Packing Up: Summer’s Over and Everything Is Stored in the Pine Barrens

Pack it up cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas
Cartoon by Mickey Paraskevas

Not many people are aware of this, but on the day after Labor Day the local people here swing into action to pack up and put everything involved with summer in the Hamptons into storage. It’s an enormous undertaking involving a fleet of moving vans and a huge storage facility in the Pine Barrens, just west of Westhampton.

The first thing packed into the vans are the lifeguard stands at all the beaches. The lifeguards march them up to the dunes where they are stacked up way in the back of the vans to make room for the flags and lines, the lifejackets, jet skis and rescue boats that also have to go in. Then the lifeguards themselves go in. Also the beach boys. The vans, all painted stark white, and without identifying markings, move from town to town. Once full they drive off into the Pine Barrens.

Other vans gather up the summer police and their bicycles, the valet parkers and the orange traffic cones, the ice cream trucks, the golf carts and the tennis pros.

There are vans that take away the personal trainers, the swimming instructors, the bonfires, the caddies and limos. And there are vans that take away huge cardboard boxes containing suntan lotion, beach umbrellas, ant traps, sunglasses, flip flops, barbecue grills, fireworks, floppy hats, flies and ticks, tiki torches, butterflies, seagulls and bug spray. Also hammocks, mosquitoes and summer guests.

Our biggest vans take away all the pop-up stores. This is a great undertaking. Also gone are the crosswalk light systems, the summer subway stops, pool maintenance people, food trucks, hedgerows and celebrity chefs.

Other big vans take away advertising banner-towing airplanes, helicopters, farmers, pool maintenance pickups, landscape trucks, lawn mowing machines and their drivers, limousines, mega-yachts, private jets and Teslas and their charging stations. And we have special insulated vans that take away rock bands, hip-hop bands, marching bands and New Age bands.

The largest of our vans is used to move all the spec house McMansions unsold by Labor Day. They have their own floor in the Pine Barrens. It does them no good to be left out in the weather during the off-season.

The facility in the Pine Barrens is one of the largest warehouses in the world, even larger than the legendary Amazon warehouse in Rahway, New Jersey. Twenty-five years ago, when the project was just in the planning stages, there was great controversy, particularly among environmentalists, about its being placed in the Pine Barrens. The aquifer, which provides all our drinking water, is under the Pine Barrens. More objections came from the tourist and second home industry. The warehouse would need to be 200 million square feet to accommodate everything. Standing 12 stories high in the Pine Barrens, it would present itself as a terrible eyesore for anyone driving out from the city. There were also objections from the trucking industry. They wanted to have it farther away—to accrue more trucking miles. They proposed Iowa, which they said would appreciate having anything from the “Hamptons” in their state.

In the end, it was approved as an underground facility in the Pine Barrens, a series of 11 basements and subbasements each over 20 million square feet in size, each basement subdivided into sections. One half of one floor, for example, is for tractors and farm implements from the potato farms together with all the vats, tasting glasses and wine casks from the North Fork wine industry. The mega-yachts have half a floor, as do the helicopters and the private jets. New this year, on floor D, is an enormous aquarium for aquatic creatures that sting and bite. Here live great white sharks, jellyfish, Portuguese man o’ wars and sand crabs.

The warehouse, known simply as “The Warehouse,” is not open to the public. And in September it is open only to the truckers, the stevedores and the supervisors working there. A similar ban is in effect in May every year when everything is brought back out.

Meanwhile, an addition to the warehouse is being planned. The original 20-year-old warehouse is almost full. The new addition, another 100 million underground square feet, should open in 2019.

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