This past summer a passenger ferry was established to link the villages of Greenport and Sag Harbor. The hope is to foster cross pollination of tourism that will bolster the economy on the East End. Ironically, the downtowns involved are quite similar despite the obvious differences—perceived or otherwise—between the North and South Forks.
The North Fork could be considered the conservative cousin of the Hamptons. The working farms, open space and proximity to the water give it a New England feel. But development interest in the region is growing. Take County Road 25 east of Route 105 and it’s immediately obvious. Farm stands have grown, restaurants have opened and the traffic rivals that of Montauk Highway in Water Mill on a summer weekend. Don’t believe me? Try making time on the North Road this fall.
The growing interest in the region is due in part to its relaxed feel, which reminds one of the way the Hamptons used to be. This may have much to do with the North Fork being more of a year-round community where agriculture of all types continues to play a pivotal role. There are areas growing in stature, such as Nassau Point and similar waterfront hamlets, but the pricing disparities are nowhere near that of the South Fork. Acre to acre, the North Fork offers more affordable real estate.
Geography played a big part, dictating a development path driven by agricultural and maritime uses. Likewise, its distance from New York City acted as a buffer from the suburbanization that took place further west. And unlike the Hamptons, it was ignored by the city’s intelligentsia who started the South Fork’s mid-century shift towards today’s Haute Hamptons. The difference in approach can be seen in two of the region’s larger summer events. The South Fork has the Hampton Classic horse show. The North Fork has its annual strawberry festival.
There has also been reluctance on the part of North Fork municipalities to follow the development path of the South Fork. It was recognized that many farms would become subdivisions unless preserved. And as farms became available, open space visionaries and entrepreneurs recognized their potential as wineries instead of mansions. The rest is history.
The North Fork is evolving and has emerged as a viable alternative for those seeking an East End abode in a quieter setting. For the foreseeable future it appears it will stay that way, even with a new ferry.