Two years ago, Richard O’Such started a business that neatly summarizes what’s been happening on Long Beach Island: a seaplane service between New York City’s East River and LBI. He charges $325 one way, flies Fridays and Mondays, and says he’s met with encouraging success. “Most of these people would otherwise go to the Hamptons,” explains O’Such, “but they don’t want to vacation there. LBI is more relaxed, more neighborly. I had one guy tell me that when he goes to the Hamptons, he always has to be ‘on.’”
Increasingly, though, it’s LBI that’s “on.” A growing number of New Yorkers have started summering on LBI, transforming the island from Philly East to Hamptons South. “When I was growing up here, 90 percent of the homeowners were from Philadelphia,” says Michael Hill, of Island Realty in Loveladies. “About eight to 10 years ago, that really changed.”
Hamptons fatigue is one reason for the transformation. Jen Chin, a 42-year-old Upper West Side resident, summered in the Hamptons in her 20s. But in 2001, she and husband Richard, a hedge fund manager, bought a $520,000 house on LBI. “Once I was engaged, I didn’t want the [Hamptons] scene,” she says. “Everything is a line out there.”
Yet the LBI scene is growing. Upscale restaurants and style-conscious architecture have popped up. New York money has sent real estate prices skyrocketing. (Comedian Ray Romano has reportedly been eyeing the island.) And last September, LBI locals gathered to discuss all the commercial outlets that are selling out to residential developers.
For the most part, though, natives are fatalistic. “Over the years, I have seen many changes, some good and some not so good,” says realtor Pat Sepanak. “Those who think LBI can stop in time are unrealistic. It’s too desirable a place.” Then again, some things have stayed the same. Last year, in an effort to appeal to his New York-centric customers, another local realtor suggested that the town of Ship Bottom adopt a glitzier name. Town officials politely declined.