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Andrew Kirtzman

Andrew Kirtzman

Profession Political reporter, journalist, TV anchor, and author
Best known for NY1, WCBS anchor, 'Betrayal: The Life and Lies of Bernie Madoff'
Website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Kirtzman
http://www.themadisonfi.com/

The multi-talented Andrew Kirtzman is, among other things, a political reporter, journalist, TV anchor, and author. Last year, in a real estate coup that thrilled the New York gay community, Kirtzman, with partners Matt Blesso and Seth Weissman, bought most of the commercial harbor properties of Fire Island Pines.

Together, they re-envisioned, re-vamped and revitalized the legendary gay destination. Thanks to their ongoing efforts, a summer spent along the Pines’ fabled boardwalks feels now, more than ever, like home.

 

When did you first visit Fire Island Pines?

My family has a house in Ocean Beach, a straight community about 10 miles west of the Pines. I grew up spending every summer there, easily the happiest days of my childhood. One night when I was 18, I convinced my best friend Tracy to take a water taxi to the Pines with me and check out the Pavilion, the Pines’ glamorous disco. I didn’t really understand why I wanted to go that night – it was almost an instinct – and Tracy really didn’t understand why. But it didn’t take long for me to figure it out.

The moment I stepped foot into the Pavilion, I realized I had found a new home. The place had an understated but unmistakable Manhattan chic to it. There were beautiful, glamorous people packed tightly together on that dance floor, moving to a dance beat almost in unison – the music was outrageously good. The crowd remained on that dance floor until way past sunrise, giving the event a vaguely subversive feeling that I loved. My life literally changed in that one night at the Pavilion. It’s unbelievable to me that I now own it. I couldn’t be happier.

You and your partners Matt Blesso and Seth Weissman acquired the Pines harbor properties just before the summer season started and immediately got to work! What are your proudest accomplishments?

The bars and teas in the Pines have always been a sight to behold – there’ll are often 1,000 people at each event. It’s a glorious thing. Over the years, though, people took for granted that there were parts of the commercial district that no one went to. The largest restaurant in the Pines, the Blue Whale, was widely disparaged for the poor quality of its food and service.

Even the Pavilion got a makeover: We installed a state-of-the art, high-definition video system on the dance floor, vastly improved the sound system and built a staircase to the upper outside deck that gave the space some much-needed flow. This past summer the Pavilion saw its largest crowds in years.

There was a 9,000 square-foot pool deck behind the hotel where housekeepers did the hotel’s laundry and people worked out on gym equipment. We saw those unused spaces as a major opportunity for the community and for our business.

We gutted the Blue Whale and a small coffee shop and opened up two virtually brand-new restaurants in their place, managed by a New York restaurant team we brought in who created a Manhattan-level quality experience at both venues. We built cabanas, a DJ booth and a bar on the pool deck and installed a wrap-around sound system, creating a great new social scene.

Everyone loves the vibrant new pool area. When was the last time it was in operation, and was it anything like what you have going on now?

There’s a glorious history to that deck. John Whyte, the famed owner of the commercial properties for several decades, used to stage enormous fashion shows on that deck. There were also fundraisers held there starring singers like Dionne Warwick. Our goal was to restore what for years had been a jewel in the Pines’ commercial district.

We hear you’ve got plans for the most prominent feature on the harbor, the Hotel Ciel, or Botel. What can visitors expect, and when?

After we execute our renovation plans you won’t recognize the place. Each bedroom will have a private bathroom, air conditioning and beautiful furnishings. The exterior will better complement the natural surroundings. We’re out to create a hotel that’s as beautiful and elegant as the community it towers above.

Many first-timers are shocked to see there are wild deer roaming around the island. What else would a first-timer be shocked to learn?

There are a lot of shockers out there. Not sure where to begin. The Pines is an adventure – it’s almost a place of myth in the gay world. You have to experience it to understand. There are a lot of people like me who felt changed just from their first experience on the island.

You also own an upscale boutique B&B called The Madison Fire Island Pines. Tell us about it.

As a long-time resident, I felt that the community needed a place for people to stay that was as beautiful as the Pines itself. There was a major pent-up demand for upscale accommodations when I built the Madison five years ago.

I created a place with flowing curtains, custom wood floors, central air, glamour bathrooms, flat-screen televisions, iPod docking stations and other high-end amenities. The Madison has been hugely popular virtually from the moment we opened our doors.

What are your top 3 suggestions for a first time visitor to the Pines?

Above all, there’s the beach, which Conde Nast Traveler calls one of the most beautiful in the world.

You haven’t done the Pines if you haven’t attended the trinity of teas – low, middle and high. The Pavilion is an internationally-known dance club; we fly DJs in from around the world. It’s a quintessential Pines experience to dance there late into the night.

And then there are our new restaurants – Page Six in the New York Post dubbed The Blue Whale “Celebrity Central” last summer after Tina Brown, Rosie O’Donnell, Michael Kors and Carson Kressley were spotted there. The food has the place filled with diners every night of the week.

What do you have planned new for the Pines in 2011?

We’ve been spending the past few months holed up inside a conference room on West 13th Street in Manhattan mapping plans for next summer. Our list of improvements literally fill a book. I’m talking about additional physical changes, new amenities, additional entertainment offerings, special events – and that’s just for starters.

We’ll be releasing details as the summer grows closer, but the one thing I can promise is that the explosion of new energy that the Pines witnessed last summer has just begun!