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A Look at the Candidates for Pines Prez
By Steve Weinstein

Tony Roncalli considers his run for the presidency of the Fire Island Pines Property Owners Association against longtime board member Ron Martin as a generational change. Roncalli, along with his partner, Eric von Kuersteiner, represents for many the new wind that is blowing in the Pines. By setting up this contest as a generational one, Roncalli seems to be challenging the 750 homeowners to look at the September election as a referendum on those changes.

Roncalli readily brings up the subject that, he himself says, is debated over cocktails and dinners all over the Pines. “I’ll settle the big question first, the one that’s the scuttlebutt of cocktail-party chatter,” he laughs, “that there’s a conflict because my boyfriend owns 75 percent of the commercial property.”

He insists, however, that von Kuersteiner is no more or less than a homeowner and businessperson and will be treated as same by himself. He points to serving on the FIPPOA board for three years before the purchase of the property from the late John Whyte and three years after that. He says he would recuse himself from any decision involving the harbor properties.

More to the point, he says, is that FIPPOA President Alan Brockman has served for several decades. “It’s time for a change,” he says. “I represent change as opposed to Ron Martin.”

Martin (who did not respond to interview requests as of press time) has indeed served FIPPOA faithfully for several years on a variety of committees. Currently, he is active on the board of the Pines Care Center, which provides medical services. He has been very active in working with Brookhaven on maintaining and improving the community’s boardwalks, a generally thankless task. And he has worked for years on special events, such as Pines Party.

But Roncalli insists that the position, which, he says, “is not a garden party president,” is a year-round job that requires someone who can not only represent the Pines to the Town of Brookhaven but can forcefully argue its interests to a mainland town that sometimes resents them.

Two of his main platforms represent a fundamental change in the way FIPPOA does business. He would like to separate FIPPOA from its charitable foundation’s board of directors. “Everyone wants to serve on a beautification committee,” he argues. “but life here is not all glamorous. There’s garbage, fighting Brookhaven for money, maintaining boardwalks.” The same way, he would create a separate board of trustees for the Community House.

He also would like to set term limits for FIPPOA officers, which, he believes, would infuse the board with new blood and new ideas. It also would not allow any one person to become entrenched in his or her position.

Roncalli has been instrumental in the Pines’ ongoing beach-replenishment projects, which has brought him into close contact with the Fire Island Association. When asked whether he would continue his work, he frankly admits that he very well might not. He says he would train others, but that not voting for him for president would represent to him a vote of no confidence in the work he has done thus far.

Alan Brockman entered the president’s position at the most difficult moment for the community, when homeowners and renters were dying from a mysterious disease without a cure. Since then, many with AIDS have found a way back to life—and so did the Pines. After many years, the community faces a crucial juncture.

Both Roncalli and Martin are dedicated members of the community who have devoted many hours to its welfare. Whoever wins, Pines homeowners can take comfort that the best man won.

 

Ascending to New Heights

The beach in Fire Island Pines looked like Coney Island on August 20 as the crowd of nearly 400 people was fortified by the groaning board of fresh fruit and amply stoked by the cocktails ably served by the men of the Party Crew. Everyone spread out over the covered dance floor and the levels of deck that overlook the ocean. And they danced. And danced. And danced.

Look, there's a porn star (big as a tree and even harder). Look, there's ESPA's executive director, Alan Van Capelle. Look, there's club lighting designer extraordinaire Guy Smith. And there was Walter Boss, whose crew put the dance floor together on Thursday afternoon in record time—and, unlike Dancing on the Bay over July Fourth weekend, this one withstood the impact of hard-driving dancers.

The organizers from ESPA had said that they were working with Eric von Kuersteiner on the party. Eric was the force behind Ascension, which grew to an entire weekend. But fortunately, there were no conflicting events with ESPA. This was especially fortuitious, since ESPA is the largest gay-rights group in New York State, and much of the funds from Ascension were earmarked for the Task Force, the national equivalent organization.

The event raised $50,000 toward, Empire State Pride Agenda s political action committee, which will work toward gay and gay-friendly candidates. The event has a special meaning this year, which saw a recent ruling from New York's highest court invalidating gay marriage in the state.

There are several gay candidates on the ballot for the Sept. 12 primary and the November election, most notably Sean Maloney, a Democratic candidate for New York State attorney general who has received ESPA's enthusiastic endorsement.

By the time he ended with Viola Willis’s cover of “If You Could Read My Mind,” everyone went home tired but happy.