It may not be as exclusive as it was when it inspired “The Great Gatsby,” but this wealthy Long Island enclave is still far from middle class.
Living In … Sands Point, N.Y.
Adam Macchia for The New York Times
In “The Great Gatsby,” that novel of yearning, F. Scott Fitzgerald located all that was aspirational in a big-moneyed enclave called East Egg on the North Shore of Long Island. There, at the home of Jay Gatsby’s old flame, Daisy Buchanan, “the lawn started at the beach and ran toward the front door for a quarter of a mile, jumping over sun-dials and brick walks and burning gardens.”
Fitzgerald’s inspiration for East Egg was Sands Point, a village at the tip of the Port Washington peninsula, about 25 miles east of Manhattan. A convenient alternative to Newport, this was where Jazz Age Hearsts, Harrimans and Guggenheims sealed themselves off from urban heat and dust in sybaritic summer palaces at the water’s edge.
Nearly a century since “Gatsby” arrived, many of the mansions have been torn down — too big to maintain — and the properties have been subdivided. After World War II, ranch houses took root and spread like ground cover. The village, which is in the town of North Hempstead, now has about 2,900 residents and more than 900 houses. Would Fitzgerald even recognize it today?
sands point preserve
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By The New York Times
“I think he probably would have been surprised to see how many people reside here,” said Beth Horn, the executive director of the Sands Point Preserve, a 216-acre park with three grand houses remaining from when it was a Guggenheim family estate. “In Fitzgerald’s day, it was such an exclusive place; I think it’s less so now.”
Still, Sands Point has hardly turned middle class. Last year, the website 24/7 Wall St. named it the richest “town” — defined as a place with a population between 1,000 and 25,000 — in New York State, based on its median household income of $231,667.
But it presents a friendly face to young families, who are moving in as older residents age out. The village, which lacks commerce of its own, has natural beauty, one-acre zoning and a feeling of retreat, while providing access to the schools, businesses and direct train to New York City in the neighboring community of Port Washington, to the south.
“I saw somebody on a horse the other day,” said Maggie Keats, a broker with Douglas Elliman who lives in Sands Point and remembers a time before the houses had numbers. (Nassau County pressured the village to adopt them in 2001, to conform with the 911 system.)
Two years ago, after debating whether to move out of Manhattan with their now 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son, or find a larger home in the city, Lauren Alter, a speech pathologist, and her husband, Adam Alter, an account executive at Google, bought a 1950s split-level ranch in the Harbor Acres section of Sands Point. They paid $1.89 million and spent six months gutting and renovating the house, which is on slightly more than one acre and has five bedrooms and access through a community association to a beach and tennis courts.
Water wraps around three sides of the village: Hempstead Bay to the east, Manhasset Bay to the west and the Long Island Sound to the north.Credit…Adam Macchia for The New York Times
“It’s a little bit of a fairy tale, to be honest,” Ms. Alter, 36, said, sketching a picture of flourishing children, friendly neighbors and summer pizza and ice cream parties on the beach.
The influx of young families is one of the most visible recent developments, said Edward A.K. Adler, Sands Point’s mayor since 2011. When he and his wife moved to the village in 1976, they felt like the only ones pushing around a stroller. Now children are much in evidence at the bus stop in the morning, where they wait to be ferried to school.
Crossing into Sands Point, Mr. Adler said, sounding not unlike Fitzgerald, “you enter a world of trees and flowers and backyards with soccer goals; of golf courses, tennis courts and lots of swimming pools.”
Port Washington provides some municipal services, including fire protection and mail delivery (the homes have Port Washington addresses), but Sands Point maintains its own police force. Officers regularly patrol the streets and use license-plate readers installed at key intersections to assist crime prevention.
Residents’ comfort level is so high, in fact, that it has lulled some into a false sense of security. Mr. Adler said a recent spate of car thefts came about because keys were left in unlocked vehicles in their owners’ driveways.
What You’ll Find
Incorporated in 1910, Sands Point is surrounded on three sides by Manhasset Bay, Hempstead Bay and the Long Island Sound. The Manhattan skyline is filigree on the western horizon. Because of the elevation, flooding is of less concern than beach erosion and litter.
88 OLD HOUSE LANE | An eight-bedroom energy-efficient house with nine full and four half bathrooms, built in 2014 on a 3.58-acre lot, with an indoor swimming pool and basketball court, listed for $24.8 million. 631-745-4441Credit…Adam Macchia for The New York Times
“It’s not Antigua, but it’s beautiful water,” said Matt Engel, the 42-year-old owner of a commercial real estate business, who has been living in Sands Point for a decade. Mr. Engel is the chair of the Village Club of Sands Point, a waterfront facility the village bought in 1994. (It had previously been an IBM training center and employee retreat.) Open to both residents and outsiders, the 210-acre club includes an 18-hole golf course, 12 tennis courts, a swimming pool and a recently rebuilt pool house with a view of Hempstead Harbor. Dining and lodging are in a circa-1916 Florentine-flavored mansion named Villa Corola by its first owner, Isaac Guggenheim. Dues for access to all of the facilities are about $11,000 a year for residents, $15,000 for nonresidents.
Together, the Village Club and Sands Point Preserve keep more than 400 acres from development, helping to secure the village’s green-world feeling while offering a steady diet of diversions.
Sands Point Preserve, which is owned by Nassau County and operated by a nonprofit conservancy, organizes cultural events, educational programs, museum exhibitions and benefits. Yoga, beekeeping, concerts under the stars and an exhibition on Robert H. Goddard, the father of modern rocketry (on view through Dec. 22) only begin to describe them. The preserve maintains a 50,000-square-foot stone building called Hempstead House that was built for the Gould family, but only after its owners had erected a 100,000-square-foot heap known as Castle Gould, which remains on the property. After the Guggenheim family took over the estate, a 1923 house called Falaise, built in the style of a Norman manor, was added; it is now a museum.
12 HICKS LANE | A six-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom waterfront house called Wild Bank that was once the home of the composer John Philip Sousa; built in 1907 on 2.6 acres, it is listed for $8.995 million. 516-449-7598Credit…Adam Macchia for The New York Times
The preserve recently introduced a dog park, an organic vegetable garden and the Woodland Playground. The grounds are open to the public year-round. The entry fee for nonmembers is $15 a car or $4 for an individual on foot; house tours are extra. About 100,000 visitors drop by every year, said Ms. Horn, the preserve’s director, speaking on the day she was hosting a crew filming a Stephen King television series. (Location scouts and wedding planners are a boon to the park’s operating budget.)
Sands Point also has the Community Synagogue, housed in a 1929 Tudorbethan building called the Chimneys, as well as the United Methodist Church of Port Washington and the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. Most everything else is a single-family residence — shingled, stuccoed, glass-walled, flat-roofed, crenelated or gingerbread-trimmed.
What You’ll Pay
If you’re interested in buying the landmarked house at 12 Hicks Lane once owned by the composer John Philip Sousa, it’s available for the reduced price of $8.995 million, with taxes of $78,711. Called Wild Bank, the 1907 six-bedroom stucco house with a terra-cotta roof sits on a bluff overlooking Manhasset Bay and has a beach, a deepwater dock and a tennis court.
89 BARKERS POINT ROAD | A three-bedroom waterfront house with three full and two half bathrooms, built in 1931 on 1.19 acres, listed for $4.65 million. 516-984-9049Credit…Adam Macchia for The New York Times
Another historic estate for sale is 235 Middle Neck Road, a 14-bedroom Norman-style house. Designed in the late 1920s by McKim, Mead & White, it was the home of Mary Harriman Rumsey, the founder of the Junior League and a sister of William Averell Harriman, who became governor of New York. This house, too, has a private tennis court and beach. It is listed for $13.888 million, with taxes of $131,174.
Among the 45 properties on the market as of Dec. 10, a more modest choice is 6 Woodland Drive, a 1955 ranch house with three bedrooms, on a one-acre lot. It is listed for $1.6 million, with taxes of $24,750.
According to data from the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island, the median sale price of Sands Point homes from Aug. 31 through Nov. 30 was $1.955 million, a year-over-year increase of 16.7 percent. In Port Washington, by comparison, the median sale price in the same period was $796,500, a year-over-year decrease of 9.7 percent.
22 WOODLAND DRIVE | A four-bedroom, two-bathroom ranch house, built in 1955 on 1.1 acres, listed for $1.249 million. 646-250-6512Credit…Adam Macchia for The New York Times
Despite the raucous presence of geese waddling on a front lawn or two, Sands Point conveys a Garbo-esque attitude of elegant aloofness. Rooflines peep up over wood fencing. There are no sidewalks, no streetlights, no on-street visitors’ parking. The historic Sands Point Lighthouse is on private land.
The Port Washington Union Free School District encompasses five elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. The total district enrollment is 5,398 students, of whom 64.1 percent are white, 20 percent are Hispanic or Latino, 11.2 percent are Asian and 1.6 percent are black.
In its 2019 rankings, the educational ratings website Niche placed four of the schools — Paul D. Schreiber High School, Carrie Palmer Weber Middle School, and the John Philip Sousa and Guggenheim Elementary Schools — among the top 100 schools in New York State, in their respective categories.
On 2018-19 state tests, 64 percent of elementary school students in the district met standards in English, versus 46 percent statewide; 68 percent met standards in math, versus 50 percent statewide. Of the district’s middle school students, 62 percent met standards in English, versus 45 percent statewide; 75 percent met standards in math, versus 41 percent statewide.
The average SAT scores reported in 2018 for Paul D. Schreiber High School were 594 in reading and writing and 594 in math, versus 528 and 523 statewide.
Sands Point residents routinely cite the advantages of Long Island Rail Road’s Port Washington Branch, which provides direct service to Pennsylvania Station. Peak travel time in the morning is from 34 to 49 minutes; the one-way fare is $12.50, and a monthly ticket is $270.
Driving time to Midtown Manhattan on the Long Island Expressway is typically 45 to 90 minutes, depending on traffic.
Sands Point has a historic cemetery where 112 members and friends of the Sands family, early settlers and area namesakes, were buried between 1704 and 1867. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is on private land on Sands Point Road, south of the junction with Middle Neck Road.
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