Name: margalit
Location: Massachusetts, United States Professional writer, educational advocate, opinionated ultra liberal mother of 18 year old twins, living life in the slow lane due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Why does Plum Island have to Change?

I hate change. I like things to be like I know them to be. I mean, I don't mind new foods or fashions or things of that nature, but I like a town to remain familiar, a city to stay the way I remember it, and things to remain stable.

Homes are all crowded into a small space on the tip of the island surrounding the basin.

For more than 20 years, Plum Island has been pretty stable. Yes, there have been a lot of new people moving in and building huge beach homes on tiny parcels of land. There have been plenty of folks who have smartly raised their houses to protect them from the vicious stormy seas of the Atlantic. Shacks occasionally fall into the ocean or fall apart from the winds and waves. But the island remains pretty much like it always has been, a summer outpost for middle class folks who love the beach and don't want to be in a large beach community. Plum Island remains small because it has no where to go. With the Parker River reserve taking up 2/3 of the barrier island, the homes and businesses are all crowded in a small space between the Parker River salt marshes in the basin and the open Atlantic. Just the way it should be.

The Parker River Wildlife Refuge is a bird sanctuary.

On the island, everyone pretty much knows everyone else. There are only a few places to hang out, get some clams and drink a beer. Not many stores, not many restaurants, it's mostly tiny pitted streets with a mishmash of beach houses. If you don't know it, you'd probably think it was just like a bunch of other small beach communities in northern New England. It certainly doesn't have the prestige of Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard or the cache of the Cape.

But then some rich person discovered Plum Island and had a vision. A vision to make it upscale, to make it the newest beach getaway town of New Yorkers with a lot of money to buy up the homes, tear them down, and make Southhampton type modern homes in their place. This rich person was the wife of the chief executive of the clothing chain Aeropostale, Jean Geiger. She fell in love with Plum Island, but of course couldn't just leave it as it was. Instead she bought up the only hotel in town and remodeled it into a chic Miami-styled upscale inn called "Blue". Next she purchased 16 commercial and residential properties valued at almost $10 million, most of which she intended to remodel to match one another, as if they were all part of one big resort.

But when she died two years ago at the age of 54, everything stopped. The commercial places remained closed, boarded up, and the citizens of the Island lost their gathering places. Even the food stand by the public beach, the only place on the Island to purchase something to eat right off the beach remains closed.

The cottages pictured here are typical of the homes on the island.

Her husband Julian Geiger pledged to follow through with her plans. He gave $1 million to the Newburyport domestic violence center, which was renamed the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. He closed on the sale of the Beachcoma and Atty. May's, but for only $2.4 million, less than the former owner had expected. Julian Geiger has continued to run the hotel, which now rents rooms, in-season, for $300 to $1,000 a night. He opened the beachside food stand Jeanne's, the former Atty. May's, for the 2006 summer season but kept it boarded up this year.

Julian Geiger said that he intends to reopen Jeanne's but wants to renovate it into a year-round restaurant. He said he understands the frustrations of islanders who are waiting for the businesses to reopen. After his wife died, he said, his first priority was to keep the inn running and to follow through with purchasing the properties his wife had intended to buy.

In my opinion, Geiger doesn't have a clue as to what the island community wants or needs. In the winter, they are often stranded on the island when the draw bridge is unable to open. Currently, there is no place to buy milk, diapers, food, or anything else if the draw bridge can't be opened.

Geiger doesn't understand that people have lived on the island, winterizing their cottages as they can afford it, for generations. They are fearful that their properties will become unaffordable to future residents if New Yorkers begin showing up in droves. Besides, doesn't New York have it's own beach front property. I think it's called Long Island. Stay down there, please.

If the rumors are true, that Geiger and Steven Karp, the billionaire Boston Developer who lives in a 20,000 sq foot home in Weston that I've been in (some day I'll describe it, but suffice it to say, it is so lavish that the RealEstalker would love to get in there and photograph it) might have plans in common for the redevelopment of Plum Island, we can expect a huge upscale mall, Karp's specialty, giant homes, and a CheeseCake Factory. Oh joy!

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Blogger Em said...

Arrrggghhh...I hate when such nice places are turned into malls and mcmansions. Or in this case, is stalled halfway. Why can't the rich developers just leave great places alone?

9/9/07 8:47 AM  
Blogger DeeJay said...

I'm totally hearing you on this one. Why can't people leave the beauty of this nation alone? Why do they have to "spruce" and develop it all up? Small town America...it's a wonderful thing.

9/9/07 10:28 AM  
Blogger Rich said...

To answer your question at least in this case it's GREED... that's why thing have to change. The thing is, they really don't have to change if everyone would get together to fight greedy developers.

9/9/07 1:48 PM  
Blogger Gregg said...

I can only hope that the Jean's fate will soon befall Julian. What a putz.

9/9/07 8:31 PM  
Blogger Emily DeVoto, Ph.D., said...

So sad... I'm mostly familiar with the Wildlife Refuge part of Plum Island, but I can't imagine this wouldn't be adversely impacted by this kind of greedy development, no matter how well the refuge is "protected."

Where are the feds on this, anyway?

9/9/07 10:21 PM  

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