of the region. A farmland conservation program has kept hundreds of acres free from development, funded by a 2 percent transfer tax on every real estate transaction. In the early 1980s, local activists pushed back a proposal for condominiums near the ferry terminal. This land is now Orient Point County Park, facing the Orient Point Lighthouse known as the Coffee Pot from its riverside path.
"There is a vigilant group that takes action when energy is needed," said Venetia Hands, who lives in Browns Hills, an enclave on the cliff above the Sound and is a past president of the Orient Association. The group addresses the challenges posed by the development of the region's ecosystem, including limited water supplies (houses depend on wells) as well as issues such as affordable housing for the local workforce and limitations on building size.
The Oysterponds Elementary School, which serves Orient and East Marion, runs from preschool age through sixth grade. In 2019, the last year statistics were reported, 81 students were enrolled. In assessment tests that year, 44 percent of sixth graders achieved proficiency in English and 29 percent in math. (Nationwide proficiency levels for third- through eighth grade students were 45.4 percent and 46.7 percent, respectively, in the same year.)
Students move to Greenport High School for 7th through 12th grades. In the spring of 2019, the high school graduation rate was 60 percent, compared to a statewide rate of 83 percent.
The shuttle service
The 101-mile drive from Midtown Manhattan to the Orient can take anywhere from two to four hours, depending on traffic. The nearest stop on Long Island Rail Road is in Greenport, six miles west. The prices for the roughly three-hour journey are between 15.25 and 37 US dollars. Hampton Jitney stops at Orient Village and Orient Point twice a day on weekdays, more often on weekends and summer, and starts at $ 24 for a prepaid ticket.
The beauty and seclusion of Orient has been regularly jeopardized by the ghost of a bridge from Orient Point to New England. The idea was first picked up in the 1930s and didn't emerge until 2018. The plan appeared to be strongest in the 1960s when it was seen as a solution to relieve traffic in New York City and increase development in Suffolk County. The 25-mile span was supposed to be an island-hopping combination of suspension bridges and causeways across Plum Island, Great Gull Island, and Fishers Island to an end point somewhere along the Connecticut-Rhode Island coast. An extension of the Long Island Expressway from Riverhead to Orient was a key element of the plan.
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