Lazy Point, An Enclave Away From 'The Hamptons' - 27 East

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Lazy Point, An Enclave Away From ‘The Hamptons’

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Napeague marshes with Lazy Point in the distance. KYRIL BROMLEY

Napeague marshes with Lazy Point in the distance. KYRIL BROMLEY

At Lazy Point, the houses are small, but the bay is steps away. KYRIL BROMLEY

At Lazy Point, the houses are small, but the bay is steps away. KYRIL BROMLEY

The landscape is the real attraction. KYRIL BROMLEY

The landscape is the real attraction. KYRIL BROMLEY

The vibe is casual and water-related at Lazy Point in Amagansett. KYRIL BROMLEY

The vibe is casual and water-related at Lazy Point in Amagansett. KYRIL BROMLEY

May 8: Panelists speak about using a town manager system to run East Hampton Town government at a forum in East Hampton Village.

May 8: Panelists speak about using a town manager system to run East Hampton Town government at a forum in East Hampton Village.

Nature and art furnish Pamela Williams's home at Lazy Point. KYRIL BROMLEY

Nature and art furnish Pamela Williams's home at Lazy Point. KYRIL BROMLEY

Melissa Dombrowski's sunflowers in Water Mill. ALEXANDRA TALTY

Melissa Dombrowski's sunflowers in Water Mill. ALEXANDRA TALTY

author on Sep 26, 2015

It’s a sunny September day in the country—Napeague to be precise. There are no cars in sight, although a few bikers ride by slowly. Ponds are to the right, the bay to the left. Unpretentious contemporary houses spring up among open fields, salt marshes, and water holes in this landscape north of Montauk Highway.

Natural environment and man-made structures collide: sand dunes, pine trees, vibrant scrubs, and then manufactured materials including an old factory that looks like it should have been demolished years ago.

It still stands, even emitting strange fish smells amid the shrill sounds of birds. The building is the remnant of Smith Meal Fish Factory, which produced cattle feed and fertilizer from menhaden brought in by boat to nearby docks. A large shed and outbuildings stand next to the former plant—a private fish hatchery called Multi Aquaculture Systems, where striped bass were once grown to be delivered to local restaurants. Two men are loading lobsters into trucks. Down the street is a house that looks new, oddly resembling a Mexican residence with colonial architecture and balconies. What a juxtaposition of worlds. A small railroad track nearby is overgrown with grass.

Finally, civilization looms ahead: small wooden cottages, some with trees and scrubs in front; some with cars and trucks. A few are dilapidated; most have been renovated. This must be Lazy Point, the main settlement in the Napeague area. No impressive mansions, manicured lawns, charming gardens or expansive tundra. And certainly no chic shops or night spots.

This is a self-contained community where people live for its quality of life,” said Gordon Ryan, an attorney and long-time Lazy Point resident. It's easy to see why.

Lazy Point developed into a community when the Smith Meal Fish Factory was established not far away in the late 1800s. Shacks were built to house migrants who worked in the factory, which processed the fish called menhaden. According to the Amagansett Historical Association’s Peter Garnham, the only problem was the smell coming from the plant. One version of local lore has it that Lazy Point was nicknamed “Promised Land” because “the plant stank to high heaven."

In the 1930s and 1940s, the menhaden population declined due to overfishing, and the Napeague plant finally closed in 1969. While the migrant residents found themselves without jobs, some stayed at Lazy Point, along with local baymen and fishermen. The shacks and cottages remained without zoning and building regulation, and without heat.

Most of the original cottage owners are long gone. The local population now consists of both summer residents and year-round people like Mr. Ryan, who has lived on the community's Shore Road since the late 1970s. It’s where he met his future wife, Dianne, who lived down the road, and where they raised their family. The Ryans' home seems larger than the indigenous cottages, complete with two floors and a deck, but is still one of about 50 homes at Lazy Point that are owned privately but situated on common land that is leased from the East Hampton Town Trustees.

Mr. Ryan said he loves Lazy Point, where there’s a “real sense of place” and where the quality of life can’t be beat. After all, who wouldn’t like to go kayaking, biking, swimming and fishing when you step out the front door?

He does remember facing challenges when he first moved in, however. “The natural elements are always a problem,” he said. “We had to shovel the sand off the house every day and hose off the salt. The battle continues with hurricanes, although I have stayed in the house during some of them.

“I remember once when I was told no one would be back after the hurricane started, and I’d better prepare a list of next of kin,” he continued. “I grabbed my generator and fled to a friend’s house.”

Mr. Ryan said neighbors are close and help each other out. He got a call in the middle of one night to rescue a neighbor’s boat; when he got there, everyone else from the block was there to help as well.

Another long-time inhabitant is artist Pamela Williams, who has owned her cottage, which in her case is on land she does own, for 25 years. She recalls with a smile the previous residents, Helen and Clarence Midgett, who had built the house.

While Mr. Midgett was stationed with the Coast Guard at Lazy Point, Ms. Williams was drawn there because of a lifelong penchant for the sea and natural settings.

As with Mr. Ryan, settling in Lazy Point was not easy at first. “The cottage was definitely a handyman’s special,” Ms. Williams explained. “I had to put in new windows and floors. The house is 16 feet above sea level and basically built on sand.”

She recalled one hurricane when the water came up her driveway. “Men dragged their boat up my driveway, knocked on my door and asked if I needed help. Can you imagine? But I stayed in the cottage.”

“I loved this part of Long Island the first time I saw it," she continued, adding that she happened to discover more recently that she was in fact related to the Mulfords, a long-established local family in the area.

“I belong here,” was what she concluded.

"

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