The King of Gay Paradise Abdicates His Throne
Gossip is already flying about Fire Island, the getaway for New York's A-list gays. Long-time monopolizer Eric von Kuersteiner—who owns practically everything in the community—has sold all his properties to a mysterious 23-year-old gay kid.
Von Kuersteiner and his business partner Tony Roncalli—whose empire includes two bars, a restaurant, a dance club, a small gym, a grocery store, a clothing store, a construction business, a freight business, the community's dock, and the only hotel in town—has sold most of their properties to Seth Weissman, a young kid who no one knows anything about other than that he is from a rich family and is connected to the Hamptons (my old friends at Next Magazine broke the story).
The deal—which is set to close next week—is reportedly $18 million for everything but the dock and freight companies (those are boring anyway) and rights to the Ascension party, the annual day-time beach dance festival held in August (get your tickets now!). It's rumored von Kuersteiner and Roncalli paid $7 million for the property, so that's a hefty profit. We called Jon Wilner, of Island Properties who supposedly brokered the deal, but he had no comment. Von Kuesteiner hasn't returned a message asking for comment.
Depending on who you ask, this is either great news or a travesty. Von Kuersteiner and Roncalli rescued the small resort five years ago since it had fallen into disrepair, but their business practices—especially von Kuersteiner's, always the more public of the two—were often called into question. Since the town is so small and they were one of only three business owners, they often exercised their monopoly. They opened a grocery store to compete with the only other place to buy food—a small, family-owned store that had been there for decades. They had an acrimonious relationship with many of the local home owners and other business because they controlled the dock which means they controlled access to the island. Anything they asked for—or more often, demanded—they got.
Von Kuersteiner and Co especially had hard feelings for the neighboring gay community, Cherry Grove, and used their dock access to stop boats from taking visitors from one village to the next, and for anyone who has drunkenly stumbled through the Meat Rack—the dense forest between the two towns—at 3am, not having a boat to bring you to and fro is more than enough to keep you partying closer to your summer share and putting cash into Von Kuersteiner and Roncalli's pockets. They also reportedly demanded that the army of young pretty boys they hired to staff all their properties were forbidden from hanging out in the Grove, even on their nights off.
While many (especially those out of favor with von Kuersteiner) must be excited about the regime change, little is known about Weissman—some say he's a hedge fund type, but at 23, that seems difficult—other than that he has access to a ferry-ful of cash. Because of the way Von Kuersteiner ran business and because Weisman's a newcomer to this little slice of land off of Long Island that is ruled by a handful of rich queens stabbing each other in the back while posing in their Speedos, he's stepping into a very difficult environment, one that will certainly still be feeling the effects of the recession. And, if Weissman slows the very traditional party schedule "the boys" follow, it could stop new visitors from coming, ruining property values and the rental market. Meanwhile pumping up the volume will piss off the older (and more powerful) home owners who just want to relax on the weekends. Yeah, Weissman really stepped in it.
One thing is for sure, the summer is still months away and things have already gotten gossipy on Fire Island.