In 2004 longtime owner John Whyte sells the Pines properties to Eric Von Kuersteiner. Von Kuersteiner begins sweeping changes with a plan to revive the Pines and bring a new generation.
The plan involved many changes to existing structures like the Botel and the Pavilion.
New events and traditions were began such as Lina’s Lounge on the upstairs High Tea deck.
This was an immediate hit with the community, and began the Lina journey in Fire Island Pines. In the fall of 2006 demolition began on the old pavilion. Built in 1980 it held many memories for many, and just like it’s predecessor the community wasn’t akin to the changes.
In the process of demolishing the old Pavilion it is discovered that it was literally built over the old Sandpiper that was there before. Many in the community gathered to take home a piece of history.
The past came back as the Pavilion sheathing was peeled away…
The demo, and now rebuilding continued…
Other changes include the renovation of the Cultured Elephant into the new Baybar, and Botel into Hotel Ciel.
The Blue Whale’s floor where the Tea Dance was created in 1966 was preserved, however the biggest change was the Pavilion.
The design had a modern feeling completely different than the previous Pavilion. The community once again voiced their opinion. Longing for the balconies that overlooked the dance floor and the feeling of being one united space. The dance club had no connection to the upstairs. All the parts were very separate spaces that stood on their own. Included was Glow Lounge a lounge outfitted with leather couches, and a High Tea area for dancing with garage doors that all opened to the outside. This gave you a open view of the harbor. With all of that the flow somehow did not work.
B&W photos by Robert Zash.
One of the unique features were the lights outside that changed colors. The nightlife inside on the top deck was visible from a distance.
The marketing of the Pines was working and a new generation were finding the Pines and all it had to offer.
Another successful event created was Middle Tea. Like High Tea and Low Tea this was another ritual. Began as “Party at the Pavilion with a new DJ to the scene Vito Fun, he created a pop sensibility in a scene of classic disco that was refreshing. Especially to the growing younger audience.
2006 season was a success. Nightlife was being rediscovered, and the boys kept coming…
The seasons followed…
Until an offer Kuersteiner could not refuse appeared in 2010…
Investors Andrew Kirtzman, 48, a journalist turned hotelier; Matt Blesso, 36, a real estate investor who in 2007 was named one of the top 100 bachelors in New York by Gotham magazine; and Seth Weissman, 26, an investment banker. They planned to put up $2 million themselves, borrow $10 million, and seek about $9 million from equity investors, the prospectus said. The buildings, which constitute about three-quarters of the commercial properties in the Pines, sold for less than half that amount in 2004.
In the prospectus, they described the properties as “ripe for repositioning,” a task they said would involve extensive changes, including upgrading the menu at the restaurant, the Blue Whale, and revamping the hotel, called Le Ciel (though usually known by its former name, the Botel), to eliminate shared bathrooms and exposed cinderblock walls.
Residents of the Pines “demand a high level of services and amenities, and we will give it to them,” Mr. Weissman said in a press release announcing the purchase. The investors, who call themselves FIP Ventures L.L.C., said that the properties were especially undervalued given their location in a “community where driving to adjacent towns for spending is not an option.” Eric von Kuersteiner, who owns the properties with his partner, Anthony Roncalli, said the new owners could add value in at least two areas: the hotel, which is ripe for renovation, and a tract consisting of a liquor store, a bar, a construction office and a gym. He said a group of Yale architecture students working in the Pines last summer had developed a plan to make that area more inviting and energy-efficient.
The couple spent more than $5 million to upgrade the buildings and aggressively market the Pines to a younger crowd. They attracted some criticism for catering to newcomers rather than longtime residents.
The final sale price was $17 million, lower than both the $18 million we originally posted and the $20 million the Timescited. It is still the largest deal in Fire Island history. Upon his exit Eric von Kuersteiner issued his own press release wishing the new owners luck and saying that he will continue to operate his freight and construction companies on the island as well as promote the annual charity dance parties Ascension and Bay Dance.
Von Kuersteiner says the purchase price is almost quadruple what he paid for the property six years ago just before original Fire Island developer John Whyte passed away.
Changes started immediately with a logo change. Big plans were being made. Hotel rebuilding, Blue Whale restaurant revamp, and Pavilion adjustments.
Changes continued in the Pavilion with the addition of a stairway scaffold connection from the bar upstairs to the dance floor below. This was an attempt to emulate the previous Pavilion’s balconies.
2011. It was business as usual until this happened…