Folklorists would make good podcasters. They are used to finding interesting people and getting them to tell good stories. Take Nancy Solomon for example. As the executive director of Long Island Traditions, she has spent years collecting and studying the stories of baymen, offshore fishermen, boat builders and the like. Today we’ll talk to her about a number of those stories revolving around the subject of weather lore.
We discuss how generations of fishermen have scanned the skies and shores for signs of encroaching weather. You’ll hear of hurricanes opening (and closing) inlets along Fire Island, shark sightings, narrow escapes and the lasting impact of Superstorm Sandy.
Built up over years and passed down through generations, the weather lore of Long Island fishermen can tell us much about how things have changed and how to best work with nature.
And thanks to Debra Anwar Riad for adding her voice to our intro!
Stream in the player above or download audio.
It’s 1962 and a Nor’easter has just torn through Long Island. In its wake is another storm, Long Island Parks Commissioner Robert Moses with his plan to build a road down the middle of Fire Island. It will stabilize the beach, he says. It will provide beauty and ease to the motorist, he says.
But local builder Murray Barbash notices that the road will run right through his new development of Dunewood, flattening it and pretty much anything else in its path (including Sunken Forest). Murray gets together with his brother-in-law Irving Like and the rest, if you don’t know already, is history.
Murray’s daughters Cathy and Susan knew the story but over the course of the last year they set about documenting that history. Sifting through a number of local and regional archives (including Dowling’s) they pieced together the saga of the road-that-never-was. On this episode you’ll hear from Cathy and Susan and their mother Lillian about how an unlikely coalition of Long Island “vigilantes” outwitted and outlasted the great Robert Moses.
You can soon see Cathy’s and Susan’s research for yourself when the exhibit they created is permanently installed with Seatuck at the Suffolk County Environmental Center in Islip. For now, use the handy scorecard below to keep track of who’s who in this gripping story of intrigue and power set against the natural beauty of Fire Island.
Many thanks to the Barbash family for sharing their time, memories and photos.
Stream in the player above or download audio.
Scorecard for this Episode
The Long Island “Vigilantes”
- Murray Barbash: builder with an eye for beauty, developer of Dunewood
- Lillian Barbash: his wife
- Irving Like: indomitable lawyer and Murray’s brother-in-law
- Paul Townsend: “The Wizard,” publisher of the Long Island Business News
- Robert Cushman Murphy: the tallest ornithologist in the world
- Robert Moses: New York’s [insert your own adjective] Master Builder
- Nelson Rockefeller: the not-to-be-bullied Governor of New York
- Laurance Rockefeller: Nelson’s brother and noted conservationist
Long Island’s Legislators
- Stuyvesant Wainwright: Congressman from New York’s 1st District, proposed a Fire Island National Seashore when no one was looking
- Otis Pike: wins Wainwright’s seat with Moses’ backing, becomes reluctant sponsor of the Fire Island National Seashore bill
- Stewart Udall – Secretary of the Interior, consummate insider and good guy
- President John F. Kennedy: wanted National Parks in the East, dammit
- Charles Collingwood: Saltaire resident and CBS newsman
- Wolcott Gibbs: writer for the New Yorker and Fire Island playwright
- Teddy White: Fair Harbor resident and chronicler of presidents
- Julius Monk: New York cabaret impresario whom we have to thank for the classic “Slow Down Moses”
- Season in the Sun by Wolcott Gibbs (from the Playbill Vault)
- A Marvelous Order: An Opera About Robert Moses and Jane Jacobs
- Robert Moses: Master Builder of New York City (find in a library via WorldCat)
- “The Fire on New York’s Famous Island” (Sports Illustrated)
- Robert Moses Papers at the New York Public Library
- Rockefeller Archive Center
- Stewart Udall Oral History at the JFK Library
- Paul Townsend Collection at Dowling College
- Robert Cushman Murphy Collection at Stony Brook University
- The Films of Ron Howard (just in case)
The summer of 1977 brought Star Wars, blackouts, and the first appearance of The Fire Island Tide. From that first 24-page Memorial Day edition, Warren McDowell’s dream grew to a 140-page color news magazine with poetry, history and artwork along with community news. Here Warren recounts that growth and the work it took: delivering papers every Friday by boat from Kismet to Watch Hill, dealing with national advertisers warily marketing to the “alternative lifestyle”, and loving every minute of it. Although clearly aware of the dangers facing newspapers (and radio stations) today, his message to those dreaming of starting their own: go for it!