meat swaps

The Fire Island Pines Fire Sale: The $18 Million Purchase of New York’s Gay Haven

Take a look through Prudential Douglas Elliman’s real estate broker profiles, and you’ll come away with this: Like the media, the gays also control the real estate market. But never in a bigger way do they run things than on Fire Island, where Eric von Kuersteiner and his partner (in life and business) Tony Roncalli (pictured, L-R) are rumored to be selling the entire Fire Island Pines resort to some twentysomething kid.

For the unfamiliar, the Pines is one-half of the epicenter of gay life for New Yorkers every summer; the other half, of course, is Cherry Grove. Famous persons like David Geffen and Calvin Klein own there. And from Blue Whale (that’s where the pretty boys have their tea dance) to the Ciel hotel (for those unfortunate enough not to have their own shares), and Pavilion (the storied nightspot), it’s all owned by these two men in some weird power-hungry gayopoly. The Pines is said to have two other commercial business owners, but everyone knows Von Kuersteiner and Roncalli run the show, with 80 percent of the properties under their umbrella.

And now comes word they’re selling every last parcel to Seth Weissman, a 23-year-old gay in a deal expected to close next week. Where Wiessman’s cash comes from, nobody seems to know. But not everybody is terribly happy with the deal, as Gawker‘s Brian Moylan notes:

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.

Meanwhile, Next updates its item to report “that while the deal has not been closed, the deadline for withdrawal has passed,” and “von Kuersteiner will still own the Ascension Party, the dock and freight service.”

Five years ago, Von Kuersteiner secured the properties from John Whyte in a Louisiana Purchase-style arrangement. From there, he installed a grocery store, updated the gym, added exciting a new technology called “air conditioning” to the buildings, and generally gentrified the place as gay developers are expected to do. He also launched the massive dance party Ascension, a gimmick to attract a younger crowd — which has worked.

Perhaps extremely well, if you consider the age of the guy who’s buying the place.