Fire Island: Clash of the Titans

The Re-envisioned Pavilion

markatlarge Exclusive:

As summer heats up so does the drama from ornery homeowners to spiteful investors.

Homeowners Lash Out

The president of the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association (FIPPOA) issued a report calling the former site of the Pavilion an “eyesore.” It looks like the honeymoon is over for the re-envisioned Pavilion–homeowners want action. FI Ventures told the New York Times last month work on the site would begin in June; hoping to have the deck completed by midsummer for outdoor events.

Fire Island Pavilion site as of June 20, 2012. The Pavilion and the adjacent LaFontaine Building were completely destroyed in a fire this past fall.

As you can see from the picture above, there is not much activity going on at the Pavilion site, a stark contrast to the six people diligently working on the LaFountaine Building behind the Pavilion plot. HWKN in an email assured markatlarge, “the piles for the foundation are being staked out as we speak.” I do see some orange flags in the ground, but a frustrated Fire Island resident told markatlarge they did not see any piles or materials for a foundation. Something smells fishy, and it’s not the vomit-covered boys in Speedos clawing their way out of the bushes from a night of debauchery either. Stay tuned – we will keep you posted.

Party Poopers:

Rebuking FIP Ventures was not the only order of business at the FIPPOA meeting. Party impresario Josh Woods’ request to have a beach party in July was rejected. Reason (per the board minutes): It would disrupt the home owners. Real reason (also, per the board minutes): It would be in direct competition with the Pines Party. You would think FIPPOA might suck it up this year given the lack of entertainment options this season. But no! Greed wins the day. A co-chair of the Pines Party estimated the event will rake in at least $60,000 in profit. I think we know which reason was of deepest concern.

Cat fight:

Is someone trying to put a damper on the highly successful Ascension weekend? The multi-party weekend, promoted by the former owner of 80% of Fire Island Pines’ commercial properties, Eric Von Kuersteiner, includes a VIP party, pool party, T-Dance and a beach party. This year, however, might be a party short. The house that held the very popular T-Dance for the past two years is being rented by one of the current investors of FIP Ventures, Seth Weissman. Weissman and a group of investors purchased the Fire Island commercial properties from Von Kuersteiner over two years ago. Multiple sources allege Weissman only wanted that house for his summer share and would not give it up over Ascension weekend so Von Kuersteiner can have his T-Dance. The broker on the deal was Jon Wilner. If you ask me, Weissman and Wilner are walking a tightrope. If there’s one thing the gay boys don’t like it’s someone messing with their parties.

Follow me on twitter: Follow markatlarge on Twitter I’ll be tweeting live 4th of July weekend from Fire Island (provided I have moments of sobriety-it’s my first weekend all season and maybe my last!)

*** UPDATE: Fire Island: War in Progress UPDATE ***

UPDATE: Homeowner makes a statement

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19 thoughts on “Fire Island: Clash of the Titans

  1. Jon Wilner

    Let’s get the fact straight!  Eric Von Kuersteiner turned down the opportunity to rent the bayfront home that had the Ascension tea dance.  He was given every opportunity to do so.  Fund in the Sun did not wish to spend the money again.  When Mr. Kuersteiner repeatedly was asked by myself throughout the Fall and the Winter if he wanted to rent the house again, his answer was no.  Then the owner of the house put it up for a full seasonal rental.  Seth Weissman is only one person out of ten different people who rented this house for the season.  When it was rented for the season, Eric Von Kuersteiner then wanted to rent it for a week for the party and the owner turned him down, because he did not want the wear and tear again of over 800 people on his pool deck, especially since he now had a seasonal rental.  Fund in the Sun is now looking for another site for tea dance, but are not offering to pay for it , they want someone to donate it or trade for free construction from Eric von Kuersteiner’s construction company.    I personally have contributed thousands upon thousands of dollars as a sponsor of Ascension over the past number of years, I am one of the largest supporters of Ascension .   And as far as Seth Weissman is concerned, he and his housemates only rented this particular house after it was turned down by Eric Von Kuersteiner repeatedly.   My question is if the Ascension Party was set for this coming August 16th almost a year ago, why are there no plans , no tickets being sold or press , the only press that is being sent out is a complaint that they do not have a free bayfront home to host 800 people for a tea dance the night before. 

     Now as far as another beach party, I am on the Board of FIPPOA.  it takes a week to set up the party, it takes a week to clean up afterwards.  For the Pines Party, FIPPOA pays a huge amount of money for proper security not only at the party but also in the community for that week.  As a homeowner’s association, it is too much to ask of our homeowners on the ocean to take six weeks out of their privacy to set up and clean up THREE beach parties during July and August , which is only eight weeks long.  And it is our responsibility to make sure that our community has proper security for these parties.  I think one all night beach party in July and one all day beach party in August is about as much as our community of only 650 homes can deal with. 
    Jon Wilner

  2. Bill

     As a loyal renter of Alex Keomurjians for the past 4 years, I have seen a real decline in the Pines community over the past several years since the new owners have taken over. 

          I remember visiting the Pines for the first time in 1997,  and the town certainly was not anything special, but it was magical.  The old Pavilion was ready to fall down if a strong wind came along, but it was fun.  When Mr. Whyte died and the new overs took over they started to implement some new changes, but it was slow, and still respecting the old traditions of Tea Dance and high Tea and Middle Tea , with the exception of the new pavilion.  People can say what they want about Mr.von Kuersteiner, but he always said hello and was freindly to me in the bay bar cafe on Saturday mornings when I would see him helping out the staff, I am just a nobody. from a small town in Connecticut, but every time I said hello to Mr. Kuersteiner he ALWAYS said hello. I can say the same for most of his managers and staff as well, although they did not know me personally, they new my face as a customer. My favorite part of the weekend was coming in on the ferry and seeing the guy that use to work on the stairs at Tea Dance.  Although he would not let me bring my drink in, he was always nice and friendly and would make everyone feel welcome, many people would kiss him hello and he always thanked everyone for coming when they left and I always thought  things like that is what made the Pines so special.   We have not had that type of energy since he left. I wish I could remember his name, because  many people talk about how much they miss him and I think he should know that what he did here was noticed by everyone, even if it was just dancing at the top of the stairs during T Dance.

      I love coming to Ascension and I love that Ascension was something that was built on the tradition of a party called the Morning Party, which raised money for the GMHC, forgive me if I have this wrong, I am just repeating what I have heard over the summers here.  I think that is one of the reasons why I liked Ascension so much,is that it raises money for charity, plus coming to Ascension for the day, was what made me decide to do a share. It is a shame that it might now not have a Tea Dance, but as long as we have Ascension, I will be happy.  

    I can not say I have seen any of this from the new Owners.  I do not see them helping out, the walk by me and my friends without even as much as a smile or a thank you, they told us the temporary pavilion would be ready for summer and they would make the most of what they could, but I do not feel they have even tried to do anything. I dont see them raising money for gay causes.  They could have at least  put a new fence around the space with some signs showing the new construction, or beach pictures something that does not make the space look like an eyesore.  Now I feel  a little depressed when I come in on the ferry every weekend, I am not sure I will come back next year.

     There seems to be too much silly fighting over the new owners. Now this story about the real Estate owner and Owners of FIP ventures is just too much.  I do not know this Jon Wilner person, but by the response he just wrote and explaining his actions makes me think he has a guilty conscience or something, why else do you need to explain yourself.  He made a business decision whether people like it or not he is the one that has to live with it. 

    I just wish everyone would stop being bitter queens and get along, but then again I wish for the lottery numbers every week too.

    Bill K

    1. Eric von Kuersteiner

      Dear Bill:

      Thank you for your kind words.  We spent months going all over the country every year getting the right crew together to make sure that not only our customers had a great experience but our staff did as well.  Judging by your comments it looks like our staff and our management was successful in that regard.

      The guy that used to greet everyone at the door at T Dance at the Blue Whale was Steve D’Ascoli.  He worked for me from day 1 and he was a very loyal, honest and loving individual.  He lives in Colorado now and is a drug and alcohol counselor for people in our community.  I will pass along your kind words.

      I hope to see you at Ascension!

      Eric von Kuersteiner

    2. Stevendascoli

      I am the “guy who worked the top of the stairs during T-Dance”.  
      I want to personally thank you for your kind words.   You have no idea the incredible smile you have placed on my face and heart.     My time spent working for Eric and with the community of the Pines provided me with countless memories I still cherish to this day.     Thank you again, have a great day!!

  3. Eric von Kuersteiner

    So here are the true facts:


    Fund in The Sun had rented the home where we had the Ascension
    Tea Dance from the owner for the Ascension Weekend for the past two
    years.  We are very grateful to the owner for carving out this week each
    year from his seasonal rental for us. 


    We again requested the week be reserved this year, but were told
    by Jon Wilner that Seth Weissman would not rent the house if Ascension Weekend
    was not included.  We were disappointed, but asked if we could match
    Seth’s offer for the seasonal rental even though it would mean that we would
    have to find enough shares to fill the house for the entire season.  We
    even sweetened the deal for the owner because of how good he has been to us for
    the past two years.  We offered to replace all of the carpeting, paint the
    home and fix the hot-tub at our own expense (unlike with Seth who was demanding
    those things be paid for by the homeowner — at least that is what Jon Wilner
    told me). Despite our offer, the owner decided to take Seth’s
    rental.  For the record, we have no ill feelings toward Seth or the owner
    of the property.


    Fund in The Sun currently has offers from three other homeowners
    to host the Tea Dance.  Jon Wilner has no facts on these
    negotiations.  Anything he says here is pure speculation.


    Jon Wilner was the Exclusive Real Estate Sponsor of Ascension
    Weekend.  He received countless business benefits for his
    contributions.  Including but not limited to my building him an office in
    the new Pavilion building.  In
    addition I made sure that he was the only real estate office in the
    harbor.  Further, I regularly turned down offers from larger
    and more well known successful real estate firms to rent space in my harbor
    front properties for rents much greater than I was receiving from Jon.


    Jon Wilner has made approximately $1 million in commissions from
    deals that I have been involved with in Fire Island Pines.  Not a bad trade-off if you ask me. 
    However, he withdrew his support this year because a Fund in The Sun board
    member did not say hello to him on the boardwalk. 


    Fund in The Sun is a charity and I have personally donated
    hundreds of thousands of dollars to underwrite costs associated with producing
    the Ascension Weekend over the past 6 years. We continue with the Weekend all
    in effort to help those less fortunate that us and help in the preservation of
    Fire Island Pines.  And what better
    a way to raise money for charity and at the same time providing a weekend that
    is unique and memorable for all residents and visitors of Fire Island


    We appreciate all donations large and small including a house to
    have the T Dance!  Without the
    community support we certainly could not have such a successful weekend.


    Fund in The Sun will be announcing the line-up for the Ascension
    Weekend parties shortly.  We look forward to seeing you all in what is sure to be an
    incredible weekend in our beloved community!



  4. Jbdesign

    Wow! Almost 1 million dollars? What a great return on Jon’s investment of thousands and thousands of dollars to Ascension!!

    Maybe the investors of FIP ventures should have used Jon Wilner as their Financial Advisor. Guess he dosen’t need me as a customer


  5. Getoveryourself

    What a disingenuous load of crap.  Eric takes a swipe at Seth for asking that a house he and his friends are renting for 3+ months (and paying $100,000+) actually has stuff that works and is in good shape (as if that is unreasonable) but then says he has no ill feelings toward Seth?  Then why draw attention to the fact at all that he is being so generous with his offer to clean the house and fix the hot tub but Seth the Cheap and Demanding is asking (gasp!) for value for his money?  This catty side swipe is really pathetic.

    As for Bill’s comment, I never found Eric to be anything but sour and irritating.  The dude should donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the community.  He bought the town from a dead guy’s estate for something like a few million as downpayment and the estate took back a seller note, he spent *some* money on the new Pavilion, and then he sold it for $18 million.  Not a bad if you ask me, well more than Jon’s $1m in commissions over what, 15+ years of doing deals.  I mean, kudos to Eric for a good trade but let’s not pretend like Eric is doing this all for love and this idea that he did Jon a favor by building him an office in the Harbor is ridiculous.  The community is beloved to him b/c he made an enormous profit on it, and the best deal he ever made besides for selling the town for a fortune (and the worst deal Seth ever made) was that Eric held on the to company that does all the freight.  Eric is giving back b/c he keeps making cash hand over fist on the Pines.  Full disclosure next time buddy.

    1. JAlexander_32

      Dear Getoveryourself,

      Kind of ironic you are so quick to point things out, discount what seems to be a persons genuine experience on the Island, and then talk about catty swipes, yet at the same time you don’t have the balls to use your real name -can you say hypocritical? maybe it is coward? Because we all know it is easy to type what you want and hide behind a computer screen.

      Maybe you found Eric ” to be sour and irritating” because he knew what kind of asshole you appear to be and treated you accordingly.

      John Alexander

      1. Getoveryourself

        1.  poor use of the word ironic.
        2.  why on earth would i subject myself to the chattering classes of the fippoa housewives by telling you who i am?  i’ve spent enough time there to know what you guys are like.  call me a coward if you’d like.  after you do, turn to the guy next to you and ask him the following – “how many times have you guys talked shit about me when i didn’t show up to dinner?” and watch as his sips his drink, raises his eyebrows, turns his head and says “gurrrlllll”
        3.  let’s assume for a minute i am an asshole, it doesn’t change the fact eric’s swipes at seth and his bullying of jon wilder are lame and you fail to address those points.
        4.  with respect to the commissions, jon earning $1m of commissions assuming he split the normal 6% commission with another broker, means he got 3% of each sale, meaning he sold 32 houses over that period of time. or if the commissions were all for rentals, the typical commission is 15% of the rent (i think), so that’s $1m of commissions divided by 15% = $6.7m of rent, divided by average rent of $50k a summer, that’s 133 rentals over some period of time.  when you break it down, it’s not that much.  by the way i’m fairly certain jon wilner paid rent for his office.  it’s also INSANE to think anyone would withdraw from a “lucrative” business deal b/c one guy didn’t say hello to him on the boardwalk.  if jon wilner is such a capitalist slut as eric suggests, why would he ever withdraw support from such an amazing money making deal just because one dude doesn’t say high to him on the boardwalk?  (btw the fund in the sun website only lists 3 board members, does that really mean jon withdrew his support b/c either hal rubinstein or david nickle didn’t say hi?  and he’s walking away from ALL these MAJOR commissions eric is throwing his way?)
        5.  with respect to seth…..well i’m fairly sure that if there is not much bad to say about someone who decides that when they pay over $100,000 for a summer rental and want to stay there for a really fun weekend.  if you want to be pissed at him for the pavilion i’m fine with that, but criticism for not giving away his house is unproductive.
        6.  eric was actually nice to me, i still found him sour.  he just seems to need to lighten up.
        7.  i have no gripe w bill k, if that’s his experience that’s great and i respect he’s entitled to it, i wasn’t discounting it, i was comparing it to mine.  i too find the pavilion sandpit this year to be depressing and they should have made more progress by now.  i didn’t go through every item on his post, i just compared one piece.  btw leslie and her team are amazing.  no question there.
        8.. if the fire island old guard were smart, they would figure out a way to stop this bickering as bill k suggests b/c the next generation has zero interest in their drama and if it continues, fip will die on the vine.  i can count on less than half of one hand the number of my contemporaries who have bought there and i know of no one who would seriously considering buying.  the thought of putting capital at risk by buying in a community with this bs going on is just irresponsible.
        9.  bill k was also right that the old pavilion was the best and i would love for one more night to have that cracky chandelier spinning around and around while everyone half wondered if they would be electrocuted at any moment.
        10.  i’ve been to your house.  it’s nice, thanks for having me.
        11.  just so we are clear (and i know this may come across as a back handed compliment after the above) , fund in the sun does amazing work irrespective of my view of the bickering and the drama (and even if i’m an asshole), i think they should be proud of what they’ve been able to do, which is draw on some of the history of the pines to create something cool.  it’s fun and it’s a lot better than the pines party and they support good stuff.

        have a great weekend!

        1. Deerintheheadlights

          Jon Wilner resigns from every committee in town that he is on if the win blows the wrong way and not in his favor. He reminds me of Alexis Carrington Colby Dexter of Dynasty. Ask anyone at FIPPOA or the chamber of commerce how many times he has resigned and came back with his tail between his legs. It would not surprise me that he would walk away from a lucrative , but something tells me he won’t be welcomed back to Eric’s camp anytime soon.

          1. Jay Zack

            Whoever Deerintheheadlights is, are you making it up as you go along?  Jon Wilner has served on the FIPPOA board since 1992, and has been a member of the Chamber of Commerce since its’ inception.  He is also the President of Congregation B’Nai Olam.  He has never resigned from any committee or any organization or any board.  He never walked away from anything lucrative, he simply did not give FUND IN THE SUN his annual $15,000 contribution as Real Estate Sponsor.  But I’m sure if you were to actually ask anyone who knows him, there is not one charity or organization in Fire Island Pines that he and his partner Bob Howard, do not support and give generously to. 

          2. Deerintheheadlights

            Check the minutes of the meetings, I’ve been there when he walked out in protest! I never said anything about his donations. I believe the last time he resigned from the chamber of commerce was in support of Eric, when he was purchasing the freight company.


  6. Robertjfeldman

    Eric and Tony bought it from John Whyte shortly before his demise. They worked extremely hard and did a yeoman’s job. They and Steve their manager were unfailingly friendly.

    Seth, Andrew and Matthew bought it from Eric and Tony. They and their manager Robert also are doing a great job in keeping this place fun and are also unfailingly friendly. They are doing a Herculean job after the fire last year. They just got the building permit to put in the pilings. Contrary to what this article states, there are architect’s illustrations showing the beautiful structure planned adorning the fence that surrounds the building site.

    Jon was the broker both times selling the strip two times within a relatively short time. It is incontrovertible that he is a good businessman. Good businessmen make loads of money.

    Fire Island Pines is a special, even sacred place. We all need to get over ourselves and appreciate this paradise. Appreciation always trumps resentment and cat fights.

  7. Jon Wilner

    Wow.  I wish I had made that million dollars that Eric estimates.  But no dollar amount makes up for the loss of a friend who decides to turn on someone who has been as publicly and privately as loyal as I have been to him over the past twelve years.  That’s no secret.  But I guess it was just my turn.  Eric, you would never have had the opportunity to have purchased the commercial district if it weren’t for me and my idea to take you to John Whyte in Acapulco back in 2004.  And you would have never been the benefactor of the largest real estate deal in Fire Island history if it weren’t for my diligence, my loyalty, my professionalism and my hard word for nine months, as you yourself said many times.  You also benefited from the largest private home sale in Pines history due to my negotations for the sale of your oceanfront home.   And while you are making public my estimated commissions,  you fail to mention the commissions that I waived in negotiating two other deals for you that I did at no commission, but out of friendship.

    Your claim that you made sure that I was the only realtor in Fire Island Pines harbor is completely untrue.  During your tenure, you rented to myself and my competitor Doreen Katen.   You rented both her agency and my agency our offices. 

    And after years of my continued sponsorship of Ascension, I withdrew my support this year because you accused me of lying to you regarding the rental for the Ascension tea dance on top of your fellow board member minimizing my contributions to Ascension, demeaning me and the thousands of dollars that I have contributed to Fund in the Sun in one of his very well known long emails.   I gave you every opportunity to renew your rental for Ascension week several times since last August.  It was not until this past March that Seth and his housemates of many years, rented that house for a seasonal rental.  And when the owner of the house asked you to include a cabana at Ascension when you tried to rent the house for the entire season, after Seth and his housemates made an offer, you refused to include the cabana for the owner, Consequently Seth and his housemates got the house.

    I’m not happy about airing out this laundry, but I will defend myself here because my integirty is more important than my former best friend’s ego.

    1. Jonwilnerrocks

      And it is Jon Wilner for the win! I have dealt w Jon on numerous occassions and always found him to be very professional. From my own sources, this version strikes me as the most true. Eric is free to do as he likes, but were he so in love w the community, i wonder why he spends all his time in the hamptons. Go Wilner go! Keep up the dedication to the pines.

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