When Pine Barrens Were Cleared for Walmart

I’m reminded it’s been 25 years this summer since this article in the New York Times caught the inception of a “regional shopping center” on the Long Island Expressway approach to the Hamptons. The center, such as it is, finally is coming together, based on my drive-by tour a few months ago. A huge Walmart has opened, and on the parking lot periphery, new residential developments are finished or soon will be. Most appear to be townhomes or condominiums. These might begin to answer the scarcity of “affordable” living situations on the South Fork 10-plus miles beyond, but because they have no easy transit connections, they can only add to the “trade parade” of workers creeping their way east each morning. Maybe the residents will find work in the pod of activity that developer Wilbur Breslin has brought to this previously wooded section of Pine Barrens, whose 100,000 acres atop a key aquifer were the subject of a preservationist political battle in the decades leading up to this land clearing. (An adjoining parcel had been flattened 20 years before for a short-lived horse racing track.) Although technically outside of the Peconic Bay region, where a property-transaction tax since 1999 has bought up land to preclude such buildouts, Breslin’s “The Boulevard” will be leaving its mark for decades to come, probably the last major commercial complex plus subdivisions on approach to the Hamptons.

Published by timwferguson

Longtime writer-editor, focusing on topics of business and policy, global and local.

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