A good map will not only show where you are, it can also tell which way you’re headed. I’ve always resented the way New York City claims such a large portion of Long Island, its landscape and culture, the layers of people and the stories they keep. Does Queens have anything to do with Montauk? Does Brooklyn even know the Hamptons exist? It’s all the same island when you look at the map, your fingers tracing over the same stretch of earth.
There’s a spot in Brooklyn that’s commemorated with a plaque. It’s impossible now to get a feel for the place, to realize how special it was, how racial barriers were broken and underdogs triumphed, how so many kinds of people came together to root for one thing. The players themselves weren’t millionaires. They played for sport. Many of them lived in the surrounding neighborhoods and could be seen walking to work. It was truly something remarkable, the harmony of athlete and region. Then it was over and Ebbets Field became Ebbets Housing.
The commute from Brooklyn to the Hamptons is quite a haul, and not just in terms of distance. It’s often like driving through your favorite social studies lesson as the city gives way to former boomer developments and the last strip mall is overtaken by pine barrens and baby deer. Then along that final stretch, if you hurry, you can make it back in time to watch history repeat itself.
It’s difficult to walk the campus of Southampton College these days without that obnoxious real estate mantra ringing in your ears. It’s loud enough to cancel class, block that final shot at net, and make the baby deer flee deeper into the woods.
Location. Location. Location.
Somebody somewhere is reciting these lines louder than any actor at Avram Theater, louder than any coach on a soccer field. The sound of it is deafening and we can only hope that once the bulldozers are through they’ll be kind enough to erect a plaque.
Citing a $9 million deficit as its root cause, Long Island University has decided to relocate Southampton’s undergraduate programs this fall to its C.W. Post campus in Brookville. The general feeling on campus is that the property will eventually be sold to the highest bidder in order to make up this deficit. LIU denies any such plan exists. Aside from the many classes, plays, and lectures that will vanish this fall, the East End will no longer have ties to a NCAA sports program.
“The news came as a complete shock,” said Mark Dawson, a Southampton college graduate and the last coach the women’s soccer team will ever have. “One minute the school was telling me to push recruiting, tell them about the new library, tell them about the gym. Then I get an e-mail saying I have two hours to tell my team it’s over before the news hits the papers. It was the hardest thing I ever had to do.”
The team responded to the news by having the most successful season in Southampton history. They went undefeated and won their conference (NYAC) then competed in the NCAA playoff tournament for the first and last time. “It was just this magical ride,” Dawson said.
Like his players, Dawson was offered a chance this fall to be absorbed by Post’s athletic program. He accepted a position as an assistant on the women’s team. “The only reason I’m going,” he said, “is because I want to see my players through. I promised them.”
The athletes at Southampton were never mercenary superstars. They were students who loved sport. They played soccer and basketball, lacrosse and softball, and they played them well. They came from all over the country, all over Europe, and all over Long Island. They rented housing in the surrounding neighborhoods and could often be seen walking to class and practice. They were a wonderful part of the East End community, that rare harmony of athlete to region. Then it was over and Southampton College grew as dark and silent as any old neighborhood in Brooklyn.