Thursday, May 23, 2024
EuropeExperiencesNews & Opinion

Details Revealed About the “New Fire Island”

Gays are buzzing about the “New Fire Island,” so Vacationer Magazine went directly to the source to get all the details from one of the people behind the epic queer real estate venture to build a new LGBTQ+ community.

The notion of a “New Fire Island” has stirred up a whirlwind of snark and sass across social media in the past week. On their website, the creators of New Fire Island convey a straightforward and earnest concept: “We’re bringing together a community of gay men to build a new paradise, inspired by the original Fire Island Pines – in the sunny Mediterranean and for a new era.” 

They further emphasize that “New Fire Island aims to address the need for an accessible, sustainable, remote working, and exclusively gay European holiday community, using the proven Fire Island formula.” 

The team – which includes Nigel Smith (Partner and Chief Product Officer), Aron D’Souza (Non-Executive Chairman), and Brett Fraser (Managing Partner) – has been actively sharing updates on Facebook, Instagram, X, and TikTok, even conducting a poll to gather followers’ preferences on beach types, with “White sand baby!” emerging as the clear favorite.

Fire Island (Photo Credit: ILoveNY.com)
Fire Island (Photo Credit: ILoveNY.com)

Cherry Grove, part of Fire Island, holds the distinction of being one of America’s first gay beach towns. While gay vacationers began flocking to Fire Island in the earlier part of the 20th Century, it was in the 1950s that Cherry Grove started attracting a more discerning crowd who sought carefree authenticity under the sun and in the playful waves of the Atlantic Ocean. 

Over the years, both Cherry Grove and later The Pines have remained incredibly popular destinations, even becoming the backdrop for the beloved romantic comedy film “Fire Island,” featuring Bowen Yang, Conrad Ricamora, James Scully, and Margaret Cho.

But lately, the social media posts and ensuing commentary surrounding the concept of this “New Fire Island” caught our attention, prompting Vacationer Magazine contributor Jeffrey James Keyes to engage in a conversation with Nigel Smith, Partner and Chief Product Officer of “New Fire Island,” exploring their aspirations and dreams for what could potentially become the next iconic gay hotspot.


Jeffrey James Keyes: How did your idea for the “New Fire Island” come about?

Nigel Smith: I’ve been going to Fire Island for 20 years and, as you know, I love the place dearly, and have been trying to invest there for five years. I was getting close in 2019 and then the pandemic happened, and the prices went bananas. My friends and I were talking about some of the struggles we face trying to get there…so we thought, why don’t we just make a new one? I have experience in design and properties, Aron (D’Souza) is a venture capitalist, and Brett (Fraser) is in real estate. We were like, “We can do this.” 

We can actually do this and what we’re going to do is test the market and, so far, like we’re three days in and we’ve had 1,391 people sign up to express interest in buying a block. So that’s honestly how it came about. We love Fire Island and love Provincetown, but we think there’s a space for a New Fire Island in Europe that can be 90 percent Gay, not 20 percent Gay. There’s a certain beauty that comes about when you escape. We spend 99 percent of our lives in a straight world. What would it be like to spend a few weeks or a month or two in a gay community? So, that’s how it came about.

(Photo Credit: rune stock project / Pexels)
(Photo Credit: rune stock project / Pexels)

What are some of your hopes for the New Fire Island?

We’re building a community of people who want to be a part of this. Those people will get to help shape what it’s going to be like. As a designer, I’m bursting with creative ideas, so are Brett, Aron, and all our friends, including those who go to The Pines and Cherry Grove and currently have houses there. People are nervous about the future of Fire Island given climate change, and we’re bursting with creative ideas about what this could be. I know everyone who is signing up has ideas, too. We will create our own culture as we go. 

If you think about New York, it doesn’t reflect any of the culture of “Old York” in England, right? But it’s in the name, right? New York. Well, New Fire Island is also a new name. It will develop its own amazing sense of place and the people will make that place special and so will we. 

It has to have a pizza shop. We will work with anyone who’s got great ideas for a pizza shop. It has to have a nightclub. It has to have a calendar of events. We’re thinking about 1,000 homes, a small hotel, maybe some condos, but it’s not going to be that big. It will need to be on an insulated piece of land, it will need to stand on its own. This is what makes the Pines and Cherry Grove so special, they’re not connected to the rest of the world. It’s an escape. This land will need to have a certain amount of development potential, so it can’t grow. We’re thinking 1,000 homes, with about 10,000 people, at the middle of the peak, whether it’s mid-August or July. 

Do you see the New Fire Island as a year-round destination or something more seasonal? 

I think it will be a long season. It gets a little misty and cold in the wintertime, so I think it could be like a nine-month season realistically. 

Tell me about the name, I understand you’re navigating some backlash from the (current) Fire Island crowd. 

It’s an easy critique. Like everyone who says, “New Fire Island, that’s a terrible name,” doesn’t have anything else to say. Names are important…like they are important. The name New York kind of evokes incredible kind of feelings. And I appreciate that. There are a lot of heartfelt comments out there about the New Fire Island and I think it’s working as a name. It resonates with people. So, at this point, it’s just a name. 

I think a lot of people might not understand your intent and don’t see this as an homage to Fire Island. Can you speak to the pushback on the name “New Fire Island” on social media? 

Look, some of it is very heartfelt, and I understand that people have built up an amazing community, in The Pines and Cherry Grove. People have built a strong community there and we seek to honor that in New Fire Island and take all those good things in a different part of the world. So, I think some of it is heartfelt and to be honest. I think there are a lot of trolls out there.

[Laughter]

Well, what is it about Fire Island that inspires you? 

It’s a real community. You know, it’s not a four-season destination, right? I mean, love four-season places, but this is about people having their own home on their own piece of land. We’re building a community together, a vacation community, a seasonal escape. I think that these aspects are really important. I think that the sense of getting there is like you really have to go there. You don’t just happen across The Pines or Cherry Grove; you really have the intent to go there. The sense of going on a journey is important. 

I think that the natural environment is critical. I think about the beauty of The Pines and Cherry Grove and the Mediterranean has a different kind of beauty. It’s not lush and sandy. I like the walkability and the fact that there are no cars. We’re committed to it being walkable. You will have to come by boat, or you will have to park some distance away and then come on in. 

We have to have Southwest facing Beach, which is great for sunsets, and we will need to have a good-sized beach. We want to have a vibrant, kind of village center, and then in the periphery is the kind of quiet kind of residential neighborhood and it’s all completely walkable and I think that’s a really that sense of community. 

Who are your thought leaders on the New Fire Island?
I’m fully expecting the group of people who have registered will be significant thought leaders here. At the moment it’s Brett, Aaron, and me, at the moment, and we’re relying on our friends for video content and this part is all self-funded. 

What destinations are you currently looking at? 

That’s the 64-million-dollar question. It’s unusual to launch a real estate project without a site. Building the future isn’t easy. We’re going to build a community of people, and this will be different from traditional real estate. Building the future is very hard. We have a shortlist, and we are looking for places where we can have a significant amount of Mediterranean coastline, somewhere where we can have a swimming season, proximity to an international airport, proximity to boats and ferries, and more. We are looking for about a mile of coastline, maybe a bit more. I’m confident we’ll find it. There is something like 210 islands for sale in the Mediterranean right now. 

Often some of the critiques of certain gay destinations are that they don’t feel inclusive. Are you having conversations to ensure the New Fire Island is diverse and welcome for all Queer people? 

Absolutely. We aim to suit the people who want to live there, holiday there, and those people who want to rent for the rest of the year. Aron and Brett are people of color and I’m a gay Christian, and I feel a certain intersectionality as a gay Christian.  So, sign up! 

For more information on New Fire Island, visit their website here or follow them on Facebook, InstagramX (Twitter), and TikTok.

Jeffrey James Keyes

Jeffrey James Keyes co-authored the New York Times Bestselling book "Killer Chef" with James Patterson and wrote/produced the award-winning short film "Uniform." He is also an accomplished playwright with an M.F.A. from Columbia University. Jeffrey was "bitten by the travel bug" in high school while studying abroad as a foreign exchange student in Germany. He writes about lifestyle, travel, and wellness for a variety of publications and websites.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.